Ribble Valley rally driver Russ Thompson extended his lead of the British Trails and Rally Driver Association’s Production Cup category to 20 points at the weekend as he left the 2018 Carlisle Stages as class runner-up.
He struggled to find his flowin the early part of the rally, before launching an assault on an overall top three finish following the midway service halt.
Having won all the Group N class on all three of the preceding rallies, Thompson knew a strong showing would allow him to take a sizeable step towards reclaiming the title he won in 2016.
But on a frustrating morning in the forests around Newcastleton, Thompson was unable to find a satisfactory rhythm in the car and was unable to match the pace of Pat Naylor, allowing the Uttoxeter drive to build a 14-second lead at the end of the morning loop.
That all changed in the afternoon’s first stage, the near 15-mile blast through Kershope forest.
Having been on average 21 seconds behind the faster classes in the morning, Thompson blitzed most of field with a stunning drive.
Completing the test in 15mins and 43 seconds, it was a blistering time that saw Naylor’s lead not only wiped out, but turned into a three-second deficit as he trailed in 17 seconds slower than Thompson.
It was only 11 seconds off the fastest time of all, set by veteran driver Paul Bird in an ex-WRC Ford Focus, making it arguably Thompson’s best performance in a stage since switching to the championship in 2014.
Thompson launched into the second running of the Ash Park stage, but a hidden tree stump collided with the rear end of his Mitsubishi Lancer and the car needed to be nursed through to the end of the rally, as he claimed second in Group N in a solid return.