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Progressive rally co-driver Tom Woodburn became the 2018 Prestone MSA British Junior Rally Champion at last weekend’s gruelling Dayinsure Wales Rally GB (4-7th October) after securing an RC4 class podium at Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Woodburn, from Morecambe, guided fellow Brit James Williams to third in class RC4 on the event which also formed the final two rounds of the British Championship. With the first points allocated after the opening leg of the four-day event, Woodburn’s maximum points haul would be added to his second place on the final day to ensure the MSA Academy graduate could bring the title back to Lancashire.

The 24-year old’s knowledge of the stages across the UK is unprecedented and his experience in the co-drivers seat secured him a role alongside Norwegian driver Steve Rokland for the opening two British Championship rounds of the season. Winning the Carlisle Rally was a highlight and despite missing the Ulster Rally, Woodburn would re-join the BRC at Wales Rally GB alongside Network Q Vauxhall Adam driver Williams.

The pressure would undoubtedly be on for the new pairing and Woodburn would have the responsibility of ensuring the Welsh driver’s World Rally Championship debut was a smooth one. Almost 320 kilometres of special stages were packed in 23 tests during the gruelling four-day event, offering crews little rest and some of the most arduous conditions on the World Championship calendar.

Whilst Woodburn had one eye on the race to the BRC co-drivers title, he would need to concentrate on the job ahead of him and after two long days of pre-event reconnaissance, the rally would kick off with a spectator stage around the Tir Prince Raceway on the north Wales coast on Thursday night.

Despite a slow start, Friday’s loop of stages offered the chance to get settled into his new surroundings and Woodburn was able to help Williams manage the pace and head towards the head of the RC4 class. Lying second BRC crew throughout the day, a brake issue would sadly hamper progress in the morning loop of stages.

Conditions were difficult, and with the rough and slippery stages during the day, damage limitation would be key. Woodburn’s knowledge and experience came to the fore on the 29-kilometre Brenig stage, vaulting him into the lead of the BRC contenders with a confidence-boosting time. There he would stay to end the opening leg as first BRC co-driver and bagging maximum points for the first of two rounds that weekend.

Saturday’s leg took crews into Mid-Wales and the more flowing stages of Myherin and Dyfi. Once again, Woodburn’s knowledge of the stages played into their hands and using his experience, he guided Williams to the front of the RC4 class before a puncture undid all the hard work from the day.

Just five stages were on offer on Sunday and despite the shorter leg, any lapse in concentration could throw away any title hopes for Woodburn. Consolidating their second place in the BRC Junior category, all they needed to do was to bring the Adam back to Llandudno and the finish for Woodburn to secure the title. The pairing duly obliged, claiming the coveted title and the biggest achievement of his rallying career.

“What an amazing feeling to be a British Rally Champion,” said Woodburn at the finish.

“This is what dreams are made of and I’ve worked so hard throughout my career to get to this point and be a title holder. It makes it extra special that it was here at Wales Rally GB, one of the toughest events in the world, in front of so many people and the best drivers in the business.”

Whilst Woodburn has competed all over the world, he cites his achievement this season as one of the best.

“It’s been a difficult year at times but I never gave up trying to seal the Junior title. The season started on a high so I wanted to make sure it ended that way too. Rallying is such a demanding sport but I love every second of it, despite the low points, high’s like this make it all worthwhile. A major title has certainly been on my wish list for some time and now I have the Junior honours, I`ll just have to raise the bar a little next season”.

Image credits Jakob Ebrey Photography

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