LINTONS FINISH WALES RALLY GB FOR SECOND YEAR
Despite facing the toughest conditions even the most hardened regulars could remembers for many years, double Barbados Rally Club (BRC) Champion Adrian Linton and brother Jonathan “had a blast” on Wales Rally GB, the deciding round of the 2007 World Rally Championship.
For the second year in a row, the Lintons enjoyed their moment of glory on the finishing ramp, this time outside City Hall in Cardiff; they improved on their result of 2006 by seven places, finishing 74th of the 84 crews classified. The 114 crews which started the three-day event, including six Land Rovers from the British Armed Forces Rally Team, represented 34 countries.
And the Lintons are edging closer to the World’s best! Their total elapsed time of 5h 08m 0.07s showed an improvement of 30 minutes over last year, and they were roughly the same margin closer to this year’s winners, Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen in the BP Ford World Rally Team Focus RS WRC 07 . . . although still 1h 45m 09.8s behind!
While they do not expect their Opel Astra OPC to be troubling the works teams in the immediate future, Adrian was very happy with the outcome on his return to the island: “Wales Rally GB was great, although it wasn’t without its challenges. We couldn’t have done it without fantastic support from our families and Ravensden, which was once again our main sponsor. We also had some assistance from Maurice Straker Construction and Gale’s Hatcheries, and it was great to find Freddie Gale supporting us on stages, along with a gang of UK-based Bajan fans – that kind of support just means so much I can’t tell you.”
BRC chairman Mark Hamilton, who experienced the British forests in Rally Yorkshire earlier this year, was quick to praise their efforts: “Now I have had a taste of the terrain myself, I can appreciate their achievement all the more . . . especially when you note that Rally GB’s longest stage is around 28 kilometres, and that one stage represents a quarter of Rally Barbados! Well done to Adrian and Jonathan on a good result to round off our 50th Anniversary season.”
The Astra has come a long way since last year, when it was in essence a road car fitted with a roll cage; new suspension components provided more flexibility in ride height, while a weight loss programme and fitment of a dog box with close ratios and low final drive combined to make the car faster.
Linton reports: “Our times were quicker than last year, in spite of a general trend of times being slower across the board. The increased ride height paid off, with only minor nicks and dings in the sump guard and no bouncing off bits of forest track. The gearbox and the ratios were also much better - I would still say that we are not quite on a par with the Ford Fiesta STs in the group, but we are a lot closer . . . and the car is much more entertaining to drive”.
After the Ceremonial Start on Thursday evening, the weather took a turn for the worse, with fog on Friday’s stages seriously hampering visibility; four-times Rally GB winner Petter Solberg’s Welsh co-driver Phil Mills said: “I’ve never seen conditions like it, the fog was on the bonnet!” Heavy rains during the afternoon further exacerbated the conditions, particularly for the amateur runners at the end of the field, such as the Lintons.
As Adrian recalls: “The stages were more slippery than last year, and the fog on the night stages was really thick - we could not see from corner to corner. On day two, the stages also seemed to cut up worse than last year, maybe because of the rain. Having said that, I again thoroughly enjoyed the run through Walters Arena on the Friday . . . the combination of corners here, also a similar section fairly early into the Crychan stage on Saturday morning, were just a joy to drive. And we did make it to the Millennium Stadium this year . . . although I nearly fluffed that when a serious case of the nerves and a touch of over-exuberance almost saw us T-bone the wall before going up over the jump into Stadium. With the air horns, lights and 25,000 cheering fans, the atmosphere in there is just unreal.”
Mechanically, the Astra held up well; the Lintons were helped this year by a service crew from CAM Sport, based near Swansea, and engineers from Autoscharf in Germany, who volunteered to fly in to help, having built the Astra’s dog box. A heavy landing in Walters Arena required a new front engine mount and radiator mount at the Friday lunchtime service – incurring 50 seconds of lateness penalties in the process – then on the day’s final stage, the Astra dropped on to three cylinders.
As Adrian explains: “We pulled off and had a look, but couldn't find anything obvious, so continued, dropping around eight minutes. The guys from Autoscharf hooked up their laptop to the diagnostic port and identified the number three injector as faulty; they found a bad connection, then cushioned the wiring harness with rope and duct tape.”
Day two was fine, apart from the crew changing a bottom arm as a precautionary measure, then a slight seepage from the fuel tank at the end of the day; on the final day, however, the left-side CV joint failed on the first run through the Trawscoed stage, but the Lintons had done enough to be classified.
Adrian’s final words on the family’s second experience of the World Rally Championship were these: “The car finished in one piece, Jonathan and I had a blast, and my son Dominic shook hands with Tommi Makinen. Oh, and although German Schnapps is good, Mount Gay Extra Old is better!”
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