MINI man Steve Entwistle launched his 2014 campaign with a near-perfect result on the Tour of Cheshire.
For the Rishton-based rally driver finished eighth overall and first Mini in the fiercely-contested event.
As the first round of the HRCR (Historic Rally Car Register) Clubmans Championship, the one-day rally attracted the top crews from all over the UK.
And despite having had a five-month lay-off since his last event, and a field packed with Porsches and Ford Escorts, Entwistle was happy with the outcome.
“It’s an ultra-competitive event which combines the speed of special tests and the discipline of timed-to-the-second regularities, and to get a top 10 result you have to be very good at both,” said Entwistle.
“We achieved what we set out to do, which was to get some mileage under our belts with the car and pick up some points for the championship.
“We had a couple of problems during the day, which included a debatable penalty for stop astride on one of the tests in Delamere Forest, and we picked up a penalty for booking in early at one control. Without those, I reckon fifth could have been achieveable.”
The Tour of Cheshire saw Entwistle’s iconic Orangebox Mini make its first appearance in 1293cc guise.
Originally built with a more modest 70bhp, 997cc engine, the new motor, built for him by sponsors Mini Sport of Padiham, boasts a significantly higher 100bhp.
Entwistle added: “With the extra torque and top speed, it’s a different animal. The car was much quicker in the tests, particularly on the road, but, most importantly, the engine ran perfectly all day.
Entwistle and navigator Bob Hargreaves, from Cumbria, will contest the next round of the HRCR Clubmans Championship, the North Yorkshire Classic, on Sunday, March 23.
Results: 1 Andrew Mallagh/Paul Harley (Porsche 911) 567secs, 2 Howard Warren/Iain Tullie (Porsche 911) 575s, 3 John Ruddock/Andy Pullan (Ford Escort Mexico) 588s, 4 Matt Warren/Guy Woodcock (Ford Escort) 605s, 5 Andrew Buzzard/Robb Lyne (Alfa Romeo Giulia S) 638s, 6 Paul Wignall/Mark Appleton (Alfa Romeo Giuietta) 639s, 7 Jim Deacon/Ian Doble HRCR (MG B Roadster) 643s, 8 Steve Entwistle/Bob Hargreaves (Orangebox Mini) 651s