Chris Patterson returns home to the full Monte Carlo
Chris Patterson was downbeat on his flight home from the Monte Carlo Rally. Little did he know there was a surprise waiting for him when he landed.
Ballyclare co-driver Patterson and former World champion Petter Solberg had been in second place and set to push for victory in the centenary year of the most famous rally of them all.
Then they rolled the dice, gambling on dry weather tyres for the final loop of stages — only for the snow to come tumbling down. From second, they went slithering down the leaderboard to seventh.
To compound their misery, an electrical fault sidelined their Peugeot on the road section back to Monte Carlo in the early hours of Saturday morning so they never even made the finish line.
But, as Patterson headed home, he got an unexpected phone call to tell him he’d landed the 2010 Northern Ireland Motorsport Award from the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs.
It came on the back of an outstanding end-of-season run alongside Solberg, the privateer partnership emerging as the major threat to World champion Sebastien Loeb. Even though Patterson had only teamed up with the Norwegian halfway through the year, they ended up third in the World championship and are set to continue on into 2011.
His award was collected by parents Brian and Liz at the Armagh dinner on Saturday night.
Other winners included 20-year-old Jonny Leonard who took the Hankook Junior Driver award which carries the prize of a fully-funded drive on the IRC Ypres Rally in Belgium later this year.
Reigning Northern Ireland rally champion Stuart Biggerstaff was named British Motorsport Marshals Club Driver of the Year and Derek Johnston, who won Monte Carlo alongside Ronnie Adams and Frank Biggar back in 1956, accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s ‘Monte’ winner was Bryan Bouffier, the French champion taking the victory for Pugeot by 32 seconds from the Skoda of Belgian Freddy Loix.