Tag Archives: Jim McNeil

Thorburn Triumphant in the Lakes

Euan Thorburn and Richard Cooke put in a sensational afternoon drive on the Lake District based Malcolm Wilson Rally to convert a 15 second deficit into a 46 second winning margin.

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A 2.30am alarm was required for the long journey up to the Cumbria for round 2 of the BTRDA rally series.  The 40th anniversary running of the Malcolm Wilson Rally would see 118 cars leave the M-Sport based start to attempt 8 stages, covering 44 competitive miles, within the Whinlatter, Grizedale and Greystoke forests.

High winds and occasional showers greeted our mammoth climb to junction 7 of Comb for stage 2 and it was Paul Bird and Aled Davies who made the most of the tricky morning conditions; opening up a 5 second lead over Thorburn and Cooke on completion of the undulating Whinlatter forest tests.

Bird then continued his excellent start to the event, making full use of his local knowledge to register fastest time in both Thornsgill and Greystoke to complete a clean sweep of morning stage victories.  Thorburn was however able to keep the Cumbrian man in sight, and by the time the cars reached the first Penrith service halt the reigning Scottish champion was just 15 seconds adrift with more than half of the rally remaining.

Thorburn was using Paul Benn’s 02 Focus WRC for this event and maybe the Scotsman just needed the morning to re-acclimatise with this particular car, having used a similar model to claim the 2013 BTRDA and 2014 Scottish titles.  This seemed to be the case as an excellent drive through Grizedale North saw him take stage victory by 15 seconds before going better still in Grizedale South and registering a time that was a whopping 29 seconds quicker than anyone else to now lead the event by the same margin from Bird and Davies.

Stephen Petch and Ian Windress meanwhile had found a good rhythm in their Fiesta R5+ and joint second fastest time in stage 6 promoted them 3 places up the overall standings to 4th overall; now just 11 seconds behind the very rapid B13 Subaru of Jim McNeil and Tony Bassett.  Conversely, David Weston’s strong morning display, which had seen the WRC Subaru lying in third place overall, unravelled with a puncture in stage 5.  He and Kirsty Riddick however remained just 12 seconds behind the final step of the podium in fifth following the completion of the Grizedale loop of stages

While Bird’s victory hopes had faded, second appeared to be safe having secured a mammoth 1 minute and 17 seconds gap to third with just 8.5 miles left to run.   The fight for the final step of the podium however was most definitely on; now between Petch and Weston following the unfortunate retirement of Jim McNeil’s Subaru with an electrical gremlin.

Heading into the wet final stage, the WD40 backed Ford held a slender 2 second lead.  But try as they might, Petch and Windress could not quite match the 7 minute 30 second marker laid down by the Subaru of Weston and Riddick; eventually missing out on third place by a mere 4 seconds.  Weston on the other hand will have been pleased with third as even without the puncture, the top two would have been difficult to catch.

Upfront, Thorburn continued his total afternoon domination by claiming another impressive stage victory with a time that was 17 seconds faster than Bird to end the rally with a winning margin of 46 seconds.   His time in the wet afternoon running of Greystoke was a whole 21 seconds quicker than the morning test!  This had been some drive by the Berwickshire man.

There was little that Bird could do to defend his lead with Thorburn in this sort of form and so his search for a fifth Malcolm Wilson Rally victory will have to wait another year.  However the Cumbrian will be consoled by the fact that he has a healthy BTRDA championship lead after adding 28 points to the 30 earned from his Wyedean Rally victory.

CLASS B13

Luke Francis and Jim McNeil locked horns early on in the battle for B13 honours; Francis setting third quickest time overall in Revellin Moss, only for McNeil to go quicker in Comb and then Greystoke to take an 8 second class lead into the first Penrith service, with the Mitsubishi of Wayne Sisson and Fiesta of Andrew Gallagher lying 12 and 16 seconds further back respectively in 3rd and 4th position in class.

McNeil then dominated the two Grizedale stages setting 3rd and 5th fastest times overall to take a commanding 42 class lead into the final 2 stages.  Meanwhile, Andrew Gallagher, with Jane Nicol on the notes, had managed to haul in Francis and was now six seconds in front of the Welshman; a battle that would prove key given the demise of McNeil before the start of stage 7.

Indeed, Francis may have been able to cut the gap to just 2 seconds heading into the Greystoke finale, but 5th fastest time overall for Gallagher would ensure that he and Nicol would head back North of the border with class victory and a fine 5th place overall.

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In fact a slow time for Francis on the final test cost him second in class too; Wayne Sisson and Neil Shanks putting in a strong final stage performance to take the runner up spot in B13 with 6th place overall.

CLASS N4

Russ Thompson and Thomas Naughton were again the front runners in the top production class; the pair each taking 2 class stage wins on the morning stages, but with Naughton and Andi Mort holding a 9 second margin over Thompson and Andy Murphy at the first Penrith service.

As in other classes though it was the Grizedale tests that proved decisive; Thompson coming out on top and taking a 17 second lead into the final 2 stages.  While Naughton was quicker in both, the gap was just too big to close, leaving the Clitheroe man to wrap up his second BTRDA class win of the season with 7th position overall.

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CLASS H3

Matthew Robinson, with Kim Baker on the notes this time, put in yet another stellar performance to claim both the Historic and Silver Star honours on the Cumbrian event.  The Escort crew were kept on their toes early on by the evergreen Steve Bannister.  The infamous red striped MK2 however suffered from a puncture in Grizedale North, causing them to take a stage maximum as a result and ending any hopes of class victory.  That aside the Ripon man would have taken some beating; finishing the day in 10th position overall to take Silver Star honours by 1 minute 28 seconds and H3 by a massive 2 minutes 55!

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CLASS B11

You would not have believed Boyd Kershaw had been away from the sport for 2 years after he and co-driver Mark Fisher opened up a 29 second class lead after the first four stages.  In fact the Escort crew went on to set fastest time in class on all eight stages to take a comfortable 1 minute and 14 second victory over the front wheel drive Astra of Stuart Egglestone and Brian Hodgson; ending the day as second 2 wheel drive crew home in 14th position overall.

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1400

The much anticipated pre-event duel between Yorkshire rivals Mat Smith and David Bennett unfortunately ended on the morning loop of stages.  Bennett, with Alistair McNeil alongside, had been lying 16th overall with a 10 second class lead before incurring event ending damage in the short Thornsgill stage.  This left Smith and Giles Dykes to take a comfortable 1 minute and 15 second class victory in their newly liveried Proton; but more impressively ending the day as third 2 wheel drive crew home, claiming 15th position overall in the process.

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Meanwhile victory in the 1400C class was again claimed by Keith and Mairi Riddick in their MG ZR, giving them a large championship class lead at this early stage of the season.

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CLASS B10

Class B10 was settled sensationally on a tie break after both Greg McKnight and Barry Lindsay registered the same overall time after 44 competitive stage miles.  In a fantastic battle that saw the class lead change 4 times throughout the day, Greg and Chris McKnight finally ended the day as class winners courtesy of their quicker stage 1 time.

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CLASS H2

Andy Kelly and Roger Herron came out on top of the all Escort affair that was class H2.  David Dobson had however been leading the class in his MK2 before an off in Grizedale South ended his hopes of victory.  Instead Andy Kelly picked up his pace as the day went on to take class honours by 47 seconds with 36th position overall.

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CLASS N3

Tony Simpson and Ian Bevan were guaranteed class victory with an event finish by virtue of being the only car entered in N3.  However a solid performance by the Fiesta crew was rewarded with 43rd overall.

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CLASS H1

Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith were holding a near 4 minute class lead when the only other H1 crew in the event, the Escort of David Thirlwell and Graham Reader, retired in Grizedale South.  Jordan and Gratton-Smith however beat several more powerful cars on their way to an excellent 44th overall.

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RALLY FIRST

Mick Quinn and Neill Cameron in their Nissan Micra got the better of Phil and Chris Spilsted’s similar machine to take RF1.0 class victory with 80th overall.

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Nick Carr and Joe Sturdy claimed RF1.4 victory with a winning margin of 2 minutes and 33 seconds to finish the day in a very respectable 55th position overall.

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While James West and Steve Eggington put in a strong performance to claim RF1.6 honours by over 3 minutes with 49th position overall in their VW Polo.

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RESULTS

1. Euan Thorburn / Richard Cooke | Focus WRC 02 (B14) | 0:45:55
2. Paul Bird / Aled Davies | Focus WRC 07 (B14) | +00:46
3. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick | Impreza WRC (B14) | +02:27
4. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress | Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) | +02:31
5. Andrew Gallagher / Jane Nicol | Ford Fiesta (B13) | +03:12
6. Wayne Sisson / Neil Shanks | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) +03:29
7. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) | +03:38
8. Luke Francis / John H Roberts | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) | +03:40
9. Thomas Naughton / Andi Mort | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) | +03:48
10. Matthew Robinson / Kim Baker | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +04:50

FULL RESULTS

IN SUMMARY

To be honest I didn’t think anyone would have the beating of Paul Bird in his own back yard but Thorburn’s afternoon charge was simply breathtaking and hopefully he will be making a few more appearances south of the border in 2015;  a major highlight from a great day following yet another well run BTRDA event.

We just about made it to three stages, having almost been turned away from Greystoke due to the car parks being jam packed.  I am not sure I have ever seen so many people in there and for the first time ever I actually enjoyed the stage.  A significant amount of tree felling and surface changes since our last visit has completely transformed the viewing.  Clearly charging a mere £5 for parking works and is most definitely the right way to get spectators to park where you want them to.

After a full days action it was gone Midnight before I arrived back in Birmingham; the 21.5 hour day probably the longest period of time I have gone without sleep since last years Le Mans.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!

The next rally for me is most likely to be the Pirelli in late April although I may yet be tempted by Rally North Wales …

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Trackrod Trophies end up in Chesterfield

Steve Perez and Paul Spooner ensured the BTRDA title fight will be settled on the final round of the series with victory on the Trackrod Forest Stages.  Meanwhile fellow Chesterfield man Richard Hill, co-driven by Steffan Evans, was able to claw back all of the previous day deficit to take top spot in the Historic event.

Winners

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The Trackrod rally, based in the forests of North Yorkshire, represented both the final round of the RAC Rally Championship and the penultimate round of a very tightly contested BTRDA season.  The slightly longer Historic event starting on the Friday evening with two night stages in the Dalby forest complex.

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First up was the longest stage of the event with 10.5 miles through the infamous Langdale test.  And it was Steve Perez and Paul Spooner who shot out of the blocks and opened up an 8.4 second lead over championship rivals Paul Bird and Aled Davies.  Local man Jim McNeil also put in a stellar first stage performance in his B13 Subaru, splitting the two Fiesta R5s of Stephen Petch and Charlie Payne.  It would not last long though as a stage 2 off caused the York driver to take a stage maximum, sending himself and co-driver Tom Hughes tumbling down the order.

Meanwhile in the 1400 section a much anticipated tussle between David Bennett and Mat Smith was over before the cars reached Gale Rigg as Smith, co driven by Giles Dykes, broke a drive shaft following a trip into a Langdale ditch.  They would manage to carry on but lost 8 minutes to their rivals as a result.

David Weston and Kirsty Riddick, having lost a significant amount of time to their rivals in stage 1, jumped 4 positions to 4th overall with stage victory in Gale Rigg (Stage 2); more than 5 seconds quicker than anyone else.  It was a good stage for Steve Perez also as he increased his overall lead to 12.9 seconds.  A 4.5 second increase in margin that was then effectively reversed following Bird’s first stage win of the day in neighbouring Cropton.

As in previous rounds, the Fiesta’s just don’t seem to have the outright grunt of their elder siblings and Stephen Petch, try as he might, could not keep up with the two foci in front, or the now charging S12 Impreza of David Weston; Weston claiming third overall from the SGP Motorsport machine following the Cropton test.

Bird found his rhythm as the day went on, taking his second stage win in Staindale to leave a 5.9 second margin heading into the Dalby finale.  But whilst the Cumbrian took his third consecutive stage victory, Perez had done just enough to hold onto top spot, taking victory by a mere 3.4 seconds.  David Weston rounded off a solid performance with 3rd overall, 25 seconds behind the leader.  A what might have been story given the Scotsman lost over 23 seconds in stage 1.

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Group N honours went the way of Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy who had the edge on Thomas Naughton and Andi Mort’s similar machine throughout the day, eventually taking class victory by 21.3 seconds and finishing a very credible 6th overall.  Fellow Mitsubishi crew, Thomas Preston and Jamie Forrest claimed the B13 class victory with 9th overall while Martyn Hawkswell and Benjamin Cohen were the first rear wheel drive competitors home with 14th overall in the B11 MK2 Escort.

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David Bennett, with Alistair McNeil alongside had set a blistering pace throughout the day in the 1400 category, eventually taking class victory by over 3 minutes with a mighty impressive 12th overall.  Justin Lawson had been challenging early on but lost a wheel in Staindale causing retirement whilst also ending his title hopes.

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15th overall was enough for Paul Street and Clive Hilton to take the historic class victory in their Ford Escort, with B10 victors, Kit and Tim Leigh, finishing one place further back.  The Porsche Boxster of Ian Jemison and Dean Kellett was going better than ever on home soil, finishing 17th overall and claiming B12 honours in the process.

Championship wise, the gold star title is now a purely Ford Focus WRC affair with just the Cambrian Rally remaining.  Perez currently has 167 points banked and can improve to 175 with a victory while similarly Bird can tally 176.  Essentially whoever wins the final round will take the crown with various complicated outcomes should neither be on the top step of the podium.  Luke Francis, David Weston and Stephen Petch are now all out of the running courtesy of the 167 banked total of Steve Perez.

It is mathematically a 4 way battle for the 1400 crown; Ryan Weston and Marcel Freling still in with a chance if Dan Gray and Mat Smith fail to finish well on the Cambrian Rally next month.  Realistically though it is a dual between Dan Gray and Mat Smith; the odds stacked heavily in Smith’s favour with Gray needing to take maximum class points and have 3 cars between his 106 and the little KA to take the title.  Smith’s impressive fight back on the Trackrod, resulting in a 21 point haul, may just be enough to take top spot.

BTRDA RESULTS

1. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – 41:08.0
2. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00:03.4
3. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Subaru Impreza (B14) – +00:25.4
4. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) – +00:36.8
5. Charlie Payne / Andrew Roughead – Ford Fiesta (B14) – +01:14.2
6. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +01:58.4
7. Tom Naughton / Andi Mort – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +02:19.7
8. Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +03:31.3
9. Thomas Preston / Jamie Forrest – Mitsubishi Evo (B13) – +03:51.2
10. Steve Petch / John Richardson – Mitsubishi Evo (B13) – +04:19.7

Full Results

RAC

There may have been no Stratos in the Yorkshire forests this year but this was more than made up for by an entry list boasting Ryan Champion in a Porsche, Julian Reynolds in a Fiat 131 and Ben Mellors in a Toyota Celica RA40; enough to wet the appetite of any enthusiast.  With the early morning sun shining on a recently felled section of Gale Rigg there really was no better place to take in the action.

In similar fashion to the 2013 event, Matt Edwards, co-driven by Paul Morris, had been able to build a healthy lead of 14.9 seconds after the two friday night stages.  Many competitors suffered problems however including local hero Steve Bannister, who went off the road and out of the rally in Staindale.  Champion also had issues but was able to restart on Saturday morning under Super ‘Rally rules’ where he and Craig Thorley managed a stage victory on the Cropton test.  Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were another front running crew to lose time; an off in Staindale causing a time loss of over 2 minutes.

Unlike last year however Edwards was not able to maintain the top spot throughout Saturday’s four stages.  Instead Richard Hill and Steffan Evans, having taken time out of them on every stage, snatched the victory on the very last test, winning the rally by just 7.4 seconds.

Behind, Tim Pearcey and Neil Shanks recorded some solid stage times on their way to a well deserved third overall with Category 2 victors, David Stokes and Guy Weaver finishing 4th in their Mk1 Escort.  An impressive result given vastly experienced local man and class runner up, Warren Philliskirk, was over a minute behind.

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Meanwhile category 1 victory went the way of Bob Bean. The evergreen MK1 Cortina pilot securing a winning margin of over 25 seconds by the end of the day.

Cat1

Nevertheless, second in class was enough for Ray Cunningham to wrap up the title; greatly deserved as it is a long time since the UK rally scene has been treated to a Mini driven like that!  I for one hope they return in 2015.

RESULTS

1. Richard Hill / Steffan Evans – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – 54:41.3
2. Matt Edwards / Paul Morris – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +07.4
3. Tim Pearcey / Neil Shanks – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +01:10.9
4. David Stokes / Guy Weaver – Ford Escort MK1 (C5) – +02:17.0
5. Tim Freeman / Paul Williams – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +02:19.6
6. Warren Philliskirk / Nigel Hutchinson – MK1 (C5) – +03:23.3
7. Charlie Taylor / Steve Bielby – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +03:48.7
8. Chris Browne / Ali Cornwell-Browne – Escort MK1 (C5) – +03:49.9
9. Tim Mason / Graham Wild – Porsche 911 (C4) – +4:01.3
10. Andrew Siddall / Carl Williamson – Escort MK1 (C5) – +04:11.6

Full Results

And so a big well done was in order for the Chesterfield rally community having produced both winning drivers.  The annual trip to the North Yorkshire stages had been as enjoyable as ever, with the irritation of Midge bites and a split pair of jeans more than made up for by a fish and Chip tea at the one and only Thompsons!  I really have no idea which way the Gold Star title pendulum will swing, but I am thoroughly looking forward to finding out on next month’s Cambrian Rally finale.

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