Tag Archives: Luke Francis

Edwards Dominates Rallynuts Stages to claim Maiden BTRDA Victory

With the Malcolm Wilson rally falling victim of the weather, the BTRDA contingent would instead head to mid Wales for round 2 of the championship, the recently re-branded Rallynuts Stages Rally (previously Severn Valley Stages).  And, after a month or two of less than pleasant weather, it was rather apt that one of the warmest days of the year so far would welcome the Midland Manor Motor Club Organised event to the championship after several years of association with Historic rallying.

Much like the Cambrian Rally, the entry list was filled with rapid machinery, including 4 WRC Ford’s.  But, also following a similar theme to the season opener, it was an R5 machine, more specifically a Fiesta R5 in the hands of Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod, that would take centre stage.

OVERALL

Edwards truly was in a league of his own on this event and with no protruding logs to halt his progress, would go on to record fastest time on all 7 stages and claim a maiden BTRDA victory by a mammoth 40 seconds from the WRC Ford’s of Luke Francis and Paul Bird;  the Welsh star clearly enjoying his home stages having now set fastest time on 12 of the Championship’s first 14 stages, all 12 of the stages completed by the Swift backed Fiesta man (missed stages 2 & 3 of Cambrian)!  With pace like this, there is little doubt Edwards will be at the sharp end of the British Rally Championship battle when the series kicks off later this month.

Behind, Luke Francis and John H Roberts had a much stronger second BTRDA championship outing in their Melvyn Evans Motorsport prepared Fiesta WRC.  Forced into retirement after clipping a rock on the Cambrian, the North Wales based duo registered second fastest time on every stage bar the last to finish the event in a very comfortable second.

Rounding out the podium positions, Paul Bird, with Jack Morton alongside, continued his strong start to the season after a 2 year lay off.  Locked in a tight battle with the Fiesta of Hugh Hunter throughout the morning stages, the North of England duo managed to snatch third in stage 3 before inching away from their rivals over the final 4 tests; thus ensuring they maintained their early championship lead.

CLASS RESULTS

Well inside the top ten, class B13 victory went the way of Tom Cave and Dale Bowen.  Cave, making a guest appearance in the family owned Subaru, was near untouchable over the classic Welsh terrain, finishing the event 1.5 minutes clear of his nearest class rival; his speed further rewarded with 7th position overall and the honour of first non Ford home.

With 11th overall, Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy claimed a comfortable class NR4 victory in their Mitsubishi Evo 9.  Their day was perhaps made a little easier when usual front runners Patrick Naylor and Ian Lawrence suffered a stage 1 mechanical, however a 40 second class victory over the similar machine of Tom Naughton is proof they would have been a match for anyone on the day.

A thrilling Silver Star battle produced a somewhat surprise result with Max Utting and Mike Ainsworth making a mockery of their seeding to claim category victory in their Ford Fiesta ST.  It was in fact a sensational come back by the Oxford based duo who, having  found themselves 14 seconds behind the Category leading Escort after SS3, completed the Radnor and second Crychan tests some 29 seconds faster than their rivals!  And with just the 2 short stages remaining, Utting and Ainsworth would maintain their advantage to record a very impressive top twenty finish.

B12 Class winners, Owen McMakin and Lee Taylor had lead the Silver Star category through the first 3 stages, however the remainder of the event did not go so well;  The Irish / Welsh pairing not only losing the lead to Utting in stage 5 but also falling behind the Class B11 Escort of Rob Dennis and Andrew Boswell.  McMakin’s strong early pace was however rewarded with his second BTRDA class win of the season and third overall in the Silver Star Category.

Class B10/R2 honours went the way of Josh McErlean and Aaron Johnston in their Fiesta R2; the pairing having snatched the lead from the similar machine of George Lepley in Radnor before gradually pulling away over the afternoon stages to record a 9 second class victory with 24th overall (4th in the Silver Star Category).

Rounding out a very successful day for the blue oval marque, James Giddings and Sion Cunniff claimed class N3 victory in their Fiesta ST with 46th position overall; the 4th class win of the day for a Fiesta crew!

In the 1400 category, round 1 winners, Chris Powell and Jim Lewis exploded into a 31 second lead after the first 3 stages only to find themselves condemned to the retirements list just one stage later.  This left the door wide open for Dave and Toby Brick, this time in a Vauxhall Corsa, to take a commanding 3.5 minute victory with 37th position overall.  Meanwhile Perry Gardener and Steve Link would take the 1400C honours with 78th position overall in their Vauxhall Nova.

By the end of SS4, two of the leading Historic contenders, Nick Elliott (engine issues in SS1) and Rudi Lancaster (Gearbox) were out of the event, which left the Escort’s of Ernie Graham and Terry Brown to battle it out for category victory.  There was absolutely nothing to choose between the two cars over much of the morning before a slow time in Radnor for Brown and co-driver Den Golding put pay to their challenge; the 18 seconds lost allowing Graham and co-driver Robin Kellard to go on and record their second BTRDA Historic victory in as many events.

Behind, Tom Coughtrie and Baz Green seemed to have the H4 spec, ex works, Mitsubishi Galant running well and duly claimed class honours with 4th in category and 47th overall.  Whilst, just one place further back in 48th, Gareth Lewis and Mark Crisp dominated class H1/H2 in their MK2 Escort, claiming class victory by nearly 2 minutes from the similar Ford of Jeff Wincott.

After a day long battle with Bart Lang, Andrew Wheatley made it two Rally First victories out of 2 in his Ford Puma.  He and Ian Nichols finishing the event in a very commendable 62nd position overall.

FULL RESULTS

Next up, the BTRDA contenders head further North for another Welsh outing, this time for the Knutsford & District Motor Club organised Plains Rally on 12th May.  A rally in which Stephen Petch will be hoping to repeat his 2017 success and keep himself at the forefront of the title battle.  If the in-form Edwards should make an entry however he and co-driver Michael Wilkinson may well have their work cut out!

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.

Pritchard_RNW16

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.

Elliott

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.

Barrett_RNW16

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.

Tysoe_RWN16

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.

Orr-RNW16

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.

Retallick_RNW16

BHRC CAT 1

Gibbons_RNW16

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.

Beab_RNW16

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.

Harris_RNW16

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.

Francis

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

Outrageous Orme Charge Lands Francis Cambrian Victory

Luke Francis & John H Roberts claimed a sensational Cambrian Rally victory, defying the odds to convert a 10 second deficit into a 1 second winning margin with a phenomenal run over the Great Orme finale.

Francis_Alwen

With the Wyedean Rally no longer part of the BTRDA rally series, the Cambrian Rally, based in Llandudno, would take it’s place as the opening round of the season, just 4 months after concluding the 2015 championship.

An intriguing 127 car entry list had been compiled by North Wales Car Club which included the stage rally debuts of Euan Thorburn’s 208 R5 and Connor McCloskey’s WRC Mini.  The moderately sized field set to face 7 stages within the Snowdonia forests, rounded off by a quick blast over the infamous Great Orme toll road.

GOLD STAR

Amongst the leading crews were ex Gold Star champs Steve Perez, Hugh Hunter and Shaun Gardener but the main story of the 2016 Cambrian rally featured the contrasting fortunes of 3 crews in particular; 2015 King of Yorkshire, Charlie Payne in the Focus WRC engined Fiesta, local crew Luke Francis and John H Roberts in their familiar B13 Evo and 2013 Gold Star champ, Euan Thorburn, in his glorious new Peugeot 208 R5.

Few crews would have passed through Gwydyr before the event and with this in mind Charlie Payne’s 5m23s benchmark was mighty impressive.  Only Euan Thorburn, with Paul Beaton on the notes, was able to get within 10 seconds of the Ford man, the Peugeot possibly suffering a horsepower disadvantage on the steep climbs.

Payne, co driven by Carl Williamson, would continue his strong start with top 3 times on both the following Elsi and Penmachno tests.  In fact the Yorkshire-man was never outside the top 5 all day and it was this consistency which left the Fiesta crew heading into the Great Orme finale with what appeared to be a comfortable 10 second rally lead.

Payne

Thorburn meanwhile also went well in stages 2 and 3; the Scotsman setting second fastest time in Elsi before topping the time sheets in Penmachno to sit just 3 seconds behind Payne.  It would all go horribly wrong in Clocaenog East however as a trip into a ditch would cost the Peugeot man over 40 seconds and with it any chance of a debut victory.  The 2014 Scottish Rally Champions most definitely seemed at home in their new ride though and would be back in the podium positions before the day was out.

On paper Francis was up against it, his older Mitsubishi no match for many of the newer B14 machinery.   However, the local man’s secret weapon is his knowledge of the stages and whilst he and John H Roberts had not topped the time sheets on any of the forest stages,  consistent top 7 times had left them sitting 10 seconds behind Payne in second with just 2.95 miles of tarmac remaining.

A ten second gap over such a short stage may have seemed unbridgeable, but Francis has form on the Great Orme.  Just 4 months ago, the Rhuddlan man set fastest time by 8 seconds with a 2m38s stage time to claim an incredible second place overall.  Could he go one better in 2016?  With Payne registering a 2m51s stage time, the win was definitely on the cards.  And whilst Francis was not able to match his 2015 time, 2m40s was enough to claim the rally victory by a solitary second.  With that opposition a B13 car should not be taking BTRDA rally victories.  A simply stunning drive!

B14 top spot is unlikely to have been much consolation for Payne and Williamson in the circumstances, however they have got to be happy with their pace over the event.  After all, finishing ahead of Thorburn is no mean feat!

Elsewhere, fourth position overall represented a strong debut for Connor McCloskey and  Damien Duffin in the WRC Mini; ending the day just 32 seconds down and setting a fastest time along the way.  BTRDA Rally wins may well be on the cards in 2016 for the Northern Irishman.  Meanwhile 5th and 6th, on equal times and just 38 seconds down were the Fiesta R5’s of Hugh Hunter and Rhys Yates; both showing promising pace ahead of expected full season campaigns in the rejuvenated British Rally Championship.

PRODUCTION CUP

Perhaps lacking the strength in depth of 2015, the production cup battle quickly turned into a rally of attrition.  In fact, by the end of stage 3, we were down to just 4 remaining NR4 competitors with Aaron McClure rolling in Penmachno and Andy Davies retiring with gearbox problems.  Whilst Davies had been quickest in stage 1, it was 2015 front runners, Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy who lead for most of the day; building a 54 second lead over the Subaru of Paul Davy and Roger Allan by the end of stage 6.

Clitheroe man, Thompson, would however be cruelly robbed of a victorious start to 2016 following a mechanical failure on the stage 7 start line leaving Davy and Allan in pole position to take the Production Cup honours.  And that they did, building a 54 second winning margin over the Mitsubishi Evo 10 of Roland Llewellin and Ian Lawrence by the end of the day to claim an impressive 13th position overall.  With Davy not BTRDA registered however it was Llewellin and Lawrence who picked up maximum championship points.

Davy

Elsewhere, Owain Rowlands, with Tom Jordan this time alongside, repeated his 2015 success to claim class N3 victory with a strong 34th position overall.

SILVER STAR

Traditionally, Ffestiniog brothers, Ieuan and John Rowlands have featured at the sharp end of this event.  But whilst John was able to follow up his 2015 class B11 and Silver Star success with an impressive 15th position overall, early category leader, Ieuan, in the 2.8 litre Volvo engined MK2 was forced to retire with gearbox problems after just the third test of the day.

Rowlands_Alwen

John Rowlands, with Glenn Latham on the notes, was not as dominant as you may have imagined however.  In fact, number 53 seeds, Gavin Edwards and Caron Tomlinson kept the Welsh crew on their toes throughout the day.  And by the Llandudno finish were just 35 seconds in arrears in 16th position overall.

Meanwhile, 2015 RAC Championship winners, Phil Burton and Mal Capstick, had turned their attentions to the BTRDA series for 2016 and, whilst not able to match the pace of the aforementioned B11 Fords, were able to capitalise on the unfortunate retirement of Ieuan Rowlands; The Morecombe man going on to claim top spot in class B12 and 3rd place in the Silver star category with 18th position overall.

Burton

Elsewhere, BRC hopefuls, Josh Cornwell and Dai Roberts claimed class B10 honours with 30th position overall in their Fiesta R2, whilst the top scoring BTRDA registered crew were Bob Vardy and Sarah Ceen in 42nd position.  The latter pairing getting the better of Vauxhall Nova crew, James Hutchings and James Hood by a mere 8 seconds!

Cornwell

THOMAS PANELS BTRDA 1400

Whilst the entry list may have lacked 2015 champion David Bennett and fellow front runner Ash Slights, the expected FWD/RWD battle between Dave Brick and Josh Powell was tough to call; the latter having claimed a brilliant second in class back in October.  Disappointingly however the battle was over before it had really begun; the Sunbeam of Powell and Jim Lewis ending the day on it’s roof less than 1 mile into stage 1.

Despite his main opposition out, Brick, with 2015 BHRC champion Phil Clarke alongside, was never going take it easy; the Ludlow man going on to set fastest time on every stage bar the last to claim a commanding 1400 class victory with 22nd position overall.  A final position which may have been stronger were it not for a slow time over the Great Orme finale.

Behind, Jordan Hone finished second in class with 27th position overall; a strong result for the Proton Satria convert, whilst Matt Jackson and Claire Williams rounded out the podium positions in their Nissan Micra.  Rory Jones and Tom Hughes would claim 1400C top spot with 51st position overall in their MG ZR.

BTRDA HISTORIC CUP

Whilst Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis made all the headlines pre event by swapping their formidable MK2 Escort for an RSD prepared Fiat 131, it was Jerry Bailey and Graham Lacey who emerged from the Gwydyr opening stage with the category lead.  A lead which the Ford Escort pairing were able to build to as much 15 seconds by the end of stage 3.

From then on in though it was all about Theo Bengry and Les Forsbrook.  The vastly experienced Leominster man leaping into the class lead on the super-fast Alwen test before going on to record a 37 second Historic and class H3 victory.

BengrySS1

Bengry_Alwen

In class H2, it was David Dobson and Steve Pugh who were leading the way before taking a wheel off in Clocaenog East.  This left Dave Forrest and Steve Ward to battle it out for class honours over the remainder of the event.  Ward held the advantage over the morning stages but the tables turned on stage 6; a slow time allowing Forrest, with Charlie Carter on the notes, to slip into the class lead.  And from then on in the Yorkshire based crew never looked back; claiming 4th in the historic category with 40th position overall.

Forrest

Like Ward, H1 Winners, Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead had been in front of Forrest for much of day but a slow time on the second running of Gwydyr allowed the Eaton Yale Escort to close in and ultimately take the position on the final stage.  Still, 5th in category, and 1st in class H1 was a great result for the MK1 Escort crew.

Shuttleworth

VITAL EQUIPMENT RALLY FIRST

And finally, the MSA running order regulations have not been kind to the rally first crews; a noticeable drop in entry numbers as a result.  However, Dominic Hodge and Stefan Arndt put in a great performance to claim category and RF1.4 victory in their Nissan Micra with a fantastic 44th position overall, beating several 1400C class cars in the process.  Meanwhile, Roger Lovatt and Osian Owen claimed RF1.0 honours and Des Fletcher and Bridge Carey were the first RF1.6 crew home.

FULL RESULTS

From our point of view the Cambrian Rally proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable start to the 2016 season and I personally prefer it’s new position in the calendar.  Photography was tough as always on this event but thankfully the weather remained dry, and despite cold temperatures, viewing on the Orme turned out to be unexpectedly pleasant.

If we learned anything from last weekend it is that Luke Francis and John H Roberts may well be the fastest Mitsubishi Evo 9 crew on the British Isles and if the pace of Rhys Yates, Hugh Hunter and Euan Thorburn is anything to go by, this year’s BRC will be an absolute belter!

Next up is the Red Kite Stages, see you in Mid Wales …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

Cambrian Crown reward for Bogie Brilliance

David Bogie and Kevin Rae were in a class of their own during the 60th running of the Cambrian Rally; claiming victory by 54 seconds after 45 competitive stage miles.

Bogie_Cambrian2015

Despite the overall Gold Star title being wrapped up, the final round of the 2015 BTRDA rally championship had attracted one of the highest quality entries of the season, headed by Scottish Championship regular David Bogie and joined by the likes of Sam and Josh Moffett in WRC Fiestas, Jonathan Greer in an R5 Citroen and Osian Pryce in the brand new R5 Mitsubishi Mirage.  And whilst the top prize had been claimed, it was all to play for in the 1400, Silver Star and Historic categories as the BTRDA regulars headed to Llandudno for the 60th anniversary running of the Cambrian Rally.

GOLD STAR

It was clear from the outset that it would take some drive to defeat number 1 seeds David Bogie and Kevin Rae in their Fiesta R5+; the Scotsman opening up a 20 second lead after setting fastest time on the first three stages of the day.

With such a strong class B14 entry list however it was with some surprise that Luke Francis and John H Roberts were lying in second place overall at the halfway point in their ageing B13 specification Evo 9.  The local man clearly had the bit between his teeth and it was he who halted Bogie’s run of stage victories with a stunning time in Penmachno South, trimming the overall lead to 18 seconds at the Glan y Gors service halt.

Francis_Cambrian2015

2 stages later however we were looking at a very different leaderboard.  Outgoing BTRDA Gold Star champion, Steve Perez had being lying 3rd at service, but lost over a minute on the second running of Crafnant when the turbo pipe became detached, before ending the day in the Llyn Elsi scenery after trying to make up the lost time.  Meanwhile the fast starting Luke Francis dropped 43 seconds in the same stage, demoting the North Wales man to third and splitting the two WRC Fiestas of Josh and Sam Moffett.   As a result Bogie now held a commanding 57 second lead.

With just 2 runs through Penmachno followed by a loop of the Great Orme remaining you could have forgiven Francis for consolidating his third place overall and class B13 lead.  However Francis is blessed with an all or nothing attitude; the deficit to Josh Moffett reduced to 4 seconds with just 2.95 miles of tarmac to go.

And whilst local knowledge is a big advantage on the Orme, no one would have expected Francis to set a time 8 seconds quicker than anyone else, especially given the traction of some of the newer machines!  This had been a phenomenal drive by the Mitsubishi pilot; B13 rally victory also enough to claim the BTRDA class championship glory and end the year fifth in the Gold Star rankings.

The victorious Bogie had done all of the hard work early on and once Francis had dropped back in stage 6, the victory was never really in doubt; a leisurely run over the Great Orme finale reducing the winning margin to just under 1 minute by the time the crews arrived at the Llandudno finish.  This had been a mature and accomplished drive by the Scotsman on the tight and twisty North Wales stages; surely a BRC championship contender in 2016 should he appear on the entry list.

HYUNDAI GENPOWER PRODUCTION CUP

In a category marred by the tragic loss of Andrew Mort on the previous weekends Tour of Mull, it was Patrick Naylor and Ian Lawrence who took the victory with an excellent 7th place overall in their N4 specification Evo 9.

Naylor_Cambrian2015

Having claimed category victory on both the Woodpecker and Trackrod rallies, the West Midlands based duo had already wrapped up the title and so were free to fight for class honours on the final round of the season;  Naylor and Lawrence recording N4 victory by 34 seconds from the similar machine of Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy who themselves claimed the runner up spot in the title race.

Elsewhere, In a great sporting gesture, Aaron McClure elected not to claim championship points, which had he and Elliott Edmondson finished, would have still allowed Tom Naughton and the late Andrew Mort to finish the year in third position.  It is fitting that the much loved Scotsman will be forever in the BTRDA history books.

Further back, even after suffering a 1 minute time penalty, Owain Rowlands and Caron Tomlinson claimed class N3 honours with 78th position overall in their ME Rallysport Ford Fiesta.

SILVER STAR

Callum Black was clear favourite for the Silver Star title coming into the final round of the championship, requiring just a 7th place finish to wrap up the honours.  And all was going to plan by the end of stage 5, as the Northamptonshire man held a 4 second Silver Star lead in his Citroen DS3.  But disaster struck on the second run through Llyn Elsi as he and co driver Paul Wakely were forced into retirement with a gearbox issue.

This paved the way for Boyd Kershaw to snatch the title away from Black at the final hurdle, realistically just needing to complete the 3 remaining tests to take the crown.

Kershaw_Cambrian2015

And that they did.  While local man John Rowlands, co driven by Glenn Latham went on to take their MK2 Escort to event Silver Star and class B11 victory with a strong 13th position overall, Kershaw and Bryan Hull finished in 24th, 4th Silver Star crew home; this after a very steady time on the Great Orme finale courtesy of clutch problems.  Bryan Hull may have missed out on the Silver Star title courtesy of his Malcolm Wilson Rally absense, however his points tally was enough to share the B11 championship victory with his Reading based driver.

Rowlands_Cambrian2015

After the unfortunate demise of Black and Wakely, B12 honours went the way of Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson with an impressive 15th position overall; the Welsh duo increasing their speed over the drier afternoon stages to climb 11 places from 26th position at the halfway point.

Evans_Cambrian2015

Meanwhile Class B10 saw one of the closest finishes of the event; Rene Torcato and Keegan Rees taking victory by a mere 2 seconds from Kit and Tim Leigh, denying the latter class victory on what was their 100th event.  The class had been expected to be claimed by Tom Cave in his Fiesta R2, however the WRC regular was forced into retirement after the second stage, leaving Josh Cornwell and Dai Roberts in a similar machine to take up the mantle.

A stage maximum in stage 7 dropped Cornwell to third however, leaving a two way battle for the class honours over the final 2 stages.  Having lost 29 seconds to Torcato in stage 2, Leigh was on an afternoon charge, cutting the gap to 21 seconds by stage 4, 12 seconds after 6 and 8 seconds as they arrived at the Orme.  61st quickest time however was enough for Torcato and Rees to keep the Fiesta crew at bay in their Citroen C2.

KICK START 1400

The championship was destined to go 1 of 3 ways heading into the Cambrian with David Bennett, Ash Slights and Dave Brick all in with a shot at the crown.

By the end of stage 2 however, the championship was looking a little more clear cut as Bennett and Alistair McNeil held a 34 second lead over Brick with Slights 7 seconds further back following a puncture after a trip into a ditch.  Chris Powell in his Sunbeam meanwhile was interrupting the championship battle as he held an excellent second.

Bennett_Cambrian2015

In fact Bennett and McNeil went on to claim the title in style by setting top 25 stage times on all of the remaining tests to finish the event in 14th overall, equal on time with top 2WD crew, John Rowlands and Glenn Latham, but losing out on 13th courtesy of a 1 second slower opening stage time.

Behind, Chris Powell and Jim Lewis put in a great performance to take second in the 1400 class, while third was enough for Dave Brick to claim the runner up spot in the title race.  Ash Slights may have had a disappointing end to the season, however he and Alex Lee can reflect on what has been a successful year, a year which has seen the Yaris become a front runner in the class and at times more than a match for the super quick Bennett.

BTRDA HISTORIC CUP

The historic category on the Cambrian rally had attracted several none registered crews and it was Simon Webster and Frank Richer who inherited the lead from Ben Friend after stage 2 and never looked back; the MK2 Escort crew taking the Historic and class H3 rally victory with 25th position overall.

Webster_Cambrian2015

Paul Street however was the first BTRDA registered points scorer home in 5th, allowing the Mansfield man to snatch the Historic cup and class H3 titles away from RX-7 pilot, Jake Scannell by just a solitary point.

Street_Cambrian2015

H2 victory went the way of David Lloyd-Roberts and Dei Jones with 38th position overall.  Meanwhile second in class was enough for Dave Forrest and Charlie Carter to claim the BTRDA class title.

Jordan_Cambrian2015

In Class H1, Barry Jordan found himself up against the similar Hilman Avenger of Gary Edgington and Kate Bannister.  Jordan and Gratton-Smith are a formidable pairing these days however, the H1 class championship winners going on to claim victory by more than 2 minutes with 48th position overall.

FULL RESULTS
THE FINAL WORD

Having not been in the forests for the best part of three months, it was great to encounter David Bogie on top form; his speed and pin point accuracy a pleasant reminder of what we had been missing! This, combined with the balls out approach of Luke Francis amongst top commitment from several other crews, made the BTRDA season finale an enjoyable day out.

Llyn Elsi is another stage to tick from the list, and maybe more new territory can be explored early next year as the Cambrian becomes the opening round of the 2016 BTRDA championship.   After a year of being in the news for all the wrong reasons we can but hope that 2016 represents a new dawn for British rallying.

IMAGES

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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

HistoricWinners

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.

BTRDA

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.

GroupN

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.

B11

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.

1400_winners

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.

Cat2

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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Bird is the Word in Shropshire Forests

Paul Bird, ably assisted by Aled Davies, became a serious title contender after taking his third BTRDA victory of the year on last weekend’s Woodpecker Stages Rally.

Car_2

Round 7 of the BTRDA championship saw the crews head to Ludlow for six stages in the forests of Shropshire.  The 2014 event would see the teams tackle Bringewood, Wigmore, Haye Park and Radnor with local knowledge usually key for a strong performance.

The stage of two halves that is Bringewood was where I headed; it being the only stage used in recent years that I had yet to visit.  Having decided that the tight and twisty start of the stage was just too slippery, it was the very fast latter part where I elected to take in the action.

As the well known proverb suggests, it is the early ‘Bird’ that catches the worm and the Cumbrian driver most definitely made the best of the unexpected dark and damp morning conditions; noticeably quicker passed me and leaping into a 7 second lead over the B13 specification Evo 9 of Luke Francis and John H Roberts.  Francis meanwhile maintained his exceptional start to the event by managing to hold onto second place through the 6 miles of High Vinnals; keeping the super high traction WRC machines of Steve Perez and David Weston at bay.

Perez, co driven by Paul Spooner, was back on the pace in stage 3 however.   Fastest time through Radnor ended Bird’s monopoly of stage victories and allowed him to climb to second overall, in turn narrowing the lead margin to just 10 seconds.  Weston on the other hand seemed to be struggling with the S12 Impreza and remained 4th, some 50 seconds behind Bird at the mid event service.

Behind, Alex Allingham and Chris Williams were leading an intense battle for Group N honours, with Tom Naughton, Roland Llewellin, Jamie Anderson and Russ Thompson all within 21 seconds of the class leading Impreza.  This would be some battle over the remaining three stages.

Allingham

The infamous full length Haye park test was first on the agenda after lunch followed by a single visit to Wigmore and the Radnor finale.  All three stages gave ample opportunity for crews to improve their positions especially as the weather had improved significantly.  Bird and Davies however carried on where they had left off and went on to win all three tests, taking a convincing 27 second victory over the similar Focus WRC of Steve Perez and Paul Spooner.  Weston, co driven by Kirsty Riddick was much closer to the leading pace after service, but was unable to claw back all of the time lost to Luke Francis, leaving the Evo 9 pilot to take a fantastic third overall.

3rdPlace

The group N battle continued to be hard fought.  Jamie Anderson, with Jon Scott alongside, set a fast time in Haye Park to leap frog both Naughton and Llewellin.  He was then able to take 5 seconds out of Allingham in Wigmore cutting the lead to 21 seconds as the crews headed back to Radnor for the final stage.  And after taking a massive 18 seconds out of the the long time class leaders over the 10 mile finale they must have been left wondering what might have been.

In the 2WD section, local man Joe Price, re-united with Chris Brooks, made his long awaited return to competition in the newly built historic spec MK2 Escort.  His flamboyant style had most definitely been missing from the stages as they sought yet another Woodpecker class victory.  On the day however, already crowned champions, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis proved just too quick for the Ludlow crew claiming the historic and silver star class victories by more than 1 minute.

Car_101

In the 1400 category, the rapid duo of Mark Gamble and Steve Link made a one off appearance in their Suzuki Swift, hoping to take the fight to the BTRDA regulars.  Although championship front runners Mat Smith and Giles Dykes took an early lead, Gamble was able to improve his pace as the day went on.  And after Smith lost time with a puncture in Wigmore the two crews went into the Radnor finale tied on exactly the same time.  Indeed momentum was with the Japanese machine and the little Ka could not keep up with the the now flying Swift leaving the Wolverhampton man to take a well deserved victory.

Car_203

Smith and Dykes would still head back to Yorkshire with the maximum category score however as Gamble and Link were not registered for championship points; thus keeping their title hopes alive but needing healthy tallies on both remaining events.

Car_202

Class-wise, Opel Manta man Jon Ballinger, paired with Mike Wilding, claimed B11 with 24th overall, whilst also winning the award for most sideways passed me in Bringewood.

Car_107

Joe Price’s old ride came home 35th overall in the hands of younger brother Harvey.  He and co-driver George Gifford claiming class B12 in the process.

Car_143

Three places further back in 38th, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith put in a strong performance to claim class H1 victory in their immaculate Hilman Avenger.

Avenger

John Baker and Ian Jones would take the class H2 honours with 45th overall while B10 went the way of Vauxhall Nova crew James Hutchings and James Hood with 47th.  And Sacha Kakad and Andrew Price would yet again claim top spot in N3 with 50th overall in their Fiesta ST.

Car_134

On reflection it was nice to have a Woodpecker rally without the dust, but I would like to put in an early request for more sunshine next year!  Whilst it was also good to tick Bringewood off the ‘to do’ list, it won’t be a stage that I rush back to.  The second half of the stage must be great to drive but doesn’t present the same spectacle for the onlooker due to the over hanging trees that line the hillside route.  The final couple of corners in Haye park on the other hand were great to watch, with Robinson being particularly impressive around the fast open right hander at Junction 18.

Rallying wise, next up for me is the Trackrod which just happens to be the next round of the BTRDA championship.  Paul Bird now has 4 very strong points scores but must score well in the two remaining rounds to take the Gold Star crown.  Chesterfield man Steve Perez is potentially in a better position as he could in theory afford a none finish while Petch, Weston Jnr and Francis are all still in with a chance of top spot.  This title race could go all the way to the final stage of the Cambrian Rally in October…. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 RESULTS

1. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – 0:41.33
2. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00.27
3. Luke Francis / John H Roberts – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) – +00.59
4. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Impreza S12  WRC (B14) – +01.01
5. Alex Allingham / Chris Williams – Impreza N10 (N4) – +02.02
6. Jamie Anderson / Jon Scott – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02.05
7. Tristan Bailey / James How – Mitsubishi WRC 04 (B14) – +02.12
8. Tom Naughton / Andy Mort – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02.18
9. Wayne Sisson / Neil Shanks – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02.39
10. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +03.01
11. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis – Escort MK2 (H3) – +03.08
23. Mark Gamble / Steve Link – Suzuki Swift (1400S) – +05.38
24. Jon Ballinger / Mike WIlding – Opel Manta (B11) – +05.41
35. Harvey Price / George Gifford – Escort MK2 (B12) – +07.27
38. Barry Jordan / James Gratton-Smith – Avenger (H1) – +08.15
45. John Baker / Ian Jones – Ford Escort MK2 (H2) – +09.12
47. James Hutchings / James Hood – Nova (B10) – +09.12
50. Sacha Kakad / Andrew Price – Ford Fiesta ST (N3) – +09.28

FULL RESULTS

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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)