On their first attempt at Britain’s World Rally Championship counter, Wales Rally GB, Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton finished 25th overall.
Having won the national Wales Rally last year run alongside the big event, the duo returned with high hopes and a new car for this year’s full International event.
After the first two stages things were looking good with Thorburn sitting 17th overall in the world class field and was fourth British driver overall and ended the day 23rd and fifth British driver.
“We had a problem with a bottom balljoint,” said Thorburn. “It was so badly worn by the end of the day we could not have gone much further. This being such a new car we didn’t have a full spares package so I had to go to the M-Sport World Team nearby to see if they could help. My new Fiesta S2000 is very similar to their current Fiesta cars, unlike my previous Ford Focus car, so luckily they were able to help out.”
Things started well on the Saturday morning, but then the car developed a misfire, once causing an overshoot, almost into the scenery.
Thorburn explained: “There was just so much mud scattered across the road by the earlier World cars that the mud had obscured the fact we were actually driving on a tarmac stretch of road. I just turned into a chicane, the car slid forward, hit the marker, stalled and then it took ages for the hot engine to restart. Fortunately, it seemed to clear itself after a couple of stages but then it came back in the afternoon.
“We had a real fright on the very last stage of the day when the throttle jammed open. We got to the end of the stage but there was long run in to the Service Park - and then the lights failed!
“We managed to get the car going and reached Service where the team changed the battery and the alternator, and found the cause of our misfire. That was down to a crank sensor so that was changed too and we were ready again for Sunday.”
The final loop of stages were even slippier than before with thick mist in one of them. “We caught a car in that last stage today, but didn’t lose too much time. If it hadn’t been for our earlier problems we could have had a really good result, but that’s rallying,” said Euan. “My pace was not too bad for first time out in the car, so I can be pleased with that.”
He and Paul Beaton finished 25th overall and seventh top all-British crew.
As for Garry Pearson and new co-driver Niall Burns, they had an even more frustrating time in their Peugeot 208, finally finishing 50th overall and fifth in class.
Garry said: “It all went wrong on the first morning. We slid wide on a right hand bend and smacked the banking. Normally there wouldn’t be a problem as the bankings on these stages are just soft earth pushed aside by the road making machines - but there was a hidden rock. There was no big impact but it punctured the radiator and that was us out.”
Once they got back to service the team repaired the car and Pearson was able to restart the second day under Super Rally rules. “That means we started the day with a 30 minute penalty,” said Pearson. “There was no way we could make that time back given the level of the competition. Still it gave me a chance to see what sort of times I could set against the works drivers.”
He added: “I was really quite pleased on the final day, I was setting fastest and second fastest times in my class.”
On a lighter note, Pearson admitted that he and his new co-driver, Northern Ireland’s Niall Burns struggled to get along on the first day: “When my original co-driver pulled out due to illness I was lucky that Niall was available, but he couldn’t understand my accent and I couldn’t understand his. But we’re now the best of pals!”
The rally was won by already crowned world champion Sebastien Ogier, the Frenchman driving a Volkswagen Polo while Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen was second in a Ford Fiesta.