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Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh took an emphatic maiden International rally victory in their Mitsubishi Motors UK Evo 9 on the opening round of the 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, with 11 fastest times from 14 stages.

The scale of the 26 year old’s Pirelli International Rally victory against such stiff opposition was also recognised by the judges of the inaugural Pirelli Star Driver award. They had little difficulty in naming Wilks as the first of six finalists who will go forward to win a works drive in the 2008 British series.

“It feels fantastic to win my first International Rally and to do it in a production car is excellent,” Wilks said at the finish. “The Pirelli Star Driver award is very special too as the judges have all known me for a long time. And I know it would take a big effort to impress them.”

The win could so easily have been a team one-two, but Gwyndaf Evans and Huw Lewis’ fine run in second place was cut short on stage 12 with transmission failure. Mark Higgins and Rory Kennedy were the eventual runners up in their Stobart Teg Sport Subaru Impreza, for which they were relieved after an uncharacteristic slow start on Friday. Higgins was back on the pace by the finish but deemed it pointless to push hard when the gap was so great to the two Mitsubishis ahead.

Ryan Champion and Craig Thorley took the final podium spot in another Mitsubishi, having struggled to set the car up and losing time with a puncture.

Rally 3 was won by Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and his co-driver David Senior in their Citroen C2. They finished a fine fifth place overall, after an electrical problem was repaired and the car’s set-up tuned for the fast gravel. Newcomers to the British Championship, Stefan Davis and Pat Cooper, were the only other finishers in the category in their Ford Puma.

Team Suzuki GB’s Lorna Smith and Joanne Oakey took the hotly contested Rally 2 class in their Swift, after team-mate James Wozencroft retired. The only all female team also finished in ninth overall, but Smith was particularly pleased with her first ever class victory. Jason Pritchard and Martin Jones finished second in R2 and took victory in the UK’s inaugural Citroen C2R2 Cup.

100% reliability was the reason Steve and Tony Graham gave for their Rally 1 victory, although with just one entry, a finish guaranteed the award. More impressively, the brothers survived while many around did not and picked up fourteenth place overall in the lowest powered car on the event.

Other debuts of note included David Higgins who finished in the first outing for the Toyota Corolla S2000 R, and despite retiring on Friday, Fin McCaul’s diesel BMW120D looked like one to watch in the future.

The Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship moves to Kelso for round two, the Jim Clark International Rally on May 25 to 27, which also sees the first of three consecutive asphalt events for the series.

Photo: www.cmwi.net

Final Results:

1.    Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1h36m08.3s
2.    Mark Higgins/Rory Kennedy, Subaru Impreza WRX, +1m13.9s
3.    Ryan Champion/Craig Thorley, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, +3m41.1s
4.    Wyn Humphreys/Ally Mackay, Subaru Impreza WRX, +5m14.3s
5.    Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior, Citroen C2, +6m53.5s


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