In Co-ordSport Driver / Team
Hertfordshire rally driver Paul Alexander posted his finest result to date on the “Cork 20” International Rally, held on closed public roads around the southern Irish city last weekend.
Driving his new Promax Motorsport-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 for only the third time, Alexander recorded a fine 9th place overall and 2nd in class behind 2002 Irish National rally champion Aaron McHale. This achievement was all the more remarkable after the Yokohama/Coordsport-supported driver was forced to complete two-thirds of the event with transmission problems, and was competing with co-driver Jakes Kelly for the very first time.
After setting off in the sunshine from Cork City centre, Alexander’s plan was for a steady start to the two-day, 190-mile long event. With no experience of driving the Mitsubishi on dry roads, and with an unfamiliar co-driver alongside, Paul was keen acclimatise to both fully before upping the pace.
As a round of the Toshiba Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the class opposition was predictably strong, so the crew were delighted with a top 10 class time on stage 1. Top 5 times followed on stages 2 and 3, and a remarkable 2nd in class (ahead of all the Irish crews) was achieved over the notorious jumps on stage 4. “I’m surprised that we’ve got onto the leading pace so quickly, but I’m obviously not complaining! The car was handling the jumps really well in there, and the tyres have been fantastic. I’m still finding it hard to comprehend the grip that the combination of dry roads, Yokohama’s tyres and 4wd provides, but we’re getting there.”
Unfortunately, the Mitsubishi’s gearbox had by now lost 2nd gear, and when warning lights indicated a failed centre differential on the way to stage 5, Alexander was a concerned man. A reduced pace through the final 3 stages of the day saw the crew end the day in and excellent 13th place overall and 5th in class.
After the service period early on Sunday morning, it was clear that the gearbox and differential problems could not be cured within the time limits, so the cautious approach would have to be maintained in order to nurse the car to the end of the event. Despite this, Alexander was able to beat several of the more powerful group A and WRC cars during the Sunday run, and ended 12th overall and 5th in class on the return to Cork city centre. “It was really frustrating having to drive with just 4 gears and the differential problems today, but I’m delighted that we could still maintain a relatively fast pace and finish where we have. I feel like I’m definitely getting to grips with the car on tarmac now, and have done so on some of the toughest roads imaginable.”
However, more drama was to follow when the three leading Group N crews were found to have breached the technical regulations at post-event scrutiny. The infringements, which concerned the turbocharger systems, were deemed to be performance enhancing and the crews were therefore excluded. A delighted Alexander was therefore promoted into 9th position overall and 2nd in the group N class.
“I was in the bar back at the hotel when Jakes got a call with the news from scrutineering. We’ve been having fun and joking throughout the recce, so I thought that this was just another wind-up by him. It wasn’t until we finally went to the prize presentation that I realised it was true! To finish in the top 10 on my first Irish International event is a dream come true, and I cant thank everyone involved enough. Jakes has been great in the co-drivers seat, Promax have worked tirelessly throughout the event and Yokohama have again provided me with brilliant tyres. I cant wait to come back and do another event out here now!!”
Paul Alexander was supported on the event by Yokohama/Coordsport, Promax Motorsport and PolyPipe Civils.