Apart from setting two fastest times on the first two stages, reigning Pirelli British Rally Champion Jonny Milner, driving his familiar Team Dynamics Toyota Corolla WRC, was content to let the two combative Finnish drivers Tapio Laukkanen and Jari-Matti Latvala battle it out for the lead.

The waiting game paid off, and although Milner didn't win his home event, he took second place at the finish and - most importantly - the 2003 Pirelli British Rally Championship title.

No-one else can now overtake his points total, although there is still one round - the Tempest South of England Rally on October 26 - to go.

Three other champions have also been confirmed. Northern Ireland's Kris Meeke, prot?g? of Colin McRae's S-Mac management team, drove his Team Palmer Opel Corsa to another brilliant Super 1600 win, thereby assuring himself of both the S16 and the Junior titles.

Shelley Taunt, who retired from the event when a wheel (unfortunately her own) overtook her Nissan Micra on stage 8, took both the Ladies' Cup and the 1400 category and the PBRC's Norwegian stalwart, Marcus Foss (Nissan Almera), can now claim the Formula 2000 title after a neck and neck battle with close rival Steve Loveridge (MG ZR) ended with the latters unfortunate retirement.

At Sunday's 1.30pm Malton finish, the top 10 were: Laukkenen, Milner, Latvala, Irish veteran Austin McHale, local Yorkshire driver Steve Petch, ex-Scottish champion Barry Johnson, Chris Mellors (making a welcome return to British rallying in his Ford Escort WRC), Meeke, new arrival and exciting talent from Finland Aki Teiskonen, and Production cup winner Neil Buckley.

Not surprisingly there were a number of casualties (of a mechanical kind) along the way. Leon Pesticcio, driving a Chris Birkbeck-prepared Ford Puma S16 instead of his usual Hi-Tec Fiat Punto, lost time early on with a broken driveshaft but recovered well to finish 16th; Ryan Champion suffered similar problems with his Ford Ireland Puma; Julian Reynolds (Impreza WRC) lost a secure sixth place when he dropped eight minutes after going straight on at a 90-right; Dougi Hall retired with unspecified problems; Bob Ceen disappeared from tenth; and Gwyndaf Evans retired whilst leading the Super 16s after experiencing yet more problems with his MG Sport & Racing MG ZR - this time a broken gearbox. Even Latvala had his moments, losing second place to Jonny Milner early on Sunday morning when he beached himself on a pile of logs after leaving his braking a little late.

Altogether it was a great weekend, and the forests of North Yorkshire have been a fitting location for the title-deciding event of the season, especially for local hero Milner. The weather was perfect, and Rod Parkin and his Trackrod Motor Club team did an excellent job on this the 26th running of the event.

Some of the titles may already have been decided, but Neil Buckley and Roy White in particular will be looking forward to the Tempest to find out who will be the Production Cup winner.

The Tempest South of England Rally takes place on October 26 - in four weeks time...

For more on the Pirelli British Rally Championship go to: www.brcweb.co.uk

 

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