Five stones lighter than he was back in January, Alan Cookson is hoping to make good use of the extra power-to-weight ratio when he and co-driver Julian Wilkinson return to the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship next Saturday for the Pro-Art Signs Swansea Bay Rally.

Regular gym sessions four or five times a week, coupled with training for the Plymouth Half Marathon has seen Cookson lose around 70lbs so far and after a couple of months out of action, he'll be back behind the wheel of his venerable Subaru WRC nicknamed 'Daisy'.

However, the Cornwall resident will be hoping for better luck having retired from the Manx Telecom Rally last time out and then missing the Severn Valley National Rally back in May due to work commitments.

"We're really looking forward to getting back out in the woods after the disappointment of the Manx retirement," said Cookson, who hold eighth position overall and second in Class 9.

"We are also hoping our early season luck returns as we get to the Welsh forests for the first time this year after missing the Severn Valley last month due to work commitments.

"We're certainly hoping for better luck in Wales than we had last year on this event, when the engine blew up after only getting to do three stages of the event.

"I've been told by the people who have done the pacenotes that the stages, as used on the Wales Rally GB in November, are in awesome condition, some of the best they have driven over for some time.

"We are really hoping for a good, clean run this year, and are once again targeting a top ten finish to net some valuable points for the championship.

"I'm hoping my continued weight loss will also help us out on the rally and I'm sure it's got to make a difference having 70lb less weight in the car although it does mean my right foot is not as heavy so I need to concentrate on making sure I'm pushing the accelerator hard to the floor!"