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CA1 Sport become MSA British Rally Championship for Teams’ vice-champions after strong campaign

CA1 Sport are the 2016 MSA British Rally Championship for Teams’ vice-champions, after two of its Pirelli, Fuchs Lubricants and Speedline Corse backed cars finished in the top eight on the final round of the series, the Rally Isle of Man (September 15-17). It topped off a strong seven round performance by the four-car team, which won its local round of the BRC, the Pirelli Carlisle Rally, earlier in the year.

The three-day Rally Isle of Man was such a tough test of team, crew and car that double points were awarded on this, the final round of the BRC. And with 20 stages covering 167 miles, the event proved to be the great challenge everyone predicted – as CA1 Sport’s four-car team experienced mixed fortunes after making strong starts.

Fredrik Åhlin was flying on his first appearance on the Isle of Man – setting second fastest time on SS2 and moving into a strong fourth overall. With Morten Abrahamsen on the pace notes, the 24-year old Swedish driver was aiming to secure the runners-up spot in the BRC Drivers’ title, but an almost impossible sequence of events – beginning with the metal brake fluid holder becoming detached, getting stuck between the brake pedal and the ECU, cutting the electrics to the dashboard and intercom and finally contributing to the engine over-revving – prevented his LeoVegas.com-backed Ford Fiesta R5 reaching the finish, leaving Åhlin fourth in the standings – with all his 65 points coming from two events (including victory on the Pirelli Carlisle Rally).

The arrival of a new Cagemax-supported ŠKODA Fabia R5 meant that David Bogie did not have time to do a pre-event test, which meant that the 29-year old Dumfries driver had to adjust the settings as the event progressed – most significantly in an attempt to dial out the understeer that was delaying him. Despite this, he and co-driver James O’Reilly never gave up and eventually brought home CA1 Sport’s best placed car in seventh. This also secured Bogie seventh place in the Drivers’ standings, as he now gathers the experience gained in 2016 for challenge on the BRC title next year.

Alex Laffey put his love and knowledge of the Isle of Man stages to good use by scoring his best result of the BRC season. Co-driven by Andrew Roughead, the four-time MSA Asphalt Junior rally champion was consistently quick in his u-student.com-backed Ford Fiesta R5, and was rarely out of the top 10 on both stage times and overall positions. The 26-year old Carnoustie-born driver eventually finished a magnificent eighth overall.

Tom Preston fought back from 25th to ninth after losing a lot of time when he spun his Hippo Motor Group-backed ŠKODA Fabia R5 on a very tight section of road. Co-driven by Carl Williamson, he was denied a top 10 finish when he spun four stages from the end, forcing him into an unlucky retirement.

Hippo racing in the Isle of Man Rally

Åhlin said: “We were having a good run on the Isle of Man – second quickest behind Elfyn Evans on stage five was good and on the twisty stages that suited our short gearbox ratio better, we were taking time off Mark Higgins. What happened on stage seven was so unlucky – the sequence of events are so unbelievable, it would be completely impossible for it to happen again. The foot rest has been touching a metal box which holds the brake fluid, and over time this has weakened the fixing point and at the beginning on stage seven the box came loose. Incredibly, it got stuck between the brake pedal and the ECU, so I didn’t have full brakes and had to push the pedal very hard – which pushed the box against the ECU even more, which saw the electrics start to fail and we lost the dashboard and intercom. Without the dash I didn’t know what gear I was in, and without the intercom I couldn’t hear the engine noise because the noise cancelling is so good.

“We tried to continue, but eventually I changed down and because we were in a lower gear than I thought, we over-revved the engine and that was our rally finished. We have been so unlucky this year. Every little problem for us has been a rally-ending problem, when normally this would not be the case. It really is nobody’s fault, but it’s incredible nonetheless. I’m sure we could have had a very good battle with Mark Higgins on the Isle of Man and a very good result, but once again it wasn’t our day.”

Bogie said: “It’s been a tough rally. We struggled to get heat into the tyres and because of this the car was understeering a lot, especially on the Friday. The car was set up in the same specification as it was in Ulster, but it just didn’t feel the same, maybe something is a little different with this new car. The asphalt pace has improved all the way through the year, but it’s been a struggle this weekend. But we never gave up and tried to keep working on it.”

Laffey said: “We were pretty happy with our pace throughout the Rally Isle of Man and we were getting quicker on every stage. It was a good event, very hard, but everything went well. The leaders were going at an incredible speed, but we weren’t too far behind them on most of the stages and we were pleased with our result. My first full season in the British Rally Championship has gone well. Event by event we’ve improved and got closer to the pace – which when it’s being set by the likes of Elfyn Evans, a top world class driver, that’s very encouraging.”

Preston said: “We started the rally on a harder set-up which didn’t work and lost a fair bit of time. On the Friday we had a spin on a very narrow section, which resulted in Carl having to get out of the car and run down the road to stop anyone crashing into us, which put us back to twenty-fifth overall. We managed to quickly get back to fourteen overall and by SS16 on Saturday we were ninth overall. Unfortunately on SS17 we spun on a fast right hander putting us out of the rally, but as they say ‘that’s rallying for you!’ I have really enjoyed my first season in the BRC and am hoping to do more of the same next year and build on the pace we have had this year.”

Martin Wilkinson, Head of CA1 Sport, said: “We really started this event on the back foot. With a new car for David, and Fredrik still on a very steep learning curve on Tarmac, it was important to us to have a good test prior to Rally Isle of Man, but we were let down after a test we had arranged locally was cancelled for reasons out of our hands. We therefore, went into the rally with too many variables. Nevertheless, the drivers all kept trying but this still didn’t mean we could challenge in our usual way.

“Our team has a great spirit and all the crews try hard to help each other. We would have liked to have come away with more than we did, but overall the positive feeling with our guys remains and we can hold our heads high knowing that we’ve had some very good highs this year. 2016 maybe hasn’t delivered the overall championship results that we wanted, but I’d like to thank our sponsors Pirelli, Fuchs Lubricants and Speedline Corse for their help and support throughout the year.”

Rally Isle of Man – Top 10 finishers overall

1. Elfyn Evans/Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5)….2hrs 06mins 14.3secs
2. Mark Higgins/Darren Garrod (Ford Fiesta R5)….+05.6s
3. Tom Cave/James Morgan (Ford Fiesta R5)….+1m22.3s
4. Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan (ŠKODA Fabia R5)….+1m33.9s
5. Matt Edwards/Will Rogers (Ford Fiesta R5)….+3m35.9s
6. Jonathan Greer/Kirsty Riddick (Citroën DS3 R5)…. +3m57.0s
7. David Bogie/James O’Reilly (ŠKODA Fabia R5)….+5m23.2s
8. Alex Laffey/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta R5)….+9m23.2s
9. Robert Duggan/Gerard Conway (Vauxhall Adam R2)….+13m06.0s
10. Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Evo9)….+13m41.7s

BRC Drivers’ points (after round 7 of 7)

1. Evans 185; 2. Cave 101; 3. Greer 75; 4. Åhlin 65; 5. Moffett 52; 6. Henry 49; 7. Bogie 46; 8. Edwards 26; 9. McCormack 18; 10. Yates 17.

Article courtesy of CA1 Sport