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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)