Tag Archives: Ford

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)

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!

SpencerSport_WRGB15

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)

 

Payne-Stakingly Quick in the North Yorkshire Forests

Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson held off a late charge from 2014 winners Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson to claim the Malton Forest Rally honours by a mere 2 seconds; thereby taking victory on all three North Yorkshire based forest events in the 2015 calendar year!

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My arrival at the Hole of Horcum was met with glorious sunshine and abnormally warm temperatures, a far cry from the thick fog which plagued my long journey up from the Midlands.  And pleasingly, after a 7km hike to the top of Jerry Noddle in Staindale, the air remained perfectly clear providing the opportunity to take in the stunning views of Langdale before the competing crews arrived.

The 5.8 miles of Staindale represented stage 2 of the Malton Forest Rally’s scheduled 6 and whilst the majority of the field showed impressive commitment over the fast section of track between junctions 1 and 2 it was Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson who had stolen a march on their rivals by opening up an 8 second lead over the heavily Ford biased chasing pack.

2014 winners Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson gave away 9 seconds to their fast starting Amigos sponsored rivals on the opening stage of the event.  Whilst this did not appear a significant gap, the unseasonal weather meant the Langdale bogie time was well within reach of the leading crews; thus effectively deeming only 3 of the 5 remaining stages competitive.  Petch had a mountain to climb.

Sitting third at lunch, the WD40 sponsored Fiesta man did however manage to claw 7 seconds back during the reverse running of Staindale, but was left relying heavily on Payne making a mistake over the Langdale finale in order to maintain his Malton Forest crown.

Payne however was in a rich vein of form having already claimed 2015 rally victories on both the Yorkshire based Riponian and Trackrod events; the Ripon man maintaining his nerve to again beat the 7:22 bogie time and seal the overall Malton Forest Rally victory.  To the best of my google searching capabilities, claiming all three major forest rally victories in the North Yorkshire area, within a single calendar year is unprecedented.  Impressive to say the least!

Peter Stephenson and Ian Windress had been in touching distance of the front two all day but could not quite match the pace of Payne in Cropton 1 or either leading Fiesta on the reverse running of the stage later in the day; thus leaving the Focus WRC pairing to settle for the final step of the podium, just 12 seconds behind the eventual winners.  Meanwhile Rhys Yates and Tom Woodburn had a good run in their new Fiesta R5, snatching 4th from the S2000 Fiesta of Stephen Simpson and Andrew Roughead on the final stage of the day.

HISTORICS

After many a duel in the Yorkshire forests in recent years, MK2 Escort heavyweights, Steve Bannister and Matthew Robinson would again lock horns at the head of the Historic and class H4 entry lists; a mouth watering prospect with ‘Banner’ knowing the North Yorkshire stages like the back of his hand and Robinson proving generally quick and flamboyant everywhere!

But while Bannister and Robinson sat an impressive 6th and 7th respectively at the halfway point, the evergreen Bannister with Dave Robson on the notes, had opened up a phenomenal 39 second historic class lead with 6th, 4th and 5th fastest stage times overall.   It is not as though Robinson, with Sam Collis alongside, was taking it easy; the pairing mighty impressive over Jerry Noddle and holding a 35 second margin over father and son crew Pete and Ash Slights in third!  This was Bannister at his very best.

Banner_MFR15

And while the damage was done in the morning, there was no let up in the glorious afternoon sunshine either as Bannister and Robson went on to claim historic rally victory by a whopping 1 minute and 2 seconds with a fantastic 6th position overall.  Robinson and Collis meanwhile consolidated their strong morning performance with 7th, while Pete and Ash Slights claimed 3rd in class and 10th overall despite a strong final stage from Ben Mellors and Tom Spencer in the fabulous Toyota Celica.

Fifth historic crew home was the mighty impressive Adam Milner and Ralloy founder, Roy Jarvis, in their H2 specification MK1 Mexico.  The duo recorded class victory by over 5 minutes from the Hilman Avenger of Keith Davison and Henry Richardson and had been holding 4th in category prior to Ben Mellors’ final stage push.  12th position overall however was a fantastic result for a 1600 machine!  Also repsonsible for the build of Bannister’s Ford, this had been a good day in the woods for Jarvis.

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Peter Smith and Alan Walker finished the event in 15th position overall to claim class H3 honours in their Swift Caravans backed Opel Ascona.  Having been out in the Impreza, 6R4 and Kadett more often this year, Smith had clearly not forgotten how to drive the Ascona; going on to take class victory by more than 2 and a half minutes.

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There may have been only one car entered in class H1, but just getting to the end of an event whilst seeded at car 65 in a Morris Mini is a mighty achievement in itself.  However the stages looked in pristine condition where I was and Peter Ellerby and Ian Jackson were able bring the car home in a very credible 49th position overall.

Ellerby_MFR15

MODERN

As expected Mat Smith and Giles Dykes excelled in the dry conditions to bring their very rapid Proton Satria home in 9th position overall, claiming class 1 honours by almost 4 minutes.  The speed carried over the top of Jerry Noddle and the final section of Langdale defied belief; it is difficult to comprehend that the car is powered by a 1400 motor although the driver is obviously not lacking in the talent department!

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A last minute entry for Martyn Hawkeswell and Nick Welch was rewarded with top spot in class 3 and 16th position overall; the MK2 Escort crew beating Andy and David Gibson to the class victory by just 8 seconds.  In fact the Gibson brothers had been leading the class until losing 10 seconds in the reverse of Staindale.  Separated by just 1 second heading into the final stage, Hawkeswell then sealed the class victory by setting 14th fastest stage time overall.

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Class 4 victory went the way of Chris White and Chris Dewsnap in another MK2 Escort.  The Ford pair were quick out of the blocks and never looked back, claiming class honours by more than 2 minutes with 19 position overall.  Phil and Mick Gallagher would have been amongst the pre-event class favourites, however the Ti Rallyschool pairing had a mixed morning, losing 2 minutes in stage 1, before setting fastest class time in Staindale and then retiring one stage later!

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Class 2 meanwhile was an all Peugeot affair with the 206 of Barry Lindsay and Caroline Lodge getting the better of 205 crew Ben Cree and Chris Row to claim class top spot with 21st position overall.  There was little to choose between the two crews all day but Lindsay just appeared to have that little bit more pace up his sleeve, taking 5 of the 6 class stage victories and building a winning margin of 29 seconds by the end of the event.

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RESULTS
  1. Charles Payne / Carl WIlliamson | Fiesta (5) | 0:37:34
  2. Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson | Fiesta R5+ (5) | +00:02
  3. Peter Stephenson / Ian Windress | Focus WRC (5) | +00:12
  4. Rhys Yates / Tom Woodburn | Fiesta R5 (5) | +01:01
  5. Stephen Simpson / Andrew Roughead | Fiesta S2000 (5) | +01:05
  6. Steve Bannister / Dave Robson | Escort MK2 (H4) | +01:35
  7. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Escort MK2 (H4) | +02:37
  8. Steve Petch / John Richardson | Fiesta S2000 (5) | +03:10
  9. Mat Smith / Giles Dykes | Proton Satria (1) | +03:35
  10. Peter Slights / Ashley Slights | Escort MK2 (H4) | +03:41
FULL RESULTS
FINALLY …

Much like 2014 this had been one of the best days rallying of the year.  From a spectators point of view Malton Motor Club and Clitheroe and District Motor Club had done a fantastic job of organising the event.  In my view, providing full stage maps on the website, in stark contrast to many other events, is a brilliant initiative; what better way of highlighting where the dangers are to the casual spectator?

In full knowledge of the rally route I was able to take in both Stages 2 and 6 by foot; a 19.5 km round trip from the Hole of Horcum made all the more worthwhile by the fantastic weather, beautiful North Yorkshire countryside and some top commitment from the leading crews.  The 3.5 hour return trip and stiff limbs little sacrifice for a great day of Motorsport.

WalkMap

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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)

 

Riponian Rally Victory No.9 for Payne

Charlie Payne and Andrew Roughead were in a class of their own on the 2015 Riponian Stages; claiming all but 2 fastest times to take victory by over 2 minutes from mighty impressive historic winners, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.  This being the 9th occasion the Ripon man has claimed victory on the event following successes in 92, 93, 2000, 01, 09, 11, 12 and 13!
Payne

Having missed this event in 2014 it was good to heading back to the little used forests surrounding Helmsley for the Riponian Stages Rally; a collaboration between Ripon Motor Sports Club and Whitby and District Motor Club resurrecting the event from what seemed like the end after last years running.  Disappointingly, an entry list that was lower than anticipated meant that the competitive mileage was cut from 44 to 39, achieved however without the loss of any of the 14 stages, allowing the unique nature of the event to be maintained.

It was positively Baltic at the Thirsk rally HQ for ‘sign on’ and unsurprisingly the conditions in Wass for stage 1 were a tad on the slippery side.  While Robinson and Collis were without doubt the most spectacular through the final part of the stage, it was Payne who went quickest setting a time that was 3 seconds faster than both the Focus WRC of Peter Stephenson and Ian Windress and the Escort Cosworth of Ian Joel and Graeme Wood.  This trend would then continue over the morning loop with stage wins in College Moor, Pry Rigg, Waterloo, Riccal Dale, Roppa and Boltby allowing Payne to eek out a 19 second lead over Stephenson at the halfway service point with Joel a further 11 seconds adrift.

As anticipated the heavens opened after lunch which made the afternoon loop of stages a completely different challenge for the remaining crews; torrential rain where we were in Waterloo, but snow and sleet for the stages on higher ground.  And while Payne continued to take stage victories, a string of second quickest times brought Ian Joel ever closer to the Focus WRC of Peter Stephenson; eventually snatching second on stage 10 after the event sponsor was only able to register 34th quickest time in Pry Rigg and subsequently forced into retirement.

Robinson and Collis were clearly revelling in the conditions; the pair never outside the top four stage times over the afternoon loop, even clocking fastest time overall on the second running of Roppa to end Charlie Payne’s clean sweep of stage victories!  They were even gaining on the 4WD Cosworth of Joel and Wood, as the number 3 seeds only managed 16th quickest time in Riccal Dale and 5th in Roppa, leaving them separated by just 32 seconds heading into the Boltby finale.

The gap appeared unbridgeable but Robinson clearly had the bit between his teeth and went on to set second quickest time in the final stage.  A time which Joel was not able to match; in fact he lost 1 minute and 21 seconds to the Ripon man, dramatically dropping to the final step of the overall podium.  Payne and Roughead meanwhile had a controlled run through Boltby, registering only the 4th quickest time but still achieving a winning margin of 2 minutes and 15 seconds over the MK2 Escort of Robinson and Collis.

HISTORIC

Robinson and Collis utterly dominated the historic section of the event; setting top six stages times all day to claim victory by almost 3 minutes.  However the battle behind was a much closer affair.

Robinson

While David Goose and Dick Wardle started well, they gradually slipped back as the pace heated up, leaving a 3 way battle for the runner up spot between the MK2 Escort of Charlie Taylor and Alan Ward, the similar machine of Paul Street and Jim Goodman and the Opel Kadett of Peter Smith and Matt Edwards.

The trio remained close in terms of times throughout the day but it appeared as though the final order was all but settled after the penultimate snow covered Roppa test; Taylor managing to increase his margin over Mansfield man, Paul Street, to 21 seconds with the Swift Caravans backed Kadett 10 seconds further back.  However, Street and Goodman put in a sensational final stage performance to set fastest time overall and come within 2 seconds of snatching second in class from Taylor and Ward; their stage time a whole 6 seconds quicker than the 4WD Fiesta of Charlie Payne!

Behind the raging H3 battle, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith in the combined H1 & H2 class had a less pressurised run to victory.  The Avenger crew putting in some solid times, especially over the final two tests, to end the day in 16th position overall.

Jordan

CLASS D

After the morning loop of stages the class was lead by the Porsche Boxster of Ian Jemison and Dean Kellett who were holding a 29 second lead over the BMW of Jon Finch and Paul Vasey.  Citroen DS3 crew, Richard Sykes and Simon Taylor, were clearly one of the quickest in class but were 2 minutes 36 seconds behind Jemison courtesy of a 3 minute penalty for an early arrival at Pry Rigg.

Again quicker in the afternoon, a joint fastest time overall in Waterloo was the turning point for Sykes and Taylor; still sitting 5th in class but now less than a minute behind new class leaders Finch and Vasey.   5th soon became 2nd after 4th fastest time overall in Riccal Dale; and with the FWD machine clearly working well in the wet and snow the amazing fight back was completed on the very last stage of the event.  The Black Country man managed to overturn an 8 second deficit to take class victory by a mere 3, ending the day in 21st position overall.  Had it not been for the penalty they would in fact have finished 10 places higher.

Sykes

CLASS C

Class C, as always, was one of the most competitive on the event and while Nick Dobson and Steve Pugh went 7th quickest overall on stage 1, a spin in College Moor dropped them back.  Instead it was the consistent Nick Cook, with Jemma Champion on the notes, who held the lead at the halfway service point with Dobson 20 seconds adrift.  Chris Haigh and Sally Peacock in their MK1 were another 20 seconds back while the MK2 of Andy Gibson and Chris Pattison was lying 4th.

Ilkley based Dobson, keen to make up for lost time, put in a string of good times after lunch to get within 14 seconds of Cook’s MK1 with just 3 stages remaining.  However disaster struck in Riccal Dale as an off in 4th gear ended he and Steve Pugh’s charge.   With the pressure off, Cook and Champion upped their speed, registering 3rd, 4th and 3rd quickest times overall on the final 3 stages to come within a whisker of dislodging the Evo 2 of Andy Rowe and Cat Lund from 4th place overall!

Cook

CLASS B

From the outset it was clear that Class B would become a duel between the Peugeot 206 of Barry Lindsay and the 205 of Ben Cree.  And by the halfway point the duo were separated by just 13 seconds in 14th and 16th overall respectively.  In fact try as Cree and co-driver Richard Shores might they couldn’t quite match the speed of Lindsay’s 206; the margin between the pair growing to 33 seconds by the end of the event.  Barry Lindsay, with Caroline Lodge on the notes, ending the day with a 7th fastest time to claim 11th position overall.

Lindsay

CLASS A

Smith

Mat Smith and Giles Dykes put in a dominant performance in their Proton Satria; the current BTRDA 1400 champions registering 3 top 5 stage times on their way to a fantastic 6th position overall and a 2 minute 41 second class win.  Behind, Daniel and Matthew Thompson had a great run in their Peugeot 205 registering a phenomenal 5th fastest time in the tough Boltby finale to claim a very well deserved 18th overall and 2nd in class.

IN SUMMARY

Along with Peter Stephenson, Charlie Payne probably had the highest specification machine on the entry list but given the changeable, tricky conditions, it was far from a case of just driving round the stages to take the victory.  In fact the large winning margin represented a mighty fine, controlled drive and a great way to follow up his 4th overall on the previous weeks Wyedean Forest Rally.

From my perspective It was great to back in these little used stages; Wass being another new stage visited to tick off the list.  Prior to the event I had been worried about what to expect in light of the MSA’s open letter regarding spectator and media problems and the cancellation of stages.  However the organisers handled the difficult situation perfectly.  This event has to stay alive as rallying cannot lose these stages.  We can only hope that 2016 will bring a few more entries.

RESULTS

1. Charles Payne / Andrew Roughead | Ford Fiesta (E) | 42:07
2. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +02:15
3. Ian Joel / Graeme Wood | Ford Escort Cosworth (E) | +03:04
4. Andy Rowe / Cat Lund | Mitsubishi Evo 2 (E) | +03:50
5. Nick Cook / Jemma Champion | Ford Escort MK1 (C) | +03:52
6. Mat Smith / Giles Dykes | Proton Satria (A) | +05:05
7. Charlie Taylor / Alan Ward | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +05:10
8. Paul Street / Jim Goodman | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +05:12
9. Chris Haigh / Sally Peacock | Ford Escort MK1 (C) | +05:40
10. Peter Smith / Matt Edwards | Opel Kadett (H3) | +06:04

FULL RESULTS

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)

WRGB 2014 – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

My penultimate event of the year was a big one; heading to the forests of Mid and North Wales for Wales Rally GB.  My 29th visit and 18th in a row to the annual World Rally Championship finale may have bore little resemblance to my first taste of the “RAC”; confined to a small part of Wales as opposed to traversing the length and breadth of the UK in years gone by but there was however a lot to like about this years event.

Day 1

Tempted by Maesnant, but not by the required extra early start, we headed instead to the infamous Sweet Lamb complex knowing that parking would be less of a problem.  In fact parking was no issue at all, with an arrival 2.5 hours before first car buying us a third row spot and ample time for a cuppa!

Up over the top and the fast tricky section towards the old mine was our first point of call; the downhill section heading down the mountainside the scene of one or two large offs in years gone by including none other than the late great Colin McRae.

By the time the cars reached us, 2014 champion, Sebastien Ogier had already opened up an 8.9 second lead over teammate Jari-Matti Latvala.   The Finn however managed to pull back a couple of precious seconds on the Hafren Sweet Lamb test suggesting this was by no means a foregone conclusion.  The third VW in the hands of Andreas Mikkelsen though was already out of contention having damaged the suspension of his car following an off in Dyfi.

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The wet conditions of the morning were replaced with a dry and sunny afternoon; the blue skies a positive shock to the system as the cars headed back out of Deeside for the afternoon loop of stages.  Continuing to avoid “The Bowl” we moved to the hillside above the main spectator area to a very fast open 90 right which did not disappoint ….

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Whilst the two VW’s continued to trade times and pull away up front, the battle behind was really hotting up.  Mads Ostberg had held third at lunch, but was caught and passed by the Ford of the outgoing Mikko Hirvonen and Citroen teammate Kris Meeke.  And by the end of the day there was just 20 seconds covering Hirvonen in third and the sixth place Hyundai of Thierry Neuville, with local man Elfyn Evans not far behind in seventh.

Lengthly queues heading out of Sweet Lamb meant canning plans for Deeside, replaced instead by a stop for chips in Welshpool and an early night in Dyfnant forest.

Day 2

After a surprisingly good nights sleep and a bacon sandwich we made the long trek from spectator car park N to junction 18 of Dyfnant; the fourth stage of the day.

As the fog started to clear it emerged that Latvala’s chances of victory were over having become stuck in a ditch in on the mornings first stage of day, Clocaenog East.  This eased the pressure on Ogier as he now had a more than comfortable lead of 1m 10 seconds over Hirvonen’s Fiesta.

In part due to the Frenchman’s relaxed pace, Super-Rally returnee Andreas Mikkelsen set out to prove a point as he went on to set fastest time on all 4 of the morning stages.  Not that it meant a great deal though as he was left languishing in 52nd place and ruing his first stage mistake!  Latvala’s demise had allowed home hero Kris Meeke to move up to third overall, the Northern Irishman now just a couple of seconds behind Hirvonen.

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Unfortunately we would only see the top fifteen cars at a competitive pace through Dyfnant 1 as a result of an injury to a volunteer Marshall.  I hope he/she is well on the road to recovery.

With the break in proceedings we decided to head back up the stage to watch the National rally at a tightening 90 left.  It was good to see a wide variety of cars in the event, including the glorious Stratos of Steve Perez, taking part as a warm up for the highlight of my season in just under 1 weeks time (The RAC), and the awesome Vauxhall Firenza in the hands of Jimmy McRae.  The event turning out to be an all Scottish Mitsubishi affair with the victory going the way of Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy.  The podium rounded off by the similar machines of Andrew Gallacher and Barry Groundwater.

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It seemed a much longer walk back to the car following the completion of the stage by the National Rally competitors.  In fact it was an absolute monster of a walk and only left us with an hour to sit down before heading to Junction 13 for the second running of Dyfnant, this time in complete darkness.  The spectator area at this open hairpin right was a little limiting for photographs but the spectacle was still a good one.

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Stage 13, Chirk Castle, had seen a surprise winner in Henning Solberg and the second running of Clocaenog East brought a cheer from the home support as Kris Meeke’s stage victory moved him up to second place overall.  This would not last long though as Hirvonen’s fastest stage time in Clocaenog Main reversed the positions with the order subsequently remaining the same throughout the remainder of the day.

Elfyn Evans had had a great day behind the wheel of his Fiesta and was now lying in 6th place, just 8 seconds behind the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville, himself just three seconds behind the second Citroen of Mads Ostberg.  This trio had however been unable to match the pace of the immense fight for second place and were now 40 seconds further back.  Meanwhile Ogier had not taken a single stage win all day as the double champ casually went about his business, leaving his VW teammates to each take a stage victory on the final 2 tests of the day.

A rather uninspiring trip to Deeside followed, but did at least provide dad the opportunity to purchase the obligatory over priced merchandise!

Day 3

The thought of a second night in the car was not an exciting prospect and although we ended up in a nice spot by the side of Llyn Brenig in car park R we did have the misfortune of being only 5 cars down from the inhabitants of a white van/motor home who were adamant on keeping everyone else awake!  The “music” still going on when our 5am alarm went of!

At 6am, not entirely sure of where we were on the map we decided to head across the road into Alwen through car park S to junction 7, have a look at 8 and 3, but eventually end up at the tight uphill hairpin of junction 6.  Knackered we awaited the first car.

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While Ostberg set fastest time on both the opening Brenig and Alwen tests, home heroes Meeke and Evans were both closing in on their rivals.  Mikkelsen’s up and down rally on the other hand came to an end on the morning loop of stages, the Norwegian failing to make it to the end of the Alwen test.

With a significant amount of tree growth since the last time we visited Alwen, it was not the spectacle we remembered and so there was no alternative but to head back across the road and dam into Brenig for the second loop of stages. While dad couldn’t go further than the dam without a sit down, I somehow managed to muster the energy to have a look at the twisty section above junction 14 before finally settling on a very muddy slight right just after 13.  And fortunately the action here was good …..

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Disappointingly Meeke’s exceptional drive was now starting to unravel, a mistake causing the Northern Irishman to lose 51 seconds in Alwen and a further 44 in Brenig, dropping him to 6th by the end of the rally.   A slight excursion had caused damage to two tyres, and with just the single spare there was no alternative but to nurse the car through the remaining tests.

On a more positive note, Welshman, Elfyn Evans was rewarded for a great effort on his home event with a phenomenal 5th overall, setting some great stage times along the way.  I really hope he keeps his drive for next year.

Latvala was clearly focused after lunch; following up his fastest time in Alwen with ‘Power Stage’ victory in Brenig; a nice way to finish off his championship year but disappointingly only finishing the rally in 8th place overall. The spectators were robbed of any real fight for victory following his off on Saturday morning, which left teammate Sebastien Ogier to literally cruise to victory by 37.6 seconds.

With the VW’s being in a class of their own, Mikko Hirvonen will have been absolutely delighted with 2nd place; a great way to end his WRC career.  And Mads Ostsberg’s battling performance to third place was enough, when combined with Meeke’s 6th position, to seal the runner up spot in the Manufacturers championship for Citroen.  While Thierry Neuville was the first Hyundai home in 4th position which represented yet another mighty impressive performance by the Belgian; surely a future champion.

Further back, Ott Tanak finished a credible 7th in his Ford, while Martin Prokop finished 9th in his privateer Fiesta.  Hayden Paddon brought his Hyundai i20 home in 10th, while the flambouyant Robert Kubica was 11th.  Jari Ketomaa put in a strong performance to take the WRC2 victory with 12th overall in his Fiesta R5 and was rewarded with the runner up spot in the WRC2 championship.

With the rain starting to come down a little more persistently we made the long walk back across the dam to the car and surprisingly the car parks had cleared pretty quickly, allowing for a relatively quick journey home and time for that much needed toilet stop!

The Good, the Bad and the damn right Ugly

I decided there is no better way to sum up the rally than to categorise my views into these three headings:

Good

  • £65 for three days of world level motorsport is very good value for money.
  • The fantastic Marshals were much friendlier and more relaxed than previous years allowing for easier access into the stages.
  • Genuine variety of machinery at the sharp end of the field.
  • Nice to see a proper night stage in Dyfnant 2.
  • Full stage maps provided to the spectators via the event program!
  • The parking in the joined up Alwen/Brenig stages worked incredibly well.

Bad

  • Many will disagree but I am still not sure the current specification of WRC car is as exciting/breathtaking to watch as previous generations.  They definitely lack the grunt of their elder siblings.
  • A winning time of just over 3 hours, with no stage longer than 24 kilometres?  Call me old fashioned but a world rally championship event should be more about endurance than a sprint.
  • Parking in Dyfnant was a shambles.

Ugly

  • Sleeping in the car!  After what must be 20 previous occasions of doing so I will categorically never do it again.  There comes a time when a man just needs a good nights sleep and a clean toilet!
  • The amount of litter left around by some of the absolute scumbags that the WRC attracts.  The picture below is what was left by the very same people who kept us awake all night in the Llyn Brenig car park!

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Whilst this was an enjoyable three days in Wales it was by no means the best Rally GB.  There is a chance that the memory of Jari Matti Latvala winning the Power Stage whilst also collecting his Christmas tree will remain long in the memory ….

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But it does not compare to seeing McRae destroy all opposition and stage furniture in Dyfi forest in 1997, the iconic images of the same man throwing battered Ford’s through the British forests in the late 80’s and early 90’s or indeed the absolute delight at seeing my sporting hero take the 1995 championship crown.  I am praying that one day our great sport will again reach these incredible heights but for now I am happy in the knowledge that in a health and safety mad world it at least appears to be heading in the right direction.

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)