Tag Archives: Dyfi

Back to Back Victories for In Form Pritchard

Reigning champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, set a scintillating pace in very wet conditions to claim a hard fought Rally North Wales victory; maintaining their 100% start to the 2016 BHRC season.

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After a year away from the calendar, the BHRC returned to Dolgellau for the Wolverhampton and South Staffs CC organised Rally North Wales where 6 stages totalling 49 competitive miles in classic Wales Rally GB territory would await the 116 competitors.  In a fitting gesture there would be no number 1 on the entry list in honour of the late David Stokes and so it was the National B entered Evo 9 of Luke Francis and John H Roberts who would be first to enter the infamous rain soaked Dyfi forest complex.

BHRC CAT 3

Ford Escort men, Jason Pritchard, Nick Elliott and Joe Price were closely matched on the Red Kite and it was the same three protagonists who would feature heavily at the head of the Rally North Wales leader-board.

Elliott, with Dave Price alongside, is not used to finishing second on Welsh gravel, and would have been keen to get back to winning ways on Rally North Wales.  Hitting a bale at a chicane in Stage 1 however was definitely not in the script, and whilst there was no noticeable damage the Cheltenham crew would yet again find themselves on the back foot, registering a time 16 seconds slower than stage winners Pritchard and Clarke; a lead reduced however to 14 seconds by the mid event service.

Renowned for his pace on tarmac, Pritchard is fast becoming the man to beat on the loose as well.  After stunning many with his pace on the Red Kite, the Builth Wells man was quickly out of the blocks on Rally North Wales, setting a time 6 seconds quicker than class D5 front runners Joe Price and Chris Brooks over the 9 miles of Dyfi Main.

Price meanwhile continued his strong start to the event by matching the BHRC champ in stage 2 but was not able to live with the pace of either Elliott or Pritchard in Gartheiniog, leaving he and co-driver Brooks 24 seconds back in third after the morning loop of stages.

Elliott had it all to do over the remaining three stages if he was to stop Pritchard claiming his second win of the season and victories on stages 4 and 5 were just what the doctor ordered, leaving the RSD prepared Escort just 8 seconds in arrears heading into the Gartheiniog finale.  But, it seems, pressure just does not get to Pritchard and Clarke; the super smooth and super consistent MK2 crew setting their third fastest time of the event to confirm a 21 second victory over D5 class winners Nick Elliott and Dave Price.

Elliott

Behind, after what had been a very promising drive, the Ludlow based pairing of Price and Brooks were cruelly robbed of a podium position after becoming beached at a hairpin in the very last stage; the more than 3 minute time loss relegating the bright orange Escort crew to 6th in category and leaving Matt Edwards and Will Rogers, in Peter Smith’s glorious Opel Kadett, to round out the BHRC Category 3 podium positions.

Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts would again find themselves on top of the class D3 pile, taking class victory by 1 minute 17 seconds.  The final result however masks the tale as a puncture in stage 1 saw the Northern Irishman fall 1:32 behind his class opposition.  This appeared to be  a minor blip however as the very rapid pinto powered MK2 Escort was back at the top of class D3 by the end of stage 4 after setting 4th fastest historic time on stages 2, 3 and 4; rounding off an excellent recovery drive with 4th and 3rd quickest historic times over the final two stages of the event.

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Meanwhile David Hopkins and Tony Vart claimed class D2 victory in their Talbot Sunbeam with 37th position overall; their main opposition, Chris Skill and Tom Jordan unfortunately retiring in stage 1 with a blown engine.

BHRC CAT 2

1600 MK1 Escort crew, Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis, leapt into the category 2 lead with a phenomenal joint 2nd quickest time overall in stage 1, even beating the time recorded by Fiesta R5 man Brendan Cumiskey!  Driving at that pace there is always the chance that mistakes will happen and the young Yorkshireman’s storming drive sadly came to an end just 2 stages later; rolling out of the category lead in the tricky Gartheiniog test.

This left the door open for round 1 winners Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver to take up the category lead; the duo holding a 15 second margin over C5 class leaders Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris.  But whilst both crews were comfortably in the lead of their respective classes the category honours were still up for grabs; Tysoe in the end having to settle for second, 2 late stage wins leaving the MK1 pilot just 6 seconds shy of category glory.

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And so it was Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver who would take their second category 2 and class C3 victories in as many events; the new for 2016 pairing looking like a very strong combination in their pinto powered MK1.

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Milner’s retirement allowed Elliot Retalick and Tim Tugwell into the class C2 lead in their Hilman Avenger.  And once in the lead they never looked back, going on to finish 27th overall in the National A event, 2:09 up on the MK1 Escort of Stuart and Linda Cariss.

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BHRC CAT 1

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The B3 specification MK2 Cortina of Bob and Dale Gibbons was the class of the BHRC category 1 field, setting fastest category time on all 6 stages to register a 2 minute 35 second victory over the MK1 Cortina of Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson; the latter pairing claiming class B4 honours with 38th position overall in the National A event.

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Phil Harris and Graham Wild had a strong Rally North Wales; the smooth Dyfi forest tracks seemingly suiting their Morris Mini Cooper and allowing them to challenge more powerful machinery for most of the day.  A stage maximum on the very last stage would however drop them to the foot of the field but another maximum class score keeps them firmly at the top of the B1 championship table.

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NATIONAL A FULL RESULTS
NATIONAL B

Luke Francis and John H Roberts maintained their strong start to 2016 by recording their second Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship maximum score of the season with victory on the Rally North Wales National B event.  The North Wales based pairing were quickest on all 5 stages to claim a 1 minute 15 seconds victory over the equally rapid Volvo engined MK2 Escort of Ieuan Rowlands and Emyr Hall.

Francis

NATIONAL B FULL RESULTS
FINAL THOUGHTS

It had been a very long time since we had ventured into the eastern side of Dyfi Forest and whilst the tree line has changed somewhat over the last 20 years it still brought back great memories; one being my school boy TV appearance as Tapio Laukkanen’s stricken Golf was recovered from the Welsh scenery.

Jason Pritchard is fast becoming the man to beat on all surfaces and after only 2 rounds of the BHRC season it already looks difficult for anyone stop he and Clarke from claiming back to back titles.  Barring mechanical issue or error, the pairing will be near untouchable on the three tarmac rounds and if Pritchard is able to claim at least 5 maximum scores then Elliott and Price desperately need to regain their authority on the loose, starting with the Pirelli at the end of April.  After a tough stage 1 on both opening rounds of the season, a strong start will be exactly what is required!

The pace at the head of the BHRC is simply breathtaking at the moment and throughout the day only the very rapid Luke Francis was able to go quicker than Pritchard and Elliott.  Impressive stuff!  It would however be nice to see a bit more variety of machinery at the sharp end and so we can only hope Edwards makes a few more appearances in the Kadett and Robinson continues to make progress with the awesome 131.

With the Pirelli BHRC timetable not exactly spectator friendly we may elect to miss the next round but will definitely be back for the Severn Valley in June where hopefully sunshine will greet our return to the mid wales stages …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk for any enquiries

Brits shine on Wet and Wild Rally GB

With their WRC futures on the line, Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans put in strong final round performances to finish their home event in 2nd and 6th position respectively.

Following the cancellation of the RAC rally, Wales Rally GB 2015 would turn out to be my final event of the year.  And after swearing never to sleep in the car again we headed to Mid Wales for the Friday and Saturday stages complete with the creature comforts of Dad’s new caravan!  Whilst the weather forecast looked bleak, there was an upbeat atmosphere surrounding the event with the genuine potential of both leading British crews featuring at the sharp end of the results.

DAY 1

Pleasingly Myherin had been reinstated to the Rally GB route and it was here that we headed on Friday morning.  Even more pleasingly, having arrived over three hours before the first car was due, there was no issue whatsoever in reaching our desired destination of Junction 24; just the small matter of a 5 mile walk up some very steep inclines to get there.  Never did I imagine that Dad’s decision to bring the Jet Boil in preference to his camera would make me so happy!

Shortly before the crews arrived we were delivered the news that Latvala had retired in Sweet Lamb.  The disappointment was short lived however as judging by the pace of the top crews, Ogier was not going to have things entirely his own way …

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And sure enough, Meeke and Mikkelsen were within touching distance of the Frenchman after the morning loop of stages;  Meeke performing incredibly well in the un-fancied Citroen to keep the young Norwegian behind.  Evans meanwhile was only 40 seconds back but would soon lose buckets of time with a puncture on the second running of Hafren, dropping the Welshman to 9th, and leaving a small mountain to climb in order to bring his Ford back into contention.

With three quarters of the event remaining however there was plenty of mileage for Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt to recover some of the deficit.  And in full expectation of a charge from Elfyn in the afternoon we made our way back towards junction 21, taking in the National crews along the way.  The Mitsubishi Mirage R5 of Jamie Jukes was particularly impressive through one of several painful hailstone showers which blighted our journey back up the stage!

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Having just about reached our desired location in time; a “short cut” over a fenced field not exactly helping, I was plagued, yet again, by the mountings of my 70-200 separating from the lens itself.  Fortunately it was great spot to watch the action unfold as the world’s best drivers launched their vehicles from left to right between the turbine laden hillside.

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DAY 2

Dyfi has long been a favourite stage of ours and it was here that we headed on a, as forecast, incredibly wet Saturday morning.  Thankful of a good nights rest we eventually made our way down to junction 18 after making several wrong turns in the early morning darkness and comically disturbing one particular Marshall’s morning relief; The chances of being disturbed at that ridiculous hour must have been slim to none!

The double Junction of 19 & 12 was our intended target but after some debate we instead opted for the top hairpin between junctions 13 and 14; and it turned out to be every bit the spectacle I had hoped.  Remembering to pack my electrical screwdrivers (something I had forgotten at Zandvoort) I was relatively pleased with the pics achieved too.

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The Brits in particular were quick through here, Meeke although losing time to Ogier, sitting just 15 seconds off the lead while Evans was back up to 8th with 5th fastest time on stage.  Meanwhile, under-performing super-rally returnee, Thierry Neuville had gone quickest in both Gartheiniog and Dyfi before ending his rally for good later in the day with a large off in Dyfnant.

Whilst rain was forecast I at least expected a couple of breaks in the downpour but instead it was coming down even harder by the time of the second run.  Having made our way back to a slight left towards the main Corris spectator area, it would not have surprised me to have seen Noah’s Ark first on the road but thankfully the likes of Ogier, Meeke and Evans were still in full attack mode.  Ogier was more flambouyant than ever before, clearly fearing what the super quick Northern Irishman could produce.

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The original plan of heading to Aberhirnant for the night stage had long been scrapped by the time we were back at the car following the passing of the National field; instead opting for home made stew, Stella, red wine, David Bowie and Scrabble!

But whilst we struggled to place words on the board, Ogier continued his strong run through Saturday’s foul weather to open up a 35 second lead margin by the time the cars reached the overnight halt.  Meeke however had done an incredible job in lets face it, inferior machinery, eeking out 25 seconds to Andreas Mikklesen, while Evans had climbed to 7th partially as a result of problems for Ostberg in the second DS3.

DAY 3

With just the Short Sunday leg remaining Ogier could cruise to victory.  And that he did, going on to claim what turned out to be a very emotional 26 second rally win following the horrific events in Paris on Friday evening.  As it happens managing to run the 36 kilometre leg at all turned out to be a minor miracle following the discovery of a skeleton, high winds and yet even more heavy rain!  Meeke however was able to battle hard against the troublesome conditions and keep a flying Norwegian, in form of Andreas Mikkelsen at bay; recording the best result for a Briton on Rally GB since the late Richard Burns took victory in 2000.

In what turned out to be a trying event for Elfyn Evans, the Welshman did however manage to claw his way back to sixth position overall by the end of the event following the demise of team-mate Ott Tanak.  Evans would however be left ruing his day 1 puncture, without which, 4th position was very much on the cards.  Surely both he and Meeke have done enough to secure drives in 2016, but unfortunately speed is not necessarily the deciding factor.

For us, despite the conditions, Wales Rally GB 2015 had been a good one.  Over the thirty years of attending Britain’s round of the WRC, the car control possessed by the fastest drivers in the world, combined with their commitment into the corners never fails to amaze me;  the speed carried through the fast section of Dyfi 2 will be one of those moments that sticks in the memory for years to come!  Roll on 2016, where hopefully the new October date will bring substantially better weather …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)