Wilks finishes leg one in third place

Wilks finishes leg one in third placeFrom Skoda Press [ 30/04/2010 ].
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Guy Wilks set a blistering pace on his first appearance on the Rally Islas Canarias 'Trofeo El Corte Ingles' to complete an exciting and hotly contested opening day ahead of all the local Spanish drivers and in 3rd position in his Škoda UK Motorsport Fabia S2000. The 29-year old Darlington star was spurred on by British spectators who had disembarked a Royal Caribbean Cruise liner to watch the event.

After eight flat-out stages over the mountain roads above Las Palmas, Škoda drivers enjoy a fantastic one-two-three position, with Jan Kopecký lying 13.4 seconds ahead of Škoda Motorsport team-mate Juho Hänninen, with Guy a further 18 seconds behind.

The fourth round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge started at an incredible pace, with Guy and co-driver Phil Pugh setting an average speed of just over 101kph (63mph) on the opening stage.

An encouraging pre-event test in northern Italy had prepared Guy for his first full asphalt rally in a Fabia S2000, but Day 1 of the event was the first time he had driven the Škoda at speed on the Spanish holiday island. In an effort to find the best set-up, Škoda UK Motorsport changed the spring and damper settings for the middle section of Day 1, which made the car uneasy in the long and very fast corners – and whilst Guy was 8.1 seconds quicker through the repeated stages the second time through, he actually dropped time to those around him.

The team made more subtle changes to the car for the final loop, which included Ingenio (SS8), at 18.61 miles (29.95kms) the longest stage of the rally – with its 12.5 mile (20km) climb and extremely fast final 5.6 mile (9km) decent down the mountain. Guy set a brilliant 2nd fastest time through that stage, finishing just 5.1 seconds behind Kopecký and moving into 3rd overall.

Thousands of spectators had lined the route to watch the IRC stars do battle against the top Spanish Rally Championship contenders. Unfortunately, the volume of spectators caused the final stage of the day (SS9) to be cancelled, but that didn’t stop Guy and his fellow Škoda stable-mates arrive at overnight parc ferme in a tremendous one-two-three position.

Guy Wilks: “Gran Canaria is a very high speed rally and it’s been difficult to find a good level of grip, especially on the very long and fast corners. We haven’t always been one hundred per cent confident with the balance of the car, but we’ve made some good improvements that have enabled us to push quite hard on the longest stage of the day and set the second fastest time.

“It’s another very long and difficult day tomorrow and of course anything can happen. If we keep moving in the right direction, I’m confident we will be able to finish on the podium.”

The second and closing day of Rally Islas Canarias begins tomorrow (Saturday 1 May) at 08.00. A further six stages totalling 52.4 miles (84.34kms) remain, before the rally ends in Las Palmas at 15.47.

Positions after Day 1 (top six after SS9)

1. Jan Kopecký/Petr Starý (Škoda Fabia S2000)…1:20.25.0

2. Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula (Škoda Fabia S2000)…+13.4

3. Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh (Škoda Fabia S2000)…+31.4

4. Bruno Magalhães/Carlos Magalhães  (Peugeot 207 S2000)…+49.3

5. Alberto Hevia/Alberto Iglesias (Škoda Fabia S2000)…+1:17.4

6. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Peugeot 207 S2000)…+1:28.0