Swedish star Fredrik Ahlin and his Norwegian co-driver Morten Erik Abrahamsen driving for local team CA1 Sport, made it three different winners in the opening three rounds of this year’s MSA British Rally Championship with victory on this weekend’s Pirelli Carlisle Rally (April 30/May 1).
The 24-year-old in his Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta R5 became the first Swedish driver since 1995 to win a round of Britain’s premier rallying series. Along with the win, Ahlin played his ‘Joker’ which doubled his points allowing him to overtake rival Elfyn Evans at the top of points standings. He now holds a five-point advantage after the Cumbrian event.
Local driver Matthew Wilson last competed in the BRC in 2005 and returned to the series to take second overall while Evans, who initially led the event, suffered a puncture on the opening day plummeting him down the leaderboard. The World Championship star, though, fought his way back up the order to make it three Ford Fiesta R5s in the top three, ensuring three tyre manufacturers – Pirelli, Michelin and DMACK – all shared the podium spoils.
The Mayor of Carlisle Steve Layden along with a sizeable crowd gathered in glorious sunshine to wave off the BRC crews from the heart of the Pirelli factory in Carlisle on Saturday afternoon. Fast and furious action was to follow and raged throughout the first day, with the BRC pace blisteringly fast right from the off. The pace was so fast in fact that on stages one and four, the top drivers with their purpose built four-wheel-drive rally cars exceeded the mandatory ‘bogie time’, averaging more than a staggering 70 mph through the picturesque gravel stages. On the opening test, Evans (Ford Fiesta R5), Ahlin (Ford Fiesta R5), David Bogie (Skoda Fabia R5) and Wilson (Ford Fiesta R5) all matched the time putting them joint fastest on the opening section.
On the second stage Evans used his recent World Rally Championship outings to good effect by easing clear of the chasing pack. Ahlin, Bogie and Wilson all followed with Tom Cave (Ford Fiesta R5) rounding out the top five at the mid-day remote service with just 23.4 seconds separating the leading group.
The afternoon stage of Roughside was to live up to its name and reputation as several drivers experienced punctures through the fast, flowing forest roads. Rally leader Evans was the first victim and haemorrhaged time on the short 7.16-mile test. The leader plummeted down the results sheet but, with a strong final stage, he and co-driver Craig Parry in their DMACK-backed Fiesta R5 clawed their way back to fifth coming into the day-end Carlisle Service Park. With Evans’ problems, up stepped Swedish superstar Ahlin who inherited the rally lead and ended the first day with a small margin of just 7.3 seconds ahead of CA1 Sport teammate Bogie.
Day two, and the conditions changed dramatically. Heavy rain showers on Sunday morning provided challenging conditions on the tricky stages but that did not deter Ahlin as he and co-driver Abrahamsen drove maturely through the three closing stages to take their first BRC victory and one of the biggest of their careers.
Bogie was confident he was going to fight for supremacy on the final day but he tried too hard and put his Skoda into a ditch on the opening test. As Bogie stumbled, up stepped local hero Wilson who put in a fine drive after an 11-year absence from the BRC and 18-months since being in a competitive rally. The Cumbrian had no answer, though, to the Swedish victor as the eventual deficit stood at 27.6 seconds when the cars returned to Carlisle for the Ceremonial Finish.
Evans woke up on Sunday morning in determined mood after his puncture had taken him out of the fight for outright victory. The Welshman was on a mission knowing a possible podium position was still in sight. The demise of Bogie moved him up to fourth and then Elfyn set about reeling in fellow countryman Cave. Tom was having a solid rally but could not live with Evans’ pace and the recovering DMACK driver grabbed third place on the last stage. Rounding out the top five on the Cumbrian contest was the Kumho-shod Skoda Fabia S2000 of Marty McCormack who, after a troubled start, chalked up his first BRC finish thus points on the board for the first time this season. With the Northern Irishman’s result it made four different tyre manufacturers in the top five, showing the competitiveness and variety throughout the field.
In the DMACK Junior British Rally Championship it was to be a close fought battle between three drivers in three different car marques. Sindre Furuseth in his Renault Twingo R2 returned to the series after missing the Circuit of Ireland and the Norwegian led initially but suffered a puncture on the first day. Stopping to change it, he lost too much time to be in the podium tussle, with fifth being the end result after the seven stage contest.
Junior BRC Championship leader Robert Duggan in a Vauxhall ADAM R2 stole the march once Sindre hit problems and pulled a sizeable gap to take back-to-back victories after winning on the Circuit of Ireland. Gus Greensmith who won the opening round in mid Wales had a disappointing weekend by his high standards. A puncture plus a slight lack of confidence in his pace notes and driving meant he had to consolidate second, but for Greensmith in his Ford Fiesta R2T all was not lost as he doubled his points by playing his ‘Joker’ thus putting him just one point behind Duggan in the title race. Adam Bustard was mister consistent as he emulated his Circuit of Ireland third place on the Pirelli Carlisle Rally. Staying clear of major dramas, Bustard enjoyed an event-long scrap with fellow Fiesta R2T driver Meirion Evans. The Northern Irishman piped the Welshman to the final podium spot by just 12.5 seconds.
Meirion Evans won the SORT Oil Spirit of the Rally award. The prize put a smile of the young Welshman’s face as the Fiesta R2T driver finally finished his first BRC event after a spate of retirements.
Matt Edwards once again performed a giant killing act – his BRC2 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 mixing it with the more powerful R5 cars in the top 10. A puncture on the first day, however, prevented Edwards from claiming another outright top 10 but underrated the British driver flung his car through the forests to end the event 15th overall and first in class.
Chris Wheeler in his Citroen DS3 R3 made it to the finish after a demanding two days to take BRC3 honours while the experienced Roger Platt used his knowledge to good effect to claim the BRC4 category. Young Tom Williams made his BRC debut in his Ford Fiesta R1 and became the first person to score points in the BRC5 class. In the BRC National Rally Cup it was Scotsman Donnie Macdonald in his Mitsubishi Evo 9 who made it two wins from three events – he leads the NRC as the championship heads to his home soil next time out.
Quotes from the Pirelli Carlisle Rally:
Pirelli Carlisle Rally First Overall – Fredrik Ahlin – Ford Fiesta R5
“I am very happy with the win and it is very important for the championship as we now take the lead. I was completely committed this weekend on the stages and it was amazing to drive them. I had to change my approach a little bit once Elfyn [Evans] had the puncture, as he was the main rival this weekend. Once we had that lead we just had to maintain it and not take any risks or pick up a puncture ourselves. We are not just looking at one rally at a time as we are thinking about the championship, and this win is very important for the future. The fight is on, let’s see what we can do on the Scottish.”
Pirelli Carlisle Second Overall – Matthew Wilson – Ford Fiesta R5
“It was great to be back in the championship and the rally was fantastic as I really enjoyed it from start to finish. The stages were so quick and it was hard to get back into the swing of things. Having been away from rallying and, with a short event, there was no time to mess around, so I had to get into a rhythm as soon as possible. I knew if it went well it was going to give me the bug again, so we hope to be out again soon. Second isn’t too shabby at all.”
Pirelli Carlisle Rally Third Overall – Elfyn Evans – Ford Fiesta R5
“It’s not been a good weekend as the puncture ruined any chance of the win but second was on the cards if the event had been longer. The bogey times really effected the weekend not allowing us to claw back the time but Fredrik drove brilliantly and deserves the win. It was a tough challenge this weekend and we look forward to a proper good fight on the Scottish Rally.”
DMACK Junior BRC First Overall – Robert Duggan – Vauxhall ADAM R2
“We delighted to have won the Pirelli Rally and it is nice to have won on gravel as well as Tarmac. We were trying to keep our noses clean all weekend and not make any stupid mistakes which was hard on this tough event. Now with two wins we are thinking about the championship but we will take each round as it comes and hope to get another podium on the Scottish Rally.”
DMACK Junior BRC Second Overall – Gus Greensmith – Ford Fiesta R2T
“Although we are on the podium, it was one of worst events of the year to date. My notes were inconsistent and I struggled to get into a good rhythm whilst I was driving. We can take positives from this rally as we got some good points for the championship and we set some fastest stage times. The Pirelli was meant to be my last BRC round but I think I am capable of more and I can’t leave the series like this, so I am going to come back and do the Nicky Grist Stages and go for the win.
DMACK Junior BRC Third Overall – Adam Bustard – Ford Fiesta R2T
“I am very happy to now have two podiums in two events and I think this one means more as I had to really fight for it as Meirion [Evans] and I had a really good battle. We had a consistent event with no major dramas and we loved the stages and I want to do more. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves as we take one event at a time. The most important thing is to keep it clean and consistent when we head to the Scottish.”
MSA British Rally Championship
Round 3 – Pirelli Carlisle Rally
Fredrik Ahlin (SWE)/Morten Abrahamsen (NOR) Ford Fiesta R5
Matthew Wilson (GBR)/Stuart Loudon (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 + 27.6
Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Craig Parry (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +30.4
Tom Cave (GBR)/James Morgan (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +53.4
Martin McCormack (GBR)/David Moynihan(IRL) Skoda Fabia S2000 +1:23.4
Jonathan Greer (GBR)/Kirsty Riddick (GBR) Citroen DS3 R5 +1:54.6
Desi Henry (IRL)/Liam Moynihan (IRL) Skoda Fabia R5 +3:17.0
Neil Simpson(GBR)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR) Skoda Fabia R5 +3:20.7
Jamie Anderson (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +3:32.6
Max Vatanen (FIN)/Jacques-Julien Renucci (FRA) Ford Fiesta R5 +3:47.2
MSA British Rally Championship for Drivers points (after 3 of 7 rounds)
1: Fredrik Ahlin 65* ; 2: Elfyn Evans: 60*; 3: Josh Moffett: 30; 4: Tom Cave: 26; 5: Jonathan Greer: 23; 6: David Bogie: 18; 7: Matthew Wilson: 15; 8: Desi Henry: 9*; 9: Jamie Anderson: 8; 10=: Marty McCormack: 6; 10=: Euan Thorburn: 6
MSA DMACK Junior British Rally Championship
Robert Duggan (IRL)/Ger Conway (IRL) Vauxhall ADAM R2
Gus Greensmith (GBR)/ Alessandro Gelsomino (ITA) Ford Fiesta R2T
Adam Bustard (GBR)/Aaron Johnston (GBR) Ford Fiesta R2T
MSA DMACK Junior BRC Championship for Drivers points (after 3 of 7 rounds)
1: Robert Duggan: 56; 2: Gus Greensmith: 55*; 3: Sindre Furuseth: 36*; 4: Adam Bustard: 30*; 5: Mattias Adielsson: 25; 6: Josh Cornwell: 16*; 7: Arron Windus: 13; 8: Nabila Tejpa: 12; 9: Blair Brown: 9; 10: Meirion Evans: 8
* Drivers have played their double points ‘Joker’
The full results and championship points can be found at www.msabrc.com
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