Dealer Team Suzuki Bids For Hat-Trick Of Tar Wins In Ulster

Dealer Team Suzuki hopes to score a hat trick of wins on asphalt in the 2004 Kwik-Fit/Pirelli British Rally Championship Super 1600 class at the Ulster Rally, 3-4 September. The event is significant in many ways, as the team, driver Guy Wilks (Darlington) and co-driver Phil Pugh (Tywyn, Gwynedd) are challenging for six different titles, including British Teams, Super 1600 (driver and co-driver) and overall (driver and co-driver).

Wilks steered the Suzuki Ignis to his second consecutive Super 1600 win on a sealed surface this season in the previous round, the Manx International Rally, a result which thrust him into the Super 1600 Championship lead for the first time this season. The 23-year-old has scored maximum points in four of the five events this season and aims to extend his championship lead in Ulster.

Wilks said: "The most important thing is to finish the Ulster Rally, preferably on the top step of the Super 1600 podium. The Manx event demonstrated how well the Ignis can handle the smooth surface and we were able to test different settings to get the balance of the car right for Ulster."

The Manx Rally result pushed Wilks up into sixth place overall in the Kwik-Fit/Pirelli British Rally Championship although he is concentrating his efforts on winning the Super 1600 title. Added Wilks: "My main priority this season is to win the British Super 1600 title and now I’ve taken the lead in the Super 1600 Drivers’ Championship, I’m determined not to slip up. It’s very pleasing to be sixth overall because we’re in a front-wheel drive 1600cc car and competing against the more powerful 2-litre turbocharged four-wheel drive World Rally cars."

Wilks’ co-driver Phil Pugh leads the Super 1600 Co-Drivers’ Championship and moved into third place in the 2004 Kwik-Fit/Pirelli British Rally Co-Drivers’ Championship after the Manx International Rally but remains cautious on winning the title. Pugh (33) said: "The most important thing for me is leading the Super 1600 Co-Drivers’ Championship, but to be competing with the co-drivers of the WR cars is a real confidence booster. It’ll be a big challenge to keep up with them and if I’m still in third place at the end of the season I’ll be delighted."

Pugh added: "The Ulster Rally is similar to the Manx, with very fast roads and changeable weather conditions. I’ve competed on the event twice, but only finished once. This year there is a lot at stake and we must make sure we finish to keep up our challenge for the Super 1600 Championship."

In the British Teams’ Championship, Dealer Team Suzuki has surged into second place, behind M Sport (Mathew Wilson – Ford Focus WRC). With three rounds left the team is upbeat on winning the title. Assistant team manager, Ian Phillipson, said: "The main aim this season is to win the Super 1600 title, but with recent results pushing Dealer Team Suzuki into contention for the overall teams’ championship, it would be very pleasing to finish the season with more than one title. Rallying is a sport, which demands the utmost respect and the team, Guy and Phil will continue to be professional in the approach to each event and not take anything for granted."

Wilks and Pugh are viewed as rising stars in British rallying having graduated from privateer ranks last season to Dealer Team Suzuki, which is backed by Shell/Helix, Clarion, Suzuki Finance, PIAA and Mondial. With Britain’s top rally drivers Colin McRae and Richard Burns currently sidelined, Wilks is now emerging as a British driver with great potential, while Pugh is aiming for similar success to that of fellow Welshman Phil Mills, co-driver of current World Rally Champion Petter Solberg.

The pair recently became the first Britons to win a round of the JWRC in the Acropolis round in Greece, but Wilks is wary of any comparisons to McRae and Burns. He said: "It is flattering to be compared to Burns and McRae, because they have won World Rally Championships, but for the moment I must prove myself in the British and JWRC Championships."

Wilks and Pugh recently competed in the Finnish round of the Junior World Rally Championship (6-8 August) but retired on the first day after sliding off the road. The duo are now third in this championship, eight points behind the leader with three events to go.

Published 23 August 2004 Melanie Carter

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