HOPES of a Warrington driver’s top-three finish in a national off-road series have gone up a gear.

Mike Moran, from Penketh, will head to round four of the British Cross-Country Championship in Radnor Forest, Wales, later this month with renewed optimism.

After a poor start to this year’s competition, Moran and navigator Tony Coid, who is also from Penketh, tasted victory on their last outing in south west Scotland.

It was his first national-level win.

Moran, who achieved a Championship-best overall position of third in 2012, considers round three a result to build on at the wheel of an AT 4x4 Challenger which is powered by a supercharged Jaguar engine.

“After our poor start to the championship the result is a real boost to our hopes of repeating our 2012 position or perhaps finishing even higher,” he said.

“We need to keep the good results coming though.”

Moran has been competing for 30 years and he has worked his way up from lower-level clubman events to tackling the highest level of offroad racing in the UK.

But clutch problems in the opening action of 2014 followed by gearbox failure during round two in Wales proved costly, so a good result was vital in round three.

The event was held over two days, with the top off-road racers in the country facing more than 115 miles of competition on a tough eight-mile course made up of forest tracks and quarries.

Moran made a good start and had a trouble-free first day, lying in third place overnight.

With the two crews ahead of him having a huge battle for the win, Moran played a waiting game on day two.

It would have been easy to lose time on the challenging route through pushing too hard and damaging the car, or getting a puncture.

And that proved to be the case as both the event leader and second place driver suffered problems with their cars at the end of the event.

In contrast, Moran saved his best until last, setting the fastest time of the weekend on his final run to take the win by just one second.

“To win by one second after 115 miles of racing is unbelievable,” said Moran.

“It was a great event, the course was massively challenging with some really quick sections where bravery was rewarded.

“Just as challenging were the rocky quarry sections where punctures were a risk.

“We were happy with our position overnight.

“We were 40 seconds behind the second-placed driver and on events like this one puncture can lose you over a minute.

“One of the drivers ahead of us had a puncture and problems with the exhaust while the other also had a puncture as well as a broken throttle cable.

“We kept out of trouble and had a real push on day two to keep the pressure on. We did enough to win – just!”