Alan Cookson and Julian Wilkinson made the best possible start to their 2009 season by finishing in the top ten on last weekend's Rallye Sunseeker in Bournemouth.

The crew came home tenth overall, but second in class four, in their Subaru Impreza World Rally Car, clinching an important 16 points on the opening round of the Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship. It was the pair's first result in three attempts on the Sunseeker, and came on the back of consistent top 13 times on the gravel-based event.

Despite enjoying a close battle for position with the Mitsubishi WRC Evo of Charlie Payne and Craig Thorley, there were concerns on the first loop of stages on Saturday morning, when the car was pulling from left to right, causing Cookson and Wilkinson to believe it had a serious suspension problem. However, their fears were allayed when it turned out to be a tyre issue, the TEG Sport Team having realised that the car had been fitted with a wrongly sized tyre.

The Subaru also had an engine that seemed to be down on power in the morning, but fitting different plugs at service cured the problem, and the rest of the event ran relatively trouble-free, even though Cookson picked up - and repaired - a puncture just before the start of stage eleven. The car then set a fine pace on the final stage, with seventh quickest time on the Hoare Banks 2 test being its fastest time of the event.

"I'm delighted - it's third time lucky and, to get in the top ten, I'm absolutely over the moon," Cookson said, "It was lucky that I noticed that puncture before the ten-mile eleventh test or it could have been a lot different, but this result is a great start to our season and one that is not bad for a twelve-year-old car.

"The car felt great all afternoon, and we set some competitive times against what was a very strong field but, most of all, it's good to finally put the misfortune of the past behind us. After not finishing the last two years, you would have thought we had won the rally when we crossed the finish line on stage 13. It meant that much to both Julian and I to finally finish our local event.



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