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Hertfordshire driver Paul Alexander was the class of the Group N field at this weekend’s Tempest Stages, a qualifying round of the British Rally Championship. Fresh from winning 1st overseas crew and 9th overall on the recent Cork 20 rally, Alexander started the event with one thing in mind, learning the stages near the event’s Aldershot base ahead of it becoming a full round of the British Championship in 2003.
Driving his Coordsport/Yokohama and Polypipe backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7, Alexander nearly didn’t start the rally as he had to find a last minute co-driver in the shape of former national championship winner, James Phillips.
After a steady start, it was a surprised pairing who found themselves 5th overall and second in Group N after the first loop of stages. It was all the more impressive considering that Alexander was making his 4wd debut on forest and gravel surfaces.
After studying the 1st days times, Alexander was confident that he could push for the Group N win on day two, as he was only six seconds behind class leader Guy Anderson in a similar car. On the first stage of Sunday morning, Paul immediately took three seconds back from Anderson, and continued to pressure the local driver over the following stages, eventually forcing him into a mistake and the loss of ten seconds.
Alexander’s extra commitment was evident from the stopwatch, as he was now consistently setting impressive stage times, and had moved into 3rd place overall. The former Peugeot 206 Super Cup driver reported that he was driving well within himself, with only a minor incident with a fence and collecting the steel barriers on one of the spectator stages to report.
With just the final stage remaining, Alexander had built a lead of over 40 seconds from Anderson, and simply had to cruise through the 6 miles to claim a fine class victory. However, there was to be one final sting in the tail of the event:
“The final stage was incredibly rough in places, and the car was being thrown around all over the place. After coming round a severely rutted hairpin left, we covered a short straight before approaching a downhill left hander. However, as soon as I turned the wheel, I knew that we were missing a tyre off the drivers side front wheel, and we slipped slowly off the road where the car was beached on a soft piece of sandy gravel.
There was no way it was coming out so we had to retire on the last stage. The tyre coming off the rim was a freak incident, without a doubt caused by the huge ruts that were appearing on the multi-usage stages. The Yokohama tyres had been superb on the variety of surfaces that we’ve faced throughout the rally, so it was very unfortunate.
Up until that point, I was absolutely delighted with the rally. On the first day James and I were just enjoying ourselves and not trying too hard. I was trying different set up and approaches with the car to various bends, and we were surprised to find ourselves doing so well. The attitude for the second day was quite different, and I decided to raise the pace. Guy Anderson is an experienced competitor, so I’m delighted with our performance and that of our Promax Motorsport run car, which was superb all weekend. To add insult to injury, I’ve since heard that Anderson has been excluded from the final results for a technical infringement, so we were actually over a minute clear of our class rivals when we retired.
We only came to test the car on gravel and have a look at the stages, but the satisfying thing is that we were extremely competitive and that bodes well for a full assault on the British Rally Championship Production Cup in 2003.”
Paul Alexander was supported on the event by Yokohama/Coordsport, Promax Motorsport and PolyPipe Civils.