A brilliant drive netted Niall McShea second position on the Network Q Rally Great Britain on Sunday, the Junior World Rally Championship driver scoring the Ray Mallock Limited-prepared Opel Corsa Super 1600 car's best result of the season.

The Jardine Lloyd Thompson-backed driver was on the front-running pace from the start of the gruelling four-day mud rally, but his chances of ending the final event of the year on a high note looked doomed after a succession of punctured tyres.

But he and co-driver Michael Orr refused to give up, their attitude reaping dividends as they pushed to the car's limits. They fought back to second on the final morning, but entering the final stage of the event and season they were embroiled in a fierce battle.

"We knew we had a chance of holding onto second, and we weren't about to let it slip after all the effort we had to put in to get back up there after the punctures," said McShea, who was the leading British driver home in the JWRC. "I pushed as hard as I could and dug deep, so it was a great sense of achievement to come out with fastest time.

"Without the punctures it would have been a fight for the victory, but bad luck can happen, and it was just unfortunate that I had more problems than my nearest rivals. In the end this result is like a dream come true and will hopefully remind the watching team managers what I am capable of achieving even when the going is tough."

The result equals McShea's best-ever finish in the JWRC, which he achieved in Britain last season, and was his first points-scoring finish since signing to head the development of the new for 2002 RML-prepared Opel Corsa Super 1600 car in January.

"Everyone involved in the project has worked so hard this year to develop the car in its first season of competition," said McShea. "To end the final event of the championship with a hard-fought podium position and to have set fastest times on asphalt and on the loose during the course of the year is a testament to everyone's effort."

Project leader Ray Mallock was equally delighted, saying: "We knew before the event that Niall and the Opel Corsa Super 1600 car had the speed to win and, but for those punctures, we would have achieved just that.

"But we also have to be extremely pleased that Niall was able to claw his way back to second after those problems, highlighting his and the Corsa's speed and reliability as he did so. It is a great way for everyone involved in the project to end the year."