Tough day for Nicky Grist or­gan­is­ing team says...

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

Talk about a tough week­end. My hat is well and truly tipped to the or­gan­is­ers for their work on the Nicky Grist Stages. Not only did they have to work around live mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, the weather did nothing to help their cause on Epynt. Yes, the chi­canes were too tight (I should know, while spec­tat­ing on Epynt we were asked to help open them up) and Sat­ur­day was in­cred­i­bly rough, but the band of or­gan­is­ers – all of whom are vol­un­teers, we should add – were in a war room, not a HQ.

In the af­ter­math of the event, I hope the driv­ers and teams voice their griev­ances with any­thing that went wrong, as I’ve said it be­fore on these pages and will do so again. Clerk of the course Neil Cross and Pete Cross, deputy clerk, are ex­cel­lent at their jobs and some of the finest in the coun­try. I’m sure they won’t mind me or teams and driv­ers point­ing out there were prob­lems, but they are fix­able and the drama and ex­cite­ment of the rally on stage proved the for­mat works. With ex­pe­ri­ence gar­nered from this year’s event of what can go wrong, next year’s rally should be much im­proved.

From as­phalt as­cen­dancy to gravel great­ness. I’ve just writ­ten the ti­tle of Rob Dug­gan’s ca­reer so far.

If you hadn’t heard of Rob be­fore this year, here’s a quick re­cap. After se­lect events in a Honda Civic in 2013 and 2014, the Kil­lar­ney man en­tered the North­ern Irish cham­pi­onship with the hope of win­ning the Road to Wales award. That granted the win­ner en­try into Rally GB in a David Greer­pre­pared Citroen DS 3 R3T, which he duly won ahead of Jon Armstrong (who’s just won a round of the Drive DMACK Tro­phy in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship, I should add).

Hav­ing done one or two events on gravel, the Ir­ish­man was thrown into GB with prac­ti­cally no ex­pe­ri­ence and a short test. But he per­formed ad­mirably, run­ning sec­ond be­hind Ole Chris­tian Veiby and ahead of Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship Ju­nior cham­pi­onship leader Chris In­gram be­fore an en­gine prob­lem forced Rally2.

After that in­cred­i­bly im­pres­sive per­for­mance came the news in Jan­uary that he’d join the Ju­nior BRC with the Ju­nior Vaux­hall Rally Team. And boy has he im­pressed.

You al­ways won­der what will hap­pen when a cham­pi­onship an­nounces a prize as lofty as the Drive DMACK op­por­tu­nity on of­fer to the BRC ju­niors. Will they be quick enough to make an im­pact when the level is raised so high?

There’s no doubt Dug­gan will be able to. One of the great­est ad­di­tions to the Ju­niors this year has been Gus Green­smith. He’s a very ta­lented driver who’s into his sec­ond sea­son in the cham­pi­onship. His pace in Por­tu­gal was un­matched but prob­lems on both rounds this year have left him with lit­tle to show for be­ing one of – if not the – fastest driver in the se­ries.

I di­gress. The ad­di­tion of Gus gives the cur­rent Ju­niors a di­rect bench­mark. And Rob has matched him or stayed close on ev­ery round he’s done. Mid Wales was a bap­tism of fire in a new car not de­vel­oped for gravel but, in Carlisle, Vaux­hall had found a set-up Dug­gan could work with and he was a win­ner. Green­smith has suf­fered is­sues in the BRC too, but stage times tell you Dug­gan is never far away.

While Dug­gan con­tin­ues to ex­cel, oth­ers im­prove. By his own admission, Dug­gan’s team-mate Mat­tias Adiels­son has upped his game hugely try­ing to match the Ir­ish­man. Slowly but surely the Swede is get­ting closer – es­pe­cially on as­phalt where he was prob­a­bly the best over Epynt last week­end – and he’ll be a def­i­nite ti­tle con­tender if he re­turns next year. Sin­dre Fu­ruseth has been even more im­pres­sive in a car out of date and sup­pos­edly slower the Vaux­hall Adam of Dug­gan or Fi­esta R2T of Green­smith.

So al­though some of the classes have been poorly sup­ported in the BRC this year – which needs to be ad­dressed – the Ju­niors is ripe of tal­ent and speed. Next stop, the world cham­pi­onship.

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