Wales Rally GB ‘Media Men’ impress at final round of the championship

Jardine and McKenzie beat their 1993 result, finishing 35th overallAs the curtain was falling on Wales Rally GB and indeed the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship, Formula One correspondents Tony Jardine and Bob McKenzie were battling through rain, mud, gravel and tarmac stages to surpass their previous best Rally GB result. Sky Bet / ProSpeed team finished in Cardiff today placed 35th overall.The pairing showed impressive determination and spirit as they tackled an incredibly difficult Wales Rally GB. The event started in the Northern Welsh town of Llandudno on Thursday night (10 November), before charging through the Welsh forests all weekend and climaxing in Cardiff on Sunday evening. The rally took in 23 competitive stages and the crews and cars traveled a staggering 1860km over the four days. Jardine and McKenzie are no strangers to the punishment of the British round of the World Rally Championship having competed with one-another on this event twice before. Their first outing in 1993 was their most successful, when they were placed 37th overall, and set the benchmark for the 2011 Wales Rally GB.Thursday night saw a return to the Great Orme stage, a dramatic 4.75km tarmac test, run alongside the Welsh coast line. The stage served as a wake up call to both Tony and Bob as a couple of corners into the rally, their first incident occurred. “We were relatively cautious through the stage. Unfortunately, the cars ahead of us had cut a few corners, dragging dirt onto the stage and we made contact with the wall,” said Sky Sports News F1 Correspondent Tony Jardine. “Bob and I were simply passengers, luckily the wheel took much of the force and we were able to complete the following stages.” The Sky Bet / ProSpeed rally team had a short break from tarmac as the remainder of Thursday’s and Friday’s stages took place on the more traditional gravel surface. Taking in the iconic stages such as Clocaenog and Dyfi, the media duo had time to reacquaint themselves and get to grips with the Raymond Marsh owned Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. By the Friday overnight halt, the team had broken into the top 50.Although Friday’s stages were tough, it was Saturday’s rollercoaster ride both in and out of the car that really demonstrated the media duo’s mettle. Covering a total of 128.06km of competitive stages, plus a further 441km in road sections, Jardine and McKenzie had to dig deep to overcome their troubles. “We had a puncture,” said a visibly frustrated Jardine. “To make matters worse, we had difficulty with a sticking wheel nut and we twisted the wheel brace trying to get the wheel removed. We then had to use spanners, which took about 12 minutes. We could feel the cars passing us by the side of the road. It was simply horrible.”Before the final day’s stages even started on Sunday, the news came that 2011 and eight times World Champion Sebastien Loeb had retired after a collision with a road car on their way to the Epynt military ranges where the majority of Sunday’s stages were run.“We saw some police bikes ahead and then Loeb’s Citroen on the side of the road. It was similar to when we saw Mikko Hirvonen at the roadside earlier in the rally. It must be destroying for those guys but it’s heartening to us. Anything can happen and we managed to finish the rally,” said co-driver McKenzie.The aptly named Monument test was the final stage of the rally, and when stepping out of their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 at the finish, McKenzie said, “It’s very emotional for us to finish let alone beat our previous best result! It’s been a real rollercoaster from clanging a kerb on the Great Orme, to setting an incredible time on the Monument stage. This weekend really did demonstrate the highs and lows of rallying. I’m pumped! Incredible result, thanks to all the team!”A jubilant Jardine said, “Raymond Marsh’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 was fantastic throughout the event, as were our ProSpeed service crew. Also, our work with Craig Parry on the recce really did put us in good stead for the whole event. Today we just flew and Bob never missed a beat with the pacenotes. Everything slotted together and the support from the Daily Express, Sky Bet and Kumho was incredible. It’s been a long week, and I have racked up a huge amount of miles but it was definitely worth it.”