Junior F1000 Rally Championship graduate Elliot Payne stamped his mark on the BTRDA Rally Series R2 Cup last weekend, by securing victory in his EDSL Sport MK8 1.0litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta R2T at the Malcolm Wilson Rally in Cumbria (14th March).
Payne stormed from sixth place in the hotly contested category after the opening stage, to take the win by over ten seconds from his nearest rival on only his second ever “senior” event in the M-Sport machine. His result, puts the disappointment of last month’s Cambrian Rally retirement firmly behind him, establishing himself as a contender for the remainder of the season.
Joined in Cockermouth for the BTRDA qualifier, Payne was flanked by Jon Jones who was tackling the event in his new acquired Fiesta R2 with reigning British Historic Rally Champion co-driver Jez Rogers alongside. Jones overcame teething issues to take eighth spot in the category.
Official M-Sport re-seller EDSL Sport was due to field a two-car squad in Clonakilty, as the Junior British Rally Championship headed to Ireland for round two of the series, with Irishman Eamonn Kelly and Cadet Cup Champion Rupert Flynn set for a two-day battle on the Irish lanes. Sadly, the event would be postponed just hours before the start, and EDSL Sport’s satellite team would uphold honours in Cumbria as the event would go ahead as normal.
Payne 17 years old from Harrogate would ease his way into the tricky Cumbrian forests and with co-driver Michael Gilbey alongside, progressively got quicker as the day unfolded. A mature drive from the youngster saw him head into the final stage of the event in second place, with an eight-second deficit to first. However, Payne knuckled down to secure victory on only his second ever gravel event.
“I`m very happy with that result” beamed Payne at the finish.
“It’s just what I needed after sliding off the road on the Cambrian, it has certainly got the confidence back and it felt a very progressive day behind the wheel. We took it steady on the first few stages and then started to push more as the day went on so ended up lying in second place going into the last stage. It’s fair to say Michael [Gilbey] and I had a big push in the last one, but it was a very pleasant surprise to take the win by 11 seconds”.
Payne feels there is more to come after only his second event in the M-Sport Fiesta.
“We drove the first couple of stages at 90 per-cent to make sure we got to the end of the first loop but felt confident and still carried good speed. We asked EDSL Sport to make a few changes to the car at the rear, which helped massively and gave me a bit more confidence to push harder in the afternoon. I really like the Fiesta and I`m still getting to grips with it, but certainly working up towards full speed. There is a lot more to come and hopefully, more podium finishes too”.
Team Principal Alex Waterman was delighted to salvage a positive result from the weekend.
“It’s pretty clear that Elliot has adapted well to the new Fiesta R2T but taking a win on only his second ever gravel event is pretty special,” he says.
“We are of course disappointed not to have been battling for Junior BRC honours in Ireland, but we respect the decision of organisers in this unprecedented time. Congratulations to Elliot for his result and we are eager to see how his career progresses within the team”.
Image courtesy: Tim Weston