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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Carlisle driver hoping for home advantage in Pirelli Rally

Carlisle rally driver Peter Taylor is hoping his home event, the Pirelli International Rally, will spark enough speed to ignite his 2012 British Rally Championship challenge after a slow start on the first two rounds.

Twenty-year-old Taylor, driving his CA1 Sport Renault Clio R3 rally car, fought with a less than perfect car set-up on the first round of the series at Rallye Sunseeker in Bournemouth and struggled to get into a rhythm on the shortened Bulldog Rally last weekend in Wales.

Despite greater confidence going into the mid-Wales event, which used some classic rally forests, Taylor was unable to find the speed to fight for overall victory. He got off to a slow start after posting 12th fastest time on the opening stage but a sixth on the fourth stage helped catapult him into the top-ten.

He struggled with pacenotes during the rally and they didn’t have the level of accuracy needed to master the high speed, high commitment gravel stages.

“We maybe tried to drive a bit too fast but just generally this rally didn’t flow for me,” he explained. “The first two stages used were the first two we made pacenotes for on the recce and they weren’t the best.

“It didn’t help when the organisers cancelled a few stages for various reasons and we never got a chance to have a real go on the stages were our notes were better. So it was a really frustrating rally, we just couldn’t get into a rhythm. All the fast drivers were Welsh and a couple even had stages running past their houses so that local knowledge was obviously a big advantage.

“But I’m hoping the tables are reversed next month when the next round of the series, the Pirelli Rally, comes to Carlisle. I know the roads well and hopefully I will be back up to speed and able to battle at the top.”

Before the Pirelli Rally, which takes place from 27-28 April, Taylor heads across to Northern Ireland for the famous Circuit of Ireland Rally over Easter Weekend. This year the Tarmac event takes on even more significance, as it’s part of the popular Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Also rallying last weekend on the Bulldog Challenge Rally were M-Sport employees Andrew Wheatley and Richard Millener. They finished fourth overall in their Ford Fiesta ST after a solid performance on the dry, dusty roads.

Having more luck, and the best of three West Cumbria Motorsport Club crews who travelled to the SMC Stages, were Keith and Jackie Richardson.

The 50-mile event was run over the twisty military ranges of Weeton Camp near Blackpool and halfway through the event, the Richardsons had guided their Escort Cosworth to fourth place.

They kept the pressure on over the final 25 miles and steadily moved up to second place. And, despite a final stage scare when two ant-roll bars snapped, the husband and wife team hung on to a fantastic runner-up finish.

Nick and Heather Stamper, on the other hand, were not having a good day. Seeded at number three, they were forced to retire after only two stages with a persistent engine misfire on their Subaru Impreza. Meanwhile Ann Forster, who was co-driving for Michael Pickles in a Ford Escort, was also forced to the side-lines with head gasket issues.

From the stages to the track, and this weekend sees Carlisle racing hot-shot Alex MacDowall on a charge to clinch his first Independents Trophy race victory when the FIA World Touring Car Championship heads to Valencia in Spain.

Having made a tremendous debut in the world championship at Monza in Italy a few weeks ago, posting second and third place Independents finishes in the two races, the 21-year-old Bamboo Engineering driver will arrive in Spain next week as joint-leader in the class standings.

As at Monza, MacDowall has never been to Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo Circuit before but the Carlisle racer is confident any lack of track experience will be quickly overcome and he’ll be able to maintain his place among the Independents Trophy pace-setters in his turbo-engined Chevrolet Cruze.

“We can aim a bit higher at Valencia, we can definitely do better than at Monza – there I really just wanted to get the first weekend in the championship out of the way with a couple of decent results, but now I’m aiming for more,” said MacDowall.

“I think the Cruze will be the strongest front-wheel drive car in Valencia but everyone says it’s a BMW track. We need to stay out of trouble and try to pick up as many points as we can, but I’m also going there to try and win at least one race.

“I think after Monza I’m used to the car and tyres really. In terms of getting the raw speed, I’m fine with that, the thing to get used to is the difference with the turbo not having the engine braking of a normally aspirated car like the Cruze I had in the BTCC last year. I’ve had to adapt to that, the front-end is a bit heavier too, but other than that I think we’re pretty much there really.”

Both races will be screened live on Sunday 1 April on British Eurosport.

This weekend also sees round four of the FIA World Rally Championship in Portugal with M-Sport again running a host of world rally cars. Their top drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg qualified first and second and chose to start last of the priority drivers – both hoping a later running position will offer cleaner and faster conditions on the rough gravel roads.

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