by Russell Atkins
Guy Wilks saw his hopes of claiming the Junior World Rally Championship crown go up in smoke on last weekend's Wales Rally GB, but the 25-year-old remains pleased with the form he has shown this year and confident for the future.
One of Britain's most promising up-and-coming young rally stars over the past few campaigns, Wilks and co-driver Phil Pugh have led nearly every JWRC round this year, and repeated that performance in the last meeting on home turf only for mechanical gremlins to intervene and destroy their title dreams. Here the Durham ace looks back over both the event and his season in general.
Your Wales Rally GB was eventful to say the least, wasn't it?
It wasn't exactly what we had hoped for. It was definitely full of ups and downs. We started very well on Friday's first stage with the fastest time and were there or thereabouts on the second, but then the rear screen smashed and we were dragging a lot of exhaust fumes into the car which made it difficult to concentrate. Then on the third we had a puncture which we had to stop and change, and that cost us two-and-a-half minutes.
That made it a very difficult day, but we managed to get back up from sixth to second which we were pretty pleased with. We knew that would be good enough, and when Kris (Meeke) went out on stage eight that put us into the lead. Then on stage nine we had a smell of oil and smoke coming in the car with two kilometres to go, and the differential packed up about a kilometre further down the road. That meant we had to go with Superally. It was very frustrating.
Obviously you went into the weekend a strong contender for the championship. How confident were you, especially with it being your home event?
We had more of an outside chance than anything else. We needed things to go our way and knew we had to win the event. After we had the puncture on stage three we then just had to get back up as high as we could, and we did that by the end of the first day. We approach every event the same – when we get to the start we always aim to win it. It was just unfortunate the diff let go and that was it.
How frustrating was that?
Massively. You can't really put into context how frustrating it was. We've been in the Junior World Rally Championship for four years now, and three years in a row have been fighting for the title. To be on home soil and have it almost in our hands only for it to then disappear again is not a nice thing to have happen, but onwards and upwards.
Looking back over the year as a whole, are you more encouraged by your showing or disappointed about the lack of results?
Both. We've got to be encouraged – we led five out of the six rallies and won two of them. We were on course to win a third in Sardinia when the oil pipe let go, and we could have won another one here. That would have been four wins in a year which is pretty rare now. It's just one of those things though – we've had a few mechanical failures but the pace has always been there which is the main thing.
What would you say are your highlights and low points from the year?
The highlight was definitely winning in Finland, and the low point after the third stage on Saturday here. I thought it was just a small problem, because there had been oil leaking from the gearbox back at the start. I thought we would be able to get back to service quite easily. The championship has been up and down for us all year. We thought things were going to work out for us here, but as it transpired they didn't.