Isuzu/Milltek Rally Report: Round 2, Ebbw Vale, Wales
Day 1: Sharpe Victorious In The Vale On Day One
- New upgrades to D-Max reap rewards
- Fastest Production Class Vehicle On Day 1
- 10th Overall, splitting the ‘custom-made’ Rally Specials on event
Compared to the deeply rutted and arduous terrain of Round 1’s Pike’s Peak venue, the Ebbw Vale course is generally smoother, flatter and faster in most of its sections, allowing average speeds to be higher. The technical and involving course would also allow Isuzu driver Jason Sharpe to try out his latest upgrade; a set of bespoke suspension from German damper giants, BILSTEIN. Allied to a revised throttle map to smooth out the transition between the twin turbos at high throttle loads, the team felt confident that the D-Max would be able to build on the impressive form of its inaugural outing.
The weather added a wildcard element into the mix, by deciding to throw a mixture of freezing temperatures, rain and even hail into the equation from the very start of the day, meaning that the first parts of the course soon became a quagmire of deep, rutted mud. Nothing the D-Max couldn’t hack through with its Toyo Open Country A/T rubber, however.
Setting a blistering pace from the off, Jason and co-driving nephew Russell were both quick to announce their intentions to the rest of the field. Immediately eclipsing the pace of the other production-class Land Rovers, the D-Max quickly began to build a lead, notching up the first few of the required twelve runs of the day without incident, while lowering times on each subsequent run. Taking 8th position in the early standings, the D-Max began to split some of the significantly more expensive tube-framed machinery in the classes above!
Pushing hard, Jason could be seen to be wringing every ounce of speed from the Isuzu, with more than a few impressive ‘opposite lock’ moments captured on camera for his efforts. Despite picking up a significant puncture on one early run, Sharpe still managed to keep pushing, thanks to the TOYO tyre staying firmly on the competition-spec Speedline wheels, allowing him to maintain full control.
As the day progressed, the two Sharpes were clearly enjoying themselves and getting into the rhythm of the course, but not before a few technical maladies befell them. Nothing the Isuzu technical team couldn’t handle though! A hard landing from a stage jump fractured a front CV joint, causing the team to have to limp home for a replacement. With no suitable part on the team service barge, a suitable swap was simply removed from one of the team’s own company D-Max vehicles! Being a production class car, the rally truck uses precisely the same parts. There was more bad luck to come, however, when an electrical gremlin forced the engine into ‘limp home’ mode, robbing the truck of turbo boost and hurting stage times by around 30-40 seconds on each run. This meant that the extensive lead that had been gained on the Land Rovers began to be eroded by the hour. Valiant efforts from the service team soon had this sorted though and Jason was back out and back up to full speed to be able to finish the day in 10th overall – and as the fastest production class vehicle of the session.
Commenting afterwards, a clearly elated Jason was quick to praise the efforts of the crew and sponsors. “I really owe it all to the team and equipment today,” he smiled. “It has been an amazing effort from everybody; Russell’s great notes, the sheer hard work of the service team – and even small details like how well a rock-sliced TOYO will stay on a Speedline rally wheel – have all come together to give us a great result. We’ve really got the measure of the course now, and with the forecast of better weather tomorrow, we’re hoping to bite further into the leader board!”
Day 2: Production Victory and 9th Overall for Team Jewson Isuzu
- Finishes event as fastest production vehicle
- 9th Overall in event points standings
- D-Max and team puts in perfect performance
The second day of the British Cross Country Championship proved to be another great success for the Jewson Isuzu Rally Team. Well rested and raring to go, driver Jason Sharpe and co-driver Russell arrived early to oversee final checks and prep on the D-Max, which had survived Day 1 in remarkably good shape.
Persistent rain in the evening had made the early parts of the course incredibly boggy, making the demanding stage a real contrast in its two halves. To begin with, drivers had to battle through deep mud and ruts, which were taxing even the most able of bespoke rally machines. Once through this section, drivers were able to open up their throttles and really pile on the speed in the faster technical sections, which demanded great nerve thanks to ever more treacherous conditions.
Having created a decisive lead the previous day over the production Freelanders, the Sharpes had clearly set their sights on bigger prey. Whereas most of the field was forced to go slower in these harder conditions, Jason was able to reduce his stage times from the previous day, dipping below the magic 7-minute mark into very competitive territory. Before too long, the gap between the Freelanders and the D-max was simply unbridgeable.
Evidently finding form, it was then the turn of custom rally specials like the Tomcats of Bartlett and Green as well as the Warrior Gemini of Thomas to slip behind an ever-improving Sharpe. These three vehicles, all purpose-constructed for high-speed rallying, were no match for the impressive reliability and speed of the D-Max, allied to the faultless driving and navigation of Jason and Russell.
Quickly dispatching the rest of the team’s required runs, the duo arrived back at control to check the latest points standing. After two days of hard work, even harder driving and a superb combined effort from the entire team, the D-Max came in at 9th overall – but tantalisingly close to another Rally Special – the 3M Challenger of Jacque and Last.
After collecting a well-deserved trophy, Jason appeared more than ready to tackle the next event in Scotland – and was already looking forward to future improvements on the truck. “The fact that we’ve done so well on the standard ECU really is a great advert for how good the engine on the Isuzu is,” he beamed. “But now we’re hoping to be able to turn up the wick for Round 3. It’s fantastic that we’re able to be right in the thick of the fight with such great cars and drivers, and I’m hoping that a little more power will take us even higher up the rankings in Scotland.”
The BCCC Isuzu D-Max is fitted with a complete Milltek Sport turbo-back performance exhaust system to give it more power and torque, a quicker turbo spool-up and exceptional reliability throughout each race. The same exhaust systems are available to purchase for your own D-Max by contacting your nearest Milltek Sport stockist.
The next BCCC round will be in The Forrest Estate, Dumfries and Galloway, over the weekend of June 7th-8th.