Luke Pinder took the coveted 'Pirelli Star Driver' award on the International Rally Yorkshire last weekend, the latest round in the 2008 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship.
Pinder and co-driver Kim Baker have struggled with mechanical problems for much of the year, but despite another eventful day on the Trackrod, the pair battled through to take an eventual second in class and a provisional 13th overall in the RDL-backed Ford Puma 1400 kit car.
“We all have to remember that the car only has a 1400cc engine and whilst it is exceptional it is still only a 1400,” said Pinder, who was using the event to try out some newly homologated developments intended to keep the Puma competitive. “It can cope against the 1600 Citroens and the like, but the 2.0 litre cars are a step too far.”
On the Trackrod things did not start very well, the first special stage was cancelled when a competitor crashed and required the rescue teams to free the driver from his car.
Before the next stage Pinder's confidence took a major knock when an electrical fault caused the car to fill up with smoke. The problem was soon found to be a faulty switch for the heated windscreen, but the crew tackled the stage half expecting the Puma to burst into flames.
Things settled down a bit after that and Pinder began to regain his confidence and push the RDL backed Puma back into the battle for the R2 class lead. Things were going reasonably well until the gear lever and handbrake assembly parted company with the floor of the car.
“For a good few miles Kim held the assembly in place so that I could change gear. It was a complete nightmare,” Luke recalled.
Back in the service area, the experience of the Chris Birkbeck Rally Sport team soon had the situation under control, with the Puma repaired it was a relaxed crew that left service.
“We had nothing to lose, we were too far behind to be in with a chance of winning the class unless the others struck problems, so we decided just to go out and enjoy driving the Puma on the superb roads in the Yorkshire forests,” Pinder added.
That approach paid off, not only did they fight back to second in class but it also impressed the Pirelli judges to the extent that he was nominated for the 'Pirelli Star Driver' award.
This will allow him to go forward to an end of season shoot-out for a prize of a fully supported drive in the 2009 BRC, said to be worth around £250,000: “To be nominated is fantastic,” he summed-up. “This was the main goal for 2008. I will be concentrating on making the most of the opportunity.”