In Nick Rowland's latest exclusive column for, the youngster looks back on the Ulster - and the Mohe International Rally in China...

Over the last month I have once again kept myself very busy, competing in both the Ulster International Rally and the Mohe International Rally in China, followed by two training days with the MSA British Rally Academy.

The Ulster was obviously the next round of the 2008 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship and I was competing within the inaugural Suzuki Swift Sport Cup.

As I have very little tarmac rallying experience the three back-to-back sealed surface events have been a big learning curve for me, but things started much better on the Ulster.

Indeed after the first loop of stages we were holding second place in the Swift Cup which was a solid start. The final loop of stages of leg one, were in the dark and I slowly began to gain some confidence driving through the night. By the end of the first day we were lying in third, which was the target I had set myself, so I was really satisfied.

Day two brought some bad weather in the afternoon but, for once I managed to get our tyre choice spot on, which was thanks to the advice I was given from both members of the FX Motor Sports squad and the guys at Suzuki MSE.

It was nice to be swapping seconds with a few guys that had previously been a bit ahead of me and I was much happier with my driving, although at times I was a bit too cautious in the wet.

Unfortunately I picked up a puncture towards the end of the day and, after driving on it for most of the stage, we were forced to then stop and change it at the roadside. We dropped to fifth which is where we finished up. It was a real shame.

However it was only a matter of days before David Higgins, Ieuan Thomas, Craig Drew and I all set off for the next round of the Chinese Rally Championship. It was my first event in the Evo 9 on gravel and my first event with Craig. We had met each other through the MSA British Rally Academy earlier in the year.

The rally was on the Chinese/Russian boarder and it was absolutely fantastic to have the opportunity to experience the local food and culture. The rally was very, very fast with many long straights and sweeping corners, but it was still quite narrow, which was an interesting challenge. It was quite hard to judge braking points when we were reaching 130 mph.

We started the final day of the rally in eighth place overall but annoyingly dropped to ninth by the end of the event. However I was delighted to achieve my first ever top-ten finish on an international status event and reached my pre-rally target.

It was celebrations all round with David winning his seventh Chinese Rally Championship round in a row too. The WY team did a great job with the car that was faultless, and Craig did an outstanding job while also really enjoying the experience. Hopefully we can do a few more events in China together. David and Ieuan were once again great and giving both Craig and I advice through the rally that kept us pumped up at all times.

Back in England and the next date on my diary was the MSA British Rally Academy training day. It was an interesting programme with team building exercises, sponsorship training, and most importantly driving and pace note training with WRC regulars Marcus Gronholm, Matt Wilson, Phil Mills, Dan Barrett and Scott Martin. Its good to be able to get advice from such experienced people and I tried to soak up as much information as possible.

Next on the list is the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire. I can't wait to get back onto gravel with the Suzuki. I have experience of parts of the stages from doing the North Humberside Rally in 2007. I really enjoyed them back then, so now I can't wait for the event to get underway.


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