Rally Report - Cheviot Stages - 23rd October 2011

Due to the cancellation of the RDP Autumn Rally on Epynt, meaning we could not defend the King of Epynt title having missed the Harry Flatters Rally in July, the Get Connected team travelled north to compete on the last round of the REIS MSA Asphalt Championship, the Cheviot Stages on Otterburn. The expected strong challenge from Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh in their Subaru S12 came on the first two wet, slippery stages, the red Focus lying 3rd overall, 17s behind the Subaru WRC.

A change to softer tyres and damper settings showed an improvement over the following stages, the first fastest stage time coming on ss5, taking 9s from Simpson's 21s lead. An overshoot on SS7 followed by a puncture on SS8 cost Simpson the lead, now trailing the Focus WRC by 14s. Damian stalled twice in SS9, both times on tight square lefts, thankfully only losing 2s to the Subaru, a further 2s were lost in SS10, the only problems in this stage were white and woolly, two sheep stood in the middle of the road on a fast uphill section causing a lift of the throttle.

SS11, 14 miles and a 10s lead - maximum attack all the way through gave us another fastest stage time, 11s quicker than Simpson/Walsh and the rally victory by 21s, a difficult win due to the conditions and the stiff competition, not only from Simpson/Walsh but also from Michael Glendinning/Paul Hughes in their Subaru Impreza until the gearbox cried enough not long after the start on SS8.

A great way to finish the season, 122 points for Damian and 125 for James (best 5 scores to count, 25 points for a win) and the 11th overall win in the Focus, once again meticulously prepared by Paul Benn and his team. We'll be back to attempt a hat-trick of championships in 2012, the last and only time this was done was by Pete Doughty in 1994/1995/1996.

Rally Report - Patriot Stages, Caerwent - 25th September 2011

With the championship at stake we were expecting a hard battle over the seven stages at this unforgiving venue. Having previously won four rallies at Caerwent, Damian knew what to expect. You have to be neat, tidy and avoid all the kerbs and low brick walls at this decommissioned MoD munitions factory near Newport in South Wales.

Simon Mauger/Brian Cammack, starting at Car 1, were always the biggest threat for the rally win and also the championship title, a fast start for both cars saw equal times on the wet, slippery first stage and already pulling away from the rest of the field. The Get Connected Focus took an 8s lead on Stage 2, followed by another tie on Stage 3. This stage was stopped due to an accident involving a car further down the field, the time taken to treat injuries meant a long delay and the subsequent cancellation of the last stage, Stage 7.

With the weather rapidly improving and the roads drying, Stage 4 saw the championship resolved when unfortunately for Simon and Brian their Mk 2 Escort stopped with throttle problems and retired from the event, instantly giving the Get Connected Team the REIS MSA Asphalt Championship. The retirement also gave us a big lead over the rest of the field so we could drive carefully through the last 2 stages, without taking any risks, to win the rally by 1 min 39s from John Indri/Dave Engwell in their Darrian T90 GTR.

James Morgan has become the youngest champion since the championship started in the 1980s, at only 20 years old he has done a fantastic job all year and hopefully will be back for more in 2012 !

This is the 10th win for the Focus over the last 2 years, a testament to the preparation skills of Paul Benn and his team in Cockermouth, Cumbria.

A big thank you also to Kumho tyres and Vital Equipment/Carless Fuels for their support, all that’s left to do now this season is attempt to win the King of Epynt title for the 3rd year running on the RDP Autumn Rally on October 23rd.

Rally Report - Dick Bailey Wexford Stages - 10/11th September 2011

Next stop - the Sunny South East of Ireland for the Dick Bailey Wexford Stages. After finishing 2nd overall in 2009 and 1st overall in 2010 we were looking for another win on this great event on its 40th anniversary, but it was not all plain sailing for the current MSA Asphalt Championship leaders.

Campaigning the Ford Focus WRC05 Damian and James pulled out a 17 second lead after the opening 2 stages but a driveshaft problem on SS3 dropped them to 2nd behind Sebastian Ling and only 6 seconds ahead of Roy White in 3rd. The crew managed to make repairs to get the car back to service where the team rectified the problem. Damian went on the attack over the remaining 2 stages of the day and ended the day back in the lead by 16 seconds over Sebastian Ling.

Day 2 saw no let-up in Damian’s attack, taking another 24 seconds out of Ling on the opening stage to extend the lead to 40 seconds, SS8 Damian backed off, being careful through the muddy, slippery farmyards that were a feature of this stage, but still took 3 seconds out of Ling. Another push on SS9 gained another 25 seconds which allowed Damian to cruise to the finish and win the 2011 Dick Bailey Wexford Stages by a margin of 1 minute 39 seconds with fastest times on 9 of the 12 stages, becoming the only overseas driver to win the event two years in a row in its 40 year history.

The team now heads to Caerwent on September 25th for the penultimate round of the MSA Asphalt Championship with a clear goal - finishing in front of Simon Mauger will clinch the championship. Caerwent holds fond memories, the first time Damian won a class award was here in 1998 in a Road Rally class Mk 2 Escort and the first overall win was also in Caerwent in June 2000, driving a 2.0 litre Darrian T90.

With 4 overall wins at the venue in the past we need to add a 5th and the 10th win for the red Focus....

Rally Report - Mewla National Rally - 28th August 2011

Back on home ground for Round 7 of the championship we were hoping to do what we did in 2008 and win the Mewla National Rally overall.

This was made extremely difficult by a slow front left puncture on the first loop of 2 stages, dropping 22 seconds behind the eventual winners, Peter Lloyd/Carl Sorensen in their Subaru S12. At this point we were also 13s behind our main championship rivals Simon Mauger/Brian Cammack.

A big push over the following stages saw the Get Connected Focus move up to 2nd overall, 15s ahead of Mauger with one stage remaining.

An overshoot on the last corner of the last stage, getting the car stuck between banks in a narrow section cost over 20s and second place, eventually finishing 5s behind Mauger, not the result we were looking for....

The team now heads to Round 8 in Caerwent on September 25th needing a win from this or Round 9 to guarantee the 2011 championship.

Rally Report - Tyneside Stages - 31st July 2011

A long trip North was the order of the day for Round 6 of the 2011 championship, Otterburn near the Scottish border.

With the driver not having been there for nine years and the co-driver never having competed there it was going to be difficult for the Get Connected Rally Team to compete against locals and championship regulars with more knowledge of the fast and bumpy MoD roads, especially as only one recce run was permitted.

A steady run over the first stage was not quick enough, 7s slower than John Indri/Dave Engwell in the Darrian but 2s quicker than car 1, last year's winners, Simon Mauger/Brian Cammack in their Mk 2 Escort.

Fastest times on stages 2 and 3 put the red Focus into the lead, but braking too early in stage 4 saw Simon Mauger take 9s back, meaning both cars now had equal times. We tied for time on ss5, still nothing in it. We managed to pull back 4s on ss6, losing 1s on ss7 so with two stages left we were leading by 3s. Another strong contender departed the fray on this loop, Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh losing the front right wheel on their Hyundai Accent WRC, pulling out of our way at a chicane towards the end of the stage.

A big push was now needed on ss8, halfway into the stage we could see we were catching the Escort. Unfortunately for Simon and Brian a halfshaft had snapped in the axle, we passed them as they limped to the stage finish, losing 53s and any chance of the win.

With one long 17 mile stage to go, we now had a 36s lead over the Subaru S11 of Dave Turnbull, so a steady run through, taking no chances, ensured the rally victory by 25s and maximum championship points - well worth the long trip up the motorway !!! 

Rally Report - ALMC - 17th July 2011

The City North Hotel in Dublin was the start venue for Round 5 of the championship, the ALMC Stages. Starting at car 1 after winning the event outright last year, the www.upgrademyorangemobile.co.uk Focus headed out into the Southern Irish countryside against stiff opposition, not only from championship regulars Stephen Simpson and Simon Mauger, but also from two young Irish drivers, Robert Barrable and Darren Gass. Both the latter drivers took the opportunity to register for the REIS Asphalt Championship in order to be featured in the TV coverage.

With new differential maps programmed into the car to improve traction but with no opportunity to test before the rally, the first 2 stages were a learning curve getting familiar with a slightly different driving technique. We started SS3 already 35s down on rally leader Darren Gass, but fastest time on this stage saw us arrive at first service in second place, 28s in arrears. The first loop of 3 stages saw many crews, including Simpson and Barrable, experience terminal problems and drop out of the battle.

In the ever changing conditions, fastest times on stages 5, 6 and 9 and joint fastest with Gass on stage 8 kept him honest throughout the rest of the event, but the damage had been done on the first two stages and at the finish the gap was still 30s. However, the team is now confident that the revised settings have made the car faster. 2nd place championship points has strengthened our lead at the top of the points table, Simon Mauger remains second overall after another strong finish in third place, just over 2 minutes behind us in Ireland.

Rally Report - Rally of the Midlands June 17th/18th

Round 4 of the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship saw the Get Connected Rally Team return to Hinkley, starting the Rally of the Midlands at Car 1. With 24 stages at 5 different venues over 2 days this is a challenging event for both the crew and the car.

Friday evening did not go too well, SS3 in Bramcote Barracks was cancelled by the organisers after the start marshalls failed to follow the correct procedure resulting in a potential time loss of 30s. The following 3 stages were not great, resulting in lying 4th overall overnight.

Saturday morning didn't start any better, a spin on the first stage of the day, SS7 (once again in Bramcote) dropped another 10 seconds. Throughout the day we moved up to 2nd overall after setting fastest times in all 4 visits to Merevale, we were however struggling on every visit to MIRA with a lack of top speed. The stages had many long straights, the Focus WRC has a top speed of approx 120mph - not enough for MIRA!

With 2 stages to go we were lying 37 seconds behind car 4, Simon Mauger/Brian Cammack. These last stages were in MIRA.... This time the stage was slightly more technical and at last we managed to set fastest time, 6 seconds quicker than Simon/Brian. With only 1 stage to go, 31 seconds was too much of a tall order, but it was nearly to be. Fuel pressure problems for car 4 on the last stage meant that the engine wouldn't rev properly, by the end of the stage the gap had been reduced to only 7 seconds....

The spin on the first stage in the morning had now cost us dear, but 2nd place in the rally and in the championship points now means that the we have taken the lead in the race for the 2011 championship, the next round is the ALMC Stages in Dublin on July 17th where we will once again lead the field away as Car 1 and can hopefully defend last year's win on this event.

Rally Report - Jim Clark National Rally - 27/28th May 2011

For the third round of the championship in the Scottish Borders the team was joined by another new co-driver, James Morgan.

Last year's champion, Craig Drew, filled the hot seat on Round 1 followed by 2003 World Champion Phil Mills on Round 2, no pressure on 20 year old James then... as John Indri told him while we waited for the start at Duns High School "What can possibly go wrong...?" Having received advice from former WRC co-driver Nicky Grist prior to the event (only his fourth rally on pacenotes) James was well prepared for the challenge ahead, to win the event and take maximum championship points.

A steady run around the spectator stage in Duns put us third overall, a push through SS2, Bothwell put the Focus WRC into the lead. SS3, Abbey St Bathans didn't go as well, having to swerve to miss a spectator who stepped into the road on a high speed section towards the end of the stage didn't help. Fourth overall overnight, 13s off the lead meant the win was still possible.

Four fastest stage times in a row on Saturday morning moved us into a 6.4s lead over Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh in their Subaru Impreza S12 WRC, a lead which was lost on SS12 after catching a slower car on the split in Eccles. Now 2s behind, maximum attack was the only way we were going to win. Pushing very hard on SS13, Swinton 2, we were lucky to get away with an overshoot into a field at the end of a long, bumpy straight, thankfully someone had kindly opened the gate.... even with the overshoot fastest time by 5s put us back into the lead by 3s, over the next 2 stages this was whittled down to 1.8s - too close for comfort with only one stage to go. Beating the Subaru by 3.4s over the last 12 miles guaranteed the victory for the second year running on the only closed roads event on the UK mainland, putting the championship title defence back on track.

James will now continue as co-driver for the rest of the season, the team is looking forward to Round 4, Rally of the Midlands and hopefully another win on June 18th.

Rally Report - Manx Rally - 6/7th May 2011

The Get Connected Rally Team was joined for Round 2 of the championship by 2003 World Champion co-driver, Phil Mills. Having retired from full-time, professional competition last year, Phil was returning to the sport "just for fun" but looking for a good result. The event started well with second fastest time on the opening stage around Port Erin, after 4 stages we were 4th overall BUT then the rain came on stage 5, the longest stage of the Friday evening. Dark, rain and slick tyres are not a good cocktail and we arrived at the end of Stage 5 both shaken and stirred after going off into a bank on a slippery downhill section, amazed to see we were still 4th overall.

The weather was much improved on Saturday morning, a great time on SS6 saw us move into 3rd overall, then half a mile into SS7 we passed the rally leader, Paul Bird stuck in a ditch. Having gone from 4th to 2nd in less than 2 stages a fantastic result was there for the taking, but it was not to be. Towards the end of SS7 the fly-by-wire throttle motor failed and the car ground to a halt, blocking the stage. A very disappointing end to the rally, but a privilege for the whole team to have a World Champion in the car for seven stages - Thank you Phil.

Rally Report - Tour of Epynt - 13th March 2011

Round 1 of both championships was the Tour of Epynt on March 13th, based in Brecon.

After 6 months out of the car, getting up to winning speed proved to be a tall order, however we did set fastest time on the penultimate stage before disaster nearly struck on the last stage. The left rear driveshaft broke 5 miles into the 15 mile stage and we had to nurse the car to the end of the stage, also suffering with a slipping clutch. 

We had enough time in hand to retain the second overall position behing Steve Simpson/Aled Davies in their Subaru S12 WRC and then had a fraught 20 mile drive back to the rally finish in Brecon, arriving at the final time control with only 4 minutes to spare before we would have started incurring time penalties and therefore losing positions. The Tour of Epynt remains the only rally at this extremely fast, challenging venue that the team has yet to win, maybe in 2012.... 

Season Preview

The Get Connected Rally Team will once again contest the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship and the King of Epynt Challenge for 2011, after winning both in 2010. We will be attempting the "Triple Crown" on Epynt, hoping to add 2011 to 2009/2010.

The season has started slightly better than last year, a retirement on the first round of both the above championships, the Tour of Epynt in February 2010 due to power steering failure, was not the best way to start the campaign, but this year on March 13th we came away from Round 1 with 2nd overall and maximum points in the King of Epynt.

The Ford Focus WRC 05 is again being prepared by Paul Benn's team in Cockermouth with technical assistance from M-Sport. Regular co-driver Craig Drew is unable to contest every event this year due to a professional contract with Subaru USA working with David Higgins. Experienced co-driver Martin Henry will join the team for selected events, starting with Round 2 of the King of Epynt, The Welsh Rally on May 1st.

For our archive of the 2011 season rally reports, please click here

A week later on May 6th/7th we head to the Isle of Man for the second round of the MSA Asphalt Championship where the team will have the honour of working with 2003 World Champion co-driver, Phil Mills. A long time friend, Phil has agreed to compete on this classic event and is keen to add another win to his already impressive CV even though he says it's "just for fun" now he's retired from the WRC.