DUNS driving supremo Garry Pearson, by means of his British Junior Rally Champion Title, joined another six budding young drivers last week to take part in this year’s prestigious Pirelli UK Star Driver shootout, held over two days at the iconic motorsport complex of Sweet Lamb in Wales.
While the other six drivers were selected on merit, one from each of the six qualifying rallies that made up this year’s Pirelli-supported British Rally Championship, Pearson was the underdog by means of not having been selected on merit and having driven an R1 Class Car all year.
Tom Cave, Osian Pryce and Desi Henry had competed all year in the same car used in the shootout, namely a Citroen DS3 R3 Class Car. Mark Donnelly had driven a Renault Clio R3 all year while Matthew Cathcart and Jussi Kumpumaki had used Fiesta R2s.
The Pirelli Star Driver programme was set up in 2007 to reward aspiring rally drivers with a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in a full MSA British Rally Championship campaign – worth an estimated £150,000.
The finalists were assessed on their abilities to drive a two-mile stage at Sweet Lamb: the same complex that is used as a rally stage in the FIA World Rally Championship. The drivers were also tested on their driving skills, media awareness, event strategy, technical ability and future potential.
And Mark Donnelly, who won the opening round of this year’s Pirelli-supported MSA British Rally Championship, beat off stiff competition from the other six finalists, to claim one of the most coveted prizes in British motorsport.
Previous winners of the programme include recently-crowned WRC Academy champion Elfyn Evans, a perfect example of a driver who has used the support and guidance of Pirelli in order to compete on the world stage.
A panel of four judges including World Rally Championship co-driver Chris Patterson, renowned motoring journalist Jerry Williams, Finland’s Risto Laine and Citroen Racing’s Jean Francois Lienere assessed the finalists.
The panel reached a unanimous decision that Donnelly deserved to win, based on his speed, technical knowledge and overall potential.
“Garry certainly raised a few eyebrows” said Pearson’s father and manager Monty.
“More so when he posted the second fastest time to Donnelly on the second day – only two seconds down.”
Pirelli UK Motorsport Operations Manager Matthew Corby said: “The level of competition at this year’s shootout was extremely high and none of our finalists should leave Wales feeling disappointed, any one of them would genuinely have been fit for winning the prize.
“Unfortunately, there can be only one winner and Mark impressed the panel of judges due to his skill behind the wheel, motivation and overall ability.”