Tag Archives: Jason Pritchard

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)

 

 

Banner Bags Trackrod as Pritchard Takes Title

Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson, put in a scintillating performance to secure a dominant Trackrod Historic Cup victory whilst Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke claimed a second successive BHRC title with a steady run to 5th.

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The Malton based Trackrod Historic Cup would not only form round 9 of the 2016 BHRC but also round 8 of the Northern Historic Rally Championship; largely the reason why the likes of Steve Bannister, in the infamous red striped, white MK2 Escort, would feature at the head of a 40 strong entry list.

With several of the BHRC class and category titles already wrapped up many of the regulars had elected not to make the trip;  the respective category 1, 2 and 3 champions, Bob Gibbons, Simon Tysoe and Paul Barrett to name but a few.  The overall BHRC title was however still yet to be decided, with Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, realistically just requiring a finish to secure a second successive crown.

The 2016 rendition of the event would feature some 54 competitive stage miles including a Friday evening test in Dalby and followed by 5 further stages on Saturday.  And it was Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson who would open up an impressive 20 second overnight lead; the legendary Ford Escort star still proving difficult to beat in the forests he knows so well.

Whilst, as expected, Pritchard and Clarke were taking extra care on the super fast North Yorkshire forest tracks It would be another Yorkshire-man in the form of Matthew Robinson who would emerge as ‘Banner’s’ closest pursuer.  In fact the Fiat 131 pilot, with Sam Collis alongside, would hold a clear second place throughout Saturday morning’s tests before a propshaft failure would ultimately end their event prematurely.

With Robinson out, Bannister and Atkinson would find themselves with more than a 2 minute cushion over rest of the field with just the Cropton and Gale Rigg stages remaining.  With this in mind you may have thought a casual drive to the finish was in order?  Not a chance; the Malton man going on to record a clean sweep of fastest stage times to claim overall Trackrod Historic Cup glory by a mammoth 2 minutes and 13 seconds!

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The podium positions would be completed by two more class D5 specification MK2 Escorts in the hands of Steve Bennett and Mark Bentley, both of whom had increased their pace throughout the Saturday stages.  Bennett, co-driven by Paul Spooner, was second quickest in Dalby, Cropton and Gale Rigg to cement second position overall whilst Mark and Ed Bentley would set 3rd fastest time on each of the aforementioned tests to impressively climb from 11th to third!

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Bentley would in fact just pip the very rapid Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis to the final podium position by a mere 0.3 seconds.  Despite a couple of overshoots, Milner, in a crossflow engined MK1 Mexico would lead category 2 overnight and was lying in the overall podium positions right up until the final stage of the event.

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After previous star performances had ended in the Welsh scenery, Milner and Jarvis on this occasion approached the final couple of stages with caution, ensuring they would end the event in a phenomenal 4th position overall.  With Bannister and Bentley not registered for points, there can’t have been too many occasions where a 1600 category 2 car has featured on the overall BHRC podium!

5th overall was exactly what Pritchard and Clarke would have been hoping for and more than enough to maintain their overall BHRC title.  Given the often rough nature of the Yorkshire stages there are easier places to drive for a finish!  Whilst rarely troubling the top of the time sheets, the formidable duo still ended the day as third BHRC registered crew home.  A perfectly judged drive by the now double champions.

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Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear were able to take advantage of the none appearance of Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts to claim class D3 honours with a strong run to 6th overall.  Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons had held the class lead overnight but could not match the the pace of the Windsor man over Saturday’s stages; Rayner and Deer in the end taking the class win by 21 seconds.

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Warren Philliskirk made it 3 Yorkshire men in the top 7 as he and Nigel Hutchinson went on to claim class C5 victory and second in category 2; ending the event 31 seconds in front of the Datsun 240Z of Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds.

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15th in the end turned out to be a slightly disappointing result for Chris Skill and Tom Jordan.  The class D2 winners had been flying on the Yorkshire forest tracks and were lying in 6th position overall with just 1 stage remaining.  Final stage dramas (a Gale Rigg ditch) would however cost the East Midlands pairing over 2 minutes and 9 positions!

Yet another Yorkshire man in the form of Terry Cree would claim class C3 top spot in his BMW 2002ti.  Co-driven by Richard Shores, the Thirsk pairing would get the better of Simon Pickering and Colin Jenkins on all but two of the stages to take class victory by 26 seconds.

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Further back, 25th historic car home was the category 1 winning MK1 Cortina of Bob Bean and Captain Thompson.  Again mixing it with the category 2 and 3 machines, the vastly experienced Cleckheaton man would go on to record category victory by a mammoth 13 minutes over the class B2 winning Morris Mini Cooper of Phil Harris and Paul Kendrick.

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Elsewhere, Paul Street and Ian Jones fought off challenges from Robin Shuttleworth and Barry Jordan to claim top spot in the BTRDA Historic Cup on the Saturday only Trackrod Forest stages event.

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RESULTS
  1. Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson | Ford Escort MK2 | 0:58:05.1
  2. Steve Bennett/Paul Spooner | Ford Escort MK2 | +02:13.3
  3. Mark Bentley/Ed Bentley | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:00.3
  4. Adam Milner/Roy Jarvis | Ford Escort Mexico | +03:00.6
  5. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:03.5
  6. Shawn Reynar/Declan Dear | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:28.5
  7. Warren Philliskirk/Nigel Hutchinson | Ford Escort | +03:39.7
  8. Tom Hewick/Mick Johnson | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:40.5
  9. Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance | Escort | +03:42.8
  10. Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons| Ford Escort MK2 | +03:49.3

FULL RESULTS

Whilst far from the thrilling end to the championship battle we had at one stage hoped for, the journey through the Yorkshire forests for Pritchard and Clarke must have been more than a little nail biting.  The Welshman may have been driving well within himself but the pace at the front was electric.  Few would have been able to compete with Banner in this sort of form but as closest rivals through the early stages it is a real shame that Robinson and Collis were not able to fulfil their early promise and grab a first ever BHRC maximum score for the glorious 131.

Despite Category 1 forest rallying almost being killed off completely by the ludicrous MSA running order rules we can still look back on an excellent year of historic rallying.  On gravel there was little to choose between Elliott, Price, Pritchard and Barrett but again Pritchard proved the man to beat on tarmac; he and Clarke more than worthy championship winners having evenly split their 4 maximum scores across both surfaces.  And it is their ability to win just about anywhere which will make them tough to beat again in 2017 …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Pritchard in Pole Position after Manx Maximum

In fabulous early autumn conditions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke judged the pace perfectly to claim an excellent Rallee Classicagh Isle of Man victory; collecting maximum BHRC points to head into the final round as clear championship favourites.

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2015 BHRC champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, have been out of luck for large parts of the season and found themselves heading to the Isle of Man for rounds 7 and 8 of the championship in desperate need of a good result to keep their title hopes alive.  Requiring 6 strong finishes from the 9 available rounds, a combination of the odd mistake and mechanical woes had seen the pairing record just 3 notable scores with only 3 rounds remaining.

Having never been to the island before, the prospect of witnessing the title battle unfold over 20 classic ‘Manx’ stages in glorious September conditions was one I was keenly looking forward to.  And whilst the likes of Joe Price and Nick Elliott had elected not to make the trip across the Irish Sea the rally was still blessed with an excellent historic entry; one which contained more Minis than I ever remember seeing before!

With Pritchard not able to afford another non-finish it is hardly surprising that the usually time-sheet topping Escort pilot would approach the event with caution.  Indeed the Welshman found himself lying 4th overall by the end of proceedings on Thursday evening behind the similar Fords of early leader Ryan Barrett and RAC Asphalt championship competitors, Will Onions and Guy Woodcock.

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It was all change on the Friday morning loop of stages however; ignition issues causing Barrett and co-driver Paul McCann to drop over 45 seconds in stage 6, whilst a couple of consistent stage times for Pritchard saw he and Clarke take the lead by the narrowest of margins from Onions and Woodcock.

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Barrett was soon back up to speed however and after 2 stunning stage times in Ravensdale and 179+, the Northern Irishman was back in second place.  In part due to the loss of oil pressure enforced retirement of Woodcock, and a slow time for Onions in stage 9.  All this meanwhile allowed Pritchard to continue to lead the historic classes and collect the much needed maximum BHRC points on offer at the halfway stage of the event.

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Having clawed back much of the lost time to sit just 8.6 seconds behind Pritchard after stage 9, Barrett would suffer a further set-back; the Northern Irishman issued with 40 seconds worth of road penalties as a result of earlier ignition related lateness.  Without which, he and McCann, would have been leading the rally, such was their pace through the Castletown darkness.

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And despite the cancellation of stage 14, Barrett had managed to get within 31 seconds of the rally lead by the end of the day; his pace over the first leg of the event suggesting rally victory was still a distinct possibility, especially with 6 special stages totaling 60 competitive miles still remaining.

Whilst Ryan Barrett had been making the headlines, it was elder brother Paul who was in title frame.  And whilst struggling to match the pace of his BD engined rivals, the Pinto powered man was doing an admiral job of staying in touch; Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts claiming the spoils for 3rd place in the BHRC classes at the halfway point and lying 4th overall at the close of proceedings on Friday, just over 24 seconds behind the third placed crew of Will Onions and Jamie Edwards.

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Saturday, the final day of the rally, was blessed yet again with glorious weather, perfect conditions for the lead battle to be fought.  However, Ryan Barrett’s victory charge was further hindered by the cancellation of the 11.5 mile second stage of the day, leaving the rapid Escort man just 40 miles to close the more than half minute gap.  The position looked much more positive after SS17 however; Barrett taking a massive 15 seconds out of both Pritchard and Onions in just under 4 stage miles!

But just as victory momentum was starting to build, an up and down event for Barrett and McCann came to an end on the penultimate stage of the rally;  A loss of oil pressure tragically ending their very competitive run.

This left the way clear for Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke to round out a perfect weekend by taking maximum BHRC points from both legs of the event; an ultra consistent run culminating in a 1 minute and 40 second victory over the leading RAC Asphalt championship crew of Will Onions and Jamie Edwards.

Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts would finish the event in third after another strong performance, the deficit in horsepower really showing on the demanding Manx roads.  And whilst the pairing  have now sown up the Category 3 title, the overall honours appear just out of reach; a top 10 finish on the Trackrod now probably enough for Pritchard and Clarke to claim a second title.

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CATEGORY 2

In 2016 Simon Tysoe and Stanley Orr have been the front running category 2 contenders in their respective BD and Pinto powered Ford Escort MK1s and it was no surprise to see them lying 1st and 2nd on Thursday evening.

It was Orr, with Guy Weaver alongside, however who was quickest through the night stages and the pair managed to maintain their healthy 40 second category advantage over the Friday morning loop.  Unfortunately the engine decided to call it a day on stage 7 though, which along with their enforced retirement, also put pay to their championship hopes.

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This left Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris in pole position for both the category honours on the event as well as the championship itself; the pairing holding a 1 minute 30 second Friday night lead over another pinto powered MK1 in the hands of Phil Jobson and Arwel Jenkins.

Jobson’s strong run would however sadly come to a premature end after a stage stopping off in Snuff the Wind on Saturday lunchtime, thus leaving Tysoe as the clear favourite for category victory.  That is until the Leicester man visited the scenery himself on the penultimate stage of the event.   Such was their lead advantage however that the 12 minutes lost would only drop to them to third; more than enough to secure the category title after an excellent season.

Instead it was Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith who slipped into the last minute category lead in their 1600 Hillman Avenger BRM.  And the East Midlands pairing duly went on to take a well deserved victory having put in a very strong performance throughout the rally; the first none Escort BHRC/RAC crew home in 9th position overall in the combined historic events.

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Behind Jordan, a conservative drive saw Roger Matthews and Tom Marrott in their MK1 Escort claim second in category 2 .  The result enough to secure overall RAC Asphalt championship victory  with one event still remaining.

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CATEGORY 1

For once a wide variety of cars made up the category 1 entry including a couple of Porsche 911s, a Lancia Fulvia, Triumph TR4, BMW 1800 and an Imp to mix it with the usual Minis and Cortinas.

And given their numerical advantage, it may not have been too much of a surprise to see a Mini at the front; the extremely Rapid Ray Cunningham and Jared Gill holding the category lead until retiring from the event in stage 7.  This left Bob and Dale Gibbons to take up the mantle in their Ford Cortina GT; themselves getting the better of the Adrian Kermode and Colin McDowell piloted Minis.

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The Mini challenge would however fade and the father and son Cortina crew were able to build a lead of well over 2 minutes by the end of proceedings on day 2 with Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride moving their infamous 911 into the podium positions.  In fact, Nutt increased his pace as the event progressed, which combined with road penalties for McDowell, would see OLC6E move up to second by the end of the event.

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There was just no stopping Bob and Dale Gibbons though as they went on to finish the combined event in 57th position overall.  The Cortina GT has been near unstoppable in 2016 and another stellar performance on the Isle of Man was rewarded with not only a 4 minute category victory but also BHRC category 1 championship glory.

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COMBINED NATIONAL A/B HISTORIC RESULTS
  1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 | 02:21:30.5
  2. Will Onions/Jamie Edwards | Ford Escort MK2 | +01:40.5
  3. Paul Barrett/Dai Roberts | Ford Escort MK2 | +02:03.1
  4. Will Rowlands/Lion Williams | Ford Escort MK2 | +06:24.5
  5. Christophe Jacob/Isabelle Regnier | Ford Escort MK2 | +09:09.9
  6. Shawn Reynar/Declan Dear | Ford Escort MK2 | +09:33.9
  7. Declan Jackson/Barry McCarney | Ford Escort MK2 | +09:46.0
  8. Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman | Ford Escort MK1 | +10:13.1
  9. Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith | Hillman Avenger | +12:57.4
  10. Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance | Ford Escort MK2 | +13:30.9
FULL RESULTS
FINAL THOUGHTS

My first trip to the Isle of Man had been a good one, made even better by the weather, competition and company.  You have to be partially mad to follow rallying, but it is nice to know that you are not alone; a couple of familiar faces more than happy to offer a couple of gratefully received tips to ensure our trip to the Island included most of the classic spots.  This had been a weekend to remember and I am sure we will back.  However before next years plans start to take shape, there is the small matter of the championship decider on the Trackrod in just under 1 week’s time.  Where, with Barrett not entered at the time of writing, surely Pritchard will make it 2 outright titles in a row …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Back to Back Victories for In Form Pritchard

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

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

BHRC CAT 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BHRC CAT 2

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

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

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

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

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BHRC CAT 1

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

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

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NATIONAL A FULL RESULTS
NATIONAL B

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

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NATIONAL B FULL RESULTS
FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

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

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.

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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!

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Pritchard Masters Monsoon conditions to Top BHRC Title Race

Whilst Damian Cole and Jack Morton claimed overall Harry Flatters Rally victory for the second year in succession, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke revelled in the wet conditions to claim the BHRC honours.

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Rain, of biblical proportions and sideways in nature, greeted the 100+ Harry Flatters Rally entrants as they set off on the first of five stages across the infamous Epynt military ranges, where a slightly disappointing BHRC entry of just 38 was more than made up for by a whopping 79 in the modern event.

MODERN RALLY

Stage 1 was particularly treacherous with standing water leaving the possibility of aquaplaning at any given location.  And being first on the road in Damian’s new WRC Fiesta, Cole and Morton may well have encountered the worst of these conditions.  Whilst it therefore may not have been too much of a surprise to see the #1 seeds only register third quickest time through stage 1, few would have anticipated the pace of Mark Jones and Terry Martin.

In just over 14 stage miles the rear wheel driven BMW M3 crew had managed to set a time that was 18 seconds quicker than the 4WD Ford of Cole; a simply incredible stage time from a crew who must surely have had their Weetabix on Sunday morning!  In fact, such was their level of performance, that it wasn’t until the slightly less damp stage 3 that Jones would inevitably relinquish the lead to the Get Connected liveried machine.

Intercom problems had slowed Cole and Morton on stage 1 but once fixed the Epynt masters managed to set a time which was almost 1 minute quicker over the identical, if not slightly drier, stage 2.  And whilst Simon Chapman and Paul Wakely in the Proton and Eian Pritchard and Stephen McPhee in their Focus WRC were more competitive over the remaining stages, Cole and Morton would go on to set fastest time on three of the events five stages to take rally victory by 49 seconds; the Hereford man’s 4th Harry Flatters win in 5 years.

Meanwhile, Mark Jones and Terry Martin drove the wheels off their very powerful M3 to consistently record top six times, the fastest 2WD machine on every single test.  Whilst not able to match the outright pace of their 4WD rivals in the afternoon, they had built a margin significant enough over the morning tests to ensure the runner up spot remained firmly in their hands by the Brecon finish; capping off what must be one of the truly great Epynt performances of recent times.

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FULL MODERN RESULTS
HISTORIC RALLY

Nick Elliott and Dave Price’s final stage exit from the Severn Valley Stages had blown the British Historic Rally Championship wide open as the crews headed to the unforgiving tarmac roads of Epynt.  And with tarmac expert Jason Pritchard managing to snatch second place on the Mid Wales gravel, many would consider the Welshman title favourite over the asphalt biased second half of the season.

Rain can sometimes be a leveller but it was clear from the start that the battle for historic honours on the Harry Flatters Rally would be between the MK2 Escort of Pritchard and Clarke and the similar machine of historic interloper and tarmac legend, Melvyn Evans, co driven by the vastly experienced Patrick Walsh.

In fact it was Evans and Walsh who were quickest out of the blocks, setting a time 3 seconds quicker than their rivals over the very tricky stage 1.  However, this would be the rally car preparation man’s only stage victory of the day as Pritchard and Clarke went on to better the time of the #8 machine on all four of the remaining stages, taking the lead on stage 3 and establishing a 27 second winning margin by the end of the day.  This had been some drive by Pritchard, taking historic victory is one thing but beating Melvyn Evans in equal machinery is one hell of an achievement!

Rounding out the podium positions, was another F2 specification MK2 in the hands of Neil Williams and Peter James who ended the day just 58 seconds down on the rally victors; A great result for the Welsh crew, who registered their best BHRC result of the season by some margin.

Behind, a titanic battle for class D5 was taking place between historic heavyweights Nick Elliott and Richard Hill.  While both are more comfortable on the loose, Hill has more experience on the black stuff and it was he and Iwan Jones who held an early advantage after stage 1.  Elliott and Price meanwhile were holding their own and would gain the class lead with equal fifth quickest time on stage 2.

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Hill’s experience would come to the fore over the second half of the event though as he and Jones reclaimed the class lead on stage 3 before going on to record a 29 second class victory.  6th overall however is a more than respectable result for the Cheltenham based reigning RAC champs, who will be looking to build on their Epynt performance when the championship moves to the Isle of Man in mid September.

Meanwhile, third in Category 3, just 1 minute and 1 second behind Elliott in 7th position overall was the D3 specification Ford duo of Ian Jones and Iestyn Williams.  The pinto powered MK2 Escort crew put in a consistent performance on the Welsh tarmac to take class honours by over 6 minutes!

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Category 2 stalwarts David Stokes and Guy Weaver looked to be heading for yet another victory as they held the category lead by a massive 1 minute and 23 seconds after just 3 stages.  A slower time in stage 4 however signalled problems; the crew having to retire from the event shortly after the stage with Stokes not well enough to carry on.

The unfortunate demise of Stokes and Weaver therefore left the way clear for Jimmy McRae and Pauline Gullick to take category victory in the awesome Vauxhall Firenza.  But with the multiple British champion not registered for points it was Ernie and Will Graham who came away with the maximum class C5 and Category 2 tally ahead of Class C3 winners Neal James and Kevin Jones in a similar MK1 Escort.

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In line with recent trends, category 1 entries dwindled to just 5 for the Harry Flatters Rally, where only 2 managed to reach the finish.  That said, another strong performance by Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins saw the Ford Anglia duo claim the category 1 honours with 23rd position overall.

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Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride were the only other category finishes and were rewarded for a trying day on Epynt with class B5 victory, albeit some way down on the Category victors, finishing the event in 27th position overall.

FULL HISTORIC RESULTS
RAC CHAMPIONSHIP

Phil Burton and Mal Capstick were back to winning ways on the Harry Flatters Rally, recording their third RAC Championship victory of the season by over 3 minutes from the MK2 Escort of Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance.  The 2.4 litre Millington powered Escort looked at home on the Welsh tarmac and 9th overall in the ‘Modern’ event represented a great performance against some very strong Epynt regulars.

RACCHAMP

LEADING BHRC CREWS AFTER RD5

Pritchard – 278 (275 from 4)
Elliott – 241 (238 from 4)
Stokes – 230 (225 from 4)
Perrott – 220 (220 from 5)
Hill – 204 ( 199 from 3)
Robinson – 182 ( 178 from 3)

*Brackets indicate current likely dropped scores position.

Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke are now sitting pretty at the top of the BHRC points table, their tally of 278 points being derived from 2 victories, 1 runner up position and a 4th place on the Mid Wales Stages.  And in theory, a good result on the Manx double header in September could see them take the title prior to the final round in Yorkshire.

Richard Hill, Nick Elliott, Matthew Robinson and David Stokes are all likely to have something to say about that however, where Hill and Stokes, having previously gone well on tarmac, could find themselves as biggest challengers to Pritchard’s crown.  Hill has also effectively used his drop scores already meaning any points picked up on the Manx and Trackrod would count towards his final championship score.

Meanwhile Elliott and Robinson are both likely to feature at the sharp end of the Trackrod leader-board, and so any bonus points gained on the narrow roads of the Isle of Man could keep them in the title fight.  And should Pritchard and Clarke encounter trouble on the Manx, the concluding round in the Yorkshire forests would not be one to miss!

Whilst short on BHRC numbers and despite the horrific July weather, this had been one of my better days on the tarmac roads of Epynt.  The commitment of the leading crews over the centre road jump on the final stage of the day was a sight to behold, with Melvyn Evans barely lifting!  A reminder, if needed, of why the slightly mad rally community travel hundreds of miles for a slice of the action.

IMAGES

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Class B4 victory the consolation prize for Mankin and Bell …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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)

 

 

 

 

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)