Tag Archives: Matthew Robinson

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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Successive BHRC Victories for in form Elliott

Nick Elliott and Dave Price recorded their second straight BHRC win of the season with victory on the 2015 Pirelli Carlisle Rally; the third time that Elliott has claimed historic glory on this event.

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The third round of the British Historic Rally Championship saw the teams head to English border country for 6 stages within the super fast Kielder Forest complex; the new compact format a clear hit with the competitors as 97 cars made the start of the combined National A and National B events.  After two years in the doldrums, the BHRC has been invigorated by a change in organising team to the RAC Motor Club for 2015; just the motivation to convince me to make the 500 mile round trip to the ‘Pirelli’ for the first time since 2012.

With the forestry gates finally opened at the White Sike spectator car park we made our way to junction 7 of stage 2 where Nick Elliott was as neat and tidy as ever around the open uphill hairpin left.  This approach allowed the Cheltenham man to increase his overall lead to 12.6 seconds over the chasing Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.  Earlier, Elliott, with Dave Price alongside, had been electric out of the blocks, setting a time that was 2.5 seconds quicker than any other historic and crucially 10.6 seconds faster than Robinson on stage 1.

Meanwhile Joe Price had made a mighty impressive start to the event; the Kielder debutant, ably assisted by previous winner Chris Brooks, was lying 4th, just 20 seconds behind the leader and 8 seconds behind third placed Meirion and Steffan Evans after the first 2 stages.

It would all go horribly wrong for both Price and Evans on stage 3 however, with Price dropping nearly 4 minutes and Evans’ out of the event following an excursion to one of Kielder’s many deep ditches.  The Welshman was joined on the retirements list by Richard Hill and Iwan Jones who had been lying in 7th after stage 2 but were another front running crew to fall victim of a Buck Fell trench.  As the vastly experienced Bob Bean discovered at our location in White Sike, once you are in there is no getting out!

Upfront the event was fast becoming a duel between Elliott and Robinson after the Yorkshireman was able to trim Elliott’s lead to 9.5 seconds by the time the crews arrived at the halfway service halt.  However, given Elliott’s uncanny knack of remembering stages, Robinson would have to be at his very best over the afternoon repeated route to catch the reigning RAC champion.

And while Robinson was able to better his morning times on both the drier afternoon runs of Black Craggs and White Sike, Elliott, true to form, was able to go that little bit quicker, inching his lead out to 11.1 seconds with just 1 stage to run.  It was all looking very rosy for the Cheltenham based crew.

Meanwhile, championship leaders coming into the Pirelli, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, had been lying in fifth place at the halfway point after taking some time to get up to speed in unfamiliar territory.  Having been all set for an afternoon charge however their day would come to an unfortunate end at the finish of stage 4 with the immaculately turned out RS1800 suffering from clutch failure.

Back at the front, the gap was realistically just too big for Robinson to close on the final stage without a mistake from Elliott.  And whilst the Kellands.com sponsored Ford Pilot recorded a relatively conservative time on the second running of Buck Fell, it was still fast enough to take his third Pirelli Historic rally victory by 7.7 seconds to follow on from his successes in 2011 and 2012.  Robinson will feel that this was a good opportunity to beat Elliott, however there is all to play for as only 6 points separate the two competitors after 3 rounds of the series.

CATEGORY 3

Behind the front two, Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts put in a stellar performance in their pinto powered MK2 to come home third overall in the National A Historic event and first in class D3.  This has to be one of the stand-out performances of the day, especially considering they beat the evergreen Steve Bannister by nearly 30 seconds which is a more than suitable benchmark for any competing crew in the North of England.  To add more perspective to this result, Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons, who themselves are no slouch, came home second in class and 18th National A Historic, but over 3 minutes behind the Northern Irishman!

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Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh may have been the only crew competing in Class D4 however 13th historic competitor home represented a more than respectable result in their Opel Kadett against some very powerful machinery.

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In Class F2, Tomas Davies and Gwynfor Jones made the most of Jason Pritchard’s clutch problems to register class victory with 14th in the National A Historic event.  The Welsh duo may not have been as far up the order as they have become accustomed to but did enough to take class honours by nearly three minutes.

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Meanwhile Chris Skill and Ken Bills claimed the combined D1/D2 class victory with 45th overall in the combined event.  The 1600 MK2 Escort duo finishing over 4 minutes clear of Toyota Corolla crew John Midgley and John Pullan.

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CATEGORY 2

David Stokes and Guy Weaver were yet again the crew to beat in class C5.  However it was John Perrott and Keaton Williams who lead the combined C4/C5 class at the halfway mark in their similar MK1 Escort.  Rupert Lomax had also been ahead of the category stalwarts before a slow time in Buck fell as a result of an off and puncture caused he and Rich Jones to drop back; an off which Lomax would go on to rue as he was quickest in class over all three of the afternoons stages.

Perrott meanwhile could not match the pace of his rivals over the drier afternoon loop due to a noisy diff bearing, and when combined with a 2 minute penalty for checking in early for stage 6 the Welshman dropped to 6th in class by the end of the event.

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Consistency was the key for Stokes and Weaver; the pairing were not quickest in class on any of the six stages, partially as a result of clutch problems in the morning, but managed strong clean runs nonetheless to end the day in 9th position overall in the National A Historic event and on top of the Category 2 results.  Warren Philliskirk and Nigel Hutchinson rounded off a good performance by passing rally legend Jimmy McRae on the final stage to come home second in class, while McRae and Pauline Gullick’s time was still good enough to register third in their awesome V8 Firenza Can-Am.

Class C3 victory went the way of James Slaughter and Keegan Rees in their MK1 Escort.  The Ford pair were quickest in class on every stage of the event to take a convincing 2 minute 21 second victory over the similar machine of Phil Jobson and Arwel Jenkins and the BMW of Terry Cree and Richard Shores.

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In the combined C1/C2 class Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead held a convincing 26 second lead over Dave Watkins and Thomas Jordan at the halfway service halt.  However the drier afternoon stages must have suited the Avenger crew of Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith as the Geoff Jones Motorsport prepared machine reeled in both aforementioned Escort crews to record the class win by 15.6 seconds.

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CATEGORY 1

The rough nature of the stages really impacted the more delicate category 1 historic machines; a class which was already down on numbers as a result of the MSA’s decision to enforce performance based seeding.

In a category usually dominated by Porsche, Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell ended the day with category victory in their B4 specification Lotus Cortina; getting the better of Bob and Dale Gibbons’ MK2 1600 GT.

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Gibbions would however claim class B3 ahead of the fast charging Malcolm Rich; the Ford Anglia man unable to make up for his dropped time in stage 1, allowing the Mk2 Cortina crew to take class victory by 31.4 seconds.

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Meanwhile, given the huge ruts left in White Sike, Phillip Harris and Alan Walker did a great job just to finish in their little B2 class Morris Mini Cooper and although they were the only registered competitor in class more than deserved the winners trophy.

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RAC CHAMPIONSHIP

Phil Burton and Mal Capstick utterly dominated the National B event, coming home amongst the lead National A runners to take H2 class victory by over 2 and a half minutes; 5th historic when looking at combined times.

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Class D2 meanwhile went the way of James Potter and Bob Duck, who had to overhaul the fast starting similar Escort of Charlie Taylor and Alan Ward before going on to record a 43.4 second winning margin.

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The popular C1 class looked to be heading in the direction of Vince Bristow at the halfway point as he and Tim Sayer had built a lead of over 1 minute.  Yet another Kielder ditch was to end the Ford drivers charge however, leaving the way clear for Robert Rook and Miles Cartwright to take the class victory by over 50 seconds; themselves having to catch and pass Stuart and Linda Cariss after a steady start to the event.

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Meanwhile Stephen Higgins and Don Bramfoot in their Saab and David Hopkins and Tony Vart in the Sunbeam took the respective B1 and D1 category victories.

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MODERN

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Peter Taylor and Andrew Roughead were in a class of their own in the Fiesta S2400 as they recorded modern and overall victory on the Pirelli Carlisle Rally.   The 4wd Ford pairing finished over 1 minute and 25 seconds ahead of the Citroen DS3 of Daniel McKenna and nearly 2 minutes in front of the Focus WRC of Peter Stephenson and Ian Windress.

MY TWO PENNIES WORTH

I had a thoroughly enjoyable return to the Pirelli rally but after reading and hearing much about the rough nature of the stages and the impact it was having on some of the older and less powerful cars it got me thinking whether spectators really are an issue in Kielder given there was hardly anyone there to cause a problem.

Surely the issue is event specific with tarmac rallies such as the Jim Clark being inherently more dangerous to spectate on, and events like the Wyedean always likely to attract more ‘casual fans’ due to the close proximity of the stages to local towns and villages!  With this in mind surely enforcing performance based seeding on just the rallies with perceived spectator issues would be a better solution.  It would be a crying shame if the new regulations further reduce the Category 1 competitors taking part just as historic rallying has reached new heights in terms of entry levels.  Everybody loves a MK2 Escort but for me it is the older machinery that makes the event.

I guess one saving grace is the fact that the Kielder forest tracks have always been rough and maybe the Severn Valley will be kinder to those running at the back.  But with the recent sad news regarding the cancellation of the Neath Valley Stages as a direct result of the running order regulations you do worry about the future of historic rallying.  I hope for the sake of the sport that the MSA have another look at this in the coming weeks …

COMBINED RESULTS

1. Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead | Fiesta S2400 (M3) | 0:48:10.7
2. Nick Elliott / Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00:48.6
3. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00:56.3
4. Daniel McKenna / Andrew Grennan | Citroen DS3 (M2) | +01:25.8
5. Paul Barrett / Dai Roberts | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +01:52.4
6. Peter Stephenson / Ian Windress | Focus WRC (M3) | +01:59.9
7. Steve Bannister / Louise Rae | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +02:18.7
8. Phillip Burton / Mal Capstick | Ford Escort MK2 (BH2) | +02:32.1
9. Brian Bell / Matthew Whattam | Focus WRC (M3) | +02:52.3
10. Rudi Lancaster / George Gwynn | Escort MK2 (D5) | +03:08.6

FULL RESULTS

IMAGES

Standard prints are available HERE

For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

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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Riponian Rally Victory No.9 for Payne

Charlie Payne and Andrew Roughead were in a class of their own on the 2015 Riponian Stages; claiming all but 2 fastest times to take victory by over 2 minutes from mighty impressive historic winners, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.  This being the 9th occasion the Ripon man has claimed victory on the event following successes in 92, 93, 2000, 01, 09, 11, 12 and 13!
Payne

Having missed this event in 2014 it was good to heading back to the little used forests surrounding Helmsley for the Riponian Stages Rally; a collaboration between Ripon Motor Sports Club and Whitby and District Motor Club resurrecting the event from what seemed like the end after last years running.  Disappointingly, an entry list that was lower than anticipated meant that the competitive mileage was cut from 44 to 39, achieved however without the loss of any of the 14 stages, allowing the unique nature of the event to be maintained.

It was positively Baltic at the Thirsk rally HQ for ‘sign on’ and unsurprisingly the conditions in Wass for stage 1 were a tad on the slippery side.  While Robinson and Collis were without doubt the most spectacular through the final part of the stage, it was Payne who went quickest setting a time that was 3 seconds faster than both the Focus WRC of Peter Stephenson and Ian Windress and the Escort Cosworth of Ian Joel and Graeme Wood.  This trend would then continue over the morning loop with stage wins in College Moor, Pry Rigg, Waterloo, Riccal Dale, Roppa and Boltby allowing Payne to eek out a 19 second lead over Stephenson at the halfway service point with Joel a further 11 seconds adrift.

As anticipated the heavens opened after lunch which made the afternoon loop of stages a completely different challenge for the remaining crews; torrential rain where we were in Waterloo, but snow and sleet for the stages on higher ground.  And while Payne continued to take stage victories, a string of second quickest times brought Ian Joel ever closer to the Focus WRC of Peter Stephenson; eventually snatching second on stage 10 after the event sponsor was only able to register 34th quickest time in Pry Rigg and subsequently forced into retirement.

Robinson and Collis were clearly revelling in the conditions; the pair never outside the top four stage times over the afternoon loop, even clocking fastest time overall on the second running of Roppa to end Charlie Payne’s clean sweep of stage victories!  They were even gaining on the 4WD Cosworth of Joel and Wood, as the number 3 seeds only managed 16th quickest time in Riccal Dale and 5th in Roppa, leaving them separated by just 32 seconds heading into the Boltby finale.

The gap appeared unbridgeable but Robinson clearly had the bit between his teeth and went on to set second quickest time in the final stage.  A time which Joel was not able to match; in fact he lost 1 minute and 21 seconds to the Ripon man, dramatically dropping to the final step of the overall podium.  Payne and Roughead meanwhile had a controlled run through Boltby, registering only the 4th quickest time but still achieving a winning margin of 2 minutes and 15 seconds over the MK2 Escort of Robinson and Collis.

HISTORIC

Robinson and Collis utterly dominated the historic section of the event; setting top six stages times all day to claim victory by almost 3 minutes.  However the battle behind was a much closer affair.

Robinson

While David Goose and Dick Wardle started well, they gradually slipped back as the pace heated up, leaving a 3 way battle for the runner up spot between the MK2 Escort of Charlie Taylor and Alan Ward, the similar machine of Paul Street and Jim Goodman and the Opel Kadett of Peter Smith and Matt Edwards.

The trio remained close in terms of times throughout the day but it appeared as though the final order was all but settled after the penultimate snow covered Roppa test; Taylor managing to increase his margin over Mansfield man, Paul Street, to 21 seconds with the Swift Caravans backed Kadett 10 seconds further back.  However, Street and Goodman put in a sensational final stage performance to set fastest time overall and come within 2 seconds of snatching second in class from Taylor and Ward; their stage time a whole 6 seconds quicker than the 4WD Fiesta of Charlie Payne!

Behind the raging H3 battle, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith in the combined H1 & H2 class had a less pressurised run to victory.  The Avenger crew putting in some solid times, especially over the final two tests, to end the day in 16th position overall.

Jordan

CLASS D

After the morning loop of stages the class was lead by the Porsche Boxster of Ian Jemison and Dean Kellett who were holding a 29 second lead over the BMW of Jon Finch and Paul Vasey.  Citroen DS3 crew, Richard Sykes and Simon Taylor, were clearly one of the quickest in class but were 2 minutes 36 seconds behind Jemison courtesy of a 3 minute penalty for an early arrival at Pry Rigg.

Again quicker in the afternoon, a joint fastest time overall in Waterloo was the turning point for Sykes and Taylor; still sitting 5th in class but now less than a minute behind new class leaders Finch and Vasey.   5th soon became 2nd after 4th fastest time overall in Riccal Dale; and with the FWD machine clearly working well in the wet and snow the amazing fight back was completed on the very last stage of the event.  The Black Country man managed to overturn an 8 second deficit to take class victory by a mere 3, ending the day in 21st position overall.  Had it not been for the penalty they would in fact have finished 10 places higher.

Sykes

CLASS C

Class C, as always, was one of the most competitive on the event and while Nick Dobson and Steve Pugh went 7th quickest overall on stage 1, a spin in College Moor dropped them back.  Instead it was the consistent Nick Cook, with Jemma Champion on the notes, who held the lead at the halfway service point with Dobson 20 seconds adrift.  Chris Haigh and Sally Peacock in their MK1 were another 20 seconds back while the MK2 of Andy Gibson and Chris Pattison was lying 4th.

Ilkley based Dobson, keen to make up for lost time, put in a string of good times after lunch to get within 14 seconds of Cook’s MK1 with just 3 stages remaining.  However disaster struck in Riccal Dale as an off in 4th gear ended he and Steve Pugh’s charge.   With the pressure off, Cook and Champion upped their speed, registering 3rd, 4th and 3rd quickest times overall on the final 3 stages to come within a whisker of dislodging the Evo 2 of Andy Rowe and Cat Lund from 4th place overall!

Cook

CLASS B

From the outset it was clear that Class B would become a duel between the Peugeot 206 of Barry Lindsay and the 205 of Ben Cree.  And by the halfway point the duo were separated by just 13 seconds in 14th and 16th overall respectively.  In fact try as Cree and co-driver Richard Shores might they couldn’t quite match the speed of Lindsay’s 206; the margin between the pair growing to 33 seconds by the end of the event.  Barry Lindsay, with Caroline Lodge on the notes, ending the day with a 7th fastest time to claim 11th position overall.

Lindsay

CLASS A

Smith

Mat Smith and Giles Dykes put in a dominant performance in their Proton Satria; the current BTRDA 1400 champions registering 3 top 5 stage times on their way to a fantastic 6th position overall and a 2 minute 41 second class win.  Behind, Daniel and Matthew Thompson had a great run in their Peugeot 205 registering a phenomenal 5th fastest time in the tough Boltby finale to claim a very well deserved 18th overall and 2nd in class.

IN SUMMARY

Along with Peter Stephenson, Charlie Payne probably had the highest specification machine on the entry list but given the changeable, tricky conditions, it was far from a case of just driving round the stages to take the victory.  In fact the large winning margin represented a mighty fine, controlled drive and a great way to follow up his 4th overall on the previous weeks Wyedean Forest Rally.

From my perspective It was great to back in these little used stages; Wass being another new stage visited to tick off the list.  Prior to the event I had been worried about what to expect in light of the MSA’s open letter regarding spectator and media problems and the cancellation of stages.  However the organisers handled the difficult situation perfectly.  This event has to stay alive as rallying cannot lose these stages.  We can only hope that 2016 will bring a few more entries.

RESULTS

1. Charles Payne / Andrew Roughead | Ford Fiesta (E) | 42:07
2. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +02:15
3. Ian Joel / Graeme Wood | Ford Escort Cosworth (E) | +03:04
4. Andy Rowe / Cat Lund | Mitsubishi Evo 2 (E) | +03:50
5. Nick Cook / Jemma Champion | Ford Escort MK1 (C) | +03:52
6. Mat Smith / Giles Dykes | Proton Satria (A) | +05:05
7. Charlie Taylor / Alan Ward | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +05:10
8. Paul Street / Jim Goodman | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +05:12
9. Chris Haigh / Sally Peacock | Ford Escort MK1 (C) | +05:40
10. Peter Smith / Matt Edwards | Opel Kadett (H3) | +06:04

FULL RESULTS

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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.

Car_5

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.

Car_11

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.

Car_1

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.

Car_36

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.

Car_63

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.

Car_75

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

Car_65

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!

Car_25

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.

Car_49

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

Car_71
David Hopkins and Tony Vart were just 1 place further back in 51st position to take class C1.

Car_66
Grahame Standen and Jane Edgington put in a strong performance to finish 41st overall and in turn take top spot in class D1.

Car_67
And Mark and Ed Bentley were top National B D5 runners after finishing the event in 32nd position.

Car_32

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.

Car_104

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

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Edwards exclusion lands Robinson the RAC

After a fantastic three day battle, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis claimed the season ending RAC rally victory following the exclusion of Matt Edwards and Paul Morris.

Robinson / Collis

With great anticipation we made the long trip up to the northeast of England for the 11th running of the Roger Albert Clark Rally; for me, hands down, the best rally of the year as not only is it performed on maps and is a true test of endurance, but still contains that element of adventure with stages spread across the north of the country.

Sunderland’s Seaburn Centre was the new base for the 2014 rendition of the RAC rally, where 61 crews faced 158 competitive stage miles; predominantly in the Kielder Forest complex, but also including asphalt tests at Herrington Park and Croft as well as 4 additional gravel stages within Hamsterley Forest.

Day 1

There was no better place to hold the scruitineering for this great event; the fantastic lighting in the Seaburn Centre a near perfect way to show off some of the stunning machinery taking part in the rally.

Audi_Scruit

Escort_Scruit

Porsche_Scruit

With signing on and hotel checking in complete it was off to Hamsterley Forest for two stages in the dark which would truly sort the men from the boys; local knowledge, bravery and good lighting being essential for the thick foggy conditions.

Visibility was an issue for us in finding our way to junction 4 let alone the crews who were about to embark on 12 miles of the most testing conditions County Durham could throw at them.  Following no real surprises in terms of times from the opening two 0.81 mile Herrington Park stages, it was Welshman Matt Edwards who set a time 42 seconds quicker than anyone else through stage 3; and fastest again by 24 seconds on the second running of the stage to eventually end the day with a 58 second lead over the similar car of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.

While some crews struggled, Nick Elliott and Julian Reynolds both losing three minutes in the dismal conditions, others thrived.  Notably Guy Woodcock and Graham Dance were third overall in the Pinto powered MK2, while Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell appeared visibly quicker than most in their front wheel drive Astra to end the day in an incredible 4th overall.

Photography wise the conditions were an issue, alternating between no flash and ‘off-camera’ flash to combat the fog.  Having never previously tried the latter I was relatively pleased with the results …

Standen / Cook

Several crews didn’t manage to complete both Hamsterley tests; most spectacularly the Escort of David Hemingway and the Audi of Tom Axelsson both leaving the road at the same point.  While Hemingway was able to re-join under SuperRally rules on Saturday morning, the event was unfortunately over for the Swedish Audi crew.   SS3 also claimed the Saab 96 of Stephen Higgins and Mark Casey with their usually reliable car suffering differential failure.

Day 2

A monster of a second day lay in store for the crews; with over 80 competitive stage miles ahead of them; starting with tests in Herrington Park and Croft before moving onto Hamsterley and then 8 tough stages in ‘Killer Kielder’.

After deciding to ‘Posh it up’ in a Premier Inn for this event, we headed back to Hamsterley Forest after a good old English breakfast, this time the route taking the crews along largely different tracks to the layout used the previous evening.  And it was great to see crowds of people lining the last mile of the stage to take in the action.

By the time the cars arrived we had already lost the struggling Ford Falcon of Per Goransson and Conny Abrahamsson and the immaculate MK2 Escort of Alan Walker and Jez Rogers, both as a result of engine problems.  Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell on the other hand were proving their Friday night performance was no fluke, setting fastest time on both Croft tests and moving themselves up to third place overall in the process.

While Edwards was fastest through both Hamsterley tests, Robinson was much closer to the pace, losing just 4 seconds in SS11 and 1 second in SS12.  Nick Elliott and Dave Price were also going better in daylight; third fastest in both stages was enough to move them up to fifth overall, but still some 3 minutes and 42 seconds adrift of Edwards.

Elliot / Price

As the cars headed north to Kielder we were down to 54 remaining crews; the German Porsche of Thomas Kleinwachter and Andreas Schwalie retiring due to electrical problems, the Saab 900 of Magic McCrombie and Chris King suffering a blown engine, Gearbox the cause of Darren Moon and Phil Clarke’s retirement and a broken crankshaft ending Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead’s event.

The open section in Ash Park was a great spot to take in the action as darkness descended over English Border Country.  Standing at Junction 7 allowed us to see the cars wind their way across a good mile of the Kielder landscape.  One of the standout moments of the rally for me was the sight and sound of Steve Perez’s Stratos attacking SS16.  The roar of the Ferrari Engine, audible for the entire 4.5 mile stage as he and John Millington went on to set 6th fastest time.

By the second service halt of the day at Longtown, Matt Edwards had steadily built up a lead of 1 minute and 15 seconds only to lose all of this and a little more with a slight off in Kershope 2 which caused a puncture.  Edwards really put the hammer down over the final 3 stages of the day however to turn a 16 second deficit into a 44 second lead by the time the cars reached the overnight halt; in part due to Robinson suffering from a host of niggling car issues.

Further back, Elliott had had a much better day which had seen himself and co-driver Dave Price climb from 7th to 3rd by the time the cars arrived back in Sunderland.  Belgian legend Gregoire De Mevius was another to jump up the standings, climbing from 23rd to 8th, while the Fiat 131 of Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh and the Ford of Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones had moved up to 6th and 4th respectively; Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell splitting the aforementioned crews to lead the Open Rally.

Even further back, Rudi Lancaster with Brynmor Pierce on the maps had found his form.  The Woolacombe resident was never outside the top three over the final four stages and ended the day in 25th position after what must be a 20 year sabbatical from the sport.

With such a gruelling day there were bound to be casualties; an off in Kershope ending the event for the front the running Escort of Seamus O’Connell and Andy Richardson, Steve Magson having to retire his MK1 Escort after Ash Park due to co-driver Darren Smith becoming ill, Martin Shaw’s rally ending after becoming stuck in a ditch on the first corner of Kershope 2 and Paul Mankin’s retirement due to breaking both half shafts on his Ford Cortina in the very same stage.

Day 3

The event still had a significant distance to run on the Sunday with some 60 competitive miles over 7 special stages, and the open hairpin above Junction 4 of the little used Ogre Hill was our location for Stage 22.  Before here the crews had visited the 12 miles of Harwood for the longest stage of the day; a stage which would claim the 4th place Escort of Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones; retiring as a result of engine problems.  A similar fate also faced the struggling TR7 of Philip Young and Hans Sylvan.

Matt Edwards started the day as he finished the previous, by setting fastest time in SS21.  The Welshman looking just that little bit too quick for Robinson to catch.  Even though the first running of Ogre Hill saw Robinson take 10 seconds out of leaders, yet again Edwards bounced back to exactly reverse the deficit on the very next stage, reinstating the gap at 47 seconds with just 3 stages remaining following the cancellation of the Falstone 1.

It seemed the crews were now well into their rhythm as remarkably the same cars appeared in the top five on all three of the morning tests; the trio of Elliott, Lancaster and De Mevius joining the front two.

A good time for Julian Reynolds on the second running of Ogre Hill saw him continue to close the gap on Nigel Barber’s Astra; the two crews split by just 20 seconds with 2 stages to go.  And while the RSD prepared Fiat 131 was able to go a full 13 seconds quicker in Redesdale, Reynolds could only match the time of Barber in the Falstone finale, leaving the Lincolnshire man to score a phenomenal result in the un-fancied front wheel drive machine.

Barber

Back upfront, Robinson and Collis were quickest on all of the final 3 stages, but it looked like Edwards had done just enough to take victory by 34 seconds …

Soon after crossing the finishing ramp however it emerged that Edwards and Morris had been excluded due to a breach of the supplementary regulations, promoting Elliott to second, Barber to third and Reynolds to fourth, giving RSD a 1,2,3 in the Historic section of the event!  As much as no one wants to see the event finish in this manner it cannot be argued that Robinson and Collis were not worthy winners.  Had it not been for several issues with the car they may well have won the rally on the road.

Category 1 Results

Following the friday night stages it was Ian Beveridge and Peter Joy in the huge Volvo PV544 who were leading the way, but a stage maximum on the second Croft stage dropped them back to 6th with the evergreen Bob Bean taking up the mantle.  Bob Bean, co-driven by Malcolm Smithson, had then started to pull away and was as high as 27th overall before having to cut short the day with a very rough sounding Cortina.

Combined with Paul Mankin’s retirement, this left Beveridge back in the category lead with a near 10 minute margin over the Saab of Jim Valentine and Jonathan Lodge by the time the cars reached the end of leg 2.  Beveridge therefore just needed to get through the final day unscathed, and that he duly did, finishing in 27th position to take the class B4 victory.

Beveridge

Valentine continued to plug away in the 2 stroke Saab and managed a very credible 30th overall, taking class B1 victory following the early retirement of the similar machine in the hands of Stephen Higgins.

Valentine

While third in category went to the very powerful Dutch Austin Healey MK1 of Mark Han Schmidt and Midas Nelissen, claiming class B5 in the process with 32nd overall.  It is always a pleasure to see these cars being man handled around the stages.

Schmidt

Class B3 victory went the way of Richard Holdsworth and John Stanger-Leathes in their Ford Cortina GT.  The pair finishing the rally in 39th place under SuperRally rules following problems on Saturday.

Holdsworth

Category 2 Results

The fog of Friday night had really mixed things up, but it was historic stalwarts Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds in the C4 Datsun 240Z who were top of the category at the overnight halt, holding onto a solid 8th overall.  This was a class expected to be dominated by Porsche, with Belgians De Mevius and Munster up against the very rapid German, Thomas Kleinwachter.

In fact Munster and Kleinwachter were both out of the rally on day 2 leaving De Mevius to take the fight to Easson’s Datsun single handedly.  And that he did, clawing back the more than 2 minute overnight deficit and taking the class lead on SS15.

DeMevius

Once passed, the Belgian never looked back, going on to take the category win with 5th place overall.  Had it not been for the fog of Friday evening he could have been a genuine podium contender.  Easson should not be disappointed however, making a mockery of his seeding by taking 7th overall and second in category.

Further back Chris Browne, with Ali Cornwell-Browne on the maps and the Lancia Fulvia of Steve and Tony Graham only had to finish the event to claim class victory, being the only crews entered in their respective C5 and C1 classes.  But finish they did, the Mk1 Escort of Browne coming home in 12th position and the Graham’s taking 35th.

Browne

Graham

Class C3 turned into a battle of attrition with Phil Jobson and Arwel Jenkins coming out on top in 26th position overall.  All other crews in the class either retired or finished the event under SuperRally regulations, however Jobson will be delighted with the result following his accident on last years event.

Jobson

Category 3 Results

Behind the leading cars, Charlie Taylor and John Richardson would be awarded the Class D5 honours with third in class (first crew outside the podium).  8th overall representing Taylor’s 10th top ten finish in a row on the event.

Taylor

After a fantastic start to the event Guy Woodcock and Graham Dance gradually slipped back as the quicker machines picked up their pace but still finished the rally in an excellent 6th position overall to claim D3 victory by nearly 5 minutes.

Woodcock

Grahame Standen and Bill Cook came out on top of the 1600 class after a rally long battle with the similar Escorts of Kim Baker and David Goose.  Goose had been leading before hitting trouble in Kielder on Saturday afternoon, leaving Baker and Standen to fight it out.  The gap between them was just 39 seconds heading into the final day, however the yellow Escort was able to pull away in the daylight Sunday stages to take D2 victory by more than a minute with 20th overall.

European FIA Category Results

Class F2 was lead by Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones after leg 1, and they were able to build a lead of nearly 1 minute over nearest rivals Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh by the end of leg 2.  As a result of Griffiths’ retirement on Sunday morning however the path was left clear for Reynolds to take category victory with 4th position overall and third in the historic class.

Perez in the crowd pleasing Stratos had been languishing down in 6th position in class following the fog of Friday night but was able to claw back the 2 and a half minute deficit to Andrew Siddall and Paul Wakely to leave them in 3rd position by the end of Saturday’s stages; Griffiths’ retirement then promoting them to second which is where they remained for the rest of the event.

Perez

Open Rally

Barber and Popplewell’s open rally victory was never in doubt, finishing nearly 6 minutes ahead of the Escort of Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance who themselves had had a great couple of days on their way to 9th place overall.

Malcolm Davey and Paul Slingsby ended up as class G3 victors following early problems for the Toyota Corolla of Andy Madge and Mike Smith.  The blue MK1 ending the event in 24th position.

Davey

The Final Word

Although disappointing to see the winners excluded, it should not detract from what was yet again a top notch event.  As mentioned previously, Robinson and Collis are worthy winners and I look forward to seeing them carry the number 1 on next years event.  I also hope that Edwards and Morris return too, as a re-match between two of the top Escort crews in the country would be just what the doctor ordered.

From a fans point of the view the route was spot on, and whilst I do like the Yorkshire stages, the trade off for the centralised base at Sunderland’s Seaburn Centre was a good one.  There really was no better way to end my season of Motorsport.  Roll on 2015 ….

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Cambrian Win for Weston as Perez Secures Title

David Weston and Kirsty Riddick put in a stellar performance to claim victory on the Llandudno based Cambrian rally.  Second place was also enough for Steve Perez to land the BTRDA Gold Star championship crown.

Weston

Wet and slippery conditions faced the crews as they headed for the forests surrounding Betws-y-Coed for 8 stages which would ultimately decide which of the 2 championship contending Focus WRC pilots would walk away with the 2014 BTRDA Gold star championship title.

Paul Bird and Aled Davies got off to the worst possible start, losing 58 seconds to their rivals following an off in the tricky opening Crafnant stage.  This was a monumental blow for the Superbike team owner as the time deficit would be almost impossible to claw back without issues for the other drivers.  Steve Perez, co driven by Paul Spooner, meanwhile could breathe a little easier, knowing that as long as he beat Bird the title would almost certainly be his.

It was however David Weston and Kirsty Riddick who managed to pull away from the pack in stage 2, their first run through Llyn Elsi being 5 seconds quicker than anyone else.  And by half way it looked like the Scottish crew were on their way to a first BTRDA win of the season as they held an 11 second lead over Perez.  In fact only Bird seemed able to go quicker than the Subaru pairing; the Ford driver winning every remaining stage bar the second running of Llyn Elsi.   The Llyn Elsi stage most definitely belonging to Weston as the S12 Impreza was yet again quickest through this test.

By the finish Bird and Davies had managed to get within 32 seconds of Weston and just 12 seconds shy of rivals Perez and Spooner. While second and third for the Focus crews left them completely tied on points, it would be the Chesterfield man who took the crown based on his 22 point haul from the Plains Rally in May.  I doubt anyone imagined the title would be decided on 7th best scores when the championship kicked off last February!

Perez

After struggling to get to grips with the S12 Impreza on the Woodpecker and then finding his feet on the second half of the Trackrod it was pleasing to see Weston on the pace from the start of the Cambrian.  He was visibly quicker than anyone else in Crafnant 2 and a deserving victory was also rewarded with 3rd place in the BTRDA Gold Star points table.

Behind the front three, Matt Edwards, with Will Rogers on the notes, showed his class by taking 4th overall in his B13 specification Evo 9.  The local man improved his pace thoughout the day, but saved the best till last; just one second slower than Bird in Penmachno North and then matching the much quicker machine on the final Penmachno South test.  Suffice to say the North Wales man took B13 victory but it would be interesting to see what he could achieve behind the wheel of a WRC machine.

Edwards

Like Bird, Welsh Championship contenders, Alex Allingham and Chris Williams endured a terrible start to the event in their Group N Subaru, losing three minutes in Crafnant following a roll which left them in 123rd position!  An excellent drive through the field however saw them climb to 13th overall, claiming the Welsh Championship in the process as main rival Luke Francis hit problems.

Allingham

In fact Luke Francis’ retirement, caused by a holed fuel tank in Penmachno South, turned out to be very costly indeed as their fourth DNF of the year meant they would also miss out on the BTRDA B13 championship honours.  A title which instead went to the Evo 6 crew of Simon Rogers and Andrew Sankey.

Cambrian Group N victory went the way of Thomas Naughton and Andi Mort in their Evo 9.  The Mitsubishi crew were regularly fastest in class and were rewarded with a fine 6th place; over a minute clear of nearest rivals Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence.  The 20 points gained from taking class victory was also enough to leapfrog Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy to take the 2014 BTRDA Production Cup title.

Naughton

Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis rounded off their year in style by taking 7th overall in the H3 spec Ford Escort.  Even more impressive when you consider that Welsh legend Gwyndaf Evans was second in class, some 42 seconds in arrears.  It has been a phenomenal year for the Escort crew, adding BTRDA H3 and overall Historic honours to the Silver Star crown which was theirs by July.  Incredibly they also finished 6th overall in the final Gold star standings; a fantastic performance given some of the machinery they were up against.

Robinson

The other big championship battle heading into the final round was the 4 way tussle for the 1400 crown.  With just 2 short stages remaining, title favourites Mat Smith and Giles Dykes held a near 2 minute lead over the rest of field.  However the little Ka had suffered radiator damage on the second running of Llyn Elis as well as beginnings of a clutch problem.  Remarkably they somehow made it through to the end, finishing fourth in class.  And a further 2 minute time penalty was not enough to stop them taking a well deserved 1400 title.  This had been an up and down rally to end an up and down season for the Yorkshire based crew.

Smith

Instead rally honours went the way of fellow championship challengers Marcel Freling and Karen Robinson in their MG with a commendable 17th overall.  By the halfway point they found themselves behind the Peugeot 106 of Dan Gray and Matt Rogers but were able to improve their pace over the afternoon loop of stages to take victory by 26 seconds.

Freling

The wet and slippery conditions had taken their toll on the silver star field with 5 of the top ten seeded cars, and 11 in total, finding themselves on the retirements list by end of the second stage!  There were however some stand-out performances behind the already mentioned Robinson and Evans.  Indeed third 2 wheel drive crew home were Rex Ireland and Adrian Scadding with 15th overall in their H2 Ford Escort who were clearly enjoying themselves in the process …

Ireland

While the Fiesta R200 of Kit and Tim Leigh was the second front wheel drive car home in 19th overall.  This also represented top spot in class B10, beating Gary Pearson and Dave Robson’s Peugeot 208 by just 5 seconds.

Leigh

B11 class honours went the way of Simon Tuckman and Shaun Hughes in yet another Ford Escort.  26th overall was enough to claim the class victory by 40 seconds from the similar machine of Jeff Wincott and Kevin Booth.

Tuckman

Meanwhile Steve Ellis and Steve Mcphee’s BMW 325i ended the day in 29th place and top of class B12 while Saleh Hijazi and Tom Bishop were class N3 victors in 75th position.

BMW

Hijazi

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to the Crafnant stage and the tricky conditions were a suitable platform to end what has been a fantastic series.  After starting the season in the Stratos, the BTRDA title must have been completely unexpected for Steve Perez.  However the Chesterfield man has been on top form throughout the year, and although he may not always have been the fastest, he did take three outright wins and was able to keep the car on the road when it mattered most.

And that is it for my 2014 national rallying year.  I expect to see many of the crews competing on Rally GB next month and maybe a few on the RAC as well.  With Perez likely to be back in the historic class in 2015, it will be interesting to see who will be in the fight to take his title.  Roll on the Wyedean in February ….

RESULTS

1. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Impreza WRC (B14) – 0:49:52
2. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00:20
3. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00:32
4. Matt Edwards / Will Rogers – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) – +01:05
5. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) – +01:39
6. Thomas Naughton / Andi Mort – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02:41
7. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis – Ford Escort MK2 (H3) – +03:10
8. Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +03:48
9. Gwyndaf Evans / Dale Furniss – Ford Escort MK2 (H3) – +03:52
10. Ian Joel / Graeme Wood – Ford Escort WRC (B14) – +04:25
13. Alex Allingham / Chris Williams – Subaru Impreza (N4) – +06:17
15. Rex Ireland / Adrian Scadding – Ford Escort MK2 (H2) – +07:41
17. Marcel Freling / Karen Robinson – MG ZR (1400S) – +08:04
19. Kit Leigh / Tim Leigh – Ford Fiesta R200 (B10) – +08:23
25. Mat Smith / Giles Dykes – Ford Ka (1400s) – +08:49
26. Simon Tuckman / Shaun Hughes – Escort MK2 (B11) – +08:50
29. Steve Ellis / Steve McPhee – BMW 325i (B12) – +09:06
75. Saleh Hijazi / Tom Bishop – MG ZR (N3) – +22:05

 Full Results

 

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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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Bird Flies to Nicky Grist Stages Glory

Paul Bird and Aled Davies upped their pace over the afternoon stages to jump from third to first and claim their second BTRDA top score of the year.  Meanwhile Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis wrapped up the Silver Star Championship with yet another maximum score in the 2WD class.

PB&AD_NG2014

The Nicky Grist stages, being event 6 of the 9 round schedule, was set to be pivotal in the race for the Gold Star crown.  With 6 scores counting, Scottish rivals David Bogie and Euan Thorburn had effectively ended their challenge by not entering the event.  Meanwhile Dave Weston Jnr and Paul Bird’s chances lay on a knife edge with both needing to score big on the remaining 4 events to be in with a chance of taking the championship honours.  A championship lead by Russ Thompson, having scored on each of the first five rounds.

Torn between Monument and Route 60 we eventually settled for the latter given the unpredictable weather forecast; the open spaces offering greater flexibility in terms of photographing the event should the heavens open.  We were however greeted with glorious early morning sunshine on arrival; It was good to be back on the stages after 3 months away.

The early running suggested the battle for victory would be between the Focus WRC of Bird and Davies, the similar machine of Somerset and Dukeries winners Steve Perez and Paul Spooner and the Subaru Impreza WRC of Dave Weston Jnr and Kirsty Riddick.  By the halfway point each had taken at least 1 stage win with Weston Jnr holding a 5 second lead over Bird, and Perez 6 seconds further back in third.

In 4th, Stephen Petch and Ian Windress, in the newly acquired Fiesta R5+, were struggling to keep pace with those ahead and would find themselves 27 seconds adrift after 4 stages.  While Alex Allingham and Chris Williams were only just behind in 5th with 4WD new boys Desi Henry and Damien Duffin putting in a great performance to be lying 6th overall in their B13 Evo 9.

It was all to play for after lunch as the crews repeated the first three stages of Monument, Route 60 and Halfway with an extra loop added to the Crychan finale.  Bird seemed to have the bit between his teeth, taking 4 seconds out of Weston Jnr’s lead on the second running of Monument and then a further 2 on stage 6 to take the lead heading into the final 2 tests.  Perez had been able to tie Bird on stage 5, but could not match the Cumbrian on Route 60,  and remained 11 seconds off the lead.

Dave Weston Jnr was obviously suited to the Halfway stage; having been quickest on stage 3, the Subaru pilot was again top of the times on stage 7.  This left a deficit of just 1 second between himself and Bird going into the final stage.

Crychan however was most definitely Bird’s stage as he and Aled Davies emerged as rally victors by just 3 seconds.   This was their second BTRDA win of the season after taking top spot on Bird’s home event, the Malcolm Wilson Rally, in March.

Behind, the Group N battle had been lead for most of the day by current Welsh Champions Alex Allingham and Chris Williams.  Their lead averaging at around 10 seconds over the morning loop.  A ball joint failure on Stage 7 however caused their retirement leaving the Mitsubishi crew of Jamie Anderson and Chris Brooks to take the victory for the second time in as many BTRDA events.  Roland Llewellin and Jamie Edwards would take second in class with Wug and Max Utting rounding out the podium in their Subaru.

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The new bridge on Route 60 had taken it’s toll on a couple of the Group N Mitsubishi runners with Thomas Naughton and pre event championship leader, Russ Thompson, suffering event ending damage after hitting the bridge hard; the lip of the new structure being at the point of compression after a steep downhill part of the stage.  Luke Francis and John H Roberts in a similar B13 spec car were among a number of other crews also caught out.  Thankfully this section was heavily cautioned for the second run but this was no consolation for the drivers who had suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage on the first pass through.

Silver Star honours went they way of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis and with it the Championship title after hardly conceding a point to their opposition over the first 6 rounds.

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The Escort crew also taking top Historic honours with 14th overall.  Terry Brown and Den Golding put in a strong performance to come home second in class, with H2 winners, Paul Barrett and Dermot Coltan just one place further back in 19th.  Robinson showed massive bravery over the famous slight right over crest in route 60, rivalled only in commitment by Alex Allingham and Chris Williams in the group N Subaru.

It was a battle of attrition in the 1400 category with early leaders Mat Smith and Giles Dykes retiring with Clutch problems, David Bennett and Alistair McNeil going OTL before Stage 1 and Tom Walster and Chris Ridge being excluded.  All this allowed the very rapid Nova crew of Justin Lawson and Paul Hargreaves to take the win, with the Peugeot 106 of Dan Gray and Matt Rogers taking second, just over a minute in arrears.

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Mick Smith and Tom Jordan in the 1400c class Nissan Micra put in a great performance to take third, beating several more powerful cars in the process.

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In the main field, B12 went the way of Seamus O’Connell and Elgan Davies in the MK2 Escort, with B11 going to fellow Ford crew Edvall Martin and Siw Helen Stenberg.  The Stenberg’s performance particularly impressive given second and third in class were the vastly experienced John Perrott and Jon Ballinger!

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Neil Matthews and Jez Rogers claimed B10 honours in their Vauxhall Nova with 29th overall whilst also taking the Nicky Grist Challenge Victory.   Meanwhile Sacha Kakad and Andrew Price recorded their 5th maximum N3 points haul of the year with 41st.  And Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith brought the glorious Hilman Avenger home in 52nd to take the class H1 victory.

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All this leaves Matthew Robinson sitting on top of the Gold Star championship table with 3 rounds remaining.  However with 6 scores already counting, he and co-driver Sam Collis are unlikely to be there at the end of the year.  Instead Steve Perez and Stephen Petch are in a good position as things stand while Dave Weston Jnr and Paul Bird also have strong points scores but cannot afford another non finish.  Dave Bennett is now out of the running in the 1400 championship after registering another non finish, while Mat Smith must score well on all three remaining rounds to stand a chance of the title.  A couple more good scores from Justin Lawson or Dan Gray on the other hand could see either one of them take the crown.

The rain had just about held off throughout the day with the umbrella only really needed for the walk back to the car.  The novelty of leaving Epynt on a Saturday rewarded with top drawer fish and chips in Crickhowell.  Something which won’t be repeated in 2 weeks time when we are back on Epynt for the Harry Flatters rally.  How dare the owners have Sunday off!

RESULTS

1. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus 07 WRC – 45:23
2. David Weston Jnr / Kirsty Riddick – Subaru Impreza WRC – +00:03
3. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC – +00.19
4. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ – +00.44
5. Desi Henry / Damien Duffin – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +01.15
6. Jamie Anderson / Chris Brooks – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +01.31
7. Tristan Bailey / James How – Mitsubishi WRC 04 – +02.06
8. Wayne Sisson / Neil Shanks – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +02.12
9. Roland Llewellin / Jamie Edwards – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +02.20
10. Karl Simmons / Guy Simmons – Subaru Impreza WRC – +02.33

Full Results

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)