Clitheroe’s Russ Thompson got his 2014 BTRDA campaign off to a fine start on last Saturday’s Weir Engineering Wyedean Forest Rally, emerging from the Forest of Dean as the top driver in the BTRDA Production Cup class and fifth in the overall standings.
The 26-year-old delivered a day of consistent and precise stage times in only his second event in his new Mitsubishi Evo 9, building on a promising pre-season and more than matching his pre event targets of being at the sharp end of the order.
After an overnight battering by the latest of this winter’s storms, the stages Thompson and co driver Andy Murphy headed towards out of service promised to be slippery and greasy, adding to the challenge facing the championship newcomers.
With the event being aimed more towards improving his knowledge of the performance and characteristics of his new steed, Thompson delivered a steady run through the opening six miles of the Mailscot special stage, to sit a comfortable ninth on the overall event leaderboard and third in class.
This improved to eighth overall after stage two, Sallowvallets, and with his time for the six-mile test matching that of the second placed N4 class entry, Thompson was meeting his personal targets for the rally.
Retirements for three crews on the day’s third stage saw Thompson claim the class lead and move up to fifth overall, before consolidating these places on the final stage before service at Chepstow Racecourse.
Resuming under brightening skies, the three stages that made up the afternoon’s action saw Thompson’s day continued to go from strength to strength, with the debutant running within 10 seconds of the pace of third place and climbing to as high as fourth overall and with two stages to go, an overall podium was beginning to come into view.
Cruelly however, a broken rear bar after clipping a ditch on stage six put paid to that possibility and while he dropped back to fifth overall, Thompson’s result was nothing short of impressive.
Thompson said: “We’re very pleased with how that went.
“We’d set ourselves the target of being in the top 15 overall and third in class before the event, so to be comfortably achieving the class target, exceeding the overall target and knowing there is so much more to come, it doesn’t get much better really.
“It was a challenging rally and I have to say thanks to the guys at Proflex Suspension who are helping us learn about setting up the Evo.
“The event was fairly bumpy and the last two stages were particularly rough, but we were very pleased with the handling of our car.”
Russ’ next event is the Malcolm Wilson Rally in Cumbria on Saturday, March 8th.