Tough day for Nicky Grist organising team says...
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.