Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson emerged as victors of the 2014 MEM Malton Forest Rally after a day long battle with the similar machine of Charles Payne and Andrew Roughead.
The 2014 Malton Forest Rally was not even on my radar until I stumbled across the entry list just one week ago. It may not have been the largest field of cars ever to start an event but this was more than made up for in terms of quality. A historic entry boasting the likes of Julian Reynolds in a 131, Ben Mellors in the Celica RA45 and Matt Edwards in the Geoff Jones Motorsport prepared MK2 Escort was something that could not be missed. Not to mention the 4WD Fords of Stephen Petch and Charles Payne together with the new turbo engined Proton Satria of Ollie Mellors!
Having visited Gale Rigg on this years Trackrod, I headed instead to Cropton, staying long enough for the historics to complete the reverse run followed by a quick dash to Langdale to see the whole field attempt the final stage. It was nice to be back in the Spiers House part of Cropton having not watched there since the 2007 North Humberside Stages whilst it had also been several years since I stood at Langdale’s double junction; a section of stage which has been completely transformed following a spate of tree felling.
OVERALL / CLASS 5
Ollie Mellors defence of his 2013 crown did not last long. The Proton Satria, with the new turbo development engine under the bonnet suffered from mechanical issues on stage1. Whilst not finishing the morning loop of stages, the MEM machine, co-driven by the vastly experienced Rob Fagg, did however manage to complete some much needed mileage by rejoining the field in the afternoon.
Instead the battle for rally victory lay with the Fiesta R5+ of Stephen Petch and the similar looking Focus engined machine of Charles Payne. Number 2 seed and BTRDA regular, Petch, managed to open up an early lead in Gale Rigg, but it was Payne who returned to the halfway service with a 1 second lead courtesy of a very quick time in the first Langdale test.
The SGP Motorsport man had the bit between his teeth after lunch however, taking a mammoth 7 seconds out of Payne in Cropton and a further 2 in Gale Rigg. And although Payne’s Focus engined Fiesta probably had the power advantage down the long straights of Langdale, it was Petch who appeared the neat and tidier around the tight double junctions. The tied Langdale stage time enough for Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson to take an 8 second victory.
Fresh from a great result on the Cambrian Rally a couple of weeks ago, Matt Edwards, with Paul Morris on the maps, was back behind the wheel of his GJM prepared MK2 Escort for the Malton Forest Rally, an ideal warm up for the season ending RAC rally at the end of the month.
While the man from North Wales was a clear favourite, many were drawn to the stages by the return of the RSD Fiat 131 Arbarth in the hands of Julian Reynolds and the Ben Mellors piloted Toyota Celica RA45; both cars having made their competitive debuts on the recent Trackrod Forest Stages.
No-one was going to make the Italian machine go quicker than the very rapid Julian Reynolds and it was great to see, and hear, the stunning machine being put through it’s paces along some of Yorkshire’s finest stages, seemingly over the teething problems suffered on the Trackrod.
Edwards however was yet again in a class of his own, fastest historic on every stage bar one to claim the class victory by over a minute from the Swift Caravans sponsored 131 of Reynolds and Patrick Walsh. RSD must have been over the moon with the runner up spot however, proving that the Fiat is more than capable of competing with the dominant blue oval machines. I have my fingers crossed that Reynolds and Walsh appear on the RAC entry list over the next couple of weeks.
Tim Mason and Graham Wild were the only entered class H5 crew in their Prepfab prepared Porsche 911. They didn’t rest on their laurels however, taking the fight to the large H4 class entry and missing out on the overall historic runner up spot by a mere 3 seconds.
Ben Mellors and Alex Lee had been going well in the huge Celica, lying 14th overall and 6th historic before the second Langdale test. However a snapped gear lever in the final stage prematurely ended a great run for the Mellors Elliot Motorsport crew. Disappointment aside, like Reynolds, the Bakewell driver did manage to show the potential of the Japanese machine; both cars providing hope that we might see a little more variety in the class over the coming years. Class H3 proved very close indeed.
Andrew Siddall had initially set the pace in Gale Rigg but failed to emerge from the first Cropton test, leaving Phil Jobson and Ian Watson to battle it out. The pair traded times throughout the day but it was Jobson, with Arwel Jenkins on the maps, who managed to overturn a 5 second deficit in the final stage to take the class victory by 4 seconds from Ian Watson and Mike Dickson.
While class H2 may have been a little less competitive, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith still put in a strong performance to claim 25th overall in their Hilman Avenger, finishing exactly 1 minute ahead of the MK1 Escort crew of Robert Rook and Miles Cartright; the latter not shy in throwing their Ford around the classic Yorkshire forests either.
Ian Jemison and Dean Kellett followed up a great run on the Trackrod with a well deserved 21st overall (10th in the open class) in their very unique Porsche Boxster. Whilst their only class opposition retired on stage 1, 21st overall, against some very strong crews, meant they would have taken some beating and were one of the most committed crews through this section of Cropton …
Class 3 was a mainly Ford Escort affair; Dave Lewis and Steve Southall ending up on top of the pile, with the similar machines of Paul Hudson and Robert Carr just under a minute further back. Lewis and Southall finishing just one place behind the Boxster of Jemison in 22nd position.
In class 2, Michael and Josh Davison managed to get the better of the Peugeot’s of Andy Stretton and Steve Megson. The bright orange Proton Satria, overturning an 8 second deficit on the final stage to claim class victory by 17 seconds from Stretton and, co-driver, Ian Harden’s 205.
In class 1, 2014 BTRDA 1400 champ, Mat Smith, proved that it is not just a Ford Ka that he can throw around the forests as he and co-driver, Chris Row, went on to take a convincing class victory with 23rd place overall. This after suffering gear linkage problems in stage 1 which left them down in 50th position! A happy household was guaranteed as second car home in class was Amanda Cornforth-Smith in the White Ka, with her father, Derek, alongside.
The 400 mile trip had most defintiely been worthwhile; the Malton Forest Rally proving once again to be a great little event which turned out to be one of best days viewing this year. Queues on the A64 were more than made up for by a much needed stop off at dad’s for refreshments before the final leg of the journey home. Next up is RALLY GB, still one of the highlights of the motorsport year …
1. Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson – Fiesta R5+ (5) – 0:38:27
2. Charles Payne / Andrew Roughead – Fiesta (5) – +00:08
3. Peter Stephenson / Ian Windress – Focus WRC (5) – +00:57
4. Ian Joel / Graeme Wood – Escort WRC (5) – +01:42
5. Paul Benn / Richard Cooke – Focus WRC (5) – +01:50
6. Steve Petch / John Richardson – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (5) – +03:00
7. Matt Edwards / Paul Morris – Escort MK2 (H4) – +03:02
8. Tony Jardine / Peta Todd – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (5) – +04:10
9. Julian Reynolds / Patrick Walsh – Fiat 131 Arbarth (H4) – +04:18
10. Tim Mason / Graham Wild – Porsche 911 (H5) – +04:21
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