SOMERSET is not a county Aaron McClure will remember fondly, after a mechanical issue thwarted his rallying progress.

For the second year in succession, the South Cumbrian driver was unable to finish the Somerset Stages, as he was struck with mechanical problems late in the the day.

After last year’s spectacular crash – which ended his season prematurely and saw him out of action for 11 months – McClure returned for the second round of the Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series, only to suffer another cruel blow.

Aiming to capitalise on his solid fifth place on the opening round at the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March, the Flookburgh driver made the long trip to Minehead hoping to bag a decent points haul for his class NR4 and Production Cup hopes.

But just two stages from the end of the event, the rear differential in the Mitsubishi Evo 9 failed, forcing him to park up on the side of the road, retiring instantly.

Despite being the scene of last year’s season-ending accident, McClure headed to the seaside resort in a confident mood and with a plan to build his pace throughout the day following the successful run in Cumbria’s forests for the Malcolm Wilson.

With co-driver Michael Gilbey alongside, the duo kept the Yokohama-backed Mitsubishi out of trouble during the opening loop of the day and returned to first service in sixth spot.

The event contains several unique features and, as well as a substantial 14 stages to contend with, crews also have to tackle the 3.5 miles of the all-asphalt Porlock Toll Road.

Although it is not McClure’s preferred surface, he emerged from the double-run stage closer to his rivals than in the morning’s gravel tests and was looking forward to picking the pace up when back on the gravel later in the day.

But on the penultimate stage, the rear differential failed on the start line of the Croydon test, and he was forced to park up on the side of the road.

“Of course it’s really disappointing to come all this way and not record a finish,” said McClure. “Especially as we were just two stages from home.

“But there was nothing we could have done or predicted and it’s just one of those things. It’s a relatively new component and sometimes you run out of luck. This was one of those days.”

The plan for the season was to build on early results and, despite this non-finish, that plan will not change.

McClure added: “I worked out that I’ve done around 70 competitive miles in 12 months, which compared to the other guys in the championship, it’s like a trip to the shops. We will take our time being where we need to be and I’m sure the pace will come soon enough, but I’m not rushing it this time around.”

McClure will head to the next round of the series in May, where he will contest stages in the Dyfi and Gartheiniog forest complex on the Plains Rally.