Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson, put in a scintillating performance to secure a dominant Trackrod Historic Cup victory whilst Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke claimed a second successive BHRC title with a steady run to 5th.
The Malton based Trackrod Historic Cup would not only form round 9 of the 2016 BHRC but also round 8 of the Northern Historic Rally Championship; largely the reason why the likes of Steve Bannister, in the infamous red striped, white MK2 Escort, would feature at the head of a 40 strong entry list.
With several of the BHRC class and category titles already wrapped up many of the regulars had elected not to make the trip; the respective category 1, 2 and 3 champions, Bob Gibbons, Simon Tysoe and Paul Barrett to name but a few. The overall BHRC title was however still yet to be decided, with Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, realistically just requiring a finish to secure a second successive crown.
The 2016 rendition of the event would feature some 54 competitive stage miles including a Friday evening test in Dalby and followed by 5 further stages on Saturday. And it was Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson who would open up an impressive 20 second overnight lead; the legendary Ford Escort star still proving difficult to beat in the forests he knows so well.
Whilst, as expected, Pritchard and Clarke were taking extra care on the super fast North Yorkshire forest tracks It would be another Yorkshire-man in the form of Matthew Robinson who would emerge as ‘Banner’s’ closest pursuer. In fact the Fiat 131 pilot, with Sam Collis alongside, would hold a clear second place throughout Saturday morning’s tests before a propshaft failure would ultimately end their event prematurely.
With Robinson out, Bannister and Atkinson would find themselves with more than a 2 minute cushion over rest of the field with just the Cropton and Gale Rigg stages remaining. With this in mind you may have thought a casual drive to the finish was in order? Not a chance; the Malton man going on to record a clean sweep of fastest stage times to claim overall Trackrod Historic Cup glory by a mammoth 2 minutes and 13 seconds!
The podium positions would be completed by two more class D5 specification MK2 Escorts in the hands of Steve Bennett and Mark Bentley, both of whom had increased their pace throughout the Saturday stages. Bennett, co-driven by Paul Spooner, was second quickest in Dalby, Cropton and Gale Rigg to cement second position overall whilst Mark and Ed Bentley would set 3rd fastest time on each of the aforementioned tests to impressively climb from 11th to third!
Bentley would in fact just pip the very rapid Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis to the final podium position by a mere 0.3 seconds. Despite a couple of overshoots, Milner, in a crossflow engined MK1 Mexico would lead category 2 overnight and was lying in the overall podium positions right up until the final stage of the event.
After previous star performances had ended in the Welsh scenery, Milner and Jarvis on this occasion approached the final couple of stages with caution, ensuring they would end the event in a phenomenal 4th position overall. With Bannister and Bentley not registered for points, there can’t have been too many occasions where a 1600 category 2 car has featured on the overall BHRC podium!
5th overall was exactly what Pritchard and Clarke would have been hoping for and more than enough to maintain their overall BHRC title. Given the often rough nature of the Yorkshire stages there are easier places to drive for a finish! Whilst rarely troubling the top of the time sheets, the formidable duo still ended the day as third BHRC registered crew home. A perfectly judged drive by the now double champions.
Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear were able to take advantage of the none appearance of Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts to claim class D3 honours with a strong run to 6th overall. Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons had held the class lead overnight but could not match the the pace of the Windsor man over Saturday’s stages; Rayner and Deer in the end taking the class win by 21 seconds.
Warren Philliskirk made it 3 Yorkshire men in the top 7 as he and Nigel Hutchinson went on to claim class C5 victory and second in category 2; ending the event 31 seconds in front of the Datsun 240Z of Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds.
15th in the end turned out to be a slightly disappointing result for Chris Skill and Tom Jordan. The class D2 winners had been flying on the Yorkshire forest tracks and were lying in 6th position overall with just 1 stage remaining. Final stage dramas (a Gale Rigg ditch) would however cost the East Midlands pairing over 2 minutes and 9 positions!
Yet another Yorkshire man in the form of Terry Cree would claim class C3 top spot in his BMW 2002ti. Co-driven by Richard Shores, the Thirsk pairing would get the better of Simon Pickering and Colin Jenkins on all but two of the stages to take class victory by 26 seconds.
Further back, 25th historic car home was the category 1 winning MK1 Cortina of Bob Bean and Captain Thompson. Again mixing it with the category 2 and 3 machines, the vastly experienced Cleckheaton man would go on to record category victory by a mammoth 13 minutes over the class B2 winning Morris Mini Cooper of Phil Harris and Paul Kendrick.
Elsewhere, Paul Street and Ian Jones fought off challenges from Robin Shuttleworth and Barry Jordan to claim top spot in the BTRDA Historic Cup on the Saturday only Trackrod Forest stages event.
- Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson | Ford Escort MK2 | 0:58:05.1
- Steve Bennett/Paul Spooner | Ford Escort MK2 | +02:13.3
- Mark Bentley/Ed Bentley | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:00.3
- Adam Milner/Roy Jarvis | Ford Escort Mexico | +03:00.6
- Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:03.5
- Shawn Reynar/Declan Dear | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:28.5
- Warren Philliskirk/Nigel Hutchinson | Ford Escort | +03:39.7
- Tom Hewick/Mick Johnson | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:40.5
- Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance | Escort | +03:42.8
- Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons| Ford Escort MK2 | +03:49.3
Whilst far from the thrilling end to the championship battle we had at one stage hoped for, the journey through the Yorkshire forests for Pritchard and Clarke must have been more than a little nail biting. The Welshman may have been driving well within himself but the pace at the front was electric. Few would have been able to compete with Banner in this sort of form but as closest rivals through the early stages it is a real shame that Robinson and Collis were not able to fulfil their early promise and grab a first ever BHRC maximum score for the glorious 131.
Despite Category 1 forest rallying almost being killed off completely by the ludicrous MSA running order rules we can still look back on an excellent year of historic rallying. On gravel there was little to choose between Elliott, Price, Pritchard and Barrett but again Pritchard proved the man to beat on tarmac; he and Clarke more than worthy championship winners having evenly split their 4 maximum scores across both surfaces. And it is their ability to win just about anywhere which will make them tough to beat again in 2017 …
All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)