Twelve months after ending his season in a Somerset ditch, Flookburgh rally driver Aaron McClure made a successful comeback to the sport on last weekend’s Malcolm Wilson Rally.
Driving his freshly rebuilt Yokohama HPT backed Mitsubishi Evo IX, McClure and co-driver Michael Gilbey took fifth spot in the ultra-competitive NR4 Production Cup and a healthy 21st overall in a field which was bolstered by British Rally Championship hopefuls using the event as a test bed for their forthcoming season.
It’s been a painful few months for McClure who spent much of last season rebuilding the car after his Somerset Stages Rally off. His frustration was followed by the opening round in North Wales being cancelled due to the icy conditions on the stages and the 22 year old has been itching to get back behind the wheel to reignite his assault on the BTRDA series.
Whilst topping his second place on the event last year may have been a little ambitious due to the quality of the top 20, McClure had professed from the outset that a finish and points on the board would be the target for the weekend. He duly delivered his promise from the very first stage taking fourth quickest in the category whilst he settled into the newly formed team inside the car.
Showing signs of his impressive 2016 pace, McClure fired in top three times on the next two stages to end the opening loop in fourth. The immaculate Mitsubishi required little more than a spanner check in the first service of the day and McClure was happy enough with his pace over the morning tests.
“It’s been a tricky start to the season really and the stages this morning were not the easiest to try and build your confidence on” he said. “The grip levels are changing all the time so we won’t be taking any risks for the rest of the day”.
Two tests in the Grizedale forest followed and a conservative time through the first stage dropped McClure to fifth in NR4. But despite his confidence returning in the second, he returned to service before the final stage pleased to still be in the event after a few near misses on the slippery Cumbrian gravel.
Not wanting to jeopardise any chance of a result, McClure eased his way through the last Greystoke stage to cross the finish ramp with a worthy points haul to kick start his return to the series.
“I don’t think that could have gone any better to be honest” said McClure at the finish. “The car didn’t miss a beat all day long and it’s a testament to the team for that, the first events are never easy. But I knew it would be tough to get near the front of the class after being away for so long. I needed to get used to the car again and almost learn everything from scratch. We set a few strong times this morning which is encouraging so that’s what we will take to the next round in Somerset. It’s great to be back”.
The Somerset Stages Rally forms round two of the BTRDA series and takes place on the 8th April in Minehead.
Image courtesy of Paul Hadley