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Welsh Driver Craig Middleton Wins 2006 Gravel Rally Championship

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The battle for the 2006 MSA Gravel Rally Championship is over and Welshman Craig Middleton put up a good fight in the last round. Middleton got the better of main championship rival Roger Duckworth on the fast roads of the Mid Welsh forests in Oswestry at Shropshire.

Middleton of Llandrindod Wells and co-driver Robin Hernaman won the ANCRO crown but took second place overall on the Wolverhamption and South Staffs Car Club event. Former champion Roger Duckworth claimed fourth overall due to mechanical problems. A faulty differential switch caused him to lose time on the opening loop, putting him a minute behind.

Craig Middleton wins ANCRO crown in UK Gravel Rally Series Craig Middleton wins ANCRO crown in UK Gravel Rally Series
Finnish driver Andreas Mikkelsen won the rally but did not score championship points because he was not registered for the ANCRO series. Steve Perez edged Middleton out and took the maximum ANCRO points at this event.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Middleton. “We made a good start but I found the opening loop of stages were unpredictable and tricky. As the rally progressed, I lost concentration and started worrying that things may go wrong. Lucky for me they didn’t and here we are. It’s a strange feeling indeed.”

On a day when North Wales threw everything at the competitors, from bright sun, heavy winds, torrential rain and hail, Middleton and Duckworth pushed hard. During stage 4 at Gartheiniog, Mikkelsen was a second-of-a-mile faster than anyone else through the very slippery 14 mile stage. Middleton had the best time, 4 seconds quicker than Perez and 15 seconds ahead of Duckworth.

Middleton drives a Hyundai Accent WRC and uses K&N Engineering Filters. “K&N gives the best protection under any conditions,” said Graham Middleton, Craig’s father. “It’s vital to have this filter on our expensive WRC Hyundai engine.”

With only the eight mile run through Dyfnant left, Mikkelsen led by over a minute from Middleton with Perez third and Duckworth fourth. Middleton only had to finish ahead of Duckworth to be guaranteed the ANCRO crown and took a very cautious approach to the final stage. The course was very wet and slippery but Perez made a strong push. A couple of moments saw Mikkelsen drop a bit of time but his final victory margin was 53 seconds. Perez took the ANCRO win for this race, but Middleton took the overall victory.

“After all the problems we had earlier this year I really thought the title was lost,” said Middleton. “The conditions were really tricky and it was difficult not to overdrive. Matching my father's 1989 victory makes me especially proud.”

Follow Craig Middleton's progress throughout the racing season at the K&N news site. Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.

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