26 April 2010
Milner masters Pirelli to lead Gravel Championship
Jonny Milner returned to winning ways through the forests of Kielder.
Former double British Rally champion Jonny Milner saw off the opposition with a superb victory on the Pirelli Tour of Cumbria after a hectic day in a dry and dusty Kielder Forest
Milner and co-driver Ian Windress' Toyota Corolla WRC emerged over a minute to the good in round two of the 2010 MSA Gravel Rally Championship, coming in ahead of the Hyundai Accent WRC of Stephen Petch and John Richardson, with Charlie Payne and co driver Craig Thorley's Ford Focus WRC coming home in third place.
In fact, Milner was never headed as he was fastest out of the blocks on the opening stage and doubled his one-second advantage over the Subaru WRC of former ANCRO champions Roger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield to two seconds after the day's second stage in the Kielder complex. At the first service, Yorkshireman Milner held sway over Duckworth by five seconds, with Petch and Payne battling just over half a minute down as they scrapped it out for the final podium place.
Milner continued to lead but on the next loop of stages, Duckworth suffered a puncture and dropped a minute, but worse was to follow when he went off the road on the penultimate stage, meaning his challenge was over and allowing Milner to take his first victory since the Manx International Rally in 2004.
As a result, Petch moved into the runner-up spot and crossed the Carlisle finish line just over a minute down, whereas Payne, in only his second drive in the Ford Focus WRC, finished third. The Mitsubishi of Kevin Rowledge and Paul Whittaker came home in fourth ahead of the Ford Escort of Matthew Robinson/Darren Brown, with Subaru debutantes Darren Martin/Martin Steele claiming sixth.
Notable retirements included Tom Naughton/Horace Saville, who went off the road on SS5, with Shelly Taunt/Julie Murphy suffering with suspension damage on the same stage. Alex Allingham/Bob Stokoe rolled their Subaru one stage later, as did Jamie Anderson and Mark Mason. Neville Jones/Ian Capewell went out on SS10 and Rob Cholmondeley/Dave Evans also retired their Escort.
"At last, I've won this rally - it's been a long time but the feeling's still good," a delighted Milner said at the Carlisle finish, "The car has been faultless all day and Ian has done a great job on the notes. It's good to be leading the championship and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series."
Milner leads the championship into the Severn Valley National Rally on 5 June, with Petch in second position and Payne in third.
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