Guy Wilks' British Rally Championship celebrations appear to have been put on hold after the national Motor Sports Association revealed its intent to further investigate the appeal hearing that saw him reinstated as winner of the International Rally Yorkshire in September.
Wilks believed that he had clinched a second successive Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship crown after beating the Higgins brothers, Mark and David, over the unique double-header event that coincided with last weekend's Wales Rally GB, but now faces another anxious wait while the legality of his Mitsubishi Lancer is investigated for a second time. The inquiry also places Mitsubishi's teams' title in doubt.
Championship organisers received notice of the MSA's intentions via a letter dated 12 December, which confirmed the 'intention to order an inquiry under Regulation 26 and 21 (ii) of the Competitors' and Officials' Yearbook 2008 regarding Mitsubishi Motors UK, their recent appeal hearing at the MSC National Court and the subsequent findings at pre-event scrutineering on the recent Wales Rally GB'.
Having been held in limbo for several weeks, Wilks was eventually confirmed as the winner of the International Rally Yorkshire in the run-up to the season finale in Wales, after the MSA revealed the results of Mitsubishi's appeal into his exclusion from the event. The reigning champion had dominated the event at the wheel of his works Lancer, but had subsequently been excluded from the results after rival teams protested that the steering column on the Evo 9 wasn't homologated.
However, the ensuing hearing held by the MSA National Court decided that the event was subject to the International Sporting Code of the FIA as an international event and, although Mitsubishi accepted that the top of the column had been modified - both for safety reasons and to accommodate Wilks' height - it was argued that this was permitted under Appendix J, Article 254 / Article 6.7.3 of the International Sporting Code as the steering column forms part of one of the car's controls.
The court heard evidence from Chris Hodgson, technical manager of ADR Motorsport which builds and runs Wilks' Mitsubishi, and Paul Brigden, general manager of Ralliart UK and team principal of Mitsubishi Motors UK works rally team, as well as New Zealand Rally Championship and the Pirelli Star Driver Championship contender Patrick Malley, who also runs a Group N Mitsubishi Evo 9. All reported concerns about the security of the originally homologated part.
Having heard the various arguments, including that from Team TQ.com's David Higgins, who claimed that the Mitsubishi team should have informed other competitors of the potential danger of the homologated mounting, the court ruled in Mitsubishi's favour and reinstated Wilks as winner of the event.
Now, however, the season appears set to end in acrimony as the national body decides that a further investigation will be necessary to determine the legality of the modification, placing the outcome of the overall championship in the 'provisional' category until a definitive verdict can be reached, although other classes look set to be finalised tomorrow [15 December].
"Under MSA British Rally Championship regulation 14.10.1, the British Rally Championship for drivers and co-drivers, the British Teams' Championship and the Class category Rally 4 championship points tables will remain provisional until such time as these matters have been resolved," championship organisers confirmed.