10:17am Wednesday 21st May 2014
Their performance on this weekend's Plains Rally saw Jamie Jukes and co-driver James Morgan prove yet again that the Spencer Sport Rally Team is capable of running at the front of the field and achieving great results, provided bad luck does not intervene. After setting a series of stage times quicker than any other 2WD car in the rally and having led the Welsh Clubmans category of the event, a puncture followed by an off in the dust on the seventh and penultimate stage, meant they ended the day an undeserved seventh in the 2WD car category, but still second in the Welsh Clubmans standings.
Last Friday - the day before the rally - Jamie drove the Oil 4 Wales, Spencer ECA, Reeds Construction & Engineering, Brace's Bakery and Rugbi Industrial Supplies sponsored Suzuki Swift at Sweet Lamb for the first time since it was repaired after its roll on the Talbenny stages last month. The test went extremely well and the team was pleased to be back in the forests again for the first time in over two months.
Starting from Welshpool, the Plains Rally featured eight stages and not only played host to the Welsh Clubmans Championship, but the event was also a round of the BTRDA Rally Championship, the well-established and highly competitive national series. This meant that over 140 cars across the various classes and categories started the event.
With weather more akin to the Acropolis Rally than an event in North Wales, dust was the concern for all but the first of the crews as they headed to the first stage: a nine-mile run through Hafren. Having not driven the car competitively since the incident at Talbenny, Jamie opted for a cautious start, but his confidence with the car quickly increased and very soon he and James started to gather pace.
The one and only service halt of the day in Dolgellau took place after three stages, with the team moving up the leaderboard to become second 2WD of the cars overall and first of the Welsh Clubmans Championship runners. Added to this, they were pleased to see that they were also 22nd in the main event overall, which included a host of WRC and other four-wheel-drive cars.
After a few changes to the set up, Jamie and James embarked for Pantperthog Forest and the first of the event's five remaining stages. Immediately, the car felt even better and Jamie found he was able to push harder, although this meant he and James were now starting to catch the cars ahead of them and consequently, their progress was punctuated with delays whilst they negotiated the opaque clouds of dust.
Even so, they were able to consolidate their position and take the fastest 2WD time overall on stage six. But then - as it had last time out in the Welsh forests - bad luck played its hand. First of all it was a puncture. Then, having been unsighted in yet another cloud of dust, Jamie missed a braking point and the car spun backwards off the road and got stuck on a bank.
Although it looked spectacular, thankfully no damage was done - other than the five-and-a-half minutes of lost time - before helpful spectators were able to push the car out of its predicament. Not to be outdone, Jamie and James went on to set another fastest overall 2WD time on the short eighth and final stage.
Once again, it wasn't quite the outcome the team had hoped for, but the points it gained towards its Welsh Clubmans Championship campaign means that with four rounds still to go, the title is still well within Spencer Sport's grasp.
"Other than stage seven, I'm really pleased with the way the rest of the rally went", said Jamie. "The car performed perfectly and, once I had built up confidence, we showed that when everything goes well we can set front running times and the potential is there to achieve excellent results."
The next event on the team's radar is the Severn Valley Stages on 31st May and, although it's not a round of the Welsh Clubman' Championship, it will provide quality stage miles and enable the team to be perfectly placed to challenge for the title in the second half of the season.
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