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British rally co-driver Tom Woodburn got his Prestone MSA British Rally Championship campaign off to the best possible start last weekend, by taking the opening round Junior win alongside Norwegian ace Steve Rokland at the Pirelli International Rally (28th April).

Woodburn, 23 from Morecambe, guided Rokland to fastest stage time on seven of the eight special stages in the Kielder Forest, to win by an impressive 1 minute and 10 seconds over their nearest rival in their Peugeot 208 R2. The result nets Woodburn maximum points in the Junior series, opening up a seven point lead heading into round two.

After a sporadic season in 2017 which saw the progressive co-driver secure outings in both mainland Europe and the UK, Woodburn has been seeking a return to a top-flight championship.

Having contested Rally Finnskog and the South Swedish Rally in Scandinavia last year with Rokland, the seed was sown for further outings and when the rapid driver embarked on a British Rally Championship campaign in 2018, it would be Woodburn that would occupy the co-driver’s seat for the season.

His previous knowledge of the stages used in the British Rally Championship are almost unrivalled for a young co-driver and the experience built up since his sporting debut in 2010 has netted him several impressive co-driving roles. These include outings in the Junior World Rally Championship, events in France, Barbados and Africa as well as many domestic events across the UK and Ireland.

It wouldn’t take long for the re-formed duo to get into their stride on the Carlisle based event, storming to a 19 second lead over the second placed Junior on the opening stage. And it would be a lead they would never relinquish.

Brake problems on the longest test of the event could have easily spelled disaster thanks to a non-existent brake pedal in the 208. Woodburn stopped the clocks at the finish expecting to have haemorrhaged a chunk of time; the time sheets however show a different story.

Just 10 seconds were lost and once rectified in service, Woodburn continued to push Rokland through the final loop of stages to dominate the event and return to the Brampton finish to spray the champagne as victors.

“I knew we would do well here, but to win by such a margin really is the perfect way to start the season” said Woodburn.

“It’s great to be back in the car with Steve and I could tell from the first corner this was going to be a pretty special weekend. To be on the top step of the podium on the opening round of the BRC is a dream result and looking at the pace we had, things are looking really good for the rest of the season.”

The next round of the series makes a guest appearance in Belgium for the closed-road Ypres Rally in the June and the event offers an additional challenge which Woodburn is looking forward to.

“The Belgian roads are similar to Kielder in a way, in that they are notorious for swallowing cars thanks to their significant and unforgiving ditches” he says.

“Steve hasn’t done a huge amount on asphalt so it will be my job to keep him on the straight and narrow over there whilst ensuring we are still at the top of our game. I think it will be the hardest rally of the year in some respects but after this weekend’s performance, I think it proves both I and Steve are ready for it”.

Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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