Gearbox failure hits Thompson’s quest

Russ Thompson
Russ Thompson
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Russ Thompson’s quest to secure a strong overall finish in the 2018 BTRDA Gold Star rally series suffered a blow on last weekend’s Woodpecker Stages.

Unfortunately, a gearbox failure forced him into his first retirement of the season.

Chasing an eight-second gap to class leader Pat Naylor after running three stages unhappy with the handling of his Mitsubishi, Thompson was confident a switch onto a harder compound tyre would provide him with the tools needed to overhaul that deficit.

A mile into the first stage after he had shod his car with the better boots, however, Thompson’s gearbox became stuck in fourth gear.

And that severely compromised his speed along the 8.7 mile Haye Park stage’s straights, forcing him into the decision to pull off.

After securing this season’s Production Cup title on July’s Nicky Grist Stages, the Ribble Valley based driver’s target for a rally was an all-out assault on the overall leaderboard in an attempt to finish as high as possible in the Gold Star standings.

Having won the class on this rally in 2017 and running ninth in the four-wheel-drive order, the high air temperatures and bone-dry roads out in the forests were causing high levels of tyre wear and instability under breaking, forcing the 30-year-old to nurse his way through those stages.

Shipping six seconds in the first and one in both the second and third was far from a disaster in those circumstances.

And with a further three stages to run on the harder boots, there was plenty of time to strike back until the mechanical gremlins struck.

With the BTRDA Championships operating a dropped-score system for deciding it’s titles with a driver’s best five results counting towards their final total, the retirement does offer some solace with the solitary point taken on the Woodpecker now one that will be dropped.

It does, however, mean a highly-placed overall finish on the Trackrod Forest Stages at the end of the month is an absolute must if Thompson wishes to finish in his current third place in Gold Star.