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Friday, 21 November 2014

Richard is one to watch

FOREST rallying returned to the Isle of Man in November when the Dave Corris Autos Forest Stages Rally made up the final round of the 2012 Manx Rally Championship.

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RALLY SUCCESS: Richard Barnard with his BEC-sponsored car

In the Junior (Under 25) Rally Drivers category local man Connor Corkhill was leading the field with another Manx driver in second place, Walter Bridson, but in third position was Cumbrian driver Richard Barnard, 24, looking to see if he could win this prestigious award in his last year as a junior.

Having never competed on a forest event before and with his own car being unsuitable for this type of surface Richard hired a forest specification Subaru Impreza from John Pye Motors and had Manx co-driver Seb Turner in the hot-seat to guide him around.

Valuable support from Britain’s Energy Coast in West Cumbria meant this challenge could go ahead as without them it would have been unlikely this final effort would have been possible.

Ten special stages in a number of plantations on the island faced competitors as the event left the Douglas TT Grandstand start on Saturday morning and a steady run through the first two stages saw Richard start to acclimatise himself to a different car on a very different surface.

The unfamiliarity with the car led to a stall at a hairpin bend on stage two but back at the first service area the team were around the top ten with no major issues.

Connor Corkhill wasn’t faring so well and had some suspension problems which resulted in him dropping out from the main results and continuing for the rest of the day for fun. Martyn Jones had also had a problem on the early stages and he too dropped from the main field.

This meant it had to be a steady run for the remaining eight stages for Barnard and this very nearly didn’t happen with a big ‘moment’ at a junction on stage three when the Subaru crew went too quickly into a left hand corner going off the road, over some logs and between some trees before emerging unscathed and back in the fray.

There were few dramas for the Cumbrian driver over the remaining stages and when results were posted in fading light at the TT Grandstand finish they showed that Richard had finished seventh overall, 2nd in Class E and picked up the Best Newcomer Award as well.

But, more importantly he had gained enough points to leapfrog the two drivers in front of him in the Manx Junior Rally Championship and finish up 2012 Manx Junior Rally Champion. This award has never been won by an off-island driver so a fantastic first for Richard and his team.

At the rally awards ceremony Richard said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the championship and know that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me achieve this. The businesses and organisations who have sponsored me this year, the guys who have prepared and run the cars for me and the co-drivers who have sat in with me.”

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