by Geoff Mayes

Mitsubishi works pilot Guy Wilks has been controversially excluded from the International Rally of Yorkshire after technical examinations were made to his Evo 9. Should the results stand then Mark Higgins will take his fourth successive victory of the year.

Regardless of what the stewards decided, Wilks was on fine form throughout the Pickering-based event, taking stage wins on all ten tests as he powered away from his championship rivals.

Mark Higgins chased hard, but such was the performance deficit between his three generation old Subaru Impreza and Wilks state of the art Mitsubishi that by the remote service after stage three he was already some twenty seconds adrift.

Mark's brother David was in trouble, having broken a front driveshaft, and would have to limp through the next set of stages before the offending item could be replaced at the mid-day service.

Gwyndaf Evans, in the second works Mitsubishi, also had dramas with a broken drive shaft of his own, but the Welshman was able to make repairs at the remote service ahead of stage four.

Behind the leading quartet was Darren Gass, the young Pirelli star driver putting in his strongest showing of the season. Darren was being chased hard by Johnnie Greer and Rob Swann, whilst James Wozencroft was playing catch up after a very cautious opening stage cost him a lot of time.

Stages four to six were typical Yorkshire forest stages, lots of high speed sections, blind crests and 90 degree corners. Wilks really stretched his legs on this loop and returned to mid-day service having extended his lead to 1 minute 21 seconds. However, it was not Mark Higgins in second place.

Higgins had broken a gear selector and had been overhauled by non-registered BRC driver Keith Cronin and had dropped back to third overall, albeit less than a second behind Cronin.

Gass had benefitted from both Evans and David Higgins' problems and was now lying third amongst the BRC registered crews, whilst Wozencroft had set some stunning times to move ahead of both Swann and Greer.

Apart from a quick blast around the showground stage in Pickering, the afternoon consisted of a repeat of the morning stages. Wilks continued his domination, extending his lead over Higgins by a further 9 seconds to return to Pickering with a massive advantage of over one and a half minutes from Higgins. Cronin shocked a number of the BRC regulars with his podium finish.

Third amongst the registered crews was in doubt as Gass, who had been lying in P3 exiting the last stage was nursing an ailing car and would eventually incur time penalties dropping the young Irishman outside the top ten. As a result David Higgins, having cured his driveshaft issues from the morning, had now moved into third, with Evans, in the second works Mitsubishi, just piping young James Wozencroft for fourth (which would later become third) by a mere five seconds.

Behind James his team-mate, Rob Swann, enjoyed his first taste of the N14 Subaru on gravel, and finished just three seconds behind Johnnie Greer. Ninth overall and seventh in the BRC was Super 1600 driver Brian O'Mahony, who was pleased to have finished at all after struggling with intermittent engine problems all day

Just behind him, and again underlying his raw pace, was Adam Gould in the R2 Renault Clio. Next up was the Pirelli Star Driver of the rally, young Luke Pinder, who enjoyed a strong run in his Ford Puma S1400, whilst third in R2 went to the winning Citroen C2R2.

Jason Pritchard took a dominant victory in the C2R2 Cup, winning by over a minute and moving him right into the thick of the championship battle. Second in the Cup was Matt Cotton whilst third meant that Andrew Hockridge took his fourth podium of the year and heads to the final round with a slim lead in the Citroen series.

The Suzuki Swift Cup was all about Mark Gamble and his amazing fight back. Nothing new there really, except this time lady luck was a major factor in his success.

Gamble lost two minutes with a puncture, allowing round one winner Gordon Nichol to take an early lead. But then Gamble, on a real charge, blitzed the field and entering the last stage was less than a minute behind the Scotsman.

However cruel luck for Gordon saw his clutch go on the last stage, costing him over 2 minutes and dropping him to fourth. Not only did this gift Gamble his fourth win of the year it also means he has wrapped up the Suzuki Swift Cup with one round still to go.

At the finish the top two cars in each class were called in for post-event scrutiny. Whilst Higgins' Subaru was signed off with no queries the same could not be said for Wilks' works Mitsubishi, which was subsequently removed from the results, allowing Mark to inherit the win.

So, whilst the results might remain provisional for some time, it cannot be disputed that Wilks won the rally on the stages. But was it with a car that had a performance advantage? No one knows.

Either way Mark Higgins heads to Wales Rally GB, the grand finale, currently tied with his brother David on points.

With the Swansea based rally counting as two separate events for the British Rally Championship and with dropped scores allowed, it looks set to be an all Higgins family affair. But should Wilks get away with a slap on the wrist then it will be a three-way battle royal.

Whatever happens be sure not to miss the Wales Rally GB, which runs from December 5-7.


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