AHLIN PROF­ITS FROM EVANS’ PAIN

Bo­gey times in­ter­fered as Ahlin won and Evans’ hopes de­flated .

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Jack Benyon

On the 25th an­niver­sary of Pirelli’s spon­sor­ship of the Carlisle Rally, it was fit­ting that a Pirelli-backed car run by a lo­cal team tri­umphed as Swede Fredrik Ahlin earned his first Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship vic­tory in what was an event marred by con­tro­versy.

Three stages saw the bo­gey time beaten ( see Rally News page 20) – mean­ing driv­ers went through the stage at a speed greater than 70mph and were given an av­er­age no­tional time for each test. El­fyn Evans beat a bo­gey by 27s on stage four but got none of the ben­e­fit against his com­peti­tors as the no­tional time was awarded.

How­ever, even a drama-laden event couldn’t stop Ahlin and co-driver Erik Morten Abra­ham­sen as they con­quered the fast and flow­ing Kielder roads. The CA1 Sport out­fit that pre­pares Ahlin’s car is run by ex-colin Mcrae and M-sport en­gi­neer Martin Wilkin­son and based just six miles down the road, with Pirelli’s fac­tory even closer. It was a real home­town fairy­tale win for all in­volved, ex­cept Ahlin. But a win is a win and the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship doesn’t visit Swe­den!

The drama was on tap from the off. For the third round in a row, a BRC event fea­tured snow with a pow­dery white Kielder wel­com­ing crews on the recce, as if cre­at­ing notes for one of the fastest forests in ral­ly­ing wasn’t enough.

The stages them­selves proved chal­leng­ing even for the seem­ingly bul­let­proof Evans. He reached a chi­cane on SS1 but mis­judged the brak­ing slightly, a stab at the brake pedal didn’t help on the loose. He had to re­verse and lost just un­der 10s to Ahlin, but the Swede didn’t ben­e­fit. The first in­stance of the bo­gey be­ing beaten meant they tied and the time the Swede had taken from Evans was ir­rel­e­vant. “I do not un­der­stand,” said Ahlin at ser­vice with some dis­tress. “I’m quicker but I don’t get the time.” The for­eign crews were left scratch­ing their heads with the bo­gey rule not com­monly known by the likes of Ahlin.

The Swede’s mis­ery was com­pounded by the fact that Evans took 8.8s on the next test, mean­ing the two driv­ers would have been around the same time in to­tal for the first two stages over­all but the beaten bo­gey saw to that.

Was the Swede’s luck turn­ing though? Af­ter a quick stop at re­mote ser­vice, the cars were into Rough­side and Ahlin was into the lead. Evans suf­fered a punc­ture on his Fi­esta and dropped just un­der 50s. The new DMACK tyres were work­ing well on Evans and Craig Parry’s car, but no tyre is in­de­struc­tible and Kielder claimed many punc­ture vic­tims over the week­end, in­clud­ing WRC2 cham­pi­onship leader Evans.

With the Welsh­man drop­ping to fifth over­all, the lead bat­tle was re­shaped and it was the CA1 Sport Skoda of David Bo­gie join­ing Ahlin at the top, 7.3s adrift overnight as no fewer than six cars beat the bo­gey time on SS4. Evans beat it by a nar­row 27s and Ahlin was re­port­edly only seven sec­onds or so slower through. But again that didn’t mat­ter.

Also join­ing the lead bat­tle was Matthew Wil­son. The Fi­esta driver – in Evans’ Rally Ar­gentina car in the same livery – pre­dicted he would be rusty at the start of the day, but there was no signs of any cold feet as he blitzed his way through the Kielder Stages with fa­ther Mal­colm watch­ing on. De­spite be­ing on crutches, Mal­colm was in good form and was clearly im­pressed with Wil­son Jr’s abil­ity to get back on the pace straight away. Matthew con­firmed he was com­fort­able and that there would be a big push in the morn­ing now he had reac­cli­ma­tised.

That was ab­so­lutely rammed down his com­peti­tors’ throats on the first test of Sun­day. Wil­son had a push and he was vis­i­bly faster through Shep­herd­shield. But, disas­ter. A punc­ture with just un­der two miles to go meant he dropped time. The fact he was only 5.7s down to pace­set­ter Evans at the end of the stage means there should have been a Wil­son win­ning stages again in the BRC. It wasn’t to be on this occasion, but the crew of Wil­son and Stu­art Loudon were en­joy­ing them­selves.

An­other per­son with prob­lems in SS5 was David Bo­gie. His lead charge came to an end in a ditch, but the Scot was happy to push for the win and drove the stage ac­cord­ingly. The 2011 win­ner was out and his team-mate Ahlin al­most se­cure.

De­spite the or­gan­is­ers ad­ding three chi­canes into the morn­ing’s stages, many pre­dicted that the bo­gey would again be beaten on Black­aburn, and was it just. Thir­teen crews beat the bo­gey, and it re­ally put an end to any vic­tory charge from Evans.

The Welsh­man is ar­guably the quick­est driver in an R5 any­where in the world at the mo­ment, but the punc­ture on SS4 cost him too much time. A big push in the morn­ing from the Dol­gel­lau man would be fu­tile given the short stages and the like­li­hood of the bo­gey be­ing beaten on at least one of them. He was still quick­est on SS5 and SS7 but the punc­ture re­ally had ended his vic­tory charge.

That be­ing the case, Ahlin’s lead was 18.3s head­ing into the 16-mile Chir­don­head. Ahlin went 9.3s quicker than Wil­son and the rally was his. The fast flow­ing roads – not un­like his na­tive Swe­den – suited him all week­end and he was on or near the lead­ing pace on all seven stages.

Evans’s punc­ture robbed fans of a lead chal­lenge and the bo­gey times meant spec­ta­tors didn’t see an all-out last day as­sault from Evans, but he drove well to snatch a podium on the last stage of the rally, fastest over Ahlin by 8.1s. The Swede now leads Evans by five points in the cham­pi­onship af­ter play­ing his joker and sim­i­lar roads await in Scotland in June. The ti­tle fight is on.

Out­side the podium spots, Tom Cave man­aged fourth and was more com­fort­able back on gravel af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing Cir­cuit of Ire­land last time out. The Welsh­man still has set-up work to do with the Ford Fi­esta R5 which is still rel­a­tively new to him, but the fact that he keeps scor­ing points en­sures he’ll still be on for a good cham­pi­onship fin­ish. When car and driver are in sync he’ll al­most cer­tainly be chal­leng­ing for wins later this year.

Marty Mccor­mack de­liv­ered an­other stand­out per­for­mance to round out the top five in an un­der­pow­ered Skoda Fabia S2000. He fi­nally fin­ished a round, hav­ing not started in Mid Wales with a bro­ken diff and re­tir­ing from the Cir­cuit of Ire­land while lead­ing the BRC run­ners with a fuel pump break­age. The fact he de­liv­ered the re­sult in an un­der­pow­ered car in one of the fastest forests Europe has to of­fer sums up his week­end with the ever-re­li­able David Moyni­han.

Jonny Greer fol­lowed as the only DGM of­fer­ing with Keith Cronin com­pet­ing in Kil­lar­ney. Greer and Kirsty Rid­dick scored more valu­able points, while two Sko­das got im­por­tant fin­ishes be­hind.

Desi Henry set some blis­ter­ing times in his Fabia R5 af­ter a dif­fi­cult start to the year in the new car, while Neil Simp­son scored a fin­ish on his first gravel rally in 16 years.

Jamie An­der­son con­tin­ues to im­prove in his Ford Fi­esta R5, hav­ing com­peted only spo­rad­i­cally in a Wrc-spec Mit­subishi Lancer WRC last year, while Max Vata­nen scored his first top 10; an­other driver who needed some luck af­ter noth­ing has gone his way at start the year.

The dis­cus­sion about bo­gey times will rage on, but noth­ing could take away from an ex­cel­lent drive from Ahlin. The Swede showed his pace in Mid Wales, but this is the first vic­tory and he’ll be hop­ing the camel’s back has been firmly bro­ken as the cham­pi­onship heads even fur­ther north for the RSAC Scot­tish.

Punc­ture and bo­geys ruled Evans out of win shot Swede Ahlin was at home in fast forests

Ahlin takes points lead from Evans

Wil­liams/morrison headed BRC 5

Wil­son flew on re­turn

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