The Bournemouth based Rallye Sunseeker, round one of the MSA British Rally Championship presented the first chance for the Citroën runners to demonstrate their DS3 R3’s, and challenge for overall championship honours.

Citroen Rally

They didn’t disappoint! Desi Henry and Niall Burns brought their DS3 home in second overall after a late charge and Oisan Pryce with co-driver Iestyn Williams claimed a fine fourth place. After this first round, Citroën UK are second in the Manufacturer’s Championship, just one point adrift of Renault. It could have been even better for Citroen as fast Finn Jarkko Nikara struck trouble on the penultimate stage.

Jarkko led the field into the twelve Saturday stages comprising 65 stage miles, and it was clear from the outset that the new two wheel drive focused BRC series was going to be a close fought one. Despite sampling the car for the first time on the pre-event shakedown, Nikara was second fastest on stage one, but took the lead on stage 2, with a time over four seconds faster than his nearest rival. “The car felt quite a good car from the outset” commented Jarkko. “I was enjoying the car to drive, despite the lack of time in it. At every service I made small changes to the suspension to improve the car, and it was coming good.” Fastest on stage 3 and 4 by just fractions of a second, Jarkko held a narrow 3.5 second lead after this test. The pursuer was Mark Donnelly in his Renault Clio. The former Citroën C2 Max driver put in two fastest times to take the lead after stage 6, as the battle continued. Just fractions of a second separated the drivers over the next two stages, with Jarkko snatching a valuable two seconds on stage 9. Amazingly this left the two front runners tied on time, with just three stages left to run. The new two wheel drive BRC certainly is encouraging close racing! On stage 10, Jarkko took 1.2 seconds off the charging Donnelly but a race to the finish was to be denied as Jarkko’s car ground to a halt on the very next stage. “I’m not sure what happened yet, but the car started to lose power. There was a small fire and the engine cut out. I’m very disappointed, as we were battling with Mark for the win, and of course our chances were very good. Hopefully we can sort everything before the next one and get some more testing with the car also.”

The youngest of the Citroën runners, Osian Pryce from Wales, celebrated his 19th birthday on the eve of the rally, and he had much to celebrate at the end of the event with a fourth place finish. “At the start of the rally we said we would be happy to finish in the same position as our seeding which was number 10. It’s our first rally in an R3 car, and we weren’t driving at 100%, aiming for a finish, so we were surprised to be third fastest on the two opening stages” commented Osian.  Indeed Osian held third place until stage 5, dropping just one place to fourth on stage 7. “I was really pleased with the DS3 in general, but we have some work to do to improve the suspension to my liking. On stage 8 we came across Callum Black’s big accident and stopped at it. Thankfully they were ok, but we received a nominal stage time for the test which cost us a bit.” Nevertheless Osian and co-driver Iestyn Williams clawed their way back to a fine fourth at the finish. “We are delighted, and next week we have entered the Mid Wales stages, where I hope to further improve the suspension to my liking. We are really looking forward to the next round, the Bulldog Rally.”

2011 Citroën Racing Trophy UK winner Desi Henry from Northern Ireland started off steadily in his DS3 R3, but the Co. Antrim driver got to like his Citroën more and more as the event progressed and a fabulous late charge brought him right up to claim a magnificent second place. “We hadn’t a lot of miles in the new car before the event, and the first loop wasn’t brilliant. I missed a couple of gears and made a couple of silly mistakes. On the second loop I had an overshoot which put us back a bit, but the overall times between 2nd to 8th places were still quite tight. We made some changes including raising the car to help deal with the soft surface, and adjusted the dampers, and decided to have a go on the final two loops.” Desi and co-driver Niall Burns were back in 8th pace at the half way point, but by stage 8 they were up to 6th and stage 9 up to 5th, with two third fastest times behind the battling leaders. But there was more to come with a second fastest time on the penultimate test and a fastest overall time on the final stage, Desi snatched second place by just 0.2 of a second from Elfyn Evans in his Ford Fiesta. “I’m over the moon with the result. It’s very good for the championship race and we certainly didn’t expect to come out with this result.”

It all helps put Citroën UK into second place in the Manufacturer’s table with the next round of the MSA British Rally Championship, the Bulldog Rally on the 23rd and 24th March.

Results Rallye Sunseeker 2012- Round One MSA British Rally Championship

1 Mark Donnelly/ Dai Roberts Renault Clio 1hr 7 min 06 s
2 Desi Henry/ Niall Burns Citroën DS3 +1min49.5
3 Elfyn Evans/ Andrew Edwards Ford Fiesta +1min49.7
4 Osian Pryce/ Iestyn Williams Citroën DS3 +2min22.4
5 Peter Taylor/ Andrew Roughead Renault Clio +2min23.1

Manufacturer Standings after Round One

1 Renault UK 34 points
2 Citroën UK 33 points
3 Ford Motor Co 29 points