Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

The Creditplus sponsored rally team is back and performing better than ever! For those of you who do not remember, we actually sponsor a rally team but unfortunately they have been hit with disaster after disaster when it comes to their car. As a result they have not seen competition in more than a year! Where others may have thrown in the towel, these guys certainly did not, they soldiered on and it has all been worth it in the end.

Back In Action At Last….

Andy Phillips has made a winning return to the wheel of his Creditplus-backed, Peugeot 205 putting behind him more than a year of mechanical issues to claim victory in the two litre class at the Prima Motorsport Stages rally at Smeatharpe Airfield in Somerset.


Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

The 40-year-old, who had been kept from competition since May 2013 by an engine failure and a rebuild complicated by a host of component failures, grew steadily stronger throughout the eight-stage event to overhaul the long-term class leader on the final stage and prove himself the fastest of a 25-strong field.

Phillips, competing for the first time with his rebuilt engine and with co-pilot, Rupert Barker, deputising for long-term navigator, Stu Bowers, told us that he had grown in confidence throughout the event after a tentative start.


Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

“We didn’t know the result until literally an hour later,” he said. “Rupert and my wife Jane went into the results room. They were in there for a while. I wasn’t nervous – I was quite happy with how the day had gone – but I was interested to see where we had finished. They both came running out with big grins on their faces. We’d leapt up the results table and taken nine seconds from our closest competitor. I was over the moon.”


Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

A 6am arrival at the disused airfield near Honiton began a long-overdue day in which everything went right for Phillips and his support crew. Scrutineering held no fears, he revealed, after such a long period working on the car, and on the rough and occasionally grass-broken tarmac surface of the disused airfield it soon proved its pace, despite a predominantly forest set-up, certainly disadvantaging Phillips compared to the pure tarmac cars.

“The biggest change since the rebuild was the improved power,” he told us. “We have about 20 per cent more power than before. But I had to get used to that, so I’ll admit I was relatively tentative on the first few stages and that cost us quite a chunk of time. Had I been rallying more this year, I would have been able to attack from the start, but I just fed my way in.”


Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

Phillips’ conservative start would later surprise his rivals as he became more aggressive throughout the following stages. While all competitors faced the challenge of changes to the circuit as the stages unfolded, Phillips gained in confidence, relishing the new performance levels from his rebuilt engine. “The reality is that, because our car is so good, we only lost 14 seconds to the guy who took the overall victory in a WRC Subaru Impreza,” he said. “That put a big grin on my face, knowing that our car is much quicker now and that I can drive it fast.”


Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

Phillips praised Brett Sims of New Milton-based Brett Sims Motorsport, whom he described as a perfectionist and said had reacted with renewed determination each time the engine rebuild had been set back by a component failure. A “massive” failure while running in the rebuilt engine, just days before a scheduled return to competition on his fortieth birthday at the Somerset-round of the BRDA rally championship in April, had been a significant set back, Phillips conceded, but worse was to follow, when a small oil leak on the next rebuild prompted a precautionary head gasket check and the discovery that a ‘massive chunk’ of metal was missing from the cam shaft. “It was another component failure, and not in any way Brett’s fault,” Phillips said. “He had it back, fixed it all (again), and this time it looks like he’s had more luck with the components.”

“Hats off to Brett,” he continued. “Some people might have completely washed their hands of it, but because his name is on the engine, there was no way that was going to happen. He’s so proud of his work.”


Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

Phillips is now contemplating another tarmac event to stay “fresh”, but admitted that he and regular co-pilot, Bowers, were keen to return to forest rallies. Such events cut to the heart of the duo’s financial dilemma: while their skills and equipment are better suited to forest conditions, the greater demands and risk of damage can make competing in them more costly. Phillips thanked Creditplus and co-sponsors, RideBike, Task, Tailor Made, and BRETT EDBROOK for their continued support, and pledged to continue outperforming competitors operating with higher budgets. “If we can equal or beat the guys who are using better stuff, that’s fine,” he said. “I’m up for doing that.”


Image courtesy of Peter Warner Photography

Photographer Peter Warner, who is responsible for all of the great pictures you have seen already, set up a camera to record a time-lapse video of the engine being put into the car and it looks great; you can see it below. It is fascinating to see all the work that goes into getting an engine into the vehicle compressed into such a short time.

We really hope that these guys are able to get some more events under their belt, not just because we love seeing Knobby fly round a rally stage (although we do really like that), but because the team has put so much into making this work and we really want to see them succeed. Judging by this performance they can clearly do it. A big thank you to article contributor Stu Bowers and Peter Warner for the images and video. Want more motor sport? Check out Monday’s racing Round up! Something different? How about the totally unscientific Creditplus car boot challenge!