Sky Sports News F1 expert Tony Jardine and World Champion co-driver Gordon Noble have successfully finished the most demanding and competitive rally on the UK calendar. The challenging surfaces and conditions were still no match for our 205/65R15 R800 Gravel Rally Tyres!
The PlayStation®4 backed pairing crossed the finish ramp in Deeside in a highly competitive 31st overall and 4th in Group N, a great result for a privateer entry amongst the world’s leading drivers.
Before the final day began, last night the team had to complete two daunting special stages high in the rain-lashed Welsh hills in total darkness, without a doubt the biggest challenge of the rally. With heavy rain and winds strong enough to uproot trees, Jardine and Noble let their combined 55 years of rally experience take over, and they eased the car through the darkness and back to the service park for the overnight halt in 31st position overall.
Reflecting on a difficult night at the wheel, Jardine commented:
“Conditions last night were horrendous; I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Murray Walker always used to say that the rain was coming down in stair rods, but last night it was more like metal poles, our lights wouldn’t even penetrate it. The first half of the first stage last night was very difficult for me with our big light beams bouncing back off the rain, Gordon switched two of them off and it got better. The final stage yesterday was even worse, it was like a narrow stone quarry between the trees with mist being a big issue. The surface was treacherous but you also had to watch the high winds as we were being blown all over the place. But it was a real adventure!”
With the stormy weather continuing throughout the night, the team decided to take the canopies and awnings down before they blew away. The four stages on the final day proved to be a sting in the tail of Wales Rally GB, with the weary team, who had been hoping for better weather instead faced more extreme conditions.
The majestic Great Orme stage provided a particular challenge, the only tarmac stage on the rally might not have been covered in mud like the forest stages of Wales Rally GB, but the exposed headland meant that the gale force winds were even stronger than the team had previously encountered. Conditions were so severe that the stage had to be closed to spectators. To compound difficulties further, the crew had no intercom during the first 700 metres of the stage, and encountered an issue with the car’s exhaust manifold system.
The final stage, Brenig, was a rough rock-strewn course scarred by deep ruts as heavy rain and mist continued. The crew had to turn off the car’s anti-lag boost system to help the ailing manifold which caused a big loss of performance. Fortunately the Raymond Mason-built and ProSpeed-run car had built up enough of a gap over the cars behind that it was able to cross the line and hold onto an impressive 31st position overall and 4th in class.
Speaking about the final day of the rally, Gordon Noble commented:
“This whole rally has been hugely difficult and today was no different. We had some problems on the road this morning because the surface was so rocky, along with a lot of deep standing water and slippery surfaces. We also had a problem with the exhaust this afternoon which was pretty unnerving, we’d come too far to retire from the rally at that stage.
Thankfully, with the conditions as difficult as they are, the car has held up extremely well. Raymond Mason has put together such a dependable car and it removed a lot of dramas and allowed us to get a really satisfying result.
Tony has driven exceptionally well, he’s got a racing background and to come to a rally where conditions vary so much and adapt so quickly is great. I had to encourage him a few times to go a bit faster, but we always had to be very wary of all the potential pitfalls. I think he’s in a great position to come back to this rally or another major rally and produce an excellent result.”
Reaching the finish line on his 22nd Rally GB event means Tony Jardine now ranks as one of the most experienced drivers to compete in Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship, drawing him level with 1983 World Rally Champion Hannu Mikkola and just four events off the legendary Stig Blomqvist.
Speaking of the team’s success on a difficult weekend, Jardine commented:
“First of all, it was an absolute coup to get Gordon Noble in the car with me. A lot of the big teams wanted to steal him because he’s a co-driver king. And it isn’t hard to see why when you witness him in action first hand. His knowledge and insight as well as his energy and enthusiasm are utterly fantastic. I’ve learned to be a better driver with him, I’ll always be grateful to Wales Rally GB and to Gordon for what I’ve been able to accomplish here.
I’d also like to thank PistonHeads.com, who have followed our adventure at Wales Rally GB, Kumho Tyre for once again providing us with wonderful gear and Lockton MIS Motorsport for their constant support. We couldn’t do it without them.”