BRITISH Junior Rally Champion, Garry Pearson, from Duns, joined another six drivers last week to take part in this year’s prestigious Pirelli UK Star Driver shootout over two days at the iconic motorsport complex of Sweet Lamb in Wales.
The six drivers were selected on merit, one from each of the six qualifying rallies that made up this year’s Pirelli-supported British Rally Championship. Garry was the underdog by means of not having been selected on merit and having driven an R1 Class Car all year whilst Tom Cave, Osian Pryce and Desi Henry had competed all year in the same car the shootout was using, namely a Citroen DS3 R3 Class Car. Mark Donnelly had driven a Renault Clio R3 all year whilst Matthew Cathcart and Jussi Kumpumaki had used Fiesta R2s.
The Pirelli Star Driver programme was set up in 2007 to reward aspiring rally drivers with a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in a full MSA British Rally Championship campaign courtesy of Pirelli and is worth an estimated £150,000
The finalists were assessed on their abilities to drive a Citroen DS3 R3 on a two-mile stage at Sweet Lamb: the same complex that is used as a rally stage in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The drivers were also tested on their driving skills, media awareness, event strategy, technical ability and future potential.
Mark Donnelly, who won the opening round of this year’s Pirelli-supported MSA British Rally Championship, beat off stiff competition from six other finalists to claim one of the most coveted prizes in British motorsport. The 21-year-old, from Omagh in Northern Ireland, will compete on all seven British rounds in 2013 at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 R3 from David Greer Motorsport.
Due to run for its sixth consecutive year, the Pirelli Star Driver programme has helped a number of promising drivers in their quest to become an international rally star.
Previous winners include recently-crowned WRC Academy champion Elfyn Evans who is a perfect example of a driver who has used the support and guidance of Pirelli in order to compete on the world stage.
A panel of four judges including World Rally Championship co-driver Chris Patterson, renowned motoring journalist Jerry Williams, Finland’s Risto Laine and Citroen Racing’s Jean Francois Lienere assessed the finalists. The panel reached a unanimous decision that Donnelly deserved to win this year’s shootout based on his speed, technical knowledge and overall potential.
Garry’s father Monty said: “Garry certainly raised a few eyebrows, more so when he posted the second fastest time to Donnelly on the second day – only two seconds down!”
Pirelli UK Motorsport Operations Manager Matthew Corby commented: “On behalf of Pirelli, I would like to congratulate Mark on being crowned the new Pirelli Star Driver. We feel he is a very worthy winner and we’re looking forward to working with him over the next 12 months.
“The level of competition at this year’s shootout was extremely high and none of our finalists should leave Wales feeling disappointed: any one of them would genuinely have been fit for winning the prize.
“Unfortunately there can be only one winner and Mark impressed the panel of judges due to his skill behind the wheel, motivation and overall ability.
“The Pirelli Star Driver prize has proved itself as an excellent stepping stone for promising drivers to further their rally career and I am in no doubt that Mark will be in with a strong chance of winning next year’s British Rally Championship.”