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Poole driver Marcus Dodd's hopes of lifting another MSA National Gravel Rally Championship title are over for another season.  The Flitewise.com backed driver was jointly leading the Park Systems Rally in South West Scotland until an untimely engine failure left the Hyundai Accent WRC stranded at the side of the road.  The recent winner of the Swansea Bay Rally knew that he and Hove based co-driver Andrew Bargery had to win in Scotland in order to remain in the hunt for title honours.  The Newton Stewart based event offered 50 miles of testing stages in classic forests such as Glentrool, where punctures traditionally decided who succeeded and who failed on the rally.  Dry conditions would greet the crews on Saturday morning, and the opening 19 mile stage would provide a stern test.  Series rival Barry Johnson was hit by punctures early on, dropping two minutes.  Norwegian ace Andreas Mikkelsen slipped off the road and retired, and Dodd stopped the clocks with fastest time.  Joining him on that time to the tenth of a second was championship rival Craig Middleton, who also put in a spirited first stage performance in his similar Hyundai Accent WRC.  Moving to the second stage of the rally, Dodd was keen to push on to try and eek out an advantage over Middleton.  Sadly, the HPM Motorsport run Hyundai would pull off from the stage at the second junction, with an engine problem.  Dodd had no option but to retire from the rally, losing any remaining chance of taking the title in the process.  For Marcus, it was a disappointing end to a season where he had consistently shown himself to be one of the championship's fastest drivers: 'I'm very disappointed to retire this way' said Marcus at the finish.  'Unfortunately my regular car was damaged in an accident on the recent Woodpecker Rally, so I was using my father's regular car instead.  Sadly, the engine cried enough on the second stage.  I'm particularly disappointed as we'd been on a steady pace all the way through the opening stage, and our stage time was very positive.  This year has been something of a development year, as we've introduced some major developments to the Hyundai.  As with any development project, there will always be teething troubles, but the more we learn the better prepared we are for next year.  Overall the pace of the car has been fantastic this year, as we have consistently set fastest times on virtually every rally we have contested.  As such, I'm confident that whatever we do next year, we can be at the sharp end of the results for certain'.

Whilst Marcus was left to rue his misfortune, his father Harry Dodd had an enjoyable day in his loaned Hyundai Accent WRC.  With fellow HPM Motorsport driver Peter Egerton away from Scotland, Dodd senior loaned Peter's car for the rally, and quickly got to grips with the new machine.  Harry and his stand in co-driver Andy Street avoided the rocks to finish 15th overall.  Dorset Police Rally Team crew Shaun Cronin and Mark Williams were also contesting the rally.  Driving the HPM Motorsport run Subaru Impreza N8, the pair notched up 19th place overall in their Road Angel and Petards backed car.

Image courtesy of www.cmwi.net

Poole driver Marcus Dodd took a finely judged victory on the Swansea Bay National Rally this weekend.  The former event winner and multiple MSA National Gravel Rally Champion fended off a fierce charge from rivals Andreas Mikkelsen and Craig Middleton to win by just over three seconds in typically hot and dusty conditions.  Flitewise.com backed Dodd has been the class of the MSA National Gravel Rally Championship field this year, having won two events and retired from two other when comfortably in the lead.  Reliability was the key word for the Hyundai Accent WRC this weekend.  The HPM Motorsport team had worked hard to prepare for the 65 stage mile event, and Marcus and Hove based co-driver Andrew Bargery were hopeful of a clean and successful run. Those hopes were to be short lived.  An intermittent intercom failure meant that Marcus was struggling to hear instructions from Andrew, and brake fade was also slightly hampering the pair's progress.  Worst of all was the chronic dust.  The recent heat wave had left the forests of South Wales tinder dry, and the thick dust was hanging over the forest roads with little breeze on offer to blow the dust into the trees.  Dodd was immediately finding dust was hampering his vision, although fortunately the crew were able to set competitive times straight away. Dodd was locked in a tight battle with Roger Duckworth and Craig Middleton for championship honours.  A 6th gear moment approaching one of the event's artificial chicanes cost Marcus a handful of seconds, but the battle remained fierce.  Middleton upped the pace with two excellent stage times, as Duckworth's challenge faltered slightly.  Dodd however was able to control the pace, and although Mikkelsen nearly sneaked victory on the final stage of the rally, Marcus was delighted to have taken another victory in South Wales, and more importantly, another maximum points score.  'It was a very difficult day' commented Dodd.  'The dust on some stages was the worst I have seen.  It was literally like driving into a wall.  You couldn't see a thing in places.  It certainly cost us a lot of time in the morning, but we were still able to set a good pace.  I'm very pleased with the way things have gone today.  Apart from two very minor problems with the intercom and the brakes, the car has once again performed brilliantly and we're really pleased to have scored maximum points.  With two rounds to go it is still very much all to play for.  We'll head to Scotland for the Park Systems next, and tyres will play a crucial part in determining who wins up there.  The stages can be quite rough, so we'll see who comes out on top'. 

Image courtesy of Mick Pattison / British Rally Images

The victory was the icing on the cake for the HPM Motorsport team.  Fellow Hyundai driver Peter Egerton and co-driver Simon Staddon finished 15th overall, Harry Dodd and Roy Campbell were 20th, and rounding off a very successful day for the team were Shaun Cronin and Mark Williams in 34th place.  The Dorset Police Rally Team crew competing together for the first time in their Petards and Road Angel backed Subaru Impreza N8.  Next up for the HPM Motorsport backed team is the Park Systems Rally in Castle Douglas, Scotland, on September 9th.

Poole driver Marcus Dodd was left frustrated after being forced out of the Severn Valley National Rally when comfortably leading the event.  The Flitewise.com backed Hyundai Accent WRC had built a strong 36 second advantage when the engine suddenly went on to just two cylinders, leaving the car powerless. The result means that Dodd has now used his two 'drop scores' in the MSA National Gravel Rally Championship, and needs strong performances for the rest of the year to claim the title again. Based in Builth Wells in the heart of Wales, the Severn Valley National Rally held good memories for Dodd, as he and co-driver Andrew Bargery won the event last year.  As befits the returning winner, Dodd would start the event as car 1 - vitally important given the heavy dust and virtually no wind in the forestry plantations.  A thick wall of dust was left in the wake of each car, so Marcus knew that he had to take full advantage of running without any such problems in front of him. The Pirelli Tyres and Sunseeker Powerboats backed car was readied for action for the HPM Motorsport team and tyre wear was hot on the agenda given the dry heat and warm ambient temperatures.  Dodd chose the right Pirelli compound from the start, as he rocketed through the opening stage of the event to set a time eight seconds faster than Barry Johnson.  The Subaru driver hit back on the next stage as the pair were locked in a fight for the lead.  Marcus kept the gap at eight seconds after the Gwibedog stage, and increased his lead further after another strong charge through Halfway. The rally briefly visited Llandovery before heading west to the little used Brechfa forest in Carmarthenshire.  Johnson attacked again, but rolled out of the event after hitting a bank.  Dodd found himself with a comprehensive lead over second placed Hyundai man Craig Middleton.  Unfortunately, that lead was to be a short lived one.  Midway through the second Brechfa stage, the Hyundai suffered a serious engine problem and Marcus had no option but to turn off and park up. 

For the second time this season, the multiple National champion was forced to retire when in a strong lead.  Despite the disappointment, Marcus was pleased to have once more shown a strong pace throughout the day: 'I'm very disappointed as it was looking very good for the win' said Marcus.  'The car was performing so well today, it felt great and I was very happy with everything.  There was a little drop off in power, and then the engine dropped onto two cylinders without warning.  Unfortunately it was an internal problem so we couldn't continue.  Sadly, it was not to be for us this weekend, but we will come back fighting on the Swansea Bay Rally next month.  If we do not get a good result there, our championship aspirations are well and truly finished, so we will have no option but to attack'. 

Dodd was joined on the retirement list by his father Harry's identical Hyundai.  Mechanical problems would force Dodd senior to retire at service, whilst Peter Egerton and Simon Staddon fared better.  They pulled off a Top 20 finish in their Hyundai, whilst the Dorset Police Rally Team of Shaun Cronin and new co-driver Andy Street found themselves 28th overall in their Group N Subaru Impreza N8.  The Road Angel and Petards backed machine making it home after a tough day's rallying in the unusually hot conditions.

Image courtesy of  www.cmwi.net

Multiple National Rally Champion Marcus Dodd finished a strong fifth on this weekend's RBS International Manx Rally, moving him to second overall in the MSA National Gravel Championship points standings.  The Flitewise.com backed driver from Poole was on a consistent pace all through the two day event based in Douglas on the Isle of Man.  Using the closed public tarmac roads of the motorsport mad island, Dodd turned in a measured points gathering performance in gloriously sunny weather conditions.

Partnered by Hove's Andrew Bargery, the HPM Motorsport driver held a solid fifth after the opening leg of the event.  Dodd and Bargery were slowed when regular National Championship rival Steve Perez suffered a high speed accident on the third stage of the event.  Dodd was the next car through and slowed to ensure that Perez and co-driver Scott Martin were ok after the impact.  The Sunseeker Powerboats and Pirelli Tyres backed duo lost some time as a result, but were happy with their performance after the opening four stages.  The Hyundai Accent WRC returned to the overnight halt in fine condition and Dodd was keen to keep out of trouble on the long second day in order to grab as many points as possible.

Day Two would see yet more bright sunshine as the rally meandered its way across the small island.  Dodd was quickly into his stride and finding the paddle shift gear change in the Hyundai a real bonus on the fast and bumpy tarmac roads.  A drop in turbo pressure gave Dodd some cause for concern just prior to service, and sterling work by the HPM team would see the complete turbo changed on the Accent WRC as a precautionary measure. Restored to full boost in every sense, Marcus then cemented his solid fifth place with a string of consistent stage times to hold the position to the end.  After winning the recent Border Counties Rally, the points haul has put Dodd into a very strong championship position after three rounds.  Tarmac is not Marcus's preferred surface, and the 35 year old is simply itching to get back into the forests of Wales for the next two rounds.

Marcus & Andrew,      Manx Rally 2006.  (Photo by Mick Pattison) 

The RBS International Manx Rally was also a successful outing for the two other members of the HPM Motorsport team on the event.  Harry Dodd and Roy Campbell made a spectacular start to the event, spinning near the start of the first stage before impressing spectators and photographers alike with a huge jump on the Port Erin stage. Harry experimented with tyre compounds throughout the rally as he brought home the immaculate Hyundai Accent WRC in 49th.  Dorset Police Rally Team were also taking part in a Subaru Impreza Group N car, and Sean Cronin and Colin Bell successfully completed their first ever trip to the Island with a competent 56th overall in the Road Angel and Petards backed machine.

Multiple National Rally Champion Marcus Dodd overcame the snow and ice of the Scottish borders and he took his Flitewise.com backed Hyundai Accent WRC to a superb victory on the Border Counties Rally this weekend.  The Poole driver gambled on tyre choice for the last couple of rally stages in the Kielder forest, and the gamble well and truly paid off as he took a well earned 25 second victory from local runner up Barry Johnson. Backed by Sunseeker Powerboats and Pirelli Tyres, Dodd started the second round of the MSA National Gravel Rally Championship brilliantly, setting fastest time on the opening stage with co-driver Andrew Bargery.  After losing time in the snow, Stage 4, Black Fell would see Dodd turn the leaderboard back to his favour as he blasted through the stage to stop the clocks a full 37 seconds faster than Johnson - a stunning effort in the trickiest of conditions.  Dodd then lost time to Barry in stage five but just kept the lead, before Johnson retook the lead on the very next stage after a concerted effort in the Subaru.  Twice the Hyundai stalled during that loop of stages due to a gearbox problem, costing time and dropping Marcus back down the leaderboard to 2nd place.  The H.P.M Motorsport Team quickly decided to change the gearbox at service, and did a fine job in restoring the Hyundai to full health in the time allowed.  Arch rival Barry Johnson had now taken the lead in his Subaru Impreza WRC, and Dodd was desperate to get back on terms with the Shildon man.  Dodd is nothing if not a fighter and he responded magnificently.  Fastest time on Stage 7, Buck Fell would see Marcus back in the lead by the smallest of margins.  With two stages to go, it was anyone's rally.  The slightest mistake would be the difference between 1st and 2nd. Dodd gambled, choosing Pirelli KM6 gravel tyres despite the heavy snowfalls causing havoc in the stages.  As his rivals remained on the snow patterns, Marcus hoped that the passage of nearly 100 cars through the stage during the day would expose the gravel underneath, allowing the Hyundai to bite into the surface and get more grip more often than Johnson.  The gamble paid off.  Dodd was able to surge into the lead over the final two stages, finishing with a comfortable 25 second margin of victory. 

Marcus & Andrew,  Border Counties 2006.   (Photo by Mick Pattison) 

Marcus was full of admiration for everyone in getting to the end of the event: 'It was incredible in places' quipped the event winner after spraying the victory champagne for the first time this season.  'In parts you were just driving on pure snow and ice - virtually no grip at all.  I've got to say a huge thank you to all the marshals and officials were braved the cold and the ice to man the route, as in places it was almost impossible to drive through.  I'm absolutely delighted with the result today.  I was bitterly disappointed not to win the Sunseeker so this has really made up for it.  We pushed hard where we could and the gamble with Pirelli at the end of the event really paid off well.'

It was not all celebration for the Dodd family sadly.  Dodd senior, Harry, was unfortunate to fall foul of the horrendous conditions as he and co-driver Roy Campbell slid into one of Kielder Forest's famous car swallowing ditches on Stage 4, and could not regain the road. 

Multiple National Rally Champion Marcus Dodd was left to rue his misfortune after a short but scintillating performance on home soil, on the Rallye Sunseeker.  Driving his Flitewise.com backed Hyundai Accent WRC, Dodd had set six consecutive fastest stage times and had built a comprehensive 50 second lead before the clutch expired without warning. With Andrew Bargery alongside, Marcus was keen to make it a record fifth win on his home event.  After a steady start on the Friday evening's two 'super special' stages on the Bournemouth seafront, the Poole driver attacked with customary vigour on the opening stages of Saturday morning to quickly bypass leader Paul Bird's Subaru.  Dodd then seemed to enter a twilight zone as he stunned his MSA National Gravel Championship competitors with a string of superb stage times. The chasing pack, lead enthusiastically by Scottish Rally Champion Barry Johnson had no answer to Dodd's exceptional pace.  With the all new paddle gearshift working seamlessly onboard the HPM Motorsport run machine, Dodd was smoothness personified as he took well over a second a mile off his rivals on every stage of Saturday morning. 

Marcus & Andrew,   Rallye Sunseeker 2006.   (Photo by Mick Pattison/ British Rally Images)

Unfortunately, the dominant performance by Dodd and Bargery was about to come to a cruel and unexpected ending after the Mount Ararat special stage.  After increasing their lead to a substantial fifty seconds, the Hyundai came to a sudden halt with a total clutch failure.  The red hot clutch plate signified the end of the road for Dodd, who even resorted to trying to cool down the offending item with a fire extinguisher.  Despite the on the spot fire duty, the game was over for Marcus, and a record breaking fifth Rallye Sunseeker victory would have to remain a dream for another season.  Understandably, Dodd was bitterly disappointed with the retirement: 'Frustrating is the only word that sums it up really' commented Marcus.

Sadly for the HPM Motorsport team, the disappointment had not ended for the day.  Dodd senior, Harry, retired his identical Hyundai after a hydraulic pipe burst, and fellow Hyundai pilot Peter Egerton retired after transmission damage.  The fourth member of the team, Shaun Cronin and Colin Bell - both Dorset policeman - completed the event in their Subaru Impreza N8 in 38th overall, rising from their start number of 77 to complete a mixed day of fortune for the whole HPM team.

Four time Rallye Sunseeker winner Marcus Dodd is all geared up and ready for action as he aims to make it an historic fifth time lucky on February 24/25th.  The Hyundai Accent WRC driver from Poole in Dorset is determined to get his MSA National Gravel Rally Championship campaign off to a flying start on home soil.  The Sunseeker sponsored event is based in the nearby town of Bournemouth, and Dodd is very much the local favourite after a string of popular victories.  Dodd will be supported by former long time backer Sunseeker Powerboats once more during the 2006 season. With Hove's Andrew Bargery alongside, the FliteWise.com backed duo will have to push their recently upgraded Hyundai to the limit on the event, with stiff opposition desperate to fend off the challenge of the HPM Motorsport team.  The Petards, Pirelli and Elf Oil supported team are no strangers to the massively popular rally, and Dodd is determined to start the season with a solid result after a mixed year of fortune in 2005.  With a scoring system now pointed in the favour of the more attacking driver, Dodd will be one of the favourites for victory on the event - especially with significant changes to his ex-factory Hyundai.  The silver and black machine now has a 'paddle-shift' gear change to allow for even faster and more precise gear changes, and the developments to the car have given Marcus a timely boost ahead of a tough season: 'I'm delighted with the progress the HPM Motorsport technicians have made with the car over the winter.  We've developed a much faster and more efficient gear change, and I'm sure this will make a major difference to both the reliability and speed of the car.  We've tried it in testing and it worked very well indeed, so I've plenty of confidence going into Rallye Sunseeker.