David Henderson & Sion Cunniff dominated the 2022 Northside Truck and Van Donington Rally to claim consecutive MSN Circuit Rally Championship victories aboard their Fiesta R5.
Having not witnessed a circuit rally for almost 8 years or a rally at Donington since the mid nineties for that matter, I was drawn to attend the 2022 Donington Rally, especially given the short commute and it slotting nicely into my schedule between the opening couple of BHRC rounds.
Overnight rain had left a damp tricky surface facing the 85 crews, less of an issue of course for the four wheel drive machinery and unsurprisingly there was a Fiesta R5 lockout of the podium positions after the first 2 long stages of the event, with David Henderson and Sion Cunniff managing the track surface and tyre wear to perfection to open up a massive (in circuit rallying terms) 13 second lead over championship leaders Neil Roskell and Andrew Roughead.
And the lead pairing continued their strong pace over the next loop of stages to extend their lead to half a minute from the now second placed Darrian T90 of Barry Morris and Tom Hutchings. The super lightweight rear wheel drive machine of Irishman Morris was more at home on the drier second loop and now right back in the championship hunt following disaster for pre-event championship leader Roskell; the Garstang and Preston MC man had been doing everything necessary to claim the title on the day but was forced into retirement when his R5 Fiesta suffered a snapped belt and ultimately head gasket failure on stage 4!
With just the 3 shorter anti-clockwise afternoon stages remaining Henderson and Cunniff could afford to relax a little, but if they did it was hard to tell as the Hexham MC man went on to claim a full set of fastest stages times (Stage 7 tied with Andy Scott) and take victory by an impressive 38 seconds, remarkably a third of the season for the in-form Henderson after claiming top spot on the recent Snetterton and East Riding Stage rallies.
Picking up their pace as the day went on, 2019/20 MSN Circuit Rally champions Barry Morris and Tom Hutchings ensured a final round shootout for the 2021/22 title by claiming 2nd overall whilst the local crew of John Griffiths / Nigel Wetton rounded out the podium positions in their Fiesta R5, the Dukeries MC duo not able to keep the Darrian behind as the track dried out.
In the classes, 7th overall represented an excellent result for class C winners Josh Payton and Jamie Vaughan (above) aboard their MK2 Escort, the pairing even edging out the Class D machine of championship front runners Martin Hodgson and Tony Jones over the afternoon stages! Meanwhile Class B honours would go the way of Ben Wilkinson and Andrew Wilkinson aboard their glorious Peugeot 106 Maxi with 17th position overall whilst James and Adrian Hardy put in a mighty giant killing performance aboard their Nissan Micra to claim class A top spot in 34th.
Being a big Donington Park fan I couldn’t imagine having a bad day at the venue but even I was impressed by the clockwork nature of the Dukeries MC organised event! It would be great the see some of the gravel perimeter roads used, similar to the RAC rallies of old, but I guess this is an asphalt championship and so, along with the logistical nightmare of ensuring us spectators stay where we are supposed to, doesn’t necessarily fit with the needs of the championship.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable day shooting through, over and around the (not too obtrusive) catch fencing which has left me massively tempted to try and shoe-horn the championship decider at Cadwell into my diary!