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Paul Alexander and co-driver Jakes Kelly endured a troubled event on round 2 of the Kumho National Rally Championship and Mitsubishi Motors Evo Challenge held in North Wales this weekend. However, despite facing a multitude of problems throughout the rally, a gritty drive resulted in a remarkable Evo Challenge podium position for the Promax Motorsport crew.
The day started very well with So Pure Hair Products backed Paul setting an excellent time on the first stage, ahead of main championship rivals Brendan Crealey, Nik Elsmore, and Richard Davies. A steady run over the next 4 stages resulted in a comfortable 2nd position out of the 20 Evo Championship contenders. However, Paul and Jakes were set to have a very trying afternoon…
A puncture on stage 6 resulted in the loss of around 20 seconds, before things took a turn for the worse on stage 7 in the CoordSport-supported Mitsubishi. Nik Elsmore rolled his car on a hairpin bend, with the resulting time-loss leaving Alexander and Kelly to drive through a wall of dust for the entire stage. On several occasions, visibility was bad enough to force the crew to a complete standstill until the dust cleared, and over 15 seconds were lost in just 5 miles. To make matters worse, a suspected drive-shaft failure was audible at the stage finish.
Unfortunately, at the next short service halt the Promax Motorsport mechanics quickly diagnosed the problem to be far more serious – a failing centre differential. With no possibility of changing the offending item, Alexander was instructed to simply try and nurse the Yokohama shod car through the remaining 3 stages and see what points could be salvaged.
“I’m so convinced that we won’t make it to the end that I’ve packed a jacket and some food into the car” said Alexander as he left the service area. “We’ll just have to take it steady off the start lines, minimise the number of gear changes, cut out the clutch-less gear-changes, and see what happens”.
Incredibly, despite totally changing his driving style for the remaining mileage, Paul somehow managed to bring the car home in 13th place and 2nd Mitsubishi Challenge competitor – a feat good enough to maintain his lead in the National Production Cup and the Mitsubishi Motors Evo Challenge.
“We’ve done 30% of the rally with hazard lights on just waiting for the centre-diff to finally cry enough, but somehow the car has carried us back to the finish. I’m absolutely delighted. It’s been a really tough event, and every mile of those last 3 stages has felt like 10! The handling has obviously been interesting to say the least, and the noise inside the car was deafening – I’m dreading seeing what damage has been done inside the diff!”
To cap a fraught afternoon for the team, a minute road-penalty was added to the crews total after the event due to a mistake made by a marshal at one of the earlier time-controls. This relegated the crew down to 3rd Mitsubishi Evo contender, enough to hand the title lead to Brendan Crealey.
“I’ve had better days!” quipped Alexander “However, it’s been very satisfying to still make the podium despite today’s problems and the 1-minute penalty. Brendan has driven an excellent rally today, but I’m confident that we can challenge for the win if we can attract the backing to go the next event on the Isle of Man”.
Paul Alexander – Rallying with So Pure hair products, Promax Motorsport, Coordsport and Yokohama tyres.