forgiven for expecting to do reasonably well as he entered the recent
Stock Hatch category of the championship round at Blighton airfield. It
was perhaps with a bit more surprise that the current British Rally
Champion clinched victory and the maximum 100 points on offer after a
near 13 year absence from the sport!
The Huggate driver took up the invitation to drive a 1600cc Peugeot 205
loaned to him by Jim Cooke, a rallycross regular. Jumping at the chance
to go back to his roots and support his first love of rallycross, Milner
was delighted to get back to the thrills of racing against others after
many years of rallying at the highest level in the UK.
In the first of three qualifying races, Milner suffered a late puncture
but still recovered to grab second overall by the time of the chequered
flag. As the Yorkshireman began to remember the skills of racecraft
again, he got progressively quicker. The second race saw Jonny start
from the back of grid to fight all the way through the field to grab
second by the end. Milner also recording the fastest lap of the race.
For the third Stock Hatch race, Milner started from pole position, but
dropped to second off the line, before recovering to finish strongly,
again setting the fastest time.
With the two best times counting, it was no surprise that Milner lined up
in pole position for the final. With highly rated driver James Harold
alongside on the grid, it was Harold who took the early advantage with
Milner slipping to second place once again. Harrowing constantly, Milner
stepped up the pressure in the four lap race to close on the bumper of
his rapid rival. As the course turned onto the loose gravel section,
Jonny seized his chance and took first position back. There was no
catching the Yorkshireman from then on, and he was more than delighted to
take the victory, celebrating in true rallycross tradition by standing
out of the car on the slowing down lap!
The former champion was delighted with his weekend's work:
"I have to thank Jim Cooke for the loan of the car. I've just had a
brilliant time this weekend. The car was great fun to drive, and the
whole weekend brought back so many great memories from when I used to
compete in rallycross all the time.
More than anything, I was delighted to return and support the British
Rallycross Championship itself. Not a lot has changed since I left
thir*** years ago - the competition is still incredibly hard, but the
lads here all enjoy themselves. The cars are all well prepared and we're
all here to have fun and race to the end. I really don't think the sport
gets the credit it deserves in that sense. After spending the last
decade rallying, it was really good fun to go racing again, and trying to
remember where to overtake and things like that. I had a fantastic time
and I'd love to have another go soon."
Milner's more immediate plans centre around trying to defend the title of
British Rally Champion. The Manx International Rally begins tomorrow,
and Milner is one of the favourites to win on an event that he has
enjoyed in the past.
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