Loris Capirossi rallies to claim podium

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Loris Capirossi was back on the podium last weekend when he claimed a superb third place in the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup at the Tempest Rally.

The triple world champion finished ninth overall in the two-wheel drive section of the rally, which was held over a testing course of 80km held in the forests and Military training grounds in Aldershot.

Capirossi’s car sported his famous number 65 and with co-driver Craig Thorley he finished only 14 seconds behind eventual winner and Suzuki Swift Cup champion Mark Gamble.

The veteran Italian also claimed the bragging rites in Suzuki’s factory MotoGP team, with team boss Paul Denning crashing out of the event.

Denning ended up in a ditch on stage four and was unable to get within the allotted time limit so was disqualified.

Denning and co-driver Jemma Bellingham did rejoin the rally for the four afternoon stages and restored some pride by recording some of the quickest times as the torrential rain and high winds battered the competitors.

Capirossi said: “It has been a great day and it was really fun to do the rally. I took my time in the early stages as I got used to driving on the loose surfaces and in the forests, it was certainly very different from the wide-open tracks that I am used to in MotoGP!

“As I got more confident with the car my times improved and I was able to go a lot quicker and I think if we could have done a couple more stages I might have caught the leader, but I am really pleased with third in my first rally.

“It was a shame that Paul crashed out, because I think our times were very close and it would have been good to have had that extra bit of competition with him, but I think I would have beaten him anyway!”

Denning said: “It was really rough out there. With Loris, I suppose it was slightly inevitable that one of us was going to crash trying to beat the other, and I think it was even more inevitable that it was going to be me!

“It was quite surprising – considering our lack of experience – that we were able to run so competitively and I think this is a testament to the experience of Jemma and Craig – our co-drivers – that certainly helped us all day long.

“Loris and I were very close to each other early on but I made a mistake and slid off the road so I wasn’t able to complete the whole rally – which was a great shame. Well done to Loris for his podium position, it’s a good end to 2008 and I hope we taste some more champagne on two wheels in 2009!”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt