In Co-ordSport Blog
The seventh and final round of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge, Saturday’s (19th October) Bulldog Rally, saw Jeremy Easson and co-driver Nigel Gardner, become the series Champions, finishing in second place behind Evo Challenge victors on this occasion, Kevin Stevens and Howard Davies.
Although only having to start this event to claim the series title, by being awarded the bonus points for entering each of the seven rounds, Easson/Gardner immediately assumed their familiar position ahead of the other nine Evo Challenge competitors, their mission to also capture the Group N (Production Category) title in the overall Kumho National Rally Championship.
Their main opposition on this event came from Kevin Stevens and Howard Davies, the experienced British Championship and 2001 Evo Challenge Champion co-driver, replacing Stevens’ regular navigator, Stuart Foley, who had to withdraw at 8.00 pm the night before because of illness.
After surviving a brief excursion off the road on the fifth of the event’s eight classic mid-Wales forest stages, the scene looked set for another Easson/Gardner victory, but a puncture on the seventh stage saw them delayed by half a minute, allowing Stevens/Davies to win the day by eight seconds.
Another consistent performance by Mark I’Anson and Graeme Walker, secured them as third Challenge competitors on the event and second in the end of year standings, a result which also saw them as runners-up in the Kumho National Rally Championship’s Group N Class.
A stirring drive by Geoff Lennox and Steve Cressey was enough to place them fourth of the Evo’s, after the pair survived a heart-stopping moment on the ice in stage two, only a fortunately placed log pile stopping their Mitsubishi from plunging down a hill-side. However, the resulting damage caused the car to handle strangely for the remainder of the day.
Next in line were Anthony Willmington and Andy White who, having held second in the series for most of the year, were ultimately disappointed with their fifth place on this event, albeit more than pleased to finish the season third in both the Evo Challenge and Group N categories.
“Since my first Challenge win on the Isle of Man in May, I have not finished an event, so it’s especially good to win today – a great way to end the season”, said a smiling Stevens at the finish.
Easson was as equally satisfied with his result: “I’ve really enjoyed this year and I’m chuffed to be the Evo Challenge Champion. Although we have won four of the rounds, it’s not been easy as today as shown – just one puncture and the advantage is gone. But it’s not just down to me, it’s the efforts of whole team and the excellent reliability of the car that has given us the title.”
Easson’s comments about his Mitsubishi were compounded when, after a day full of retirements, all ten of the Evo Challenge crews made it back to the finish in Shrewsbury.
The 2002 Mitsubishi Ralliart UK Evolution Challenge is supported by:
Mitsubishi Motors UK, Ralliart Europe, Promax Motorsport, Mintex,
Co-ordSport, PIAA, Motec, Compomotive and Motorsport News.