Tag Archives: Dai Roberts

Pritchard in Pole Position after Manx Maximum

In fabulous early autumn conditions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke judged the pace perfectly to claim an excellent Rallee Classicagh Isle of Man victory; collecting maximum BHRC points to head into the final round as clear championship favourites.

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2015 BHRC champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, have been out of luck for large parts of the season and found themselves heading to the Isle of Man for rounds 7 and 8 of the championship in desperate need of a good result to keep their title hopes alive.  Requiring 6 strong finishes from the 9 available rounds, a combination of the odd mistake and mechanical woes had seen the pairing record just 3 notable scores with only 3 rounds remaining.

Having never been to the island before, the prospect of witnessing the title battle unfold over 20 classic ‘Manx’ stages in glorious September conditions was one I was keenly looking forward to.  And whilst the likes of Joe Price and Nick Elliott had elected not to make the trip across the Irish Sea the rally was still blessed with an excellent historic entry; one which contained more Minis than I ever remember seeing before!

With Pritchard not able to afford another non-finish it is hardly surprising that the usually time-sheet topping Escort pilot would approach the event with caution.  Indeed the Welshman found himself lying 4th overall by the end of proceedings on Thursday evening behind the similar Fords of early leader Ryan Barrett and RAC Asphalt championship competitors, Will Onions and Guy Woodcock.

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It was all change on the Friday morning loop of stages however; ignition issues causing Barrett and co-driver Paul McCann to drop over 45 seconds in stage 6, whilst a couple of consistent stage times for Pritchard saw he and Clarke take the lead by the narrowest of margins from Onions and Woodcock.

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Barrett was soon back up to speed however and after 2 stunning stage times in Ravensdale and 179+, the Northern Irishman was back in second place.  In part due to the loss of oil pressure enforced retirement of Woodcock, and a slow time for Onions in stage 9.  All this meanwhile allowed Pritchard to continue to lead the historic classes and collect the much needed maximum BHRC points on offer at the halfway stage of the event.

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Having clawed back much of the lost time to sit just 8.6 seconds behind Pritchard after stage 9, Barrett would suffer a further set-back; the Northern Irishman issued with 40 seconds worth of road penalties as a result of earlier ignition related lateness.  Without which, he and McCann, would have been leading the rally, such was their pace through the Castletown darkness.

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And despite the cancellation of stage 14, Barrett had managed to get within 31 seconds of the rally lead by the end of the day; his pace over the first leg of the event suggesting rally victory was still a distinct possibility, especially with 6 special stages totaling 60 competitive miles still remaining.

Whilst Ryan Barrett had been making the headlines, it was elder brother Paul who was in title frame.  And whilst struggling to match the pace of his BD engined rivals, the Pinto powered man was doing an admiral job of staying in touch; Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts claiming the spoils for 3rd place in the BHRC classes at the halfway point and lying 4th overall at the close of proceedings on Friday, just over 24 seconds behind the third placed crew of Will Onions and Jamie Edwards.

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Saturday, the final day of the rally, was blessed yet again with glorious weather, perfect conditions for the lead battle to be fought.  However, Ryan Barrett’s victory charge was further hindered by the cancellation of the 11.5 mile second stage of the day, leaving the rapid Escort man just 40 miles to close the more than half minute gap.  The position looked much more positive after SS17 however; Barrett taking a massive 15 seconds out of both Pritchard and Onions in just under 4 stage miles!

But just as victory momentum was starting to build, an up and down event for Barrett and McCann came to an end on the penultimate stage of the rally;  A loss of oil pressure tragically ending their very competitive run.

This left the way clear for Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke to round out a perfect weekend by taking maximum BHRC points from both legs of the event; an ultra consistent run culminating in a 1 minute and 40 second victory over the leading RAC Asphalt championship crew of Will Onions and Jamie Edwards.

Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts would finish the event in third after another strong performance, the deficit in horsepower really showing on the demanding Manx roads.  And whilst the pairing  have now sown up the Category 3 title, the overall honours appear just out of reach; a top 10 finish on the Trackrod now probably enough for Pritchard and Clarke to claim a second title.

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CATEGORY 2

In 2016 Simon Tysoe and Stanley Orr have been the front running category 2 contenders in their respective BD and Pinto powered Ford Escort MK1s and it was no surprise to see them lying 1st and 2nd on Thursday evening.

It was Orr, with Guy Weaver alongside, however who was quickest through the night stages and the pair managed to maintain their healthy 40 second category advantage over the Friday morning loop.  Unfortunately the engine decided to call it a day on stage 7 though, which along with their enforced retirement, also put pay to their championship hopes.

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This left Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris in pole position for both the category honours on the event as well as the championship itself; the pairing holding a 1 minute 30 second Friday night lead over another pinto powered MK1 in the hands of Phil Jobson and Arwel Jenkins.

Jobson’s strong run would however sadly come to a premature end after a stage stopping off in Snuff the Wind on Saturday lunchtime, thus leaving Tysoe as the clear favourite for category victory.  That is until the Leicester man visited the scenery himself on the penultimate stage of the event.   Such was their lead advantage however that the 12 minutes lost would only drop to them to third; more than enough to secure the category title after an excellent season.

Instead it was Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith who slipped into the last minute category lead in their 1600 Hillman Avenger BRM.  And the East Midlands pairing duly went on to take a well deserved victory having put in a very strong performance throughout the rally; the first none Escort BHRC/RAC crew home in 9th position overall in the combined historic events.

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Behind Jordan, a conservative drive saw Roger Matthews and Tom Marrott in their MK1 Escort claim second in category 2 .  The result enough to secure overall RAC Asphalt championship victory  with one event still remaining.

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CATEGORY 1

For once a wide variety of cars made up the category 1 entry including a couple of Porsche 911s, a Lancia Fulvia, Triumph TR4, BMW 1800 and an Imp to mix it with the usual Minis and Cortinas.

And given their numerical advantage, it may not have been too much of a surprise to see a Mini at the front; the extremely Rapid Ray Cunningham and Jared Gill holding the category lead until retiring from the event in stage 7.  This left Bob and Dale Gibbons to take up the mantle in their Ford Cortina GT; themselves getting the better of the Adrian Kermode and Colin McDowell piloted Minis.

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The Mini challenge would however fade and the father and son Cortina crew were able to build a lead of well over 2 minutes by the end of proceedings on day 2 with Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride moving their infamous 911 into the podium positions.  In fact, Nutt increased his pace as the event progressed, which combined with road penalties for McDowell, would see OLC6E move up to second by the end of the event.

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There was just no stopping Bob and Dale Gibbons though as they went on to finish the combined event in 57th position overall.  The Cortina GT has been near unstoppable in 2016 and another stellar performance on the Isle of Man was rewarded with not only a 4 minute category victory but also BHRC category 1 championship glory.

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COMBINED NATIONAL A/B HISTORIC RESULTS
  1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 | 02:21:30.5
  2. Will Onions/Jamie Edwards | Ford Escort MK2 | +01:40.5
  3. Paul Barrett/Dai Roberts | Ford Escort MK2 | +02:03.1
  4. Will Rowlands/Lion Williams | Ford Escort MK2 | +06:24.5
  5. Christophe Jacob/Isabelle Regnier | Ford Escort MK2 | +09:09.9
  6. Shawn Reynar/Declan Dear | Ford Escort MK2 | +09:33.9
  7. Declan Jackson/Barry McCarney | Ford Escort MK2 | +09:46.0
  8. Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman | Ford Escort MK1 | +10:13.1
  9. Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith | Hillman Avenger | +12:57.4
  10. Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance | Ford Escort MK2 | +13:30.9
FULL RESULTS
FINAL THOUGHTS

My first trip to the Isle of Man had been a good one, made even better by the weather, competition and company.  You have to be partially mad to follow rallying, but it is nice to know that you are not alone; a couple of familiar faces more than happy to offer a couple of gratefully received tips to ensure our trip to the Island included most of the classic spots.  This had been a weekend to remember and I am sure we will back.  However before next years plans start to take shape, there is the small matter of the championship decider on the Trackrod in just under 1 week’s time.  Where, with Barrett not entered at the time of writing, surely Pritchard will make it 2 outright titles in a row …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Evans Eases to Epynt Glory as Barrett Consolidates Title Lead

Melvyn Evans and Patrick Walsh recorded a dominant Harry Flatters Historic Rally victory whilst 4th overall was enough for Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts to consolidate their position at the head of the BHRC title race.

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The Harry Flatters Rally represented the first taste of Asphalt for the BHRC regulars with the 44 car historic entry facing over 73 stage miles across the very technical military roads of Epynt.  And whilst the likes of Nick Elliott and Matthew Robinson had elected to miss the Welsh tarmac round, entries at the sharp end from Epynt regulars, Melvyn Evans and Guy Woodcock, added some additional spice to an already impressive list.

The 2015 event had seen a fabulous battle for victory between Jason Pritchard and Melvyn Evans, with the 2015 BHRC champion mastering the wet conditions to get the better of his rival on that occasion.  And after stage 1 it appeared that the rapid Welsh duo would again feature heavily at the top of the time sheets in 2016 with Evans this time the right side of a six second margin.

But just as anticipation of another epic duel began to build, Pritchard and co-driver Clarke soon found themselves condemned to their third BHRC non finish in a row courtesy of a stage 2 engine failure.  There is now no room for another retirement if the unlucky North Road Garage sponsored Escort crew are to maintain their championship crown.

Evans, with Patrick Walsh alongside, meanwhile had built a 28 second lead by the end of stage 2 and from then on in was never really challenged as he and Walsh eased away from their opposition over the remaining three stages to claim a comfortable 1 minute and 9 second victory over leading BHRC crew Neil Williams and Peter James.

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Second was an excellent result for Williams and James who grabbed the position from the unfortunate Pritchard on stage 2 whilst holding off an early challenge from Rob Smith and Alun Cook.  In fact the un-fancied F2 Spec MK2 Escort crew were never outside the top three stages times as they went on to claim a well deserved but rather lonely runner up spot and maximum BHRC points.

Lying third after stage 2, Smith’s strong early showing ended on the very next stage; a rather large off on the approach to the German village allowing  Guy Woodcock and Richard Crozier to slip into the final podium position with Simon Tysoe, Paul Barrett, Terry Brown and Barry Jones covered by just 6 seconds in the battle for fourth.

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Much like Williams, Woodcock was now all on his own in third, 34 seconds behind second overall but 29 seconds in front of Tysoe in 4th.  And 4th and 5th fastest times through the final two stages was enough for he and Richard Crozier to not only claim the final podium position but also wrap up maximum RAC Asphalt points on what was the third round of the new for 2016 championship.

In the close battle for 4th, Second quickest time overall on stage 4 would promote Barrett and Dai Roberts, in the leading Pinto engined machine, firmly into the hotly contested position.  The Northern Irish / Welsh duo ending the day as second BHRC registered crew home after managing to hold on through the final stage, leaving Barrett to sit comfortably at the top of the BHRC title race.  2016 champions?  It is now a serious possibility.

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Barry Jones and Iwan Griffiths meanwhile were six seconds quicker than Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris on stage 4, tying the MK1 Escort crew on total time as they headed into the final stage.  Unbelievably the duo would set the exact same time on stage 5 with Jones missing out on fifth courtesy of the stage 1 tie breaker.  Thus leaving Tysoe and Morris to round off another strong drive with a top 5 finish to nicely compliment another maximum category 2 points haul.

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Elsewhere in category 2, an electrical problem had ended the challenge early for regular front runners Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver.  This left the way clear for Wayne Bonser and Rich Aston to take class C3 honours from the similar MK1 machines of Ian Drummond and Jon Ford.  Class C2 meanwhile was claimed by the Hillman Avenger of Steven Powell and Jamie Hawkins.

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14th overall was another top result for class D2 winners Chris Skill and Tom Jordan.  The East Midlands crew finishing within 5 minutes of the eventual winners which given Evan’s calibre, as one of the quickest men on Welsh tarmac, is no mean feat!

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Further back, Ford Cortina GT crew, Bob and Dale Gibbons, were again the pick of the category 1 field, bringing their class B3 machine home in 19th position overall to claim category honours by over 6 minutes from the class winning B1 Morris Mini of Ken Pryce and Don James.

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Elsewhere, Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell finished 23rd overall and first in class B5 whilst Bob Seager and Simon Hannam claimed class B2 top spot in their MG Midget.

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Whilst a little short on historic entries, it had been a good day on the Epynt ranges.  It is a shame that Pritchard was forced into early retirement as a close fight to the end between two of the quickest tarmac shod Escort pilots in the country would have been just what the doctor ordered.  However, the ever improving weather made for a pleasurable afternoon in one of the most scenic areas of Wales.  More of the same please for both the Red Dragon in a few weeks time and most importantly for my first ever trip to the Manx in mid September.  I genuinely cannot wait!

RESULTS
  1. Melvyn Evans / Patrick Walsh | Ford Escort (D5) | 1.04:57
  2. Neil Williams / Peter James | Ford Escort (F2)* | +1:09
  3. Guy Woodcock / Richard Crozier | Ford Escort** (D5) | +01:49
  4. Paul Barrett / Dai Roberts | Ford Escort (D3)* | +02:13
  5. Simon Tysoe / Paul Morris | Ford Escort (C5)* | +02:27
  6. Barry Jones / Iwan Griffiths | Ford Escort (D5) | +02:27
  7. Daniel Jones / Gerwyn Barry | Ford Escort (D5)* | +02:55
  8. Roger Moran / Ashley Trimble | Ford Escort (D5)** | +02:57
  9. Rudi Lancaster / Kenny Owen | Ford Escort (D5)* | +02:58
  10. Roger Matthews / Tom Marrott | Ford Escort (C5)** | +03:30

* Denotes BHRC registered crew
** Denotes RAC Asphalt crews

FULL RESULTS

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Enquiries: paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

Brave Barrett Defeats BD-Brigade

Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts grabbed a sensational last gasp victory on the Builth Wells based Severn Valley Stages Rally; the pinto powered Escort crew defeating several BDG engined rivals to consolidate their lead at the top of the BHRC points table.

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Round 4 of the British Historic Rally Championship would see the crews head to the forests of Crychan, Cefn and Radnor for the Midland Manor Motor Club organised Severn Valley Stages Rally.  A tough event in prospect as glorious weather running up to the rally would leave the 120 strong field facing 7 very dry and dusty Mid Wales stages.

Round 3 winners, Joe Price and Chris Brooks were in a rich vein of form and it was they who had best acclimatised to the conditions over the first couple of stages; the Ludlow pairing topping the time sheets after stage 2 and holding a comfortable 26 second lead by the time the crews had arrived back in Builth Wells for the second and final service of the event.

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The morning had not gone quite so well for other leading crews however.  Sadly the Fiat 131 of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis would leave the road in Crychan whilst 2015 champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke would fail to reach the end of Radnor.  After such a strong start to the season, the winners of rounds 1 and 2 will be keen for a return to winning ways on the Epynt tarmac in late July.

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Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts meanwhile were going well; consistent top four stage times leaving the championship leaders in a strong third place, just 1 second behind the D5 class MK2 of Nick Elliott and Dave Price and holding a 16 second margin over the similar machine of Rudi Lancaster and George Gwynn.

Whilst Price and Brooks held a comfortable lead the rally was by no means over as 17 very tricky afternoon stage miles lay between the remaining crews and the finish ramp.  However, after another stage win in Gwibedog, the leading Escort crew would increase their advantage to a commanding 35 seconds.

But, just as the Ford pairing were contemplating a second consectutive BHRC victory, disaster struck; a clutch problem in Crychan costing the unlucky duo more than 3 minutes and any chance of glory.

Instead it was Nick Elliott and Dave Price who would head into the Cefn finale with what seemed like a comfortable 6 second advantage over the pinto powered Barrett.  However, having been quickest of all historic crews through the earlier running of the stage the Northern Irishman could not be ruled out.

But for a puncture Elliott may well have had enough in hand.  Instead Barrett and Roberts emerged from the final test having registered a blinder of a stage time; 11 seconds quicker than Elliott and enough to secure a fantastic 5 second victory!  Top driving!

In hindsight it would have been so easy for Barrett and Roberts to have opted for a steady run through the final stage and claim an excellent second.  The championship leaders must therefore take all of the plaudits for seizing a rare shot at an overall series victory.  A quite incredible achievement.  Fortune most definitely does favour the brave.

Behind, Rudi Lancaster and George Gwynn recorded an excellent third, just 23 seconds behind the overall winner.  Whilst Steve Bennett and Iain Tullie continued the MK2 Escort theme by coming home 4th in another D5 specification machine.

Category 3

Whilst missing out on the overall victory, Class D5 honours were a welcome consolation for Nick Elliott and Dave Price after a tough start to the season.  And with Pritchard and Clarke failing to score, the Cheltenham pairing are still well in the championship fight.

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Elsewhere, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith, having swapped their Hillman Avenger for a Talbot Sunbeam on the Severn Valley, were rewarded with class D4 honours after an excellent debut drive.  Gary Cooper, in a similar car, had lead the early running but Jordan’s victory was never in doubt once the former had retired with a bent steering arm in stage 3.

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Meanwhile, continuing the David vs Goliath theme, Chris Skill and Tom Jordan took their 1600 MK2 Escort to another combined class D1/D2 victory with a fantastic 16th overall.  One of a number of lower powered crews to perform strongly in the very dusty conditions.

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Further back, Tom Coughtrie and Michael Gilbey took maximum advantage of both Robinson and Pritchard’s retirements to claim class F2 honours with 26th position overall.  Having trailed the similar MK2 Escort of Dick Slaughter and Tim Sayer for most of the event, a late charge, culminating in a six second quicker time through stage 7, saw the number 94 seeds record a remarkable 4 second class victory.

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Category 2

Young Adam Milner, with Roy Jarvis alongside, had thrown a cat amongst the pigeons on stage 1 by registering the fastest historic time overall in his 1600 cross-flow engined MK1 Escort.  Having maintained the category lead throughout the day it would all go horribly wrong for the Yorkshireman on the final stage however; high levels of dust contributing to the Class C2 crew ending the day against a Cefn tree and unfortunately retiring from a fantastic 5th position overall.

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Instead it was Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris who would take the category honours in their class C5 MK1 Escort; holding off a strong final stage charge from the similar machine of Ernie Graham and Robin Kellard to register a slim three second victory after more than 40 miles of competition.

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After a difficult event, which included 3 punctures, Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver fought back to third in category by the end of the day.  A strong run over the afternoon stages saw the MK1 pinto crew reduce a 1 minute margin after stage 4 to just 35 seconds by the end of stage 7, a suggestion of what might have been had luck been on their side.  Orr and Weaver would however take away class C3 honours to compliment a well earned 10th position overall.

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Benefiting from the final stage retirement of Milner and Jarvis, Andrew Stokes and Paul Price would claim the combined C1/C2 class victory in their Hillman Avenger.  The Dursley man closing down and passing the MK1 Escort of Stuart and Linda Cariss over the repeated stages to ensure he and Price were best placed to take the class honours.

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Category 1

Bob Bean, with Captain Thompson alongside, would claim the pre-68 category honours in his MK1 Lotus Cortina; the evergreen Yorkshireman ending the event in 35th position after pulling away from the class B2 winning Mini of Terry Cree and Richard Shores as the day wore on.

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Cree and Shores usually enter a glorious BMW 2002Ti but after opting for the Mini on this event claimed the class B2 honours by almost 6 minutes from regular class competitors, Phillip Harris and Alun Cook; themselves claiming third in category to maintain their strong run of results.

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Father and son duo, Bob and Dale Gibbons, had been right in the mix for category honours but lost almost 7 minutes in Radnor after a tyre came away from the rim.  All was not lost for the Cortina GT crew as class B3 honours was just reward for making it to the finish of a very abrasive rally.

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Final Thoughts

Dust had played a major part in the event and almost certainly aided Barrett in taking a monumental BHRC overall victory against very strong opposition.  However this may not even have been the story of the day had the said same dust not contributed to Adam Milner’s demise!

Great stages and warm weather had made for yet another excellent Severn Valley, well worth the 3.5 hour drive to watch.  And with the championship now blown wide open it is with genuine excitement that we anticipate round 5 on the tarmac roads of Epynt.  Will Pritchard be able to re-ignite his title defense on what is arguably his stronger surface?  Stayed tuned to Paul Commons Motorsport for coverage …

RESULTS

1. Paul Barrett / Dai Roberts (D3) – Ford Escort MK2 – 46:07
2. Nick Elliott / Dave Price (D5) – Ford Escort MK2 +00:05
3. Rudi Lancaster / George Gwynn (D5) – Ford Escort +00:23
4. Steve Bennett / Iain Tullie (D5) – Ford Escort MK2 +01:29
5. Simon Tysoe / Paul Morris (C5) – Ford Escort MK1 +01:48
6. Ernie Graham / Robin Kellard (C5) – Ford Escort MK1 +01:51
7. Ben Friend / Cliffy Simmonds (D3) – Ford Escort MK2 +01:53
8. James Potter / Bob Duck (D5) – Ford Escort MK2 +02:18
9. Shawn Rayner / Declan Dear (D3) – Ford Escort MK2 +02:20
10. Stanley Orr / Guy Weaver (C3) – Ford Escort MK1 +02:23

16. Chris Skill / Tom Jordan (D2) – Ford Escort MK2 +03:22
18. Barry Jordan / James Gratton-Smith (D4) – Sunbeam +03:47
26. Tom Coughtrie / Michael Gilbey (F2) – Escort MK2 +05:32
35. Bob Bean / Captain Thompson (B4) – Ford Cortina +06:52
38. Terry Cree / Richard Shores (B2) – Morris Mini +08:04
41. Bob Gibbons / Dale Gibbons (B3) – Ford Cortina GT +14:10

FULL RESULTS

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Enquiries: paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

A Perfect Start to Pritchard’s Title Defense

Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke began their British Historic Rally Championship title defense in near perfect fashion on the Red Kite Stages; a mature drive landing them victory for the second year in succession despite very testing conditions.

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The Red Kite Stages has consistently been a top class event and pleasingly 2016 saw Amman and District Motor Club rewarded with a near maximum capacity entry, not only featuring a bucket load of pristine historic championship entries, but also including the likes of BRC championship hopefuls David Bogie and Tom Cave in brand new R5 machinery.

Whilst maintaining the traditional compact nature of the event, the itinerary for 2016 would see the crews tackle the very fast open gravel roads of route 60 within the schedule of 6 stages which also included more familiar tests in Crychan and Caeo.  With high winds and rain forecast the weather was always likely to have a say in proceedings.  However the thick fog which greeted our entry onto the Epynt military ranges was most definitely not on the menu; a somewhat different challenge to the snow and ice faced by the crews on last year’s event!

Pre-event, the smart money would have been on 2014 RAC champs, Nick Elliott and Dave Price, to lead the way; widely regarded as one of the quickest MK2 pairings on Welsh gravel.  However, a cold ridden Elliott endured a difficult start to the event; a stall in the opening Crychan stage losing the Cheltenham man an estimated 22 seconds!  But such was his pace, the traditionally fast starting MK2 pilot would only drop 4 seconds to Jason Pritchard, the eventual stage victor.

Whilst Pritchard had taken an early lead it was the flamboyant Joe Price, with Chris Brooks alongside, who would top the time sheets on Route 60 before Elliott would make it three different victors in as many stages with a good time through Caeo, leaving the 3 crews separated by just 15 seconds at the mid-day service halt.  The scene was set for an almighty battle over the afternoon loop of stages; precisely the reason why I was up at 4am on a Sunday morning!

I am not sure what Pritchard had eaten for lunch but it most certainly did the trick.  His blistering time through Crychan 2, whilst coinciding with another stall and time loss for Elliott would ultimately be the defining stage of the rally; A likely victory cemented by fastest time over the second running of route 60.  Pritchard and Clarke amazingly equalling their morning stage time, in what was now significantly worse conditions, to take a 26 second buffer over Price into the Caeo finale with Elliott a further 2 seconds back in third.

Elliott is not a man to give up without a fight however; his electric final stage charge to regain second position overall and the class D5 victory proof if ever it were needed.  And on a day when things didn’t exactly go to plan for Elliott, the points for second overall are a nice consolation prize to take into Rally North Wales in just over 1 month’s time.

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Meanwhile Pritchard had already done the hard work in stages 4 and 5 and knew that a sensible pace through the 9 miles of Caeo would be enough to wrap up the opening round victory; a 28 second gap was too much even for Elliott to close.  This had been some drive by the 2015 champion!

After missing the event in 2015 through illness, 3rd position overall represented a great result for Price and Brooks in their infamous bright Orange MK2.  What’s more, sitting just 31 seconds down on the event winners by the close of play, setting 1 fastest time and never outside the top four on the other five tests, shows the pace is there to mix it at the front; encouraging signs for the remainder of the season.

CATEGORY 3

In fourth, Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts put in yet another giant killing performance to take class D3 honours by a whopping 4 minutes and 17 seconds.  Like Price, Barrett and Roberts were never outside the top 4 stage times all day; their 4:25, second quickest blast through stage 5, taking this huge cut along the way, surely the highlight.  Incredibly they would end the day just 46 seconds down on the rally winners.  At times you really do have to remind yourself that it is a Pinto engine in the Northern Irishman’s Ford!

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Guy Anderson and Steven Davey were the star performers in class D4.  Nearest rival, The Triumph TR8 of David Kynaston and Paul Wakely, was no match for the nimble Sunbeam in the truly awful conditions, leaving Anderson and Davey to take class victory by over 6 minutes with 22nd position overall.

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Meanwhile Chris Skill and Tom Jordan put in a strong performance to claim class D2 honours in their 1600 Escort MK2.  Their opposition may have fallen by the wayside however they did get the better of several more powerful machines to finish the event in 24th position overall.

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CATEGORY 2

Following the sad news of David Stokes’ passing just a week and a half before the event, it is fitting that we had a category battle to remember.  Long time co-driver to the legendary David Stokes, Guy Weaver, was partnered with Stanley Orr for this event in a C3 specification MK1 Escort and boy did they put in a performance that the big man would have been proud of!

2015 category champions, John Perrot and Keaton Williams were quickest out of the starting blocks however, opening up an 8 second lead over class C5 rivals Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris on the opening Crychan test.  They would then go on to set fastest category time on each of the following 3 stages to increase their lead to a comfortable 23 seconds.

Orr and Weaver may have elected for a steady start but they clearly had the pace to challenge, passing Tysoe for second in category after Crychan 2, before a stunning run through a very foggy Route 60 would see them sit just 11 seconds behind Perrot with only the 9 miles of Caeo remaining.  Could they really snatch victory on the last stage of the event?

But for gearbox problems, Perrot and Williams may well have had enough time in hand to take the category victory; instead the Hereford man was unfortunately relegated to 4th after losing 2 minutes at a Caeo hairpin.  A real sting in the tail for the long time leaders.

You can’t take anything away from Orr and Weaver however.  To be anywhere near the front running pace in a class C3 MK1 Escort is borderline heroic.  8th fastest through Caeo to finish 9th overall is a fantastic achievement; class and category honours the icing on the cake!

Orr

Second in category and 12th overall was enough for Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris to claim top spot in class C5.  After sitting the right side of a 1 second margin to third at the half way point, the long time MK1 pilot was a victim of Orr’s afternoon charge; eventually dropping 32 seconds behind the Northern Irishman by the end of the day.

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Having witnessed Adam Milner’s impressive drive on last year’s Malton forest Rally, big things can be expected from this Yorkshireman in 2016.  Unfortunately Milner, with Roy Jarvis alongside, had been blighted by a misfire all morning, but having cleared during the afternoon, the Malton MC man was able to show what is possible at the wheel of a 1600 MK1; rising from 5th to 3rd in category by the end of the day and claiming class C2 honours with 13th overall; unbelievably setting 8th and 7th fastest times in stages 5 and 6 respectively!

Milner

CATEGORY 1

It was an all Ford Cortina affair at the sharp end of category 1 with the MK2 GT of Bob and Dale Gibbons holding a 7 second lead over the MK1 of Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson at the half way service point.  A battle which would rage on well into the afternoon before being ultimately decided on the very last stage when the evergreen Bean was forced OTL by an electrical failure.  Bob and Dale Gibbons therefore going on to claim category and class B3 top spot with a strong 34th position overall.

Gibbons

Meanwhile Bill Douglas and Dave Tearl brought their immaculate BMW 1800 home in 42nd position overall to claim class B4 honours while Phil Harris and Graham Wild took class B2 top spot with 43rd in their Mini Cooper.

Harris

NATIONAL B

The rejuvenated British Rally Championship has attracted some of the top names in British rallying, and two of which, namely David Bogie and Tom Cave had chosen the Red Kite to debut their new machinery.  The 2 crews couldn’t have had more contrasting days however with Cave and co-driver James Morgan fortunate to escape injury after a big off in the first stage, whilst Bogie and Kevin rae went on to take National B victory in their Fabia R5.  Getting the better of a Julian Reynolds piloted Focus WRC is no mean feat and suggests that Elfyn may not have things entirely his own way in 2016!

Bogie

FULL NATIONAL A RESULTS

FULL NATIONAL B RESULTS

Looking back I am not sure I have experienced such foul weather whilst out on a rally.  The combination of rain, fog and wind was not pleasant.  Never before have I expended so much energy in an effort to remain standing, but at least it wasn’t cold!  Photography was even tougher; After running out of clean filter options I even reverted to my 7D and 70-200 f4!  And without a Monopod even fewer photos would have been in focus!

Next up for me is the Mid Wales Stages in early March before another instalment of the British Historic Rally Championship with the Rally North Wales in April.  Hopefully Robinson and Collis will be up to speed by then in their stunning RSD prepared 131 to take the fight to the all conquering blue oval!

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Successive BHRC Victories for in form Elliott

Nick Elliott and Dave Price recorded their second straight BHRC win of the season with victory on the 2015 Pirelli Carlisle Rally; the third time that Elliott has claimed historic glory on this event.

Elliott

The third round of the British Historic Rally Championship saw the teams head to English border country for 6 stages within the super fast Kielder Forest complex; the new compact format a clear hit with the competitors as 97 cars made the start of the combined National A and National B events.  After two years in the doldrums, the BHRC has been invigorated by a change in organising team to the RAC Motor Club for 2015; just the motivation to convince me to make the 500 mile round trip to the ‘Pirelli’ for the first time since 2012.

With the forestry gates finally opened at the White Sike spectator car park we made our way to junction 7 of stage 2 where Nick Elliott was as neat and tidy as ever around the open uphill hairpin left.  This approach allowed the Cheltenham man to increase his overall lead to 12.6 seconds over the chasing Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.  Earlier, Elliott, with Dave Price alongside, had been electric out of the blocks, setting a time that was 2.5 seconds quicker than any other historic and crucially 10.6 seconds faster than Robinson on stage 1.

Meanwhile Joe Price had made a mighty impressive start to the event; the Kielder debutant, ably assisted by previous winner Chris Brooks, was lying 4th, just 20 seconds behind the leader and 8 seconds behind third placed Meirion and Steffan Evans after the first 2 stages.

It would all go horribly wrong for both Price and Evans on stage 3 however, with Price dropping nearly 4 minutes and Evans’ out of the event following an excursion to one of Kielder’s many deep ditches.  The Welshman was joined on the retirements list by Richard Hill and Iwan Jones who had been lying in 7th after stage 2 but were another front running crew to fall victim of a Buck Fell trench.  As the vastly experienced Bob Bean discovered at our location in White Sike, once you are in there is no getting out!

Upfront the event was fast becoming a duel between Elliott and Robinson after the Yorkshireman was able to trim Elliott’s lead to 9.5 seconds by the time the crews arrived at the halfway service halt.  However, given Elliott’s uncanny knack of remembering stages, Robinson would have to be at his very best over the afternoon repeated route to catch the reigning RAC champion.

And while Robinson was able to better his morning times on both the drier afternoon runs of Black Craggs and White Sike, Elliott, true to form, was able to go that little bit quicker, inching his lead out to 11.1 seconds with just 1 stage to run.  It was all looking very rosy for the Cheltenham based crew.

Meanwhile, championship leaders coming into the Pirelli, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, had been lying in fifth place at the halfway point after taking some time to get up to speed in unfamiliar territory.  Having been all set for an afternoon charge however their day would come to an unfortunate end at the finish of stage 4 with the immaculately turned out RS1800 suffering from clutch failure.

Back at the front, the gap was realistically just too big for Robinson to close on the final stage without a mistake from Elliott.  And whilst the Kellands.com sponsored Ford Pilot recorded a relatively conservative time on the second running of Buck Fell, it was still fast enough to take his third Pirelli Historic rally victory by 7.7 seconds to follow on from his successes in 2011 and 2012.  Robinson will feel that this was a good opportunity to beat Elliott, however there is all to play for as only 6 points separate the two competitors after 3 rounds of the series.

CATEGORY 3

Behind the front two, Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts put in a stellar performance in their pinto powered MK2 to come home third overall in the National A Historic event and first in class D3.  This has to be one of the stand-out performances of the day, especially considering they beat the evergreen Steve Bannister by nearly 30 seconds which is a more than suitable benchmark for any competing crew in the North of England.  To add more perspective to this result, Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons, who themselves are no slouch, came home second in class and 18th National A Historic, but over 3 minutes behind the Northern Irishman!

Barrett

Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh may have been the only crew competing in Class D4 however 13th historic competitor home represented a more than respectable result in their Opel Kadett against some very powerful machinery.

Smith

In Class F2, Tomas Davies and Gwynfor Jones made the most of Jason Pritchard’s clutch problems to register class victory with 14th in the National A Historic event.  The Welsh duo may not have been as far up the order as they have become accustomed to but did enough to take class honours by nearly three minutes.

Davies

Meanwhile Chris Skill and Ken Bills claimed the combined D1/D2 class victory with 45th overall in the combined event.  The 1600 MK2 Escort duo finishing over 4 minutes clear of Toyota Corolla crew John Midgley and John Pullan.

Skill

CATEGORY 2

David Stokes and Guy Weaver were yet again the crew to beat in class C5.  However it was John Perrott and Keaton Williams who lead the combined C4/C5 class at the halfway mark in their similar MK1 Escort.  Rupert Lomax had also been ahead of the category stalwarts before a slow time in Buck fell as a result of an off and puncture caused he and Rich Jones to drop back; an off which Lomax would go on to rue as he was quickest in class over all three of the afternoons stages.

Perrott meanwhile could not match the pace of his rivals over the drier afternoon loop due to a noisy diff bearing, and when combined with a 2 minute penalty for checking in early for stage 6 the Welshman dropped to 6th in class by the end of the event.

Stokes

Consistency was the key for Stokes and Weaver; the pairing were not quickest in class on any of the six stages, partially as a result of clutch problems in the morning, but managed strong clean runs nonetheless to end the day in 9th position overall in the National A Historic event and on top of the Category 2 results.  Warren Philliskirk and Nigel Hutchinson rounded off a good performance by passing rally legend Jimmy McRae on the final stage to come home second in class, while McRae and Pauline Gullick’s time was still good enough to register third in their awesome V8 Firenza Can-Am.

Class C3 victory went the way of James Slaughter and Keegan Rees in their MK1 Escort.  The Ford pair were quickest in class on every stage of the event to take a convincing 2 minute 21 second victory over the similar machine of Phil Jobson and Arwel Jenkins and the BMW of Terry Cree and Richard Shores.

Slaughter

In the combined C1/C2 class Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead held a convincing 26 second lead over Dave Watkins and Thomas Jordan at the halfway service halt.  However the drier afternoon stages must have suited the Avenger crew of Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith as the Geoff Jones Motorsport prepared machine reeled in both aforementioned Escort crews to record the class win by 15.6 seconds.

Jordan

CATEGORY 1

The rough nature of the stages really impacted the more delicate category 1 historic machines; a class which was already down on numbers as a result of the MSA’s decision to enforce performance based seeding.

In a category usually dominated by Porsche, Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell ended the day with category victory in their B4 specification Lotus Cortina; getting the better of Bob and Dale Gibbons’ MK2 1600 GT.

Mankin

Gibbions would however claim class B3 ahead of the fast charging Malcolm Rich; the Ford Anglia man unable to make up for his dropped time in stage 1, allowing the Mk2 Cortina crew to take class victory by 31.4 seconds.

Gibbons

Meanwhile, given the huge ruts left in White Sike, Phillip Harris and Alan Walker did a great job just to finish in their little B2 class Morris Mini Cooper and although they were the only registered competitor in class more than deserved the winners trophy.

Harris

RAC CHAMPIONSHIP

Phil Burton and Mal Capstick utterly dominated the National B event, coming home amongst the lead National A runners to take H2 class victory by over 2 and a half minutes; 5th historic when looking at combined times.

Burton

Class D2 meanwhile went the way of James Potter and Bob Duck, who had to overhaul the fast starting similar Escort of Charlie Taylor and Alan Ward before going on to record a 43.4 second winning margin.

Potter

The popular C1 class looked to be heading in the direction of Vince Bristow at the halfway point as he and Tim Sayer had built a lead of over 1 minute.  Yet another Kielder ditch was to end the Ford drivers charge however, leaving the way clear for Robert Rook and Miles Cartwright to take the class victory by over 50 seconds; themselves having to catch and pass Stuart and Linda Cariss after a steady start to the event.

Rook

Meanwhile Stephen Higgins and Don Bramfoot in their Saab and David Hopkins and Tony Vart in the Sunbeam took the respective B1 and D1 category victories.

Higgins

Hopkins

MODERN

Taylor

Peter Taylor and Andrew Roughead were in a class of their own in the Fiesta S2400 as they recorded modern and overall victory on the Pirelli Carlisle Rally.   The 4wd Ford pairing finished over 1 minute and 25 seconds ahead of the Citroen DS3 of Daniel McKenna and nearly 2 minutes in front of the Focus WRC of Peter Stephenson and Ian Windress.

MY TWO PENNIES WORTH

I had a thoroughly enjoyable return to the Pirelli rally but after reading and hearing much about the rough nature of the stages and the impact it was having on some of the older and less powerful cars it got me thinking whether spectators really are an issue in Kielder given there was hardly anyone there to cause a problem.

Surely the issue is event specific with tarmac rallies such as the Jim Clark being inherently more dangerous to spectate on, and events like the Wyedean always likely to attract more ‘casual fans’ due to the close proximity of the stages to local towns and villages!  With this in mind surely enforcing performance based seeding on just the rallies with perceived spectator issues would be a better solution.  It would be a crying shame if the new regulations further reduce the Category 1 competitors taking part just as historic rallying has reached new heights in terms of entry levels.  Everybody loves a MK2 Escort but for me it is the older machinery that makes the event.

I guess one saving grace is the fact that the Kielder forest tracks have always been rough and maybe the Severn Valley will be kinder to those running at the back.  But with the recent sad news regarding the cancellation of the Neath Valley Stages as a direct result of the running order regulations you do worry about the future of historic rallying.  I hope for the sake of the sport that the MSA have another look at this in the coming weeks …

COMBINED RESULTS

1. Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead | Fiesta S2400 (M3) | 0:48:10.7
2. Nick Elliott / Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00:48.6
3. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00:56.3
4. Daniel McKenna / Andrew Grennan | Citroen DS3 (M2) | +01:25.8
5. Paul Barrett / Dai Roberts | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +01:52.4
6. Peter Stephenson / Ian Windress | Focus WRC (M3) | +01:59.9
7. Steve Bannister / Louise Rae | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +02:18.7
8. Phillip Burton / Mal Capstick | Ford Escort MK2 (BH2) | +02:32.1
9. Brian Bell / Matthew Whattam | Focus WRC (M3) | +02:52.3
10. Rudi Lancaster / George Gwynn | Escort MK2 (D5) | +03:08.6

FULL RESULTS

IMAGES

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)