Tag Archives: Ford Escort

Heavy Rain no Hindrance as Elliott Storms to RNW Victory

Nick Elliott and Dave Price continued their strong start to the BHRC season with their second maximum points score in as many events; the duo setting fastest time on every stage to record a dominant Rally North Wales victory.

Rally North Wales would once again form round 2 of the British Historic Rally Championship with the crews set to face 6 challenging stages in the infamous Dyfi forest complex; the rally featuring minimal double usage in 2017 following great work by Wolverhampton and South Staffs CC in attempting to utilise every available forestry track.

As in 2016, the weather had not been kind with heavy overnight and morning rain rendering the stages treacherous in places.  This did not hinder round 1 winners Nick Elliott and Dave Price however who flew through the puddles (lakes and rivers in places) of Gartheiniog to open up a commanding 15 second lead over the similar MK2 Escort of Joe Price and Chris Brooks.

2016 Champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, endured a difficult start to the event, losing 40 seconds to the early leaders in stage 1 as they recorded 5th fastest time.  A puncture in stage 2 compounded their issues but by the mid event service in Dolgellau they were back amongst the podium positions, albeit 27 seconds  adrift of Price and Brooks.

Now in full damage limitation mode Pritchard may well have struggled to reel in the flambouyant Price, however, the Shropshire pilot’s day would end in the Gartheiniog East scenery, allowing the double BHRC champs to pick up much needed championship points for second overall, claiming top spot in Category K in the process.

Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver are a new combination for 2017 and the Woolacombe/Wolverhampton pairing continued their strong start to the season.  Indeed, after consistently setting top 4 stage times, Lancaster and Weaver almost stole second with a strong run through the Dyfi East finale.  However their second consecutive podium finish represented a more than respectable outcome.

Upfront meanwhile, Nick Elliott and Dave Price were in a class of their own; their lead stretching to 29 seconds by the Dolgellau service, 1 minute 4 seconds after the retirement of Price in stage 4 and 1 minute 21 seconds by the time the cars had reached the finish.  This had been some performance by the red, white and blue Ford crew who are fast becoming the team to beat in 2017.

Category 3 Class Results

Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons topped class D3 with an excellent 6th overall.  A mega consistent drive saw the pinto powered Escort crew record fastest class time on every stage to beat Rex Ireland and Adrian Scadding to the class honours by more than 1 minute.

Further back David Hopkins and Tony Vart claimed the combined D1 and D2 honours with an excellent 18th position overall in their Talbot Sunbeam.

Category 2

Stanley Orr had gained both a BDG engine and a new co driver in the form of Stephen McAuley for 2017 but found himself somewhat surprisingly behind the the similar machine of Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson after stage 1.  However this would be he and McAuley’s only scare of the day as the Northern Irish crew dominated the remainder of the event to claim category victory by almost 2 minutes with a superb 4th position overall.  And to round off a great day, Orr and McAuley also ended the day as top HRCR Stage Masters crew.

Behind, the combined class C1 and C2 honours were claimed by Iwan Roberts Jnr and Baz Green in the car Adam Milner piloted to several giant killing performances in 2016.  And whilst Elliot Retallick drove the wheels off his Avenger in an attempt to take the battle to the crossflow engined, Ralloy built Ford there was just no stopping the Welshman; class victory by a margin of 1 minute 24 seconds and 8th position overall just reward for their efforts.

With Roberts not BHRC registered, Retallick and co-driver Tim Tugwell would however claim maximum BHRC championship class points.

Simon Pickering and Paul Barbet claimed class C3 honours with 15th position overall.  A solid performance by the Pinto powered Escort MK1 crew resulting in class victory by 1 minute 26 seconds over the RS2000 of Mike Simpson and Dale Gibbons.

Category 4

Jake Scannell and Adrian Stevens have swapped their Mazda RX-7 for a class E1 Toyota Corolla in 2017 and duly claimed category 4 honours on Rally North Wales.  Their event was not without issue however; the pairing recovering from an afternoon roll to finish the historic event in 30th position overall (31st according to the results but there is no way the car seeded at car 100 is in class B3!)

Category 1

Continuing the trend of late just 2 cars were entered in category 1.  However Phil Harris and Richard Suter put in a strong performance in their Morris Mini Cooper to take category honours by almost 5 minutes from the class B3 winning Ford Cortina GT of Mike Barratt and Emily Retallick.

RESULTS

  1. Nick Elliott/Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | 0:45:44
  2. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 (G2) | +01:21
  3. Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver | Ford Escort MK2 (G2) | +01:22
  4. Stanley Orr/Stephen McAuley | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +01:49
  5. Tim Freeman/Paul Williams | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +02:43
  6. Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +03:03
  7. Phil Jobson/Arwel Jenkins | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +03:39
  8. Iwan Roberts Jnr/Baz Green | Ford Escort MK1 (C2) | +03:41
  9. Rex Ireland/Adrian Scadding | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +04:15
  10. Bob Bean/Malcolm Smithson | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +04:16

Full Results

Final Word …

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable Rally North Wales from a spectator’s point of view.  The light may not have been great for photos but the scenery and action in Gartheiniog more than made up for it.  My legs however are still aching from the chosen steep climb back out of stage 4 to the spectator car park!

With regards to the format of the event itself, in my opinion, the organisers did a fantastic job.  In an age where double usage has become the norm, it was refreshing to see a very different configuration for 2 of the afternoon stages which is precisely the kind of test the drivers need.  It is just a shame that more crews were not encouraged to compete with just 88 cars taking the start.  But perhaps this is more to do with the unfortunate increase in the forestry commission charge …

Whilst BHRC numbers feel down on previous years, the battle at the front is as intense as ever.  With Elliott re-finding his magic touch on the Welsh gravel this could be one hell of a title race.  Can Elliott and Price stop Pritchard and Clarke gaining a hat-trick of titles?  Their phenomenal pace on Rally North Wales would suggest yes but the Cheltenham man must continue to outscore the Welshman on the loose as Pritchard will be a massive favourite as the championship moves onto the black stuff later in the season.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

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.

Pritchard

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.

Elliott

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!

Barrett

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.

Anderson

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.

Skill

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.

Tysoe

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)

Hill Triumphs as Rivals Hit Trouble

While early front runners Nick Elliott and Matthew Robinson both hit trouble late on, Richard Hill and Iwan Jones judged their pace to perfection to take the Severn Valley spoils.

Car14_BODY2

Round 4 of the British Historic Rally Championship saw the crews head to Mid Wales for the Builth Wells based Severn Valley Stages, with the 97 car field facing 8 classic stages within the Crychan and Halfway forest complex.

Pleasant Spring sunshine greeted the cars as they headed for the morning loop of stages and it was Nick Elliott and Dave Price who picked up where they left on the Pirelli, stealing 4 seconds from their rivals over the relatively short Cefn opener.  As was the case in Kielder, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis would again face the tough challenge of chasing down the traditionally fast starting Cheltenham crew.

Indeed, while Robinson was able to fight back in Crychan to half the deficit, Elliott went on to take three seconds back in Halfway.   The Ford duo then tied the final stage of the morning loop, leaving the lead battle poised at 5 seconds in favour of the current RAC champions by the mid rally service halt.

Behind the leading two, Ben Llewellin and Ross Whittock had had a very good morning and were lying just 5 seconds behind Robinson in third.  Meanwhile, Pirelli giant killers, Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts were at it again, defying the odds to sit fourth; 1 second up on Hill and Jones and 8 in front of Pritchard and Clarke courtesy of some very impressive stage times.

Other leading contenders coming into the Severn Valley did not fare so well however.   Joe Price and Chris Brooks had been expected to feature but unfortunately fell foul of the infamous ‘Bell Hairpin’ in Crychan, while Meirion and Steffan Evans were again out of luck, retiring with Engine problems in Halfway.

The afternoon loop was an exact replica of the morning with a further 22 competitive stage miles providing ample opportunity for the aforementioned top 6 to shuffle positions.  With no interim service, and potentially rougher stage conditions on the second pass, the podium positions were far from settled.

By stage 6, it was clear that the afternoon tests were suiting both Hill and Pritchard as each recorded a fastest time to move up to third and fourth respectively.  This in part due to Ben Llewellin’s unfortunate demise in Crychan; the young Welshman forced to retire having bent a steering arm at junction 12.  Whilst not quickest Historic, Elliott was getting the better of Robinson; he and Price managing to increase the lead gap to 12 seconds.  With just two stages remaining the championship leaders appeared on course for a third straight victory …

Nothing is certain in rallying though and the second running of Halfway was where it all began to unravel for the 3 time Severn Valley victors; the glorious red, white and blue Escort developing a clutch problem which caused them to lose four seconds and make a rolling start to the Gwibedog finale …

But cruelly, just as Robinson and Collis could sense their maiden 2015 BHRC victory the pendulum had swung back in favour of Elliott and Price as the chasing Escort was forced to retire with alternator failure just three miles from the finish.  Thoughts of Elliott making it three in a row were over less than a mile later however as the pre event championship leaders joined them on the retirements list courtesy of a heavy roll after clipping a bank.  In one stage the shape of the event had changed completely!

Lying fifth at the halfway point, Hill was much quicker over the afternoon loop of stages but couldn’t ever have imagined that 3 of the cars in front would all fail to make it to the finish.  As the old adage goes, “to finish first, first you have to finish” but it was not as though Hill was taking it steady as he and Jones fought off the fast charging Jason Pritchard to take BHRC victory by 10 clear seconds.

Car14_BODY

 CATEGORY 3

Second place in the National A Historic Rally for Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke was rewarded with class F2 honours; the Red Kite winners finishing 48 seconds clear of Tomas and Eurig Davies in their similar MK2 Escort.

Car5_BODY

Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts were yet again in a class of their own.  For the second rally in succession they were amongst the BDA machines, finishing the National A Historic event in a fantastic third position overall to claim class D3 by an enormous 1 minute and 40 seconds!  The mind wonders what could be achieved in a D5 specification machine …

Car18_BODY

Chris Skill and Captain Colin Thompson may have been the only crew to complete the event in class D2, however, 21st National A Historic home represented a good result for the 1600 MK2 pairing.

Car77_BODY

CATEGORY 2

David Stokes and Guy Weaver went into the Severn Valley Stages looking for their fourth straight category victory and leapt into an early 9 second lead after the first 2 stages of the event.  John Perrott and Keaton Williams however, having run Stokes close on the Pirelli, were soon up to speed and had cut the gap to 5 seconds by the Builth Wells service halt.

Whilst the morning belonged to Stokes and Weaver, the afternoon sunshine was certainly shining on Perrott and Williams; Crychan being the pivotal stage as the orange MK1 Escort turned a 5 second deficit into a 5 second lead.  A gap which turned out to be the winning margin for the Hereford man, bringing an end to Stokes’ and Weaver’s fantastic run of class C5 victories.

Car30_BODY

James Slaughter and Keegan Rees were again dominant in class C3, ending up just 1 win short of a second successive clean sweep of class stage victories.  The MK1 Escort crew finished the National A Historic event in a very creditable 16th position overall to record a 55 second class victory.

Car57_BODY

Class C2 turned out to be a duel between the MK1 Escort crews of Dave Watkins and Tom Jordan and Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead.  And while Watkins jumped into a 5 second lead on the opening Cefn stage it was Shuttleworth who seemed to have the greater pace throughout the day; taking the class lead on the opening stage of the afternoon loop and ultimately taking class victory by 18 seconds.

Car69_BODY

CATEGORY 1

The MSA’s running order regulations seem to be having more of a negative impact on the category 1 machines with each passing event, with just 6 cars appearing on the Severn Valley Historic Stages entry list.

Bob and Dale Gibbons in their MK2 Cortina GT had been quickest on stage 1, but Paul Mankin and Malcolm Rich in their respective MK1 Cortina and Ford Anglia were the front runners by the halfway point; Gibbons forced to retire with a blown engine at the start of stage 4.

Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell held the category lead in the early part of the afternoon, but the Halfway stage proved decisive as Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins registered a time which was 20 seconds quicker.  The Anglia pairing were then fastest again on the final stage to claim category honours by 21 seconds, taking class B3 in the process.

Car93_BODY

Class B4 victory the consolation prize for Mankin and Bell …

Car97_BODY

Meanwhile Phil Harris, this time aided by Paul Price, was the third category 1 car home; the Morris Mini Cooper crew ending the day 33rd overall in the National A Historic event and top of class B2.

Car101_BODY

RAC CHAMPIONSHIP

Phil Burton and Mal Capstick were again amongst the National A front runners before losing over four minutes on the second running of Crychan.  Thus paving the way for James Potter and Bob Duck to claim class BD2 and the overall National B Historic victory; themselves setting a strong pace to defeat the stunning Lotus Sunbeam of Gary Cooper and Jon Riley by over 1 minute.

Car_37_BODY

Graeme Standen and Jane Edgington were the third crew home in the National B event, taking class BD1 in the process; a great result in their 1600cc Escort.

Car68_BODY

Elsewhere, Vince Bristow and Tim Sayer made up for their off on the Pirelli to record victory in class BC1 while ex Volvo Amazon pilot Graham Waite, with Mike Reynolds on the notes, took the BH1 win in his Toyota Corolla.

Car64_BODY

Car84_BODY

Following Burton’s time loss, Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance looked odds on for BH2 victory, however they too suffered a significant time loss on the very next stage which put them back behind the Lancastrian crew.

Car27_BODY

Meanwhile Robert Rook and Miles Cartwright claimed class BC2 with 8th position overall in the National B Historic event.

Car90_BODY

MODERN

Whilst on paper Bob Ceen and Andy Bull may have had the faster machinery, many would have expected the rapid pairing of Luke Francis and John H Roberts to bring home the bacon in their B13 specification Evo 9.  However Ceen and Bull put in a stellar performance in the aging WRC Subaru to register overall rally victory by 24 seconds and claim maximum points in the Welsh Championship.  Meanwhile Dylan Davies and Llion Williams rounded out the podium positions in their Subaru Impreza.

Car2_BODY

COMBINED RESULTS

1. Bob Ceen / Andy Bull | Subaru Impreza WRC (M6) | 0:47:35
2. Luke Francis / John H Roberts | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (M5) | +00:24
3. Dylan Davies / Llion Williams | Subaru Impreza (M5) | +01:10
4. Roland Llewellin / Jamie Edwards | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (M6) | +01:45
5. Paul Davy / Roger Allan | Subaru Impreza (M6) | +01:55
6. Andy Davies / Dale Bowen | Subaru Impreza (M6) | +02:30
7. Richard Hill / Iwan Jones | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +02:42
8. Jason Pritchard / Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 (F2) | +02:52
9. Paul Barrett / Dai Roberts | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +03:00
10. Rudi lancaster / George Gwynn | Escort MK2 (D5) | +03:22

FULL RESULTS
TALKING POINT

Leading BHRC Championship Contenders after Round 4
Stokes / Weaver – 225
Pritchard / Clarke – 203
Elliott / Price – 188
Robinson / Collis – 182
Perrott / Williams – 170
Barrett / Roberts – 168
Hill / Jones – 145

Will Elliott and Price live to regret that off on the final stage?  With six scores from the eight BHRC rounds counting towards the end of year standings, the Cheltenham duo now have two scores that they would prefer to dispense with, meaning another non finish would seriously hamper their title challenge.

With 3 of the remaining 4 rounds being fought out on the black stuff, arguably asphalt expert Jason Pritchard may now be favourite for the title.  The cancellation of the Neath Valley Stages combined with Elliott’s lack of tarmac experience potentially swinging the pendulum away from the current RAC champions.

Pre dropped scores, it is David Stokes and Guy Weaver who now lead the championship chase and they cannot be ruled out.  Nor should Robinson, Barrett or Hill, although the Severn Valley Stages winner will need to approach the remaining events with caution having effectively already registered two non scores.  It is therefore with much anticipation that we look forward to round 5, The Harry Flatters Rally, on the undulating and unforgiving tarmac military roads of Epynt.  See you there in late July.

IMAGES

Standard prints are available HERE

For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Phenomenal fightback lands Pritchard the Red Kite

After a steady start Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke set a blistering pace over the second half of the event to claim victory on the Red Kite Historic Stages.

Car_5

The opening round of the British Historic Rally championship saw the crews head to Llandovery for the Red Kite Stages.  A fantastic entry list had been assembled with over 100 crews across the modern, historic and RAC categories set to take on 6 tests within Crychan and Caeo forests. The condition of the stages was a big talking point prior the event with the usually super smooth route likely to have a covering of snow and ice!

The weather forecast was indeed correct and just driving in through the spectator entrance in Crychan was challenging enough with several cars struggling up the hills; this would definitely be a day for the brave to shine.  Having been caught out by the cancellation of Crychan South, a fast retreat to stage 1 meant very little of the action was missed.  Daniel Jones was visibly quicker than most through Crychan North and therefore it was no surprise to see him at the top of the times.  Perhaps benefitting from his lowly seeding, Mark Holmes put in a sensational time in his category 2 Mk1 to go second quickest while the flamboyant Meirion Evans was third.

With snow and Ice defeating stage 2, the crews made their first visit of the day to Caeo forest following a service halt in Llandovery. Fastest time on this 12.5 mile test sent Meirion and Steffan Evans to the top of the time sheets while consistency was the key for David Stokes and Guy Weaver who moved into second overall in front of Daniel Jones and Kevin Lewis.  The conditions were really mixing up the field with several much fancied crews further back than expected.  Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke were 10th, 2014 RAC Rally winners Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were 17th while last years RAC Champions, Nick Elliott and Dave Price were lying in 27th position overall!

The effects of a sunny day and a full field of cars passing through the morning loop of stages had lead to much of the snow and ice melting; thus providing the opportunity for struggling crews to drag back some time.

In fact the leaderboard changed dramatically after stage 4 with Meirion Evans being the first to hit trouble.  A 90 left after junction 13 of Crychan North catching the Welshman out and with no chance of retrieving the damaged car from its deep ditch resting place his good run was over.  Stage 4 was not a good stage for the team, with the sister car of Daniel Jones and Kevin Lewis retiring with a seized gearbox just one junction before!  It was instead Jason Pritchard who set the fastest time; 5 seconds quicker than anyone else enough to lift himself and Phil Clarke up 6 places to fourth overall. The number 5 seeds now just 14 seconds behind surprise new leaders David Stokes and Guy Weaver.

Car_11

The current BHRC champions in turn holding a 7 second lead over Terry Brown and Den Golding, with last years Red Kite winner, Richard Hill, just 1 second further back.

Car_1

Hill, with Iwan Jones on the notes, was now a strong candidate for victory and a quick time in the dramatically shortened running of Crychan South moved them up to second overall.  With several other high seeds also regaining lost ground it really was all to play for over the 12.5 mile Caeo finale.

It would have been great to see Stokes and Weaver take the overall victory but it was just too much to ask of the category 2 machine.  A whole host of top spec MK2s were chasing them down including Robinson and Pritchard who both clocked a time of 8 minutes 45 for the final stage.  The time fast enough for Pritchard and Clarke to leapfrog Stokes, Hill and Brown to take and excellent 4 second victory.  Hill and Jones would have been many peoples favourites heading into Caeo and while a time of 8:56 moved them in front of Stokes it was not enough to keep the rapid F2 spec MK2 of Pritchard at bay; a consolation being the maximum D5 class points bagged for the championship cause.  Joint fastest time was also enough to salvage 5th place for Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis; a great effort given they were 17th at the halfway point.

Stokes and Weaver dropped back to 4th in the end but this still represented an incredible result given the cars they were up against.  They also took the category 2 and class C5 honours with a winning margin of 40 seconds.   Terry Brown and Den Golding quietly went about their business in their D5 spec Ford.  Lying 7th at the halfway mark, a quick time in stage 4 saw the vastly experienced crew leap into second place, only dropping back to 3rd as Hill and Pritchard turned up the heat.  An overall podium was just reward for an excellent performance in the tricky conditions.

Behind the leading crews Ben Llewellin and Ross Whittock claimed the D3 class victory with 8th; another fantastic comeback after a difficult morning left them lying in 23rd overall at the halfway service halt.

Car_6

Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh looked at home in the slippery conditions in their Opel Kadett and were rewarded with top spot in class C3.  They also had the honour of being the first non Ford crew home in 10th place overall.

Car_36

Further back Dave Watkins and Thomas Jordan ended the event on top of class C2 in 47th position while Chris Skill, with Gary Middleton alongside, claimed class D2 victory with 42nd.

Car_63

A nice variety of cars turned out in category 1, several of which were running in the national B event.  National A category honours however went the way of Rikki Proffitt and Graham Wild in their Porsche 911, claiming class B5 victory in the process with 39th position.  The very well driven Ford Anglia of Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins however kept them on their toes all day and topped class B3 with 40th position overall.

Car_75

Phillip Harris and Alan Walker finished 53rd and claimed the class B2 honours in their Mini Cooper while Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell took the class B4 victory with 56th position.

Car_81

Car_65

NATIONAL B

National B and BH2 victory went the way of Phil Burton and Mal Capstick with 11th place overall in their MK2 Escort.  They were certainly one of the most impressive crews through this 90 left!

Car_25

Category 1 top spot was claimed by Aziz Tejpar and Yasser Slatch with 34th overall; unusual that it was to see a MK1 Escort entered in this class.

Car_49

Elsewhere, 50th overall saw Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson claim victory in class B1.

Car_71
David Hopkins and Tony Vart were just 1 place further back in 51st position to take class C1.

Car_66
Grahame Standen and Jane Edgington put in a strong performance to finish 41st overall and in turn take top spot in class D1.

Car_67
And Mark and Ed Bentley were top National B D5 runners after finishing the event in 32nd position.

Car_32

MODERN

Meanwhile in the modern event, a rare appearance for tarmac expert Melvyn Evans was rewarded with victory. The Impreza S11 pilot, with Mark Glennerster on the notes, taking top spot by 16 seconds from the Focus WRC engined Fiesta of Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson.

Car_104

IN SUMMARY

Photography wise my plans were scuppered by the cancellation of stage 2 which left me on the back foot all day due to the compact nature of the event.  However the main reason we all head out to the forests is to witness the incredible battle of man and machine against the best Mother Nature can throw at them.  And witnessing Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke’s monumental efforts to come out on top of a battle that saw the top 5 crews covered by just 15 seconds was worth the long trip alone.  The duo will now have the honour of topping the prestigious British Historic Rally Championship table heading into next months Mid Wales stages. This could be the closest title fight in years.  And as daft as it may sound, with driver-less cars not too far away in the distant future this could indeed be the future of British Rallying!

HISTORIC RESULTS

1. Jason Pritchard / Phil Clarke | Ford Escort RS (F2) | 00:40.39
2. Richard Hill / Iwan Jones | Ford Escort (D5) | +00.04
3. Terry Brown / Den Golding | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.07
4. David Stokes / Guy Weaver | Ford Escort RS (C5) | +00.12
5. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.15
6. Rudi Lancaster / George Gwynn | Ford Escort (D5) | +00.39
7. Nick Elliott / Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.42
8. Ben Llewellin / Ross Whittock | Ford Escort (D3) | +00.51
9. Rupert Lomax / Rich Jones | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +00.52
10. Peter Smith / Patrick Walsh | Opel Kadett (C3) | +01.08

Full results here

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

 

 

Edwards exclusion lands Robinson the RAC

After a fantastic three day battle, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis claimed the season ending RAC rally victory following the exclusion of Matt Edwards and Paul Morris.

Robinson / Collis

With great anticipation we made the long trip up to the northeast of England for the 11th running of the Roger Albert Clark Rally; for me, hands down, the best rally of the year as not only is it performed on maps and is a true test of endurance, but still contains that element of adventure with stages spread across the north of the country.

Sunderland’s Seaburn Centre was the new base for the 2014 rendition of the RAC rally, where 61 crews faced 158 competitive stage miles; predominantly in the Kielder Forest complex, but also including asphalt tests at Herrington Park and Croft as well as 4 additional gravel stages within Hamsterley Forest.

Day 1

There was no better place to hold the scruitineering for this great event; the fantastic lighting in the Seaburn Centre a near perfect way to show off some of the stunning machinery taking part in the rally.

Audi_Scruit

Escort_Scruit

Porsche_Scruit

With signing on and hotel checking in complete it was off to Hamsterley Forest for two stages in the dark which would truly sort the men from the boys; local knowledge, bravery and good lighting being essential for the thick foggy conditions.

Visibility was an issue for us in finding our way to junction 4 let alone the crews who were about to embark on 12 miles of the most testing conditions County Durham could throw at them.  Following no real surprises in terms of times from the opening two 0.81 mile Herrington Park stages, it was Welshman Matt Edwards who set a time 42 seconds quicker than anyone else through stage 3; and fastest again by 24 seconds on the second running of the stage to eventually end the day with a 58 second lead over the similar car of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.

While some crews struggled, Nick Elliott and Julian Reynolds both losing three minutes in the dismal conditions, others thrived.  Notably Guy Woodcock and Graham Dance were third overall in the Pinto powered MK2, while Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell appeared visibly quicker than most in their front wheel drive Astra to end the day in an incredible 4th overall.

Photography wise the conditions were an issue, alternating between no flash and ‘off-camera’ flash to combat the fog.  Having never previously tried the latter I was relatively pleased with the results …

Standen / Cook

Several crews didn’t manage to complete both Hamsterley tests; most spectacularly the Escort of David Hemingway and the Audi of Tom Axelsson both leaving the road at the same point.  While Hemingway was able to re-join under SuperRally rules on Saturday morning, the event was unfortunately over for the Swedish Audi crew.   SS3 also claimed the Saab 96 of Stephen Higgins and Mark Casey with their usually reliable car suffering differential failure.

Day 2

A monster of a second day lay in store for the crews; with over 80 competitive stage miles ahead of them; starting with tests in Herrington Park and Croft before moving onto Hamsterley and then 8 tough stages in ‘Killer Kielder’.

After deciding to ‘Posh it up’ in a Premier Inn for this event, we headed back to Hamsterley Forest after a good old English breakfast, this time the route taking the crews along largely different tracks to the layout used the previous evening.  And it was great to see crowds of people lining the last mile of the stage to take in the action.

By the time the cars arrived we had already lost the struggling Ford Falcon of Per Goransson and Conny Abrahamsson and the immaculate MK2 Escort of Alan Walker and Jez Rogers, both as a result of engine problems.  Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell on the other hand were proving their Friday night performance was no fluke, setting fastest time on both Croft tests and moving themselves up to third place overall in the process.

While Edwards was fastest through both Hamsterley tests, Robinson was much closer to the pace, losing just 4 seconds in SS11 and 1 second in SS12.  Nick Elliott and Dave Price were also going better in daylight; third fastest in both stages was enough to move them up to fifth overall, but still some 3 minutes and 42 seconds adrift of Edwards.

Elliot / Price

As the cars headed north to Kielder we were down to 54 remaining crews; the German Porsche of Thomas Kleinwachter and Andreas Schwalie retiring due to electrical problems, the Saab 900 of Magic McCrombie and Chris King suffering a blown engine, Gearbox the cause of Darren Moon and Phil Clarke’s retirement and a broken crankshaft ending Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead’s event.

The open section in Ash Park was a great spot to take in the action as darkness descended over English Border Country.  Standing at Junction 7 allowed us to see the cars wind their way across a good mile of the Kielder landscape.  One of the standout moments of the rally for me was the sight and sound of Steve Perez’s Stratos attacking SS16.  The roar of the Ferrari Engine, audible for the entire 4.5 mile stage as he and John Millington went on to set 6th fastest time.

By the second service halt of the day at Longtown, Matt Edwards had steadily built up a lead of 1 minute and 15 seconds only to lose all of this and a little more with a slight off in Kershope 2 which caused a puncture.  Edwards really put the hammer down over the final 3 stages of the day however to turn a 16 second deficit into a 44 second lead by the time the cars reached the overnight halt; in part due to Robinson suffering from a host of niggling car issues.

Further back, Elliott had had a much better day which had seen himself and co-driver Dave Price climb from 7th to 3rd by the time the cars arrived back in Sunderland.  Belgian legend Gregoire De Mevius was another to jump up the standings, climbing from 23rd to 8th, while the Fiat 131 of Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh and the Ford of Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones had moved up to 6th and 4th respectively; Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell splitting the aforementioned crews to lead the Open Rally.

Even further back, Rudi Lancaster with Brynmor Pierce on the maps had found his form.  The Woolacombe resident was never outside the top three over the final four stages and ended the day in 25th position after what must be a 20 year sabbatical from the sport.

With such a gruelling day there were bound to be casualties; an off in Kershope ending the event for the front the running Escort of Seamus O’Connell and Andy Richardson, Steve Magson having to retire his MK1 Escort after Ash Park due to co-driver Darren Smith becoming ill, Martin Shaw’s rally ending after becoming stuck in a ditch on the first corner of Kershope 2 and Paul Mankin’s retirement due to breaking both half shafts on his Ford Cortina in the very same stage.

Day 3

The event still had a significant distance to run on the Sunday with some 60 competitive miles over 7 special stages, and the open hairpin above Junction 4 of the little used Ogre Hill was our location for Stage 22.  Before here the crews had visited the 12 miles of Harwood for the longest stage of the day; a stage which would claim the 4th place Escort of Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones; retiring as a result of engine problems.  A similar fate also faced the struggling TR7 of Philip Young and Hans Sylvan.

Matt Edwards started the day as he finished the previous, by setting fastest time in SS21.  The Welshman looking just that little bit too quick for Robinson to catch.  Even though the first running of Ogre Hill saw Robinson take 10 seconds out of leaders, yet again Edwards bounced back to exactly reverse the deficit on the very next stage, reinstating the gap at 47 seconds with just 3 stages remaining following the cancellation of the Falstone 1.

It seemed the crews were now well into their rhythm as remarkably the same cars appeared in the top five on all three of the morning tests; the trio of Elliott, Lancaster and De Mevius joining the front two.

A good time for Julian Reynolds on the second running of Ogre Hill saw him continue to close the gap on Nigel Barber’s Astra; the two crews split by just 20 seconds with 2 stages to go.  And while the RSD prepared Fiat 131 was able to go a full 13 seconds quicker in Redesdale, Reynolds could only match the time of Barber in the Falstone finale, leaving the Lincolnshire man to score a phenomenal result in the un-fancied front wheel drive machine.

Barber

Back upfront, Robinson and Collis were quickest on all of the final 3 stages, but it looked like Edwards had done just enough to take victory by 34 seconds …

Soon after crossing the finishing ramp however it emerged that Edwards and Morris had been excluded due to a breach of the supplementary regulations, promoting Elliott to second, Barber to third and Reynolds to fourth, giving RSD a 1,2,3 in the Historic section of the event!  As much as no one wants to see the event finish in this manner it cannot be argued that Robinson and Collis were not worthy winners.  Had it not been for several issues with the car they may well have won the rally on the road.

Category 1 Results

Following the friday night stages it was Ian Beveridge and Peter Joy in the huge Volvo PV544 who were leading the way, but a stage maximum on the second Croft stage dropped them back to 6th with the evergreen Bob Bean taking up the mantle.  Bob Bean, co-driven by Malcolm Smithson, had then started to pull away and was as high as 27th overall before having to cut short the day with a very rough sounding Cortina.

Combined with Paul Mankin’s retirement, this left Beveridge back in the category lead with a near 10 minute margin over the Saab of Jim Valentine and Jonathan Lodge by the time the cars reached the end of leg 2.  Beveridge therefore just needed to get through the final day unscathed, and that he duly did, finishing in 27th position to take the class B4 victory.

Beveridge

Valentine continued to plug away in the 2 stroke Saab and managed a very credible 30th overall, taking class B1 victory following the early retirement of the similar machine in the hands of Stephen Higgins.

Valentine

While third in category went to the very powerful Dutch Austin Healey MK1 of Mark Han Schmidt and Midas Nelissen, claiming class B5 in the process with 32nd overall.  It is always a pleasure to see these cars being man handled around the stages.

Schmidt

Class B3 victory went the way of Richard Holdsworth and John Stanger-Leathes in their Ford Cortina GT.  The pair finishing the rally in 39th place under SuperRally rules following problems on Saturday.

Holdsworth

Category 2 Results

The fog of Friday night had really mixed things up, but it was historic stalwarts Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds in the C4 Datsun 240Z who were top of the category at the overnight halt, holding onto a solid 8th overall.  This was a class expected to be dominated by Porsche, with Belgians De Mevius and Munster up against the very rapid German, Thomas Kleinwachter.

In fact Munster and Kleinwachter were both out of the rally on day 2 leaving De Mevius to take the fight to Easson’s Datsun single handedly.  And that he did, clawing back the more than 2 minute overnight deficit and taking the class lead on SS15.

DeMevius

Once passed, the Belgian never looked back, going on to take the category win with 5th place overall.  Had it not been for the fog of Friday evening he could have been a genuine podium contender.  Easson should not be disappointed however, making a mockery of his seeding by taking 7th overall and second in category.

Further back Chris Browne, with Ali Cornwell-Browne on the maps and the Lancia Fulvia of Steve and Tony Graham only had to finish the event to claim class victory, being the only crews entered in their respective C5 and C1 classes.  But finish they did, the Mk1 Escort of Browne coming home in 12th position and the Graham’s taking 35th.

Browne

Graham

Class C3 turned into a battle of attrition with Phil Jobson and Arwel Jenkins coming out on top in 26th position overall.  All other crews in the class either retired or finished the event under SuperRally regulations, however Jobson will be delighted with the result following his accident on last years event.

Jobson

Category 3 Results

Behind the leading cars, Charlie Taylor and John Richardson would be awarded the Class D5 honours with third in class (first crew outside the podium).  8th overall representing Taylor’s 10th top ten finish in a row on the event.

Taylor

After a fantastic start to the event Guy Woodcock and Graham Dance gradually slipped back as the quicker machines picked up their pace but still finished the rally in an excellent 6th position overall to claim D3 victory by nearly 5 minutes.

Woodcock

Grahame Standen and Bill Cook came out on top of the 1600 class after a rally long battle with the similar Escorts of Kim Baker and David Goose.  Goose had been leading before hitting trouble in Kielder on Saturday afternoon, leaving Baker and Standen to fight it out.  The gap between them was just 39 seconds heading into the final day, however the yellow Escort was able to pull away in the daylight Sunday stages to take D2 victory by more than a minute with 20th overall.

European FIA Category Results

Class F2 was lead by Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones after leg 1, and they were able to build a lead of nearly 1 minute over nearest rivals Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh by the end of leg 2.  As a result of Griffiths’ retirement on Sunday morning however the path was left clear for Reynolds to take category victory with 4th position overall and third in the historic class.

Perez in the crowd pleasing Stratos had been languishing down in 6th position in class following the fog of Friday night but was able to claw back the 2 and a half minute deficit to Andrew Siddall and Paul Wakely to leave them in 3rd position by the end of Saturday’s stages; Griffiths’ retirement then promoting them to second which is where they remained for the rest of the event.

Perez

Open Rally

Barber and Popplewell’s open rally victory was never in doubt, finishing nearly 6 minutes ahead of the Escort of Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance who themselves had had a great couple of days on their way to 9th place overall.

Malcolm Davey and Paul Slingsby ended up as class G3 victors following early problems for the Toyota Corolla of Andy Madge and Mike Smith.  The blue MK1 ending the event in 24th position.

Davey

The Final Word

Although disappointing to see the winners excluded, it should not detract from what was yet again a top notch event.  As mentioned previously, Robinson and Collis are worthy winners and I look forward to seeing them carry the number 1 on next years event.  I also hope that Edwards and Morris return too, as a re-match between two of the top Escort crews in the country would be just what the doctor ordered.

From a fans point of the view the route was spot on, and whilst I do like the Yorkshire stages, the trade off for the centralised base at Sunderland’s Seaburn Centre was a good one.  There really was no better way to end my season of Motorsport.  Roll on 2015 ….

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Elliott Excels on Smooth Neath Valley Stages

Number 1 seeds, Nick Elliott and Dave Price, took their third RAC Rally Championship win of the year with victory on the Neath Valley Stages; in the process putting themselves back on top of the championship table with just one round remaining.

Winners

Round six of the RAC Rally Championship saw the crews head to South Wales for 6 stages on the super smooth Vale of Neath gravel which up until recently were annually graced each November by the likes of Jari-Matti Latvala and co at WRC level; the use of Bryn also allowing us to tick another stage off the ‘to do’ list!

The opening section of stage 2 was our first point of call but before the crews reached us they were faced with 9 challenging miles through infamous Rheola.  Unfortunately, for everyone involved in the event, the Zutec sponsored Sunbeam of Owen Murphy and James O’Brien retired less than 1km into the first stage with electrical problems; a huge disappointment as they were in with a genuine chance of competing with the top Ford runners.

Elliott meanwhile had shot out the starting blocks, taking six seconds out of closest rivals Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke in Rheola with pre-event championship leaders Richard Hill and Steffan Evans a further 5 seconds back.  It was obvious that Elliott’s rivals were going to have to take a few risks to keep up with his flying Ford.

And by the end of stage 3 the pace had taken it’s toll on a number of the top runners with Terry Brown and Tomos Whittle falling foul of Bryn, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis retiring after stage 3 with overheating problems and, most spectacularly of all, Jason Pricthard and Phil Clarke having a massive off at Junction 5 of Margam.  Thankfully both crew members were ok, but unfortunately the same could not be said about the car!

Although losing further time in stage 2, both Hill and the fellow ford crew of Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones managed to claw back a few seconds in Margam leaving Elliott’s lunch time lead at just over 10 seconds.  Roger Chilman and Bryan Thomas were going well in fourth with top K2 class runners, Tomas and Eurig Davies, rounding out the top five.

K2Winners

Rain threatened the afternoon stages, and whilst their was only a short burst where we were in Bryn, it did come down quite heavily during the second running of Rheola.  Not that it had much of an impact on the event as Elliott and Price were able to extend their lead in stage 4 and confirm the inevitable on the second running of Bryn; taking a comfortable 20 second lead into the Margam finale.

And so it was Nick Elliott and Dave Price who emerged from Margam as victors; taking their third win of the year and returning to the top of the championship points table.  Taking dropped scores into account they have effectively wrapped up the title with just the Trackrod Historic Cup remaining in late September.

A season of consistency continued for Richard Hill and Steffan Evans as they secured second place in their D5 Escort.  While the flamboyant Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones capped off a well deserved third with a stage win on Margam 2.  Roger Chilman and Tomas Davies would hold station in 4th and 5th allowing Tomas and co-driver Eurig to claim the K2 victory.

David Stokes and Guy Weaver yet again took category 2 honours in their MK1 Escort with 7th overall.  Chris Browne and Ali Cornwell-Browne were runners up in class C5, almost a minute in arrears but just one place further back overall.  While victory in the all MK2 affair that is class D3 went the way of Ben Friend and Sean Kennedy with 11th overall.

D3Winners

It is always nice to see something slightly different on the stages and therefore great to see Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh take class C3 with 12th overall in their Opel Ascona; in the process claiming the honour of first ‘non Ford’ crew home.

Ascona

Ray Cunnigham and Arron Forde in their Mini had been putting in another giant killing category 1 performance over the morning stages; holding a 50 second lead at the lunch time service halt.  Gearbox issues however put pay to any chance of victory leaving the big Volvos of Graham Waite and Ian Beveridge to battle it out with the Ford Cortinas of Paul Mankin and Gwilym Roberts.

Roberts and co-driver Don James were lying second after the first loop of stages but a strong run from Waite, with Gill Cotton on the notes, through Rheola 2 saw the huge Amazon leap into the class lead.  Although quicker through the final 2 stages, a 30 second time penalty would ultimately cause Roberts and James to drop off the podium with Ian Beveridge and Paul Price, in their PV544 version of the Swedish marque, taking second, just 16.6 seconds away from the category victors; the Cortina of Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell claiming third, 6.4 seconds further back.

CatBWinners

In the modern event, Welsh Championship rivals Luke Francis and Alex Allingham would again lock horns in their quest for top spot on this very fast event.  Allingham, with Chris Williams alongside, would take an early lead in their Group N Impreza but were unable to keep the B13 specification Evo 9 of Luke Francis and John H Roberts at bay over the remaining five tests. Karl and Guy Simmons, in their S11 WRC Impreza, would come home third some 45 seconds behind the winners.

ModernWinners

Meanwhile, in the RAC Open category, Simon and Alister Crook would take top spot in their Opel Manta, finishing a very credible 9th overall; an equivalent time in the Historic event would have landed them eighth position.

OpenWinners

Overall It had been another great day following the RAC championship and nice to be back in the South Wales forests for the first time in nearly two years.   The last time I attended the Neath Valley Stages it was a compact event within the confines of the Rheola / Walters Arena complex and whilst it has always been a top event it is great to see it mature into a proper multi venue stage rally.

We now have a three week break before hitting the Shropshire forests for the next round of the BTRDA Championship; the Woodpecker Stages on August 30th.

RESULTS

1. Nick Elliott / Dave Price – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – 00.46.53.1
2. Richard Hill / Steffan Evans – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.19.8
3. Meirion Evans / Iwan Jones – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.34.5
4. Roger Chilman / Bryan Thomas – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.53.0
5. Tomas Davies / Eurig Davies – Ford Escort MK2 (K2) – +01.08.1
6. Tim Freeman / Paul Williams – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +01.41.9
7. David Stokes / Guy Weaver – Ford Escort MK1 (C5) – +01.49.5
8. Chris Browne / Ali Cornwell-Browne – Escort MK1 (C5) – +02.37.9
9. Gareth Lloyd / Ryland James – Ford Escort MK2 (K2) – +02.41.0
10. Roger Matthews / Tom Marrott – Escort MK1 (C5) – +03.03.8
11. Ben Friend / Sean Kennedy – Ford Escort MK2 (D3) – +03.39.6
12. Peter Smith / Patrick Walsh – Opel Ascona (C3) – +03.45.3
26. Graham Waite / Gill Cotton – Volvo Amazon (B3) – +07.53.8

Full Historic Results
Full Modern Results

Standard prints available HERE.

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Harry Flatters Hat Trick for King Cole of Epynt

Damian Cole, co-driven by Jack Morton, claimed a hard fought victory on the 2014 Harry Flatters Rally; a perfect warm-up for next weekends Tyneside Stages.  Meanwhile top spot in the Historic Rally, round 4 of the BHRC, went the way of fellow Ford crew, Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp in their formidable MK2 Escort.

Winners

Just two weeks after the Nicky Grist Stages we were back on Epynt for the Harry Flatters Rally, this time on the tricky tarmac military roads which wind their way across the undulating Mid Wales landscape.  Historically one for the specialist, a dry Epynt provides the opportunity for a committed 2WD driver to take it to the best of the WRC crews.

Following the cancellation of Rally North Wales, the Harry Flatters Rally represented the halfway point in the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship and heading into the event David Stokes and Dessie Nutt were tied at the top of the points table with Stanley Orr close behind in third.  It was therefore all to play for; with the chance for other drivers to throw their names into the mix with this being the first sealed surface round of the year.

From a photographer’s point of view, the stage layout made it quite tricky to find the desired locations, with Centre road, Piccadilly and the “Hut Jump” all off the schedule.  Understandably, given the tragic events which occurred on the Jim Clark, “Barton’s” was one of the few aggressive jumps used and it was here that we headed for the morning stages; followed, after lunch, by a trip to “The Steps”, the 2011 Harry Flatters being the last time I actually saw this section of stage ran downhill.

MODERN RALLY

I am not sure whether the stage layouts contributed to the top two crews beating the bogey time on 7 out of the 13 stages but it did make for a close battle; if not slightly frustrating given that only 6 of the stages turned out to be truly competitive.  Damian Cole and Jack Morton were quickest out of the blocks, duly leaping into a 4 second lead over the very short stage 1.  Unbeknown at the time to 2013 winners Mark Straker and Neil Harrison, this would in fact be a costly margin of time to lose.

RunnersUp

Cole and Morton would only take one other stage victory throughout the day and although Straker was able to match this tally of wins it wasn’t enough to claw back the total deficit, leaving Cole to take his third Harry Flatters victory following his successes in 2010 and 2012.  This was in fact his second victory on Epynt this year after taking top spot on the Tour in March and the Hereford driver will be looking to carry this form into round 5 of the MSA National Asphalt Rally Championship on Otterburn next weekend.

Few other crews had trouble with the bogey times which allowed Melvyn Evans and David Gamblin in Mark Worley’s very smart Fiesta R5+ to come home third with top class 6 runners Bob Fowden and Ashley Trimble (pictured) taking 4th.  The top five being rounded out by the WRC Impreza of Tim Wilson and Elgan Davies.  Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss had been going very well and matching the pace of Melvyn Evans in their Citroen DS3 before unfortunately retiring after the first loop of stages.

Car_106

With 7th overall Richard Merryman and Kath Curzon claimed class 3 honours in their Darrian T90 which, along with Straker’s class 5 victory, meant that the the small Welsh manufacturer had taken top spot in both of the major Ford Escort MK2 categories; a feat which does not occur all that often!

Car_111

With 11th overall, the Mitsubishi Evo 9 crew of Rob Tout and Dan Holley put in a solid performance to take victory in class 8 while Darren and Sue Underwood took class 2 honours with 20th overall in their Vauxhall Nova.

Class1Winners

Another Darrian in the hands of David Morgan and Richard Suter (pictured) was first home in class 1 while Ford restored some pride with top spots in class 7 and 4.  Andrew Davies and Ian Taylor and David Comley and Allin James being the respective crews in each category.

HISTORIC RALLY

HistoricWinnersIt was the longer stages where, non BHRC championship registered crew, Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp were able to take the most time out of their opposition; eventually establishing a winning margin of 1 minute 18 seconds over David Stokes and Guy Weaver in the Class C5 MK1.  The competitive C5 class was responsible for 3 of the top 5 positions with Stanley Orr and Brian Cairns finishing 4th and rally legend Jimmy McRae, co-driven by Pauline Gullick, claiming 5th spot in the Vauxhall Firenza.

Ian Jones and Iestyn Williams would be the first registered Category D car home in 6th place overall; some three minutes clear of Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear in their similar MK2.  Kevin Davies and Dale Bowen had looked like potential winners of class D and were challenging Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp for top spot before retiring after stage 8.  Top seeds, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke meanwhile were surprisingly off the pace all day before eventually retiring after stage 12.

Category B proved to be very close early on as Bob Gibbons, Dessie Nutt and Rikki Proffitt all shared fastest category times over the first 6 stages.  It was therefore a massive disappointment that the Cortina of Bob and Dale Gibbons and Porsche of Rikki proffitt and Phil Harrison would not make it past the halfway point of the event.  This allowed Dessie Nutt, co-driven by Geraldine McBride to take it a little easier over the second half of the rally but still take category honours by nearly 4 minutes.

Car_16

With both Dessie Nutt and David Stokes taking maximum Category points they remain tied at the top of the championship table as the crews head to Ulster for round 5 of what is now a 7 round championship following the cancellation of Rallye Dorset.  This battle may well be settled on the final round in Scotland as neither Nutt or Stokes look like dropping points any time in the near future!

For full results please see the Rally Roots website.

Standard prints available HERE.

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)