Big Step Up For “Stars” Champion

2007  British Rally Championship ‘Star of the Future’, 24 year old Luke Pinder, from Shipley in Yorkshire, is back in action in 2008.  This time a class win in the main championship is his target and a  1.4 litre Ford Puma Kit car is nearing completion in the Chris Birkbeck Rally sport workshops outside Saltburn in North Yorkshire.Not only has Luke a new car for 2008, but a new sponsor in Retirement Developments Ltd ( RDL), a Leeds based company headed by Ferrari and Maserati racer Phil Burgan.  RDL is a subsidiary of the Maria Mallaband Care Group, who specialise in developing retirement properties for elderly people who still wish to live independently. RDL are also a personal backer of British Moto GP star James Toseland.  Luke is hoping to spend some time with Toseland to learn from him about sponsorship development.Luke also has a new co-driver in Kim Baker. Kim accompanied Luke to his first major result, the 2005 Peugeot 206 1400 Championship and the pair are both looking forward to the prospect of another winning year together.As a competitor Chris Birkbeck was one of the UK’s leading rally drivers and believes Luke has that special talent necessary to rise to the very top, so in addition to preparing the car, is providing backing from his well known Chris Birkbeck Rallyschool.  Pinder also used a Birkbeck car, a Ford Ka, in his title winning season in 2007.  The popular R2 class contains a variety of cars including Ford Fiestas, Honda Civics, Citroen C2R2’s and the Birkbeck Puma.   On the first round of the championship, the Carlisle based Pirelli International Rally on April 18th,  World Champion team Citroen Sport are entering a full factory specification C2R2 Max for European Super1600 Champion and factory test driver Simon Jean Joseph.  Pinder does not expect to be able to beat the Citroen star but “ we’ll be giving it our best shot and it will be interesting to see how close we can get!”  The ‘Pirelli’ begins with three stages in the notorious Kielder Forest in the hours of darkness which will provide a stern challenge for the start of the prestigious championship.    “It should prove interesting to say the least. Especially if the weather is bad and it often is. We are really up for it this year and can’t wait to get the season underway. The last time I drove on a rally was back in December on Rally GB where we won our class. This was part of our prize for winning the “Stars” championship, but the car we used was a showroom specification 1400cc MG ZR  and the 185 bhp+ Puma has little in common with it. It will undoubtedly be a steep learning curve!  We will be testing before the Pirelli as it is important to get plenty of time in the driving seat to get to know the car.”After the Pirelli Rally the Championship moves onto tarmac with the “Jim Clark International Rally” near Kelso in the Scottish borders at the end of May, an event unique on mainland Britain in that it uses closed public roads. More tarmac takes the series to the Isle of Man Rally and then to the Ulster Rally before returning to gravel on Pinder’s home event, the Trackrod International, based in the Yorkshire forests around Pickering. The final two rounds are part of Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB