Matt Edwards and Hamish Campbell overcame both challenging conditions and strong opposition to claim a hard-fought Rally North Wales victory aboard the RSD prepared Fiat 131; a first for the Italian brand in the BHRC.
The Wolverhampton and South Staffs CC organised Rally North Wales formed round 2 of the 2022 British Historic Rally Championship and followed the ‘post pandemic’ trend of managing to attract a phenomenal entry (more than 150 if you include the Minis!), which I imagine was partially aided by the use of classic Mid Wales stages such as Dyfi, Pantperthog and Gatheiniog. Amazingly the organisers had also booked the weather with temperatures in the late teens and barely a cloud in the sky!
Desperate to add Pantperthog to the list of UK stages visited but unable to get there in time, we instead opted for an old favourite in Dyfi Main (Stages 2 & 6) and were miraculously able to find spots between junctions 4 and 5 which were new to us. By the time the crews passed by however the incredibly rough nature of the stages had already taken its toll with a number of early retirements and many others battle scarred.
Indeed Edwards and Campbell were already managing a suspension issue but amazingly would find themselves just 7 seconds behind Nick Elliott (with Dave Robson alongside for this event) at the half way point with the MK2 Escorts of Riponian winner Matthew Robinson and 2021 BHRC champion Ben Friend already succumbing to the conditions.
With many a crew electing to take a more cautious approach to the afternoon stages (to ensure a finish), Edwards, with initial problems sorted, elected to press on. And despite the 131 developing a steering problem in the second running of Pantperthog set a blistering pace throughout the remainder of the event to turn a 15 second deficit into a 16 second victory! A fantastic effort by the 3 time British Champion and proof if ever it were needed that the stunning Italian machine can be a match for the Blue Oval stalwarts of historic rallying.
Holding a relatively healthy lead of 15 seconds with three stages remaining Elliott (MK2 Escort) would have been favourite to claim victory but unfortunately suffered a puncture in stage 6 which, combined with Edward’s electric pace, forced the Cheltenham man to settle for second. Meanwhile Roger Chilman and Patrick Walsh just managed to fend off a hard charging Henri Grehan and Dan Petrie to round out the podium positions aboard their similar machine.
Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis (above) thrive on giant killing performances and 5th overall on the Rally North Wales National event proved to be one of their best yet. The North Yorkshire duo were visibly more committed than most on both runs through Dyfi Main and incredibly went on to claim category 2 honours in the Ralloy Engineering built, 1600 Crossflow MK1 by 23 seconds! Who knows what the pairing could have achieved had it not been for an incorrect morning tyre choice and an afternoon puncture amongst other issues …
On any other day, Chris Skill and Brian Hodgson may have found themselves on the top step of the Category 2 podium but had to make do with C4/C5 class top spot aboard their BD engined MK1 following a strong drive to 6th. Meanwhile Ben and Steve Smith were first home in class C3 and rounded out the category 2 podium positions with 8th in the Pinto powered MK1.
Elsewhere in the classes Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver (MK2 Escort) would claim FIA Appendix K honours with 7th Overall, Conrad Bos and Geoff Crabtree (MK2 Escort) would come out on top of a close battle in class D3 with 24th overall and Dave Hopkins and Tony Vart (below) would claim D1/D2 victory with 32nd aboard their Sunbeam. Courtesy of being the only category 1 entry on the event Bob Bean and Mike Curry claimed the winners trophy, however just getting to the end of this event in their aging MK1 Cortina was a major achievement in itself. Dyfi Main was difficult enough to walk on in parts!
It was great to be back spectating in Wales having not visited since the RAC in November 2019. And given the relatively sensible finish time we even managed to squeeze in a visit to the best chip shop in the country (Andrews Fish Bar – Welshpool). Well worth the minor diversion on the 3 hour plus journey home.
Having recaptured the rallying bug of late a trip to the Rallynuts Stages in early April is now on the cards and I will probably spend the next two weeks deliberating between Sweet Lamb and Myherin! Chances of similar weather? Very low I would imagine …