De­spite strong Mid Wales re­sult, team boss Jukes won’t change plans

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

Spencer Sport boss Char­lie Jukes has said that all three Mit­subishi Mi­rages won’t com­pete in a whole Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship sea­son de­spite a strong re­sult on the Mid Wales Stages ear­lier this month.

Welsh­man Osian Pryce steered the car to vic­tory in the Na­tional Rally Cup sec­tion and his time would have been good enough for fifth over­all on the event had the car been in­cluded in the BRC 1 class for R5, S2000 and RRC cars. The Mi­rage isn’t yet ho­molo­gated with the FIA and there­fore had to run in the Cup sec­tion of the rally for cars that do not com­ply with in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tions.

“It was a good week­end. We were very pleased,” said Jukes of the re­sult. “It was nice to show ex­actly what we could do against the other R5 cars with there be­ing ev­ery man­u­fac­turer on show. We know there is more to come so it’s re­ally pos­i­tive we’re so close [to the other cars].”

The team had been on for a 1-2-3 in the Na­tional Rally Cup be­fore Jamie Jukes rolled out of se­cond place on SS3. Robert Blomberg – who fin­ished se­cond on his first visit to the UK – was over eight min­utes be­hind Pryce in his Mi­rage, and third man Sacha Kakad (Mit­subishi Lancer E10) was a fur­ther minute and a half be­hind Blomberg.

Jukes is hop­ing that ho­molo­ga­tion of the Mit­subishi is not far away, with more run­ning planned for the car. “We’re are in talks,” he said. “It’s been dif­fi­cult to fo­cus on this while we were pre­par­ing for the BRC, but we have some­one work­ing on it at the mo­ment. We’re now go­ing to do some test­ing and make some changes with the Cir­cuit of Ire­land and our first as­phalt event com­ing up.

“We’re plan­ning to com­pete the whole BRC sea­son with at least one car, but I’m not sure what other events we’ll do with Osian yet. It’s also our in­ten­tion to en­ter a few se­lected events too, in­clud­ing Wales Rally GB.”

I’ve been fre­quently told of late that the dwin­dling en­try num­bers on English ral­lies is partly due to the fact that the sport is fail­ing to at­tract new blood. If true, this means that road ral­ly­ing will die out, sim­ply as the present gen­er­a­tion of com­peti­tors shuf­fles off this mor­tal coil, as Ham­let so elo­quently put it.

To see how true this the­ory is I had a look at the re­sults of the re­cent Bruce Robin­son Me­mo­rial Rally. Amaz­ingly, of the top five fin­ish­ers, seven of the crew mem­bers had started the same event 10 years ago, and of the other three, two had been com­pet­ing in 2006, just not on Lin­coln’s premier road rally. Three had ac­tu­ally fin­ished in the top 10 in 1996. This meant that only Mal­ton’s young Sam Spencer didn’t have to be wheeled up in a bath chair to re­ceive his award at the end of the night.

By co­in­ci­dence I had the op­por­tu­nity to check out how things looked in Wales on a cou­ple of events in Jan­uary. The JJ Brown Me­mo­rial had an award for the high­est placed nav­i­ga­tor aged un­der 21, while the Rali Mike Darowen had a prize for the best placed vet­eran; vet­eran in this in­stance be­ing any­one over 50. Fifty! What I found was that, while 14 nav­i­ga­tors qual­i­fied for the JJ Brown Un­der 21 award, there were just three veter­ans on the Mike Darowen. Seem­ingly there’s plenty of young blood in Wales. Al­though it does look as though they put on their cardi­gan and slip­pers and sit in front of the fire once they hit the lower slopes of middle age.

How­ever, there is an as­pect of th­ese stats that con­cerns me. Of the 14 young­sters on the JJ Brown there was only one girl. Ten years ago I wrote a col­umn in MN be­moan­ing the lack of women par­tic­i­pat­ing in road ral­ly­ing. If any­thing, in the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod things have got worse.

On both the Rali Mike Darowen and the Rali Bry­niau Cl­wyd the Mixed Crew Award was won by Ian ‘Dude’ Roberts and Gwawr Hughes. No sur­prise there, they’re a highly tal­ented crew, but the truth is that in both cases it was a walkover for them, they were the only Mixed Crew to fin­ish. In fact, on the Bry­niau Cl­wyd, Gwawr was the only fe­male starter.

While foot­ball and rugby are at­tract­ing women in in­creas­ing num­bers, what is road ral­ly­ing do­ing wrong? Is there an off-putting ma­cho cul­ture? Does the sport have too low a pro­file and sim­ply isn’t no­ticed?

What­ever the prob­lem, if this reser­voir of po­ten­tial com­peti­tors could be tapped into then there would be plenty of fresh blood to sus­tain us. It’s not even as if we’re try­ing to ap­peal to a mi­nor­ity. Women make up the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion af­ter all.

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