No Home Run

The promise of a driver's home event can often make all the difference in the world but the 2011 Scottish Rally was to be run on all-new stages, giving the British duo no home advantage.

Not that you'd have known it. Guy and Phil started the event like scorched rabbits, going fastest on Friday's first two opening stages, heading into Saturday as the rally's overall leader. "It was slippery but exactly as expected," reported Guy at the end of Day One.

Day Two began well and by Stage Five, Guy was just 3.4 seconds off the lead in second place before spinning it all away. "It was my fault. For some reason the car was behaving a little peculiar so I had it in my head that it was a puncture but I knew that I wasn't going to stop to change it and was planning to drag the car through. But it wasn't getting any better and I pushed too hard and took one risk too many. The car went broadside down the road in a fast left."

The spin cost the pair six minutes, dropping them to 23rd place, after the front of the car became caught in a ditch, spinning 360 degrees and beaching itself. Out of contention for victory, Guy kept it together to finish the day 15th overall. Sadly, damage to the Peugeot UK 207 eventually meant Guy and Phil would retire from the event.

Scotland:

Motion & emotion

Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh got their 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge off to a great start with a podium finish in the Monte Carlo Rally

For Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh, there was a lot to think about at the first event of the season. Monte Carlo is a demanding event and famously tricky to predict. For all teams, the conditions were something of a lottery and despite a few wrong calls, Wilks and Pugh acquitted themselves brilliantly over the three-day event and the new Peugeot UK line-up scored a podium finish on their debut. "It's fair to say the rally was mixed in more ways than one," said Wilks after the rally. "The weather turned Monte on its head but we were able to keep our feet on the ground, not pushing the boundaries too much." It's a great start to the season and the team can look forward to the next event with confidence.

Monte Carlo:

Learning Curves

Competition at the highest level is often about narrow margins and split-second decisions and for Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh, Round Two of the 2011 IRC came down to just that.

After a brilliant start to Rally Islas Canarias that saw Guy and Phil leading after the first stage, the British pair lost their chance of winning the rally on stages two and four the same stage run twice after losing a little confidence in the set-up of their Peugeot UK 207 S2000. "The car performed perfectly everywhere," said Guy at the finish, "but on those two stages it was moving about a lot through a sequence of flat-out sixth gear corners." After dropping to seventh overall at the end of the first day, the pair rallied (yup, literally...) to move back up to fifth by the end of the event. Wilks and Pugh know they have the speed in both the car and themselves and are already looking forward to getting back on the podium at the next round.

Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles:

Hard lessons

Another strong start in Corsica saw Guy and Phil running strongly inside the Top 3 before a spin cost him time and he finished the first day in 6th position. Day Two began even better, with the pair setting the fastest time on the opening stage before Guy's efforts to haul himself even deeper inside the Top 3 saw him miss a braking point and slide into retirement.

"I didn't have a good feeling," said Guy. "I had the impression that my front tyres were cold and I tried to compensate by pushing harder, and that affected the quality of my driving. I ended up braking a little too late for a hairpin, tried to recover the car using the handbrake but the rear end dropped into a ditch dragging the car down a bank. The car was undamaged but it wasn't possible to get it back onto the road". The rally was eventually won by Guy and Phil's teammates.

Corsica:

Tough breaks

In what is rapidly becoming a pattern for the season, Wilks and Pugh got off to another flyer on the fourth round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. The British pair were competitive from the word go and finished the first day just one tenth of a second off the lead, making it a Peugeot one-two overnight. Day two began in treacherous conditions following heavy rain, demanding all crews look for the right balance between pushing hard and not making any mistakes. Which is exactly what WIlks did, consolidating second position and even pushing for the lead. Until the first of two punctures dashed his hopes of a podium finish…

"We were driving through a sixth-gear left-hander in the woods, about eight kilometres into the stage, when I suddenly felt an impact via the steering wheel," commented Guy. "The tyre deflated instantly and we had no choice but to stop in the stage and change the wheel." This second puncture and wheel change cost over two minutes in lost time and dropped Phil and Guy down to fifth place overall. Although Yalta turned out to be arguably the most frustrating event of the season so far for Wilks and Pugh, the pair left the Ukraine safe in the knowledge that their pace is more than good enough to secure that maiden IRC victory some time soon.

Yalta:

Two bad

What's a Guy got do to get a podium? Genuine bad luck robbed Wilks and Pugh of a second place finish in the fifth round of the championship, the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium (25-27 June 2011).

Running second at the end of Day One after once again setting fastest stage times, Guy had a strong 45 second advantage over third placed man, Bryan Bouffier, while sitting a similar margin behind the leader - and eventual winner - Freddy Loix. And then came Stage 10… Wilks and Pugh suffered not one, but two punctures in the same stage, ruining their chances of a podium and demoting them to a frustrating 11th place with just eight stages to go. "At the start of SS10, I felt an impact on the inside of a left-hand corner. It was a puncture and I stopped to change the front-left wheel," reported the Peugeot UK driver. "About 10km further on, my front-right tyre lost air, although I don't know why. I must have hit something without noticing. So I had to stop to change the wheel again." The British pair's fighting spirit saw them haul the 207 S2000 back up to finish fifth, leaving them sixth overall in the championship. After the event, Guy was typically pragmatic: "The car was great although we didn't get the luck we needed. But there's no point thinking about it. We have to put it behind us and move on to the next rally."

Prima Youth Rally:

Smart Guy

Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh got their 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge off to a great start with a podium finish in the Monte Carlo Rally

How would you sum up your season so far?

We're still working hard to prove how good we can be, but we know we have a winning car and team. We've shown flashes of our pace, but we're still waiting to put it all together and have a really great result

What's been the toughest moment of the year?

The pressure in Monte Carlo. This is the most famous rally in the world and I was driving for a new team. There was a lot of expectation and fortunately we had a great start, finishing third on our debut

And the most satisfying moment?

Probably Ypres. We finished fifth, but after having spent most of the rally challenging for the lead, to suffer two punctures in one stage on day two was a real blow and dropped us out of the Top Ten. We fought back well to finish fifth

What are your hopes for the rest of this season?

More podiums! We've got some good events coming up, rallies I've competed on before like Cyprus and San Remo. Everyone involved is 100 per cent focused on scoring some good points before the end of the year!

Belgium:

No change

Becoming used to battling against all the odds, Guy and Phil couldn't have done any more to score a result in the Czech Republic.

By the end of Day One, Wilks and Pugh were languishing in a thoroughly undeserved 12th place despite having been right on the pace from the start. The reason - a puncture, costing the duo enough time to seriously dent their challenge for victory. Undeterred, a series of impressive stage times saw the Peugeot UK team haul their 207 S2000 back into points-scoring contention in eighth place before enforced retirement with alternator failure on Stage 13.

Czech Republic:

Still hungry

A new rally, on new roads with a whole new audience for the Peugeot UK team to entertain.

Still positive about their competitive showing in the Czech Republic - despite the disappointing final result - Guy and Phil headed to Hungary in good spirits. "We know we've got the speed to beat them," co-driver, Phil Pugh, confidently reminded journalists before the start of Round 8, "but it's just not been happening for us."

Hungary's Mecsek Rallye was to be run on a majority of high-speed tarmac roads, twisting through forested regions north of Pecs. The event's shortest stage is just 12 kilometres, the longest over twice as long at 28km. "The key to success will be to find a nice, early rhythm," confirmed Guy. Sadly, yet more bad luck struck the Brits, Guy and Phil retiring on stage five with a water leak.

Hungary:

A bridge too near

In possibly the most disappointing event of the year for Guy and Phil, the Peugeot UK team's 2011 Sanremo rally was over almost before it began.

Guy and Phil were confident of starting round nine well, another tarmac round run on classic roads through Italy. Having made a careful note of a low wall at the entrance to a bridge part way through Stage One, there was nothing to suggest what was about to happen less than two kilometers into the rally. The pair's pace notes advised not to cut the corner leading into the bridge entrance, more usually the safer option, and Guy duly followed Phil's instruction. But on this occasion, it led to disaster. By taking the wider - more cautious - line, Guy found his S2000 207 understeered on the dusty, off-line tarmac, clouting the low wall and being forced into instant retirement. Sometimes, there is just nothing else to say …

Sanremo:

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