After months of appeals and legal wrangling, Guy Wilks has finally been declared as the winner of the 2008 MSA British Rally Championship - although Mitsubishi has been forced to pay a total ?60,000 over the Rally Yorkshire saga.

Wilks had dominated the event at the wheel of his works Lancer, but was subsequently excluded from the results after rival teams protested that the steering column on his Evo 9 wasn't homologated.

An 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.

Having heard various arguments reporting concern about the security of the originally homologated part, and those from Team'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.

Just as Wilks' prepared to celebrate however, the announcement was made that the saga required 'further investigation' at a meeting of the Motor Sports Council Investigatory Tribunal.

Having already been cancelled once, the Tribunal finally met late last week in an attempt to bring the saga to a conclusion, with the Tribunal finding that Mitsubishi Motors UK had 'put the consideration of competitive advantage above that of safety'.

While it ruled against suspension or exclusion, the Court ordered Mitsubishi to pay a total of ?60,000 in fines and costs, although the decision not to exclude Wilks means he now secures the title.

"We were urged on behalf of MSA to consider penalties of disqualification and suspension," the court ruling stated. "We decided that it would be wrong to impose either penalty in a case where we were not satisfied that the there had been any deliberate dishonesty or intentional breach.

"We heard submissions and argument on the question of financial penalty and costs. We were informed that MMUK had incurred costs of ?15,000; MSA costs in excess of ?55,000; Mr [Mark] Higgins costs (including loss of earnings) of ?4,000; and the Court costs in excess of ?10,000.

"It was attractively argued by Mr Quinlan [counsel] on behalf of MMUK that the Tribunal had no power to award any costs in favour of a party because of paragraph C (d) 82 which restricts the power of the National Court to do so. Mr Allen [counsel for the MSA] relied on paragraph C (d) 114 which expressly empowers Investigatory Tribunals to allocate costs if appropriate. It would in our view be little short of bizarre if the MSA were not to be entitled to any of the costs which it had incurred in a case such as this.

"We were concerned to impose a financial penalty which reflected the seriousness of the disregard for safety but not one which was disproportionate when viewed as a whole - and we were conscious of the fact that any award of costs would add significantly to that overall sum. We consider that the MSA has acted wholly properly throughout this matter, and in the interests of motor sport and the public, and we should therefore explain why we are not ordering MMUK to effectively indemnify it from the costs it has and will incur.

"We consider that it is in the interests of the sport and in the wider public interest that MSA should thoroughly investigate all matters giving rise to concern about safety, even where the full costs of doing so cannot be recovered from a party whose funds are, we accept, limited in the current financial climate. Had we not been persuaded of that fact, and also taken into account the costs which we order to be paid, we would have imposed a significantly larger fine.

"Taking all those matters into consideration, we conclude that the fair and proper order to make is that MMUK pay ?10,000 towards the costs of the Court; ?25,000 towards MSA's costs; and a fine of ?25,000. We also conclude that we have no power to order the payment of Mr Higgin's costs or expenses."

As well as Wilks being confirmed as drivers' champion, Mitsubishi Motors UK is now confirmed as teams' title winners while Rory Kennedy is co-drivers' title winner.

Mitsubishi has already revealed it won't return to the BRC this season due to the current economic downturn, while Higgins' FX Motor Sport team is evaluating its options after losing the backing of - a decision partly down to the fact it couldn't confirm its final position in the standings due to the Yorkshire saga.

2008 BRC Drivers' Championship:

1. Guy Wilks96 points
2. Mark Higgins88 points
3. David Higgins80 points

2008 BRC Teams' Championship:

1. Mitsubishi Motors UK223 points
2. Team TQ.com201 points
3. Atlas TEG Sport117 points

2008 BRC Co-Drivers' Championship:

1. Rory Kennedy88 points
2. Ieuen Thomas80 points
3. Phil Pugh58 points



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