Ribble Valley rally driver Russ Thompson had a disappointing start to his 2016 season last weekend.
Mechanical problems forced his retirement while enjoying a dominant class lead in the Cambrian Rally.
Thompson was 54 seconds ahead of the second placed group N crew when the problem struck, and set to open his season with a fine win.
His performance up to the retirement shows the 28-year-old intends to build on the strong second season he enjoyed in the BTRDA Rally Series in 2015.
The day started steadily after a puncture in the first stage, Gwydyr, hampered the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, before the anticipated battle for class honours between Thompson and Flookburgh’s Aaron McClure showed its first glimpses.
The pair delivered committed drives through the five and a half miles of Elsi and ended the stage with only a second separating their efforts.
That gap was in Thompson’s favour though and allowed him to extend his Group N class lead to nine seconds and to assume eighth in the overall standings.
The prospect of an event long battle with the Cumbria however, ended on the days third stage,
Penmachno, as McClure rolled into retirement. Feeling good in himself and the car and working in tandem with regular co driver Andy Murphy,
Thompson had no such dramas and another top ten stage time Penmachno promoted him to seventh overall and a 35 second class lead.
Opting not to take risks following the event’s mid-point service halt, the Dunnow Plant backed crew fell back to 10th on the overall leader board over the course of the afternoon, but were steadily extending their lead in class.
The bid to make it three consecutive opening round Group N triumphs in a row came to a sudden halt at the start of the penultimate test, as a suspected clutch failure prevented any further progress.
It was a frustrating end to what had shaped up to be a good day, but the strong pace shown tempered that feeling and gives Thompson confidence for the rest of the season.
“Obviously it’s disappointing not to finish when we were leading the class, it would have been good to start the year with a strong score of points.”
“The pace we’ve shown though was really strong. When we came here last year for the first time, we weren’t really anyway in terms of times so to be mixing it well in the top ten and the R5 cars, it gives a lot of confidence going forward.”
The next event in the 2016 BTRDA season is the Malcolm Wilson Rally around Cockermouth on March 12th.