Tag Archives: Nick Elliott

Heavy Rain no Hindrance as Elliott Storms to RNW Victory

Nick Elliott and Dave Price continued their strong start to the BHRC season with their second maximum points score in as many events; the duo setting fastest time on every stage to record a dominant Rally North Wales victory.

Rally North Wales would once again form round 2 of the British Historic Rally Championship with the crews set to face 6 challenging stages in the infamous Dyfi forest complex; the rally featuring minimal double usage in 2017 following great work by Wolverhampton and South Staffs CC in attempting to utilise every available forestry track.

As in 2016, the weather had not been kind with heavy overnight and morning rain rendering the stages treacherous in places.  This did not hinder round 1 winners Nick Elliott and Dave Price however who flew through the puddles (lakes and rivers in places) of Gartheiniog to open up a commanding 15 second lead over the similar MK2 Escort of Joe Price and Chris Brooks.

2016 Champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, endured a difficult start to the event, losing 40 seconds to the early leaders in stage 1 as they recorded 5th fastest time.  A puncture in stage 2 compounded their issues but by the mid event service in Dolgellau they were back amongst the podium positions, albeit 27 seconds  adrift of Price and Brooks.

Now in full damage limitation mode Pritchard may well have struggled to reel in the flambouyant Price, however, the Shropshire pilot’s day would end in the Gartheiniog East scenery, allowing the double BHRC champs to pick up much needed championship points for second overall, claiming top spot in Category K in the process.

Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver are a new combination for 2017 and the Woolacombe/Wolverhampton pairing continued their strong start to the season.  Indeed, after consistently setting top 4 stage times, Lancaster and Weaver almost stole second with a strong run through the Dyfi East finale.  However their second consecutive podium finish represented a more than respectable outcome.

Upfront meanwhile, Nick Elliott and Dave Price were in a class of their own; their lead stretching to 29 seconds by the Dolgellau service, 1 minute 4 seconds after the retirement of Price in stage 4 and 1 minute 21 seconds by the time the cars had reached the finish.  This had been some performance by the red, white and blue Ford crew who are fast becoming the team to beat in 2017.

Category 3 Class Results

Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons topped class D3 with an excellent 6th overall.  A mega consistent drive saw the pinto powered Escort crew record fastest class time on every stage to beat Rex Ireland and Adrian Scadding to the class honours by more than 1 minute.

Further back David Hopkins and Tony Vart claimed the combined D1 and D2 honours with an excellent 18th position overall in their Talbot Sunbeam.

Category 2

Stanley Orr had gained both a BDG engine and a new co driver in the form of Stephen McAuley for 2017 but found himself somewhat surprisingly behind the the similar machine of Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson after stage 1.  However this would be he and McAuley’s only scare of the day as the Northern Irish crew dominated the remainder of the event to claim category victory by almost 2 minutes with a superb 4th position overall.  And to round off a great day, Orr and McAuley also ended the day as top HRCR Stage Masters crew.

Behind, the combined class C1 and C2 honours were claimed by Iwan Roberts Jnr and Baz Green in the car Adam Milner piloted to several giant killing performances in 2016.  And whilst Elliot Retallick drove the wheels off his Avenger in an attempt to take the battle to the crossflow engined, Ralloy built Ford there was just no stopping the Welshman; class victory by a margin of 1 minute 24 seconds and 8th position overall just reward for their efforts.

With Roberts not BHRC registered, Retallick and co-driver Tim Tugwell would however claim maximum BHRC championship class points.

Simon Pickering and Paul Barbet claimed class C3 honours with 15th position overall.  A solid performance by the Pinto powered Escort MK1 crew resulting in class victory by 1 minute 26 seconds over the RS2000 of Mike Simpson and Dale Gibbons.

Category 4

Jake Scannell and Adrian Stevens have swapped their Mazda RX-7 for a class E1 Toyota Corolla in 2017 and duly claimed category 4 honours on Rally North Wales.  Their event was not without issue however; the pairing recovering from an afternoon roll to finish the historic event in 30th position overall (31st according to the results but there is no way the car seeded at car 100 is in class B3!)

Category 1

Continuing the trend of late just 2 cars were entered in category 1.  However Phil Harris and Richard Suter put in a strong performance in their Morris Mini Cooper to take category honours by almost 5 minutes from the class B3 winning Ford Cortina GT of Mike Barratt and Emily Retallick.

RESULTS

  1. Nick Elliott/Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | 0:45:44
  2. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 (G2) | +01:21
  3. Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver | Ford Escort MK2 (G2) | +01:22
  4. Stanley Orr/Stephen McAuley | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +01:49
  5. Tim Freeman/Paul Williams | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +02:43
  6. Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +03:03
  7. Phil Jobson/Arwel Jenkins | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +03:39
  8. Iwan Roberts Jnr/Baz Green | Ford Escort MK1 (C2) | +03:41
  9. Rex Ireland/Adrian Scadding | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +04:15
  10. Bob Bean/Malcolm Smithson | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +04:16

Full Results

Final Word …

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable Rally North Wales from a spectator’s point of view.  The light may not have been great for photos but the scenery and action in Gartheiniog more than made up for it.  My legs however are still aching from the chosen steep climb back out of stage 4 to the spectator car park!

With regards to the format of the event itself, in my opinion, the organisers did a fantastic job.  In an age where double usage has become the norm, it was refreshing to see a very different configuration for 2 of the afternoon stages which is precisely the kind of test the drivers need.  It is just a shame that more crews were not encouraged to compete with just 88 cars taking the start.  But perhaps this is more to do with the unfortunate increase in the forestry commission charge …

Whilst BHRC numbers feel down on previous years, the battle at the front is as intense as ever.  With Elliott re-finding his magic touch on the Welsh gravel this could be one hell of a title race.  Can Elliott and Price stop Pritchard and Clarke gaining a hat-trick of titles?  Their phenomenal pace on Rally North Wales would suggest yes but the Cheltenham man must continue to outscore the Welshman on the loose as Pritchard will be a massive favourite as the championship moves onto the black stuff later in the season.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

Brave Barrett Defeats BD-Brigade

Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts grabbed a sensational last gasp victory on the Builth Wells based Severn Valley Stages Rally; the pinto powered Escort crew defeating several BDG engined rivals to consolidate their lead at the top of the BHRC points table.

Barrett

Round 4 of the British Historic Rally Championship would see the crews head to the forests of Crychan, Cefn and Radnor for the Midland Manor Motor Club organised Severn Valley Stages Rally.  A tough event in prospect as glorious weather running up to the rally would leave the 120 strong field facing 7 very dry and dusty Mid Wales stages.

Round 3 winners, Joe Price and Chris Brooks were in a rich vein of form and it was they who had best acclimatised to the conditions over the first couple of stages; the Ludlow pairing topping the time sheets after stage 2 and holding a comfortable 26 second lead by the time the crews had arrived back in Builth Wells for the second and final service of the event.

Price

The morning had not gone quite so well for other leading crews however.  Sadly the Fiat 131 of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis would leave the road in Crychan whilst 2015 champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke would fail to reach the end of Radnor.  After such a strong start to the season, the winners of rounds 1 and 2 will be keen for a return to winning ways on the Epynt tarmac in late July.

Pritchard

Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts meanwhile were going well; consistent top four stage times leaving the championship leaders in a strong third place, just 1 second behind the D5 class MK2 of Nick Elliott and Dave Price and holding a 16 second margin over the similar machine of Rudi Lancaster and George Gwynn.

Whilst Price and Brooks held a comfortable lead the rally was by no means over as 17 very tricky afternoon stage miles lay between the remaining crews and the finish ramp.  However, after another stage win in Gwibedog, the leading Escort crew would increase their advantage to a commanding 35 seconds.

But, just as the Ford pairing were contemplating a second consectutive BHRC victory, disaster struck; a clutch problem in Crychan costing the unlucky duo more than 3 minutes and any chance of glory.

Instead it was Nick Elliott and Dave Price who would head into the Cefn finale with what seemed like a comfortable 6 second advantage over the pinto powered Barrett.  However, having been quickest of all historic crews through the earlier running of the stage the Northern Irishman could not be ruled out.

But for a puncture Elliott may well have had enough in hand.  Instead Barrett and Roberts emerged from the final test having registered a blinder of a stage time; 11 seconds quicker than Elliott and enough to secure a fantastic 5 second victory!  Top driving!

In hindsight it would have been so easy for Barrett and Roberts to have opted for a steady run through the final stage and claim an excellent second.  The championship leaders must therefore take all of the plaudits for seizing a rare shot at an overall series victory.  A quite incredible achievement.  Fortune most definitely does favour the brave.

Behind, Rudi Lancaster and George Gwynn recorded an excellent third, just 23 seconds behind the overall winner.  Whilst Steve Bennett and Iain Tullie continued the MK2 Escort theme by coming home 4th in another D5 specification machine.

Category 3

Whilst missing out on the overall victory, Class D5 honours were a welcome consolation for Nick Elliott and Dave Price after a tough start to the season.  And with Pritchard and Clarke failing to score, the Cheltenham pairing are still well in the championship fight.

Elliott

Elsewhere, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith, having swapped their Hillman Avenger for a Talbot Sunbeam on the Severn Valley, were rewarded with class D4 honours after an excellent debut drive.  Gary Cooper, in a similar car, had lead the early running but Jordan’s victory was never in doubt once the former had retired with a bent steering arm in stage 3.

Jordan

Meanwhile, continuing the David vs Goliath theme, Chris Skill and Tom Jordan took their 1600 MK2 Escort to another combined class D1/D2 victory with a fantastic 16th overall.  One of a number of lower powered crews to perform strongly in the very dusty conditions.

Skill

Further back, Tom Coughtrie and Michael Gilbey took maximum advantage of both Robinson and Pritchard’s retirements to claim class F2 honours with 26th position overall.  Having trailed the similar MK2 Escort of Dick Slaughter and Tim Sayer for most of the event, a late charge, culminating in a six second quicker time through stage 7, saw the number 94 seeds record a remarkable 4 second class victory.

Coughtrie

Category 2

Young Adam Milner, with Roy Jarvis alongside, had thrown a cat amongst the pigeons on stage 1 by registering the fastest historic time overall in his 1600 cross-flow engined MK1 Escort.  Having maintained the category lead throughout the day it would all go horribly wrong for the Yorkshireman on the final stage however; high levels of dust contributing to the Class C2 crew ending the day against a Cefn tree and unfortunately retiring from a fantastic 5th position overall.

Milner

Instead it was Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris who would take the category honours in their class C5 MK1 Escort; holding off a strong final stage charge from the similar machine of Ernie Graham and Robin Kellard to register a slim three second victory after more than 40 miles of competition.

Tysoe

After a difficult event, which included 3 punctures, Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver fought back to third in category by the end of the day.  A strong run over the afternoon stages saw the MK1 pinto crew reduce a 1 minute margin after stage 4 to just 35 seconds by the end of stage 7, a suggestion of what might have been had luck been on their side.  Orr and Weaver would however take away class C3 honours to compliment a well earned 10th position overall.

Orr

Benefiting from the final stage retirement of Milner and Jarvis, Andrew Stokes and Paul Price would claim the combined C1/C2 class victory in their Hillman Avenger.  The Dursley man closing down and passing the MK1 Escort of Stuart and Linda Cariss over the repeated stages to ensure he and Price were best placed to take the class honours.

Stokes

Category 1

Bob Bean, with Captain Thompson alongside, would claim the pre-68 category honours in his MK1 Lotus Cortina; the evergreen Yorkshireman ending the event in 35th position after pulling away from the class B2 winning Mini of Terry Cree and Richard Shores as the day wore on.

Bean

Cree and Shores usually enter a glorious BMW 2002Ti but after opting for the Mini on this event claimed the class B2 honours by almost 6 minutes from regular class competitors, Phillip Harris and Alun Cook; themselves claiming third in category to maintain their strong run of results.

Cree

Father and son duo, Bob and Dale Gibbons, had been right in the mix for category honours but lost almost 7 minutes in Radnor after a tyre came away from the rim.  All was not lost for the Cortina GT crew as class B3 honours was just reward for making it to the finish of a very abrasive rally.

Gibbons

Final Thoughts

Dust had played a major part in the event and almost certainly aided Barrett in taking a monumental BHRC overall victory against very strong opposition.  However this may not even have been the story of the day had the said same dust not contributed to Adam Milner’s demise!

Great stages and warm weather had made for yet another excellent Severn Valley, well worth the 3.5 hour drive to watch.  And with the championship now blown wide open it is with genuine excitement that we anticipate round 5 on the tarmac roads of Epynt.  Will Pritchard be able to re-ignite his title defense on what is arguably his stronger surface?  Stayed tuned to Paul Commons Motorsport for coverage …

RESULTS

1. Paul Barrett / Dai Roberts (D3) – Ford Escort MK2 – 46:07
2. Nick Elliott / Dave Price (D5) – Ford Escort MK2 +00:05
3. Rudi Lancaster / George Gwynn (D5) – Ford Escort +00:23
4. Steve Bennett / Iain Tullie (D5) – Ford Escort MK2 +01:29
5. Simon Tysoe / Paul Morris (C5) – Ford Escort MK1 +01:48
6. Ernie Graham / Robin Kellard (C5) – Ford Escort MK1 +01:51
7. Ben Friend / Cliffy Simmonds (D3) – Ford Escort MK2 +01:53
8. James Potter / Bob Duck (D5) – Ford Escort MK2 +02:18
9. Shawn Rayner / Declan Dear (D3) – Ford Escort MK2 +02:20
10. Stanley Orr / Guy Weaver (C3) – Ford Escort MK1 +02:23

16. Chris Skill / Tom Jordan (D2) – Ford Escort MK2 +03:22
18. Barry Jordan / James Gratton-Smith (D4) – Sunbeam +03:47
26. Tom Coughtrie / Michael Gilbey (F2) – Escort MK2 +05:32
35. Bob Bean / Captain Thompson (B4) – Ford Cortina +06:52
38. Terry Cree / Richard Shores (B2) – Morris Mini +08:04
41. Bob Gibbons / Dale Gibbons (B3) – Ford Cortina GT +14:10

FULL RESULTS

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Enquiries: paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

Back to Back Victories for In Form Pritchard

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

Pritchard_RNW16

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

BHRC CAT 3

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

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

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

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

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

Elliott

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

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

Barrett_RNW16

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

BHRC CAT 2

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

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

Tysoe_RWN16

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

Orr-RNW16

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

Retallick_RNW16

BHRC CAT 1

Gibbons_RNW16

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

Beab_RNW16

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

Harris_RNW16

NATIONAL A FULL RESULTS
NATIONAL B

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

Francis

NATIONAL B FULL RESULTS
FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

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

A Perfect Start to Pritchard’s Title Defense

Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke began their British Historic Rally Championship title defense in near perfect fashion on the Red Kite Stages; a mature drive landing them victory for the second year in succession despite very testing conditions.

Pritchard

The Red Kite Stages has consistently been a top class event and pleasingly 2016 saw Amman and District Motor Club rewarded with a near maximum capacity entry, not only featuring a bucket load of pristine historic championship entries, but also including the likes of BRC championship hopefuls David Bogie and Tom Cave in brand new R5 machinery.

Whilst maintaining the traditional compact nature of the event, the itinerary for 2016 would see the crews tackle the very fast open gravel roads of route 60 within the schedule of 6 stages which also included more familiar tests in Crychan and Caeo.  With high winds and rain forecast the weather was always likely to have a say in proceedings.  However the thick fog which greeted our entry onto the Epynt military ranges was most definitely not on the menu; a somewhat different challenge to the snow and ice faced by the crews on last year’s event!

Pre-event, the smart money would have been on 2014 RAC champs, Nick Elliott and Dave Price, to lead the way; widely regarded as one of the quickest MK2 pairings on Welsh gravel.  However, a cold ridden Elliott endured a difficult start to the event; a stall in the opening Crychan stage losing the Cheltenham man an estimated 22 seconds!  But such was his pace, the traditionally fast starting MK2 pilot would only drop 4 seconds to Jason Pritchard, the eventual stage victor.

Whilst Pritchard had taken an early lead it was the flamboyant Joe Price, with Chris Brooks alongside, who would top the time sheets on Route 60 before Elliott would make it three different victors in as many stages with a good time through Caeo, leaving the 3 crews separated by just 15 seconds at the mid-day service halt.  The scene was set for an almighty battle over the afternoon loop of stages; precisely the reason why I was up at 4am on a Sunday morning!

I am not sure what Pritchard had eaten for lunch but it most certainly did the trick.  His blistering time through Crychan 2, whilst coinciding with another stall and time loss for Elliott would ultimately be the defining stage of the rally; A likely victory cemented by fastest time over the second running of route 60.  Pritchard and Clarke amazingly equalling their morning stage time, in what was now significantly worse conditions, to take a 26 second buffer over Price into the Caeo finale with Elliott a further 2 seconds back in third.

Elliott is not a man to give up without a fight however; his electric final stage charge to regain second position overall and the class D5 victory proof if ever it were needed.  And on a day when things didn’t exactly go to plan for Elliott, the points for second overall are a nice consolation prize to take into Rally North Wales in just over 1 month’s time.

Elliott

Meanwhile Pritchard had already done the hard work in stages 4 and 5 and knew that a sensible pace through the 9 miles of Caeo would be enough to wrap up the opening round victory; a 28 second gap was too much even for Elliott to close.  This had been some drive by the 2015 champion!

After missing the event in 2015 through illness, 3rd position overall represented a great result for Price and Brooks in their infamous bright Orange MK2.  What’s more, sitting just 31 seconds down on the event winners by the close of play, setting 1 fastest time and never outside the top four on the other five tests, shows the pace is there to mix it at the front; encouraging signs for the remainder of the season.

CATEGORY 3

In fourth, Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts put in yet another giant killing performance to take class D3 honours by a whopping 4 minutes and 17 seconds.  Like Price, Barrett and Roberts were never outside the top 4 stage times all day; their 4:25, second quickest blast through stage 5, taking this huge cut along the way, surely the highlight.  Incredibly they would end the day just 46 seconds down on the rally winners.  At times you really do have to remind yourself that it is a Pinto engine in the Northern Irishman’s Ford!

Barrett

Guy Anderson and Steven Davey were the star performers in class D4.  Nearest rival, The Triumph TR8 of David Kynaston and Paul Wakely, was no match for the nimble Sunbeam in the truly awful conditions, leaving Anderson and Davey to take class victory by over 6 minutes with 22nd position overall.

Anderson

Meanwhile Chris Skill and Tom Jordan put in a strong performance to claim class D2 honours in their 1600 Escort MK2.  Their opposition may have fallen by the wayside however they did get the better of several more powerful machines to finish the event in 24th position overall.

Skill

CATEGORY 2

Following the sad news of David Stokes’ passing just a week and a half before the event, it is fitting that we had a category battle to remember.  Long time co-driver to the legendary David Stokes, Guy Weaver, was partnered with Stanley Orr for this event in a C3 specification MK1 Escort and boy did they put in a performance that the big man would have been proud of!

2015 category champions, John Perrot and Keaton Williams were quickest out of the starting blocks however, opening up an 8 second lead over class C5 rivals Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris on the opening Crychan test.  They would then go on to set fastest category time on each of the following 3 stages to increase their lead to a comfortable 23 seconds.

Orr and Weaver may have elected for a steady start but they clearly had the pace to challenge, passing Tysoe for second in category after Crychan 2, before a stunning run through a very foggy Route 60 would see them sit just 11 seconds behind Perrot with only the 9 miles of Caeo remaining.  Could they really snatch victory on the last stage of the event?

But for gearbox problems, Perrot and Williams may well have had enough time in hand to take the category victory; instead the Hereford man was unfortunately relegated to 4th after losing 2 minutes at a Caeo hairpin.  A real sting in the tail for the long time leaders.

You can’t take anything away from Orr and Weaver however.  To be anywhere near the front running pace in a class C3 MK1 Escort is borderline heroic.  8th fastest through Caeo to finish 9th overall is a fantastic achievement; class and category honours the icing on the cake!

Orr

Second in category and 12th overall was enough for Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris to claim top spot in class C5.  After sitting the right side of a 1 second margin to third at the half way point, the long time MK1 pilot was a victim of Orr’s afternoon charge; eventually dropping 32 seconds behind the Northern Irishman by the end of the day.

Tysoe

Having witnessed Adam Milner’s impressive drive on last year’s Malton forest Rally, big things can be expected from this Yorkshireman in 2016.  Unfortunately Milner, with Roy Jarvis alongside, had been blighted by a misfire all morning, but having cleared during the afternoon, the Malton MC man was able to show what is possible at the wheel of a 1600 MK1; rising from 5th to 3rd in category by the end of the day and claiming class C2 honours with 13th overall; unbelievably setting 8th and 7th fastest times in stages 5 and 6 respectively!

Milner

CATEGORY 1

It was an all Ford Cortina affair at the sharp end of category 1 with the MK2 GT of Bob and Dale Gibbons holding a 7 second lead over the MK1 of Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson at the half way service point.  A battle which would rage on well into the afternoon before being ultimately decided on the very last stage when the evergreen Bean was forced OTL by an electrical failure.  Bob and Dale Gibbons therefore going on to claim category and class B3 top spot with a strong 34th position overall.

Gibbons

Meanwhile Bill Douglas and Dave Tearl brought their immaculate BMW 1800 home in 42nd position overall to claim class B4 honours while Phil Harris and Graham Wild took class B2 top spot with 43rd in their Mini Cooper.

Harris

NATIONAL B

The rejuvenated British Rally Championship has attracted some of the top names in British rallying, and two of which, namely David Bogie and Tom Cave had chosen the Red Kite to debut their new machinery.  The 2 crews couldn’t have had more contrasting days however with Cave and co-driver James Morgan fortunate to escape injury after a big off in the first stage, whilst Bogie and Kevin rae went on to take National B victory in their Fabia R5.  Getting the better of a Julian Reynolds piloted Focus WRC is no mean feat and suggests that Elfyn may not have things entirely his own way in 2016!

Bogie

FULL NATIONAL A RESULTS

FULL NATIONAL B RESULTS

Looking back I am not sure I have experienced such foul weather whilst out on a rally.  The combination of rain, fog and wind was not pleasant.  Never before have I expended so much energy in an effort to remain standing, but at least it wasn’t cold!  Photography was even tougher; After running out of clean filter options I even reverted to my 7D and 70-200 f4!  And without a Monopod even fewer photos would have been in focus!

Next up for me is the Mid Wales Stages in early March before another instalment of the British Historic Rally Championship with the Rally North Wales in April.  Hopefully Robinson and Collis will be up to speed by then in their stunning RSD prepared 131 to take the fight to the all conquering blue oval!

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

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

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)

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.

Elliott

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

Taylor

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)

 

 

Bird Storms to 40th Anniversary Wyedean Win

Paul Bird and Aled Davies put in a dominant Wyedean Forest Rally performance; winning five of the eight stages to claim victory on the opening round of the BTRDA rally championship season.

BirdA huge entry had been assembled for the 40th anniversary Wyedean Forest Rally including 4 previous winners.  However with both the 2013 and 2014 victors missing from the list it was last years BTRDA championship runner up Paul Bird, together with title winning Co-driver Aled Davies, who lead the crews away from the Chepstow rally base.  The organisers had done a great job in finding an 8 stage, 43 mile competitive route with zero double usage.

Speech House and Serridge were our destinations for the day; leaving extra time for the journey turned out to be a wise decision as the car parks filled quickly.  The early start also allowing time to reach the very entertaining open 90 left at junction 16 of stage 2.

While a ‘suspect’ time for Charlie Payne saw the previous winner take an 11 second margin into stage 2, it was Paul Bird who emerged from Speech House with a 15 second overall lead; the Cumbrian registering a time on the longest stage of the event that was 12 and 22 seconds faster than the chasing WRC imprezas of David Weston and Hugh Hunter respectively.

The Focus WRC pilot continued his early domination with another fastest time in stage 3 before David Weston, with Kirsty Riddick on the notes, was able to match him in Chepstow Park, pegging the lead at 21 seconds as the crews arrived at the halfway service halt.  The Scotsman’s time also quick enough to leapfrog Charlie Payne into second position overall.

The trends of the morning appeared to be carrying on after lunch as Bird and Davies were quickest again in the short Yorkley stage.  However, unlike earlier in the day, Weston struck back straight away and claimed his first outright stage victory with a good run through Sallowvallets.

Hugh Hunter and Andy Marchbank meanwhile, in their Melvyn Evans Motorsport S11, were gradually re-acclimatising to the gravel; their increased speed as the day went on rewarded with fastest time on stage 7 by a full 6 seconds.  In fact they were 19 seconds quicker than Payne and Williamson in the Focus engined Fiesta which moved them up to 3rd overall, just 41 seconds off the overall lead.

After 2 stages without victory normality was then restored as Bird took the rally win in style by registering his 5th fastest time of the day on the Mailscot finale.   The winning margin ending up at 34 seconds after Weston lost 12 seconds in Serridge and a further 1 in Mailscot.  The Subaru man was however still quick enough to maintain second overall from the slightly older specification machine of Hunter and Marchbank.

Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson were the second Blue Oval crew home in 4th.  The Yorkshireman had started well but gradually slipped back as the day progressed, ending the event 1 minute and 6 seconds behind the eventual winners.

Nik Elsmore and Matt Edwards had a great run to claim B13 victory in the Matt’s ME Rallysport Evo.  The previous event winner was never outside the top ten in terms of stage times and claimed a mammoth 2 minute and 29 second class victory; moving ahead of Damian Cole and Jack Morton on stage 6 to end the day in a fantastic fifth overall.

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The immense group N battle of 2014 continued across the first 4 stages of the day with Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy trading times with the similar Evo 9 of Thomas Naughton and Andi Mort.  However a damaged crank sensor in Yorkley ended the latter crews day, leaving Thompson and and Murphy to claim a 45 second class victory over Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence.

Thompson

Nick Elliott and Dave Price were in top form on their local event to take an incredible 12th overall, beating 4 WRC cars in the process!  The Cheltenham duo claimed both the Historic and Silver Star victories whilst even more impressively setting the 9th quickest time overall on stage 1!

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Just as impressive were David Bennett and Alistair McNeil in their 1400 Corsa.  After a difficult 2014, the Yorkshire crew started the year in the best possible manner; registering category victory and ending the day in an excellent 18th overall.  Ian Evans and Justin Brooks had been keeping them on their toes until Bennett went 12th fastest overall in both Serridge and Mailscot to claim top spot by a whopping 58 seconds.

Bennett

19th overall represented a great return to the event for 3 time overall winner Graham Elsmore.  Together with Stuart Harrold on the notes they ensured that the Elsmore family would need plenty of room in the trophy cabinet after claiming class B11 victory in their Rob Smith Rallying prepared MK2 Escort.

Elsmore Senior

Fellow local crew, Mark Griffiths and Will Rogers, were actually quicker on 5 of the 8 stages, however slow times in Speech House and Chepstow Park cost them a shot at class victory but still came home in a more than respectable 24th position overall.

While Elliott took overall Historic and H4 victory, further back, Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds claimed H2 with a brilliant 27th position and Peter Lewis took class H1 in his Mini.  The 240Z of Easson and Reynolds seems to be getting quicker and quicker with this result representing a great follow up to their 7th overall on last years RAC.

H3 meanwhile turned into a good battle between the Ford Escorts of David Dobson and David Lloyd Roberts and the RX-7 of Jake Scannell with just 4 seconds separating Scannell and Dobson at the half way point.  However the unique sounding Mazda was able to ease away over the afternoon stages to take class victory with 42nd position overall.

Scannell

Elsewhere, B10 was a good old front wheel drive vs rear wheel drive battle with the Ford Escort of Robert Smith and Frankie Hillman leading the Peugeot 205 of Thomas Lloyd and Sherryn Roberts at the halfway mark following quick times in Trelleck Common and Chepstow Park.  However Lloyd and Roberts dominated the afternoon leg to take class victory by 24 seconds with 48th position overall.

Lloyd

N3 was not a well represented class on the Wyedean but Geno Cook and Daniel Robinson put in a solid performance to claim class victory with 53rd overall.

Cook

Tim Phelps and Elwyn Manuel were the first B12 crew home in 55th position aboard their MK2 Escort, while Keith and Mairi Riddick claimed 1400C victory with 56th.

Riddick

And finally the 3 Rally First categories were claimed by Mick Quinn and Neill Carman, Morgan Handford and Richard Davies and Mick Smith and Calvin Houldsworth.

I have to say that this was probably the most enjoyable Wyedean Rally of recent years with committed crews throughout the running order, reasonable weather and for once good choice of locations.  Masses of fans flocked to this 40th anniversary event, in fact I have never seen so many people lining the stages of a national rally, which given some of the places onlookers were stood could be seen as both a positive and a negative!  And although the overall fight for victory was not as close as we have become accustomed to in recent years, the driving talent on display made this celebration event a more than worthy spectacle.

Next up is the Malcolm Wilson Rally in early March where Cumbrian, Paul Bird, will be looking to increase his Gold Star championship lead.  The 2014 winner will be a clear favourite for the win and the other crews will need to be on top form to beat the Focus pilot in his own back yard.  If the Malcolm Wilson and the remaining 2015 BTRDA championship events can attract an entry somewhere near the quality of the Wyedean then we are in for one hell of a national rallying year!

RESULTS

1. Paul Bird / Aled Davies | Ford Focus 07 WRC (B14) | 0:42:25
2. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick | Impreza WRC (B14) | +00:34
3. Hugh Hunter / Andy Marchbank | Impreza WRC (B14) | +00:43
4. Charles Payne / Carl Williamson | Ford Fiesta (B14) | +01:06
5. Nik Elsmore / Matt Edwards | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) | +01:36
6. Damian Cole / Jack Morton | Ford Focus WRC (B14) | +01:49
7. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress | Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) | +02:01
8. Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead | Fiesta S2400 (B14) | +02:12
9. Bob Ceen / Andy Bull | Subaru Impreza WRC (B14) | +02:29
10. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) | +02:36

Full Results

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

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 ….

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Elliott Excels on Smooth Neath Valley Stages

Number 1 seeds, Nick Elliott and Dave Price, took their third RAC Rally Championship win of the year with victory on the Neath Valley Stages; in the process putting themselves back on top of the championship table with just one round remaining.

Winners

Round six of the RAC Rally Championship saw the crews head to South Wales for 6 stages on the super smooth Vale of Neath gravel which up until recently were annually graced each November by the likes of Jari-Matti Latvala and co at WRC level; the use of Bryn also allowing us to tick another stage off the ‘to do’ list!

The opening section of stage 2 was our first point of call but before the crews reached us they were faced with 9 challenging miles through infamous Rheola.  Unfortunately, for everyone involved in the event, the Zutec sponsored Sunbeam of Owen Murphy and James O’Brien retired less than 1km into the first stage with electrical problems; a huge disappointment as they were in with a genuine chance of competing with the top Ford runners.

Elliott meanwhile had shot out the starting blocks, taking six seconds out of closest rivals Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke in Rheola with pre-event championship leaders Richard Hill and Steffan Evans a further 5 seconds back.  It was obvious that Elliott’s rivals were going to have to take a few risks to keep up with his flying Ford.

And by the end of stage 3 the pace had taken it’s toll on a number of the top runners with Terry Brown and Tomos Whittle falling foul of Bryn, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis retiring after stage 3 with overheating problems and, most spectacularly of all, Jason Pricthard and Phil Clarke having a massive off at Junction 5 of Margam.  Thankfully both crew members were ok, but unfortunately the same could not be said about the car!

Although losing further time in stage 2, both Hill and the fellow ford crew of Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones managed to claw back a few seconds in Margam leaving Elliott’s lunch time lead at just over 10 seconds.  Roger Chilman and Bryan Thomas were going well in fourth with top K2 class runners, Tomas and Eurig Davies, rounding out the top five.

K2Winners

Rain threatened the afternoon stages, and whilst their was only a short burst where we were in Bryn, it did come down quite heavily during the second running of Rheola.  Not that it had much of an impact on the event as Elliott and Price were able to extend their lead in stage 4 and confirm the inevitable on the second running of Bryn; taking a comfortable 20 second lead into the Margam finale.

And so it was Nick Elliott and Dave Price who emerged from Margam as victors; taking their third win of the year and returning to the top of the championship points table.  Taking dropped scores into account they have effectively wrapped up the title with just the Trackrod Historic Cup remaining in late September.

A season of consistency continued for Richard Hill and Steffan Evans as they secured second place in their D5 Escort.  While the flamboyant Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones capped off a well deserved third with a stage win on Margam 2.  Roger Chilman and Tomas Davies would hold station in 4th and 5th allowing Tomas and co-driver Eurig to claim the K2 victory.

David Stokes and Guy Weaver yet again took category 2 honours in their MK1 Escort with 7th overall.  Chris Browne and Ali Cornwell-Browne were runners up in class C5, almost a minute in arrears but just one place further back overall.  While victory in the all MK2 affair that is class D3 went the way of Ben Friend and Sean Kennedy with 11th overall.

D3Winners

It is always nice to see something slightly different on the stages and therefore great to see Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh take class C3 with 12th overall in their Opel Ascona; in the process claiming the honour of first ‘non Ford’ crew home.

Ascona

Ray Cunnigham and Arron Forde in their Mini had been putting in another giant killing category 1 performance over the morning stages; holding a 50 second lead at the lunch time service halt.  Gearbox issues however put pay to any chance of victory leaving the big Volvos of Graham Waite and Ian Beveridge to battle it out with the Ford Cortinas of Paul Mankin and Gwilym Roberts.

Roberts and co-driver Don James were lying second after the first loop of stages but a strong run from Waite, with Gill Cotton on the notes, through Rheola 2 saw the huge Amazon leap into the class lead.  Although quicker through the final 2 stages, a 30 second time penalty would ultimately cause Roberts and James to drop off the podium with Ian Beveridge and Paul Price, in their PV544 version of the Swedish marque, taking second, just 16.6 seconds away from the category victors; the Cortina of Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell claiming third, 6.4 seconds further back.

CatBWinners

In the modern event, Welsh Championship rivals Luke Francis and Alex Allingham would again lock horns in their quest for top spot on this very fast event.  Allingham, with Chris Williams alongside, would take an early lead in their Group N Impreza but were unable to keep the B13 specification Evo 9 of Luke Francis and John H Roberts at bay over the remaining five tests. Karl and Guy Simmons, in their S11 WRC Impreza, would come home third some 45 seconds behind the winners.

ModernWinners

Meanwhile, in the RAC Open category, Simon and Alister Crook would take top spot in their Opel Manta, finishing a very credible 9th overall; an equivalent time in the Historic event would have landed them eighth position.

OpenWinners

Overall It had been another great day following the RAC championship and nice to be back in the South Wales forests for the first time in nearly two years.   The last time I attended the Neath Valley Stages it was a compact event within the confines of the Rheola / Walters Arena complex and whilst it has always been a top event it is great to see it mature into a proper multi venue stage rally.

We now have a three week break before hitting the Shropshire forests for the next round of the BTRDA Championship; the Woodpecker Stages on August 30th.

RESULTS

1. Nick Elliott / Dave Price – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – 00.46.53.1
2. Richard Hill / Steffan Evans – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.19.8
3. Meirion Evans / Iwan Jones – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.34.5
4. Roger Chilman / Bryan Thomas – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.53.0
5. Tomas Davies / Eurig Davies – Ford Escort MK2 (K2) – +01.08.1
6. Tim Freeman / Paul Williams – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +01.41.9
7. David Stokes / Guy Weaver – Ford Escort MK1 (C5) – +01.49.5
8. Chris Browne / Ali Cornwell-Browne – Escort MK1 (C5) – +02.37.9
9. Gareth Lloyd / Ryland James – Ford Escort MK2 (K2) – +02.41.0
10. Roger Matthews / Tom Marrott – Escort MK1 (C5) – +03.03.8
11. Ben Friend / Sean Kennedy – Ford Escort MK2 (D3) – +03.39.6
12. Peter Smith / Patrick Walsh – Opel Ascona (C3) – +03.45.3
26. Graham Waite / Gill Cotton – Volvo Amazon (B3) – +07.53.8

Full Historic Results
Full Modern Results

Standard prints available HERE.

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Elliott charges to Mid Wales Stages Victory

Nick Elliott and Dave Price made up for the last stage error on the Red Kite by taking maximum BHRC and RAC points on the Mid Wales Stages. Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis came a close second while in turn claiming the 55 mile event honours. Meanwhile 2013 Welsh Champions Alex Allingham and Chris Williams came out on top in the slightly shorter modern event.

If the route through Tarenig forest into the Pikes Peak stage was anything to go by this was going to be a very tricky event for the competitors.  Prior thoughts of combining Motorsport images with the fantastic mid Wales scenery looked to be difficult; confirmed by the high winds and sideways rain which aggressively met the hardy spectator who ventured onto the barren mountain range dividing Myherin forest and the Pikes Peak hairpins.

Having settled on a sweeping 90 left for stage 1 of the combined historic/55 mile event, it was obvious that this was going to be tough photography wise.  Not being someone who is happy to get equipment wet, I was left with no option but to bolt the 70-200 on, attach the monopod, and see what could be achieved whilst holding an umbrella.

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The photography may not have been great but the commitment of the historic guys through this section was superb.  Richard Hill and Jason Pritchard were as entertaining as ever.  Pritchard would unfortunately retire, however RAC round 1 winner Richard Hill, with Steffan Evans on the notes, would go on to take fifth overall to keep him firmly at the top of the points table.  It may have been an even better result had it not been for a 1 minute time loss in Stage 2.

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A phenomenal drive through Pikes Peak and Myherin saw Nick Elliott and Dave Price take a commanding 36 second Historic lead into the first Sweet Lamb service.  The hard work had already been done in the battle for top RAC honours too as they also held a 17 second lead over Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.  Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones were putting in a strong performance to hold second in the Historic event with David Stokes and Guy Weaver rounding out the podium positions.  Behind Robinson in the 55 miler sat Terry Brown and Den Golding who in turn were closely followed by the first non Ford crew of Owen Murphy and James O’Brien.

2013 Welsh Champions Alex Allingham and Chris Williams were quick out of the blocks in the modern event. They gained most of their 28 second winning margin on stage 1 alone and would go on to set fastest time on all four stages. Their commitment through this tightening 90 right of stage 1 was second to none.

IMG_3260_PROA_LR

Daniel Humphreys & Ian Pryce claimed the runner up spot with a great run over the final 3 stages; giving up less than 5 seconds to the eventual winners over the Myherin, Hafren and Sweet Lamb tests. Paul Davy and Roger Allan would follow them home with third overall.

IMG_3299_PROA_LR

The afternoon schedule saw the crews tackle Hafren and Sweet Lamb before a short service and another run through Pikes Peak. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of witnessing the downhill running of the final stage and subsequently headed to the last but one hairpin of this infamous stage. On arrival it looked as if the weather was going to play ball. Luck however was not on our side; as before I even had chance to swap to the wide angle lens the heavens opened. This time it was definitely more than a passing shower. Combined with the frequent gusts of wind, the ‘Epynt style’ sideways rain made capturing any sort of movement ‘troublesome’ at best.

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Fortunately the odd one or two images came out but this was more than a slight anti-climax after what had turned out to be a very good morning. “If only this event still had it’s summer slot?” was one of the topics of conversation on the long walk back to the car …

Upon reading the results on the way home it was no surprise to find out Elliott and Price had claimed the BHRC victory. The Historic event podium positions also remained unchanged throughout the afternoon’s 3 stages leaving Evans and Jones to take a well deserved second and Stokes and Weaver to take the C5 victory with third overall.  Confusingly however Robinson and Collis would be the second BHRC registered crew home with their victory in the Open event.  Category 1 honours went the way of Graham Waite and Gill Cotton in the mighty Volvo Amazon.  It is always a pleasure to witness this machine being man-handled around the stages.

Following Robinson home in the RAC event were Owen Murphy and James O’Brien in the crowd pleasing Sunbeam and round 1 winner Richard Hill in his bright yellow Ford.  Ray Cunningham and Gary McElhinney followed up a great run on the Red Kite with another stunning performance to take category 1 honours and a fantastic 22nd overall.

Although leading to slightly confusing results, the BHRC and RAC organisers must be highly praised for allowing competitors to score points in both championships.  It did worry me that the split of historic competitors across two series at the start of 2013 would not necessarily be in the best interests of the sport. However collaboration like this can only aid what is by far the closest and most exciting category of rallying currently available on British shores.

The two championships now head in different directions with Rally North Wales being the next event for the BHRC runners and the Tour of Hamsterley next up for the RAC contenders.  It is looking more and more like being another great year for historic rallying.  Lets hope the entries grow even bigger over the forthcoming events.

For full results see Rally Roots

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