Sixteen year old Peter Bennett from Loughgall, Co. Armagh had a weekend of success as he took victory on the fifth round of the Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Ireland series at Shackleton on Saturday, followed by a close second place the following day in Scotland for the triple English, Irish and Scottish series encounter. It’s a real boost to his Formula 1000 UK title hopes in the Boost and Boom energy drink backed Skoda Citigo, as he continues to lead this prestigious series.
On Saturday morning it was the trek to Shackleton, near Ballykelly for round five of the McGrady Insurance ANICC Junior 1000 Challenge. After minor improvements to the car set up by John McBride, Peter and co-driver Andrew Bushe lined up for excellent six stage in confident mood.
“Things have just been improving bit by bit lately” said Peter. “We had led the last UK round at Weeton, and the little issues we had with the cars electrics early on seem behind us, so I’ve been feeling more confident.” A training and diet regime, enhanced by his sponsor’s new product- the new Boost and Boom Ultimate drink has helped Peter’s focus between events. Indeed the new product combines electrolytes, protein and creatine to re-hydrate, re-charge and re-build!
That focus was evident when he took nine seconds from NI Junior series leader Josh McErlean on the first stage, further consolidating this on stage two, taking another three seconds. When his title rival spun between a bridge on stage three, the race was all but over, and Peter took five stage wins out of six to score a commanding forty-three second victory. “It was a great day, and we had no dramas, except an over-shoot on stage five at a treacherous hairpin. Shackleton is a great venue, a real mixture of corners, and it set us up well for the next day.” The result also moves Peter up to second in the N.I based Junior 1000 Rally Challenge.
A brisk run to catch the ferry and down to the Solway Coast in Scotland, for Sunday’s Solway Coast Junior Rally where an amazing twenty-nine driver’s aged 14-17 were tackling this challenging event.
The Markethill High school pupil had won the event last year using his Citroen C1, now it was the first time in the Skoda over the daunting military roads. The day didn’t start off perfectly having the reverse on stage one after confusion at a chicane. “It was difficult to read and we nudged a bale” said Peter. “It cost some time, but things went better on the longer second stage and we were in a better groove. It’s some event- Solway, proper type roads and on route notes, it really gives you some buzz! There was a great race all day with Zak and Finlay going well at first and then Josh.”
On stage two Peter started to pull time back, but on stage four another minor moment cost ten seconds. English driver Zak Hughes and Scot Finlay Retson had started strongly at the front, but ran into trouble on stage six, both suffering transmission failures. Josh McErlean was setting some fast times to move into the lead, with Peter just nine seconds back. It was a lead that Josh further extended to eleven seconds by the finish, still a close margin after a frantic ten stages over the military range roads. “We knew we had to score points for championship, and were mindful of that when we were nine seconds back. The second place finish has added to our lead in the UK Formula 1000 series, and that is the main aim. The Skoda ran faultlessly all weekend and I’d like to thank everyone in the team. Now we are preparing for the next UK round in September, and to defend the championship lead.”