David Bogie and Kevin Rae were in a class of their own during the 60th running of the Cambrian Rally; claiming victory by 54 seconds after 45 competitive stage miles.
Despite the overall Gold Star title being wrapped up, the final round of the 2015 BTRDA rally championship had attracted one of the highest quality entries of the season, headed by Scottish Championship regular David Bogie and joined by the likes of Sam and Josh Moffett in WRC Fiestas, Jonathan Greer in an R5 Citroen and Osian Pryce in the brand new R5 Mitsubishi Mirage. And whilst the top prize had been claimed, it was all to play for in the 1400, Silver Star and Historic categories as the BTRDA regulars headed to Llandudno for the 60th anniversary running of the Cambrian Rally.
It was clear from the outset that it would take some drive to defeat number 1 seeds David Bogie and Kevin Rae in their Fiesta R5+; the Scotsman opening up a 20 second lead after setting fastest time on the first three stages of the day.
With such a strong class B14 entry list however it was with some surprise that Luke Francis and John H Roberts were lying in second place overall at the halfway point in their ageing B13 specification Evo 9. The local man clearly had the bit between his teeth and it was he who halted Bogie’s run of stage victories with a stunning time in Penmachno South, trimming the overall lead to 18 seconds at the Glan y Gors service halt.
2 stages later however we were looking at a very different leaderboard. Outgoing BTRDA Gold Star champion, Steve Perez had being lying 3rd at service, but lost over a minute on the second running of Crafnant when the turbo pipe became detached, before ending the day in the Llyn Elsi scenery after trying to make up the lost time. Meanwhile the fast starting Luke Francis dropped 43 seconds in the same stage, demoting the North Wales man to third and splitting the two WRC Fiestas of Josh and Sam Moffett. As a result Bogie now held a commanding 57 second lead.
With just 2 runs through Penmachno followed by a loop of the Great Orme remaining you could have forgiven Francis for consolidating his third place overall and class B13 lead. However Francis is blessed with an all or nothing attitude; the deficit to Josh Moffett reduced to 4 seconds with just 2.95 miles of tarmac to go.
And whilst local knowledge is a big advantage on the Orme, no one would have expected Francis to set a time 8 seconds quicker than anyone else, especially given the traction of some of the newer machines! This had been a phenomenal drive by the Mitsubishi pilot; B13 rally victory also enough to claim the BTRDA class championship glory and end the year fifth in the Gold Star rankings.
The victorious Bogie had done all of the hard work early on and once Francis had dropped back in stage 6, the victory was never really in doubt; a leisurely run over the Great Orme finale reducing the winning margin to just under 1 minute by the time the crews arrived at the Llandudno finish. This had been a mature and accomplished drive by the Scotsman on the tight and twisty North Wales stages; surely a BRC championship contender in 2016 should he appear on the entry list.
HYUNDAI GENPOWER PRODUCTION CUP
In a category marred by the tragic loss of Andrew Mort on the previous weekends Tour of Mull, it was Patrick Naylor and Ian Lawrence who took the victory with an excellent 7th place overall in their N4 specification Evo 9.
Having claimed category victory on both the Woodpecker and Trackrod rallies, the West Midlands based duo had already wrapped up the title and so were free to fight for class honours on the final round of the season; Naylor and Lawrence recording N4 victory by 34 seconds from the similar machine of Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy who themselves claimed the runner up spot in the title race.
Elsewhere, In a great sporting gesture, Aaron McClure elected not to claim championship points, which had he and Elliott Edmondson finished, would have still allowed Tom Naughton and the late Andrew Mort to finish the year in third position. It is fitting that the much loved Scotsman will be forever in the BTRDA history books.
Further back, even after suffering a 1 minute time penalty, Owain Rowlands and Caron Tomlinson claimed class N3 honours with 78th position overall in their ME Rallysport Ford Fiesta.
Callum Black was clear favourite for the Silver Star title coming into the final round of the championship, requiring just a 7th place finish to wrap up the honours. And all was going to plan by the end of stage 5, as the Northamptonshire man held a 4 second Silver Star lead in his Citroen DS3. But disaster struck on the second run through Llyn Elsi as he and co driver Paul Wakely were forced into retirement with a gearbox issue.
This paved the way for Boyd Kershaw to snatch the title away from Black at the final hurdle, realistically just needing to complete the 3 remaining tests to take the crown.
And that they did. While local man John Rowlands, co driven by Glenn Latham went on to take their MK2 Escort to event Silver Star and class B11 victory with a strong 13th position overall, Kershaw and Bryan Hull finished in 24th, 4th Silver Star crew home; this after a very steady time on the Great Orme finale courtesy of clutch problems. Bryan Hull may have missed out on the Silver Star title courtesy of his Malcolm Wilson Rally absense, however his points tally was enough to share the B11 championship victory with his Reading based driver.
After the unfortunate demise of Black and Wakely, B12 honours went the way of Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson with an impressive 15th position overall; the Welsh duo increasing their speed over the drier afternoon stages to climb 11 places from 26th position at the halfway point.
Meanwhile Class B10 saw one of the closest finishes of the event; Rene Torcato and Keegan Rees taking victory by a mere 2 seconds from Kit and Tim Leigh, denying the latter class victory on what was their 100th event. The class had been expected to be claimed by Tom Cave in his Fiesta R2, however the WRC regular was forced into retirement after the second stage, leaving Josh Cornwell and Dai Roberts in a similar machine to take up the mantle.
A stage maximum in stage 7 dropped Cornwell to third however, leaving a two way battle for the class honours over the final 2 stages. Having lost 29 seconds to Torcato in stage 2, Leigh was on an afternoon charge, cutting the gap to 21 seconds by stage 4, 12 seconds after 6 and 8 seconds as they arrived at the Orme. 61st quickest time however was enough for Torcato and Rees to keep the Fiesta crew at bay in their Citroen C2.
KICK START 1400
The championship was destined to go 1 of 3 ways heading into the Cambrian with David Bennett, Ash Slights and Dave Brick all in with a shot at the crown.
By the end of stage 2 however, the championship was looking a little more clear cut as Bennett and Alistair McNeil held a 34 second lead over Brick with Slights 7 seconds further back following a puncture after a trip into a ditch. Chris Powell in his Sunbeam meanwhile was interrupting the championship battle as he held an excellent second.
In fact Bennett and McNeil went on to claim the title in style by setting top 25 stage times on all of the remaining tests to finish the event in 14th overall, equal on time with top 2WD crew, John Rowlands and Glenn Latham, but losing out on 13th courtesy of a 1 second slower opening stage time.
Behind, Chris Powell and Jim Lewis put in a great performance to take second in the 1400 class, while third was enough for Dave Brick to claim the runner up spot in the title race. Ash Slights may have had a disappointing end to the season, however he and Alex Lee can reflect on what has been a successful year, a year which has seen the Yaris become a front runner in the class and at times more than a match for the super quick Bennett.
BTRDA HISTORIC CUP
The historic category on the Cambrian rally had attracted several none registered crews and it was Simon Webster and Frank Richer who inherited the lead from Ben Friend after stage 2 and never looked back; the MK2 Escort crew taking the Historic and class H3 rally victory with 25th position overall.
Paul Street however was the first BTRDA registered points scorer home in 5th, allowing the Mansfield man to snatch the Historic cup and class H3 titles away from RX-7 pilot, Jake Scannell by just a solitary point.
H2 victory went the way of David Lloyd-Roberts and Dei Jones with 38th position overall. Meanwhile second in class was enough for Dave Forrest and Charlie Carter to claim the BTRDA class title.
In Class H1, Barry Jordan found himself up against the similar Hilman Avenger of Gary Edgington and Kate Bannister. Jordan and Gratton-Smith are a formidable pairing these days however, the H1 class championship winners going on to claim victory by more than 2 minutes with 48th position overall.
THE FINAL WORD
Having not been in the forests for the best part of three months, it was great to encounter David Bogie on top form; his speed and pin point accuracy a pleasant reminder of what we had been missing! This, combined with the balls out approach of Luke Francis amongst top commitment from several other crews, made the BTRDA season finale an enjoyable day out.
Llyn Elsi is another stage to tick from the list, and maybe more new territory can be explored early next year as the Cambrian becomes the opening round of the 2016 BTRDA championship. After a year of being in the news for all the wrong reasons we can but hope that 2016 represents a new dawn for British rallying.
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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)