Hugh Hunter has taken an early lead after three very slippery, muddy and wet stages at the north end of the Lakes this morning, but a mere 48 seconds covers the top ten, and with two fast tests to come in Grizedale, things could yet change.
Hugh said: “I’ve got further than I did last year,” referring to the gearbox failure which cost him a finish on last year’s event, “but I’m still learning the car. I’ve started a few events since Mull last year, but finishing is the problem. Fingers crossed, the car feels good today.”
David Wright is holding second place, but the team was in a bit of a well-ordered tizzy at service trying to fix a sticking throttle. Trouble was it was sticking open! “The flap in the throttle body was sticking open,” said David, “which meant I was on full throttle when I didn’t want to be!”
Steve Perez got off to a slow start but picked up the pace on the third test: “I’m still a bit tentative after the Wyedean,” he said, referring to the icy conditions, “it’s slippy here too, but there is grip to be had.”
Euan Thorburn is in the top ten, but Paul Beaton is pulling his leg something fierce: “I’m calling him Michael all the time, because he won’t take his glove off,” referring to the fact that Euan is driving with a bandaged hand and not taking his right glove off (in case the wound is leaking) and of course, Michael Jackson never took his glove off either!
“You had to be really neat and tidy with the Lancer,” said Euan, “but you have to be really aggressive with this. It’s like driving a MkII at times, although whether that’s the right way to drive it, I don’t know as yet.”
Sadly, Mike Faulkner is out. The Lancer cowped big time at the end of SS2, following a donhill hairpin over crest into tight right hander. Both he and Peter are OK but the car looks as though it will be driveable once they get it out. Glyn Jarman went off at the same place, but there were enough spectators to get him out and on his way.
Late entry, Steven Clark is just outside the top ten in 12th place and Andy Kelly is out of the rally. The MkI developed a bad misfire in the third test and wouldn’t pull over 7000 rpm. The boys had a look at it in service, but it seems to be more than just a throttle control problem.
Leaderboard after 3, of 7, stages:
1 Hugh Hunter, Focus WRC, 17m 36s
2 David Wright, Lancer WRC, 17m 45s
3 Paul Bird, Focus WRC, 17m 49s
4 Shaun Gardener, Lancer EVO5.9, 17m 50s
5 Roger Chilman, Impreza WRC, 17m 50s
6 Steve Perez, Focus WRC, 17m 53s
7 Michael O’Brien, Focus WRC, 18m 09s
8 Jamie Anderson, Lancer EVO9, 18m 17s
9 Euan Thorburn, Focus WRC, 18m 18s
10 Matt Edwards, 18m 24s