Dealer Team Suzuki Prepares For Jim Clark Memorial Rally

Dealer Team Suzuki is hoping for a third successive maximum points score in the 2004 Kwik-Fit/Pirelli British Rally Championship Super 1600 class as it prepares for the fourth event on the calendar, the Jim Clark Memorial Rally on 2/3 July.

Driver Guy Wilks (Darlington) in the Suzuki Ignis finished a magnificent fourth place overall in the recent Scottish Rally, the highest ever finish for a Super 1600 car on a British championship rally. The 23-year-old won the Super 1600 class in the process, and is confident of another Super 1600 victory in Scotland with the Shell/Helix backed team.

Wilks said: "My confidence is high after the previous two British results and I’m really looking forward to the first asphalt rally of the season. The most important thing we must do this weekend is maintain our championship challenge with another good finish, but it will be interesting to see how quick the other Super 1600 cars are on a closed surface."

Added Wilks: "I’ve only competed on the Jim Clark once before, in 2002, but retired with a blown engine. The rally is very quick and because we’ve only tested once on asphalt and never raced, it will be a good test on the car and my ability on the tar event."

Wilks’ co-driver Phil Pugh (Tywyn, Gwynedd) has competed in the Jim Clark event four times, but only finished once. Pugh (33) said: "I know the event very well and it is important we treat the stages with respect because they can punish even the smallest of mistakes. The fast flowing roads often lead to small bridges and spectacular jumps, which makes great viewing for spectators but can lead to big crashes for the competitors."

Pugh added: "The Jim Clark event is a great opener for the asphalt rallies, with good crowds and fantastic stages. It is a big test for everyone involved and I’m hoping we can produce another good finish."

Wilks and Pugh are currently in second place in the British Super 1600 Championship, just four points behind leader Jonnie Wigmore (Ford Puma). But with 20 points for a win, the duo could over-haul Wigmore with another good result.

Wilks said: "We are allowed to drop two of the scores from the eight rounds of the championship, but with our non-finish on the Pirelli and us not competing in the Trackrod Rally due to the Italian round of the JWRC, it is important we finish well in every round of the British Super 1600 Championship."

Wilks and Pugh are viewed as rising stars in British rallying having graduated from privateer ranks last season to Suzuki’s highly professional Dealer Team. With Britain’s top rally drivers Colin McRae and Richard Burns currently sidelined, Wilks is now emerging as Britain’s leading driver, 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 Brits 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. They are two brilliant drivers and if I could compete at the same level as them I’d be very happy, but for the moment I must prove myself in the British and JWRC Championships."

Wilks and Pugh are competing in the Turkish Round of the Junior World Rally Championship (June 25-27) hoping to add to the impressive victory in the previous JWRC round in Greece.

Published 26 June 2004 Melanie Carter

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