Dealer Team Suzuki Prepares For Manx International Rally

Dealer Team Suzuki is confident of scoring a hat-trick of wins in the 2004 Kwik-Fit/Pirelli British Rally Championship Super 1600 class as it prepares for the fifth event on the calendar, the Manx International Rally, 29-31 July.

Driver Guy Wilks (Darlington) steered the Suzuki Ignis to his second Super 1600 win (and third maximum points) of the season in the recent Jim Clark Memorial Rally, the first of three successive tar rallies on the British Championship. The 23-year-old is confident of producing another good performance on the Isle of Man, with the team, which is backed by Shell/Helix, Clarion, Suzuki Finance, PIAA and Mondial.

Wilks said: "I’m very confident in both the car and my own ability, especially after the last three British events. The Jim Clark Memorial Rally was my first in the Ignis on a smooth surface and the win has given me greater confidence in the car’s ability on tar."

Added Wilks: "I’ve only competed on the Manx International once before, in 2002, but retired with a blown engine. The rally is very quick, very similar to Jim Clark, although I’m hoping for drier conditions! The heavy rain in and around Duns and Kelso made some of the roads treacherous on the Jim Clark so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for some sunshine on the Isle of Man."

Wilks’ co-driver Phil Pugh (Tywyn, Gwynedd) is a veteran of the Manx stages, having competed in the rally three times and also the one-day national event on four occasions. Pugh (33) said: "I know the roads and stages very well and I’m really looking forward to the event. The island can produce varying types of weather, with some stages on high moorland in the middle of the island and some near the beaches and sea. We can be in thick fog in the moorland, yet bright sunshine near the coast."

Pugh added: "The car responded well on the first competitive test on a closed surface earlier this month in Scotland during the Jim Clark. Guy and I are confident we can produce some quick times during the rally."

Wilks and Pugh are currently in second place in the British Super 1600 Championship, just two points behind leader Jonnie Wigmore (Ford Puma). The duo need to finish two places above Wigmore to claim the outright lead in the Super 1600 championship, something they feel more than capable of doing.

Wilks said: "Jonnie (Wigmore) is quick and will be very competitive in his Puma, but if we maintain a steady but quick pace during the first day, I’m confident we’ll be ahead of him at the end."

Wilks and Pugh are viewed as rising stars in British rallying having graduated from privateer ranks last season to Suzuki’s fully-fledged, manufacturer-backed effort. 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."

The weekend following the Manx Rally (6-8 August) Wilks and Pugh compete in the Finnish round of the Junior World Rally Championship hoping to add to the impressive victory in Greece and maintain a bid for that championship.

Published 19 July 2004 Melanie Carter

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