STOURBRIDGE rally driver Richard Sykes made a winning start to his BRC Challenge championship campaign with a dominant victory in the opening round Pirelli rally.

Sykes got his rally off to a flying start, setting a time nearly 15 seconds faster than his nearest rival on the opening stage, with the new engine in his Bathams Brewery and G.I.Sykes-supported Citroen C2 performing brilliantly.

His time was so quick that he would’ve been fourth overall in the main British Rally Championship event that ran alongside the Challenge contest, only being beaten by three more powerful turbo cars.

The pace was maintained over the other five stages on the event, Sykes and co-driver Emma Morrison powering to the fastest time on all but one of them to win by over a minute.

“We had a great rally and gave the new engine a really good test,” said Sykes. “We’ve struggled to get the engine right and we were still making adjustments on a rolling road the day before the event. There’s still more to come, I think it’s around 85 per cent right at the moment.

“Emma and I worked like clockwork and had a really good safe run. We pride ourselves on being quick out of the box and it was great to be so much quicker than our rivals on the first stage as well as being on the pace of the top British Rally Championship crews. I didn’t get sucked in to trying to beat those guys though and concentrated on keeping the lead in my own event."

“The team worked for hours and hours to prepare and finish the car for the Pirelli so big thanks to them, I hope the win is payback for the massive effort everyone has put in.”

Next up for Sykes is the Jim Clark rally which is held on closed public roads around Duns in the Scottish Borders and the team are working hard to set the car up for tarmac and make more progress with the new engine.