Although not winning the event outright, Irishman Sean Devine took maximum points on the opening round of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship after a concerted effort on Rallye Sunseeker today.
Driving the ex Mikko Hirvonen Subaru WRC S11, the Ulsterman from Strabane and co-driver Francis Regan showed no ill effects from not competing on gravel since last September to claim third place overall on the Bournemouth-based event.
Following Devine home in fourth place overall was the first of the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge drivers Dan Barry who overcame late problems along with co-driver Martin Brady, and Welshman Simon Hughes claimed third place ANCRO points on his debut on the event along with co-driver Patrick Walsh. They edged out the local crew of Anthony Willmington and co-driver Andrew White who were making a welcome return in their Mitsubishi Evo 6.
Swede Andreas Magnusson, West Country driver Nik Elsmore and Yorkshireman Charlie Payne were next up ahead of Alan Cookson, Owen Murphy and Alan Carmichael.
Following on from last night’s drama which saw Geoff Underhill and Adrian Grinsted crash out in their Subaru, three of the main Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship contenders never saw the finish ramp either.
Defending champions Marcus Dodd and Andrew Bargery were blazing a trail at the front in their Hyundai Accent WRC when cambelt failure forced them out on SS6.
2004 Champion Steve Perez along with co-driver Paul Spooner retired their Ford Focus WRC 07 on only the third stage of the day after heading into a ditch.
The third of the former champions to go out was Paul Bird and co-driver Ian Windress in the newly acquired Ford Focus WRC, when an electrical problem forced them out on SS10 when leading.
The rally was won by local driver Will Nicholls who, along with co-driver Nick Broom, took a debut victory on the event in their Subaru with former ANCRO Champions Roger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield second in their Subaru but neither were eligible for points due to not being registered in the Championship.
The battle now moves on to Kielder Forest in three weeks’ time with the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally and with Devine unsure as to his participation, and the ‘Big Three’ looking to make amends, it is expected to be a great battle as the Championship hots up.
1, Will Nicholls/Nick Broom – Subaru – 56:14.0
2, Roger Duckworth/Mark Broomfield – Subaru – 56:36.7
3, Sean Devine/Francis Regan – Subaru – 58:05.2
4, Daniel Barry/Martin Brady – Mitsubishi – 58:43.0
5, Simon Hughes/Patrick Walsh – Mitsubishi – 58:45.8
6, Anthony Willmington/Andrew White – Mitsubishi – 58:52.9
7, Andreas Magnusson/Henrik Hulterskog – Mitsubishi – 58:57.8
8, Nik Elsmore/Craig Drew – Mitsubishi – 59:02.2
9, Charlie Payne/Craig Thorley – Mitsubishi – 59:02.9
10, Alan Cookson/Julian Wilkinson – Subaru – 59:30.5
Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship Standings
(Provisional after Round 1)
1, Sean Devine 25pts
2, Daniel Barry 22pts
3, Simon Hughes 20pts
4, Anthony Willmington 19pts
5, Andreas Magnusson 18pts
6, Nik Elsmore 17pts
7, Charlie Payne 16pts
8, Alan Cookson 15pts
9, Owen Murphy 14pts
10, Alan Carmichael 13pts
For further information and full Championship positions go to www.gravelrally.co.uk.
Picture attached: ANCRO top points scorer Sean Devine/Francis Regan in action on Rallye Sunseeker today, courtesy of WWW.CMWI.NET
Round 1 – 27/28th February – Rallye Sunseeker, Bournemouth
Round 2 – 21st March – Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, Jedburgh
Round 3 – 18th April – Pirelli Tour of Cumbria, Carlisle
Round 4 – 8/9th May – RBS International Manx Rally, Douglas
Round 5 – 30th May – Severn Valley Rally, Builth Wells
Round 6 – 18th July – Swansea Bay Rally, Swansea
Round 7 – 5th September – Woodpecker Rally, Ludlow
Round 8 – 26th September – Trackrod Rally, Pickering
Compiled and distributed on behalf of the MSA Gravel Rally Championship by Cartersport Motorsport Media. PO Box 150, NORTHALLERTON DL6 3WZ
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