David Higgins and co-driver Ieuan Thomas overcame food poisoning to provide a thrilling finale to the Huairou Rally in China on Thursday and Friday.
It marked the crew's first Chinese win of the year, after they narrowly missed out on the top podium position on the Jiangning Rally last month.
"It's not been easy this weekend," said Higgins. "But that was nothing to do with the stages. Myself and Ieuan have both been ill all through the event with food poisoning. We did a great test of our Mitsubishi Evo 9 at a kart track, and a good recce, then of course we got sick for the main event, and it was 40 degree heat which didn't help.
“But once we got in the rally car, the rally head takes over and you put your foot down. We were fastest on the first three stages and led until the rear diff seized in the fourth stage. The team changed it to a spare gravel spec diff in service, and we were fastest again on the next test – despite it being an asphalt rally. That left us 2.5 seconds ahead going into the last stage of day one, but an overshoot on a fast downhill section cost us the lead.”
Overnight the crew lay second by 2.3 seconds. The WY Rally Team were kept busy as they had to rebuild the asphalt spec diff so it could be fitted for day two. Meanwhile, both Higgins and Thomas were ill throughout the night, but kept up the pace on day two.
Showing the determination the crew have become known for in China, they were confident they could win going into the final stage – even though they were 6.7 seconds behind leader Jarkko Miettinen going into it.
“We had been 9.1 seconds faster through the stage being used as the final stage when it had run earlier in the day, so we knew a win was possible,” Higgins said. “This time round we beat him through by 10.3 seconds, so we took the win by 3.6 seconds.
"I would like to dedicate my win in China to my family. The day I travelled to China my son Matthew was taken to hospital with pneumonia. Thankfully he has recovered, but were it not for my wife Kara's support I would not have been able to compete last week at all."
The pair's win puts the WY Rally Team at the top of the points table for the teams championship in China joint on points with the KST team. The next round of the championship is the Fogang Rally in August.