Clitheroe rally ace Russ Thompson kept his cool on last Saturday’s Rallye Sunseeker to win the 2013 NGK Spark Plugs British Rally Championship Challenge.
The 26 year old secured his crown as he turned in a thoroughly professional drive across nine forest stages around Poole in Dorset, en route to a second place finish on the event.
Having led the BRC Challenge from the very first mile, Thompson headed to the season finale with three rivals challenging him for the championship.
With a number of different permutations operating, Thompson and co-driver Andy Murphy’s best chance of fending off the pursuing crews, was to trust their skills and drive as they had all season.
As the cars headed out of the service area for the first loop of three stages, the pair’s fine gravel form in their RC4 Renault Clio was displayed from the day’s first test.
On gravel roads still wet and slippery from heavy overnight rain, the duo set two fastest and one second fastest stage times, adding up to a total event time of 16 minutes 56 seconds.
Returning to base in second place, the pair were a mere seven tenths of a second off the lead and, more importantly, 13 seconds in front of their nearest championship challenger.
As the field headed back to the stages for the day’s second loop of three, Thompson and Murphy proceeded to exchange fastest stage times with rally leaders Dean Raftery and Aileen Kelly.
While this put on a show for the spectators and generated a see saw battle for the rally win, the most important result for the Hydrema UK/Dunnow Plant backed crew, was an increased gap to the chasing pack.
After completing the afternoon service break with a cushion of some 30 seconds over third place, the opportunity to be crowned champion with a fourth win of the year was a possibility for Thompson.
However, on the first of the final three stages, the championship leaders almost came to grief after hitting a bump in the road and narrowly avoiding a collision with a tree.
Escaping a rally ending shunt, the pair decided discretion was the better part of valour and backed off from chasing the win.
Driving for the finish, they ended the rally 1minute and 10 seconds ahead of third to be crowned champions.
Speaking at the end of an intense campaign, the man who enjoys support from Clitheroe firms Ribble Valley 4x4 and Proflex, credited his title win to improved performances on tarmac, and said: “It feels really good to have won it, and while it would have been nice to attack and go for the win, we had to be sensible.
“We knew what we had to do and we controlled ourselves well.
“Being able to compete against the guys who are normally really good on tarmac meant we were able to limit the amount of points we lost to them.”