BIDFORD rally driver Chris Lear and his co-driver Nigel Fox successfully completed their fourth rally last weekend in their Nissan Micra kit car.
With wet and windy conditions, an engine that was significantly down on power and damage to the car on Special Stage 3, the event was perhaps the duo’s biggest challenge so far in their rallying careers.
After finishing their first season in rallying by tackling some of Wales’ classic World Championship stages on the Cambrian Rally last October, Fox and Lear spent Stage 1 becoming re-accustomed to their Micra rally car, having not driven at competitive speeds for almost four months. In addition, unexpected complications after making some repairs to the engine had resulted in a sudden change from the powerful kit car engine to a standard 1.3 litre road car engine in the week before the event.
Despite this, Stage 2 saw Fox deliver the best performance of his rallying career to date, but only after an MG ZR hit a tree resulting in a one-hour delay, with an ambulance being called to the scene.
In Stage 3 though, disaster appeared to have struck and it seemed the event would be dramatically cut short for the pair. Four corners from the end of Stage 3, Fox’s progress was halted as Lear slowed down his team-mate because an under-body guard for the rear suspension had come adrift. Fortunately, Lear’s quick thinking meant the issue was resolved with the pair then enduring the loud and irritating noise of the guard scraping on the road to Stage 4.
During Stage 4 the offending guard snapped off completely but as the service halt followed, the team from EJM Preparation were able to affect some temporary repairs.
Stage 5 was thankfully uneventful, whilst the particularly exciting 14-mile Speech House stage was the highlight of the afternoon. There was another scare as the Micra engine cut out at the finish of the Speech House stage and remained a cause of concern as it refused to run smoothly on the final two road sections and during “Serridge”, the final stage of the rally.
The Wyedean Forest Rally proved to be as demanding as its reputation would suggest. Some 42 teams retired in total, but Fox and Lear battled through to be rewarded with an 86th place finish out of a large entry of 135 starters – an excellent result for the first event of the 2014 season.
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