Excellent weekend for Junior Rallying..

 drivers in Latvia

The three Junior Rallying drivers taking part in last weekend’s Tukums Rally, the latest round of the 2008 Latvian RallySprint championship, enjoyed an excellent weekend of competition. Tom Clark, Conor Flynn and newcomer Dom Scott all finished the event, gaining invaluable experience on the way and creditable results to boot.

The Tukums Rally was the third for Essex-based Tom Clark but the first he and co-driver Aggie Clark used their new car, a Suzuki Swift. This is built to the same specification as the cars competing in the one-make series which forms part of the British Rally Championship, the Suzuki Swift Cup.

Conor Flynn was competing his second event under the Junior Rallying banner and again, used his family-prepared Mk3 Volkswagen Golf. Junior Rallying debutant Dom Scott was at the wheel of his father’s Vauxhall Nova as he tackled stage rallying and the Latvian roads for the first time.

The event comprised two stages on Saturday afternoon and evening, followed by the five remaining stages on Sunday. While the crews would not be faced with night stages, they did have to cope with an overnight halt for the first time, adding to their experience as part of the Junior Rallying driver development program.

Clark, aged 14, went on to finish the event in 52nd place overall and 8th in class, an excellent achievement considering he hadn’t even seen the car before he arrived in Tukums. He drove the Swift for the first time on stage one of the event, as the brand new Swift was delivered direct to Tukums by Suzuki and had not turned a wheel prior to the start of the event.

Tom spent the rally fine-tuning the Swift’s factory settings to suit his driving style and the Latvian gravel stages and by the end of the event, had not only amassed a considerable amount of experience of rallying but also had developed a set-up which he felt would work well for the rest of the season. Once the initial teething troubles were rectified, he set a series of top-ten class stage times, including a fifth-fastest in class on Sunday’s opening test.

Speaking after the event, Clark said; “I love the new car. We had a few handling problems to begin with but the Junior Rallying mechanics worked hard and we managed to sort these out by the end of the event. You can see this in the results, where we went from 81st overall at the end of the first day to 52nd by the end of the event. The roads on this event were fantastic and I can’t wait for the next rally, at the end of June.”

Conor Flynn enjoyed a good start to the event but was soon hampered by road penalties picked up at the beginning of the rally, which affected his road position on the second day. These penalties were eventually cancelled-out and while they no longer affected the overall result, still took their toll on the conditions he faced, with dust from previous cars hanging in the air and impairing his vision. Despite this, Flynn went on to finish the event in 57th place overall and 14th in class.

“I’m very pleased that I was leading the Junior Rallying drivers at the overnight halt, especially as my car is more standard than the others. We had an excellent recce and I learned a lot, as the stages on this event were very different in nature from the first rally I did with Junior Rallying. They are much faster and more flowing and I’m pleased that my pace notes worked well on them. We had a small misfire that developed over the course of the event so we will need to attend to that before the next rally but generally, I’m very happy to have finished my second ever rally inside the top 60.”

Dom Scott, 14 years old from Herefordshire and son of BTRDA regular Gary, was competing on his first-ever event and enjoyed a trouble-free run until the last stage. The gearbox on his father’s Vauxhall Nova lost fourth gear but Dom and co-driver Mike Scrimgour simply relied on third gear to get through the final stage of the event and return to the finish ramp in the centre of Tukums in an excellent 53rd overall and 9th in class, just 1.2 seconds behind Tom Clark.

Speaking at the end of his first event, Dom said; “It was a brilliant weekend; the car was good, the notes were excellent and Mike and I got on really well in the car. We lost fourth gear in the last stage so I had to drive round that problem and get on with it – all part of rallying! It was a once in a lifetime chance to be the youngest British rally driver to compete internationally and I am delighted to finish my first rally and have so much fun and learn so much.”

Junior Rallying Manager, Gemma Price was impressed with the drivers’ approach to the event. “All three drivers did a fantastic job this weekend. Tom went about eliminating the teething troubles with his new car in a very logical and professional way and once he had it working properly for the gravel stages, put in some remarkable times. “I was also very impressed with Dom; to be driving a near-200bhp car for his first ever rally and to deal with the gearbox problem was a feat in itself. However, what most impressed me was his speed and commitment in the stages. He was the last car on the road and was regularly catching the car in front within a few kilometres of the start of each stage. He certainly seems to have potential and I’m looking forward to him developing and realising that potential with Junior Rallying’s help.

“Conor had an excellent start to the event and put in some very good times. However, the road penalties they picked up affected him on Sunday but he was able to put those behind him and concentrate on the job in hand and bring home another good result and a considerable amount of experience.”

The next event for Junior Rallying will be the Kekava RallySprint over the weekend of 28 & 29 June.