by Geoff Mayes
Andrew Hockridge put in a strong drive in atrocious conditions on last weekends Ulster Rally to finish on the podium on the highly competitive Citroen C2R2cup on his first visit to Ireland.
Hockridge, who is contesting the championship for the first time, has been the revelation of the year, balancing speed with consistency and showing an extremely adaptable driving style which appears to have worked wonders over the unforgiving Irish lanes.
Minor gearbox issues distracted the GRH Foods backed driver on the opening stage, resulting in a minor off-road excursion, but thankfully with no damage and minimal time loss. Hockridge then picked up a puncture in the third stage of the evening and lost some time nursing the car to the end, but from there on settled into a good rhythm and admitting to really enjoying the night time stages.
The Gino's Pizza Cheese supported C2 returned to Armagh at the end of leg one lying third amongst the British C2's, and even more impressive was the fact that he was mixing it with the top Irish C2R2 pilots in their own back yard.
Some strong stage times on Saturday morning helped Hockridge, who is co-driven by Rich Mills in the Geoff Jones Motorsport run pocket rocket, to pull out a sizeable gap to his nearest challenger and then, when the rain arrived in the afternoon, the pair could afford to back off.
Even this was not straight forward though, as the pair experienced a heart fluttering moment when they slid into a ditch on stage 14 and dropped half a minute. Fortunately, such was the gap over the next car, they were able to retain his position.
“What a fantastic rally,” he said. “When I signed up to the series I was a bit sceptical about the tarmac rounds but I'm actually rather enjoying them now. I am really pleased with this result, especially as we've shown we have the pace against the top Irish lads too. I must say a big mention to Geoff Jones, whose help and advice has played a big part in the fact I'm leading the championship.”
The pair have both extended their leads in their respective championships, but with another three rounds still to go the season is a long way from over.