Tag Archives: Paul Mankin

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.

Car14_BODY2

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.

Car14_BODY

 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.

Car5_BODY

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 …

Car18_BODY

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.

Car77_BODY

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.

Car30_BODY

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.

Car57_BODY

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.

Car69_BODY

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.

Car93_BODY

Class B4 victory the consolation prize for Mankin and Bell …

Car97_BODY

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.

Car101_BODY

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.

Car_37_BODY

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.

Car68_BODY

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.

Car64_BODY

Car84_BODY

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.

Car27_BODY

Meanwhile Robert Rook and Miles Cartwright claimed class BC2 with 8th position overall in the National B Historic event.

Car90_BODY

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.

Car2_BODY

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!

Barrett

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.

Smith

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.

Davies

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.

Skill

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.

Stokes

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.

Slaughter

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.

Jordan

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.

Mankin

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.

Gibbons

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.

Harris

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.

Burton

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.

Potter

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.

Rook

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.

Higgins

Hopkins

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)

 

 

Phenomenal fightback lands Pritchard the Red Kite

After a steady start Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke set a blistering pace over the second half of the event to claim victory on the Red Kite Historic Stages.

Car_5

The opening round of the British Historic Rally championship saw the crews head to Llandovery for the Red Kite Stages.  A fantastic entry list had been assembled with over 100 crews across the modern, historic and RAC categories set to take on 6 tests within Crychan and Caeo forests. The condition of the stages was a big talking point prior the event with the usually super smooth route likely to have a covering of snow and ice!

The weather forecast was indeed correct and just driving in through the spectator entrance in Crychan was challenging enough with several cars struggling up the hills; this would definitely be a day for the brave to shine.  Having been caught out by the cancellation of Crychan South, a fast retreat to stage 1 meant very little of the action was missed.  Daniel Jones was visibly quicker than most through Crychan North and therefore it was no surprise to see him at the top of the times.  Perhaps benefitting from his lowly seeding, Mark Holmes put in a sensational time in his category 2 Mk1 to go second quickest while the flamboyant Meirion Evans was third.

With snow and Ice defeating stage 2, the crews made their first visit of the day to Caeo forest following a service halt in Llandovery. Fastest time on this 12.5 mile test sent Meirion and Steffan Evans to the top of the time sheets while consistency was the key for David Stokes and Guy Weaver who moved into second overall in front of Daniel Jones and Kevin Lewis.  The conditions were really mixing up the field with several much fancied crews further back than expected.  Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke were 10th, 2014 RAC Rally winners Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were 17th while last years RAC Champions, Nick Elliott and Dave Price were lying in 27th position overall!

The effects of a sunny day and a full field of cars passing through the morning loop of stages had lead to much of the snow and ice melting; thus providing the opportunity for struggling crews to drag back some time.

In fact the leaderboard changed dramatically after stage 4 with Meirion Evans being the first to hit trouble.  A 90 left after junction 13 of Crychan North catching the Welshman out and with no chance of retrieving the damaged car from its deep ditch resting place his good run was over.  Stage 4 was not a good stage for the team, with the sister car of Daniel Jones and Kevin Lewis retiring with a seized gearbox just one junction before!  It was instead Jason Pritchard who set the fastest time; 5 seconds quicker than anyone else enough to lift himself and Phil Clarke up 6 places to fourth overall. The number 5 seeds now just 14 seconds behind surprise new leaders David Stokes and Guy Weaver.

Car_11

The current BHRC champions in turn holding a 7 second lead over Terry Brown and Den Golding, with last years Red Kite winner, Richard Hill, just 1 second further back.

Car_1

Hill, with Iwan Jones on the notes, was now a strong candidate for victory and a quick time in the dramatically shortened running of Crychan South moved them up to second overall.  With several other high seeds also regaining lost ground it really was all to play for over the 12.5 mile Caeo finale.

It would have been great to see Stokes and Weaver take the overall victory but it was just too much to ask of the category 2 machine.  A whole host of top spec MK2s were chasing them down including Robinson and Pritchard who both clocked a time of 8 minutes 45 for the final stage.  The time fast enough for Pritchard and Clarke to leapfrog Stokes, Hill and Brown to take and excellent 4 second victory.  Hill and Jones would have been many peoples favourites heading into Caeo and while a time of 8:56 moved them in front of Stokes it was not enough to keep the rapid F2 spec MK2 of Pritchard at bay; a consolation being the maximum D5 class points bagged for the championship cause.  Joint fastest time was also enough to salvage 5th place for Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis; a great effort given they were 17th at the halfway point.

Stokes and Weaver dropped back to 4th in the end but this still represented an incredible result given the cars they were up against.  They also took the category 2 and class C5 honours with a winning margin of 40 seconds.   Terry Brown and Den Golding quietly went about their business in their D5 spec Ford.  Lying 7th at the halfway mark, a quick time in stage 4 saw the vastly experienced crew leap into second place, only dropping back to 3rd as Hill and Pritchard turned up the heat.  An overall podium was just reward for an excellent performance in the tricky conditions.

Behind the leading crews Ben Llewellin and Ross Whittock claimed the D3 class victory with 8th; another fantastic comeback after a difficult morning left them lying in 23rd overall at the halfway service halt.

Car_6

Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh looked at home in the slippery conditions in their Opel Kadett and were rewarded with top spot in class C3.  They also had the honour of being the first non Ford crew home in 10th place overall.

Car_36

Further back Dave Watkins and Thomas Jordan ended the event on top of class C2 in 47th position while Chris Skill, with Gary Middleton alongside, claimed class D2 victory with 42nd.

Car_63

A nice variety of cars turned out in category 1, several of which were running in the national B event.  National A category honours however went the way of Rikki Proffitt and Graham Wild in their Porsche 911, claiming class B5 victory in the process with 39th position.  The very well driven Ford Anglia of Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins however kept them on their toes all day and topped class B3 with 40th position overall.

Car_75

Phillip Harris and Alan Walker finished 53rd and claimed the class B2 honours in their Mini Cooper while Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell took the class B4 victory with 56th position.

Car_81

Car_65

NATIONAL B

National B and BH2 victory went the way of Phil Burton and Mal Capstick with 11th place overall in their MK2 Escort.  They were certainly one of the most impressive crews through this 90 left!

Car_25

Category 1 top spot was claimed by Aziz Tejpar and Yasser Slatch with 34th overall; unusual that it was to see a MK1 Escort entered in this class.

Car_49

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

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

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

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

Car_32

MODERN

Meanwhile in the modern event, a rare appearance for tarmac expert Melvyn Evans was rewarded with victory. The Impreza S11 pilot, with Mark Glennerster on the notes, taking top spot by 16 seconds from the Focus WRC engined Fiesta of Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson.

Car_104

IN SUMMARY

Photography wise my plans were scuppered by the cancellation of stage 2 which left me on the back foot all day due to the compact nature of the event.  However the main reason we all head out to the forests is to witness the incredible battle of man and machine against the best Mother Nature can throw at them.  And witnessing Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke’s monumental efforts to come out on top of a battle that saw the top 5 crews covered by just 15 seconds was worth the long trip alone.  The duo will now have the honour of topping the prestigious British Historic Rally Championship table heading into next months Mid Wales stages. This could be the closest title fight in years.  And as daft as it may sound, with driver-less cars not too far away in the distant future this could indeed be the future of British Rallying!

HISTORIC RESULTS

1. Jason Pritchard / Phil Clarke | Ford Escort RS (F2) | 00:40.39
2. Richard Hill / Iwan Jones | Ford Escort (D5) | +00.04
3. Terry Brown / Den Golding | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.07
4. David Stokes / Guy Weaver | Ford Escort RS (C5) | +00.12
5. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.15
6. Rudi Lancaster / George Gwynn | Ford Escort (D5) | +00.39
7. Nick Elliott / Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.42
8. Ben Llewellin / Ross Whittock | Ford Escort (D3) | +00.51
9. Rupert Lomax / Rich Jones | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +00.52
10. Peter Smith / Patrick Walsh | Opel Kadett (C3) | +01.08

Full results here

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)

 

 

 

 

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)