Tag Archives: Paul Spooner

Cambrian Win for Weston as Perez Secures Title

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

Weston

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

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

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

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

Perez

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

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

Edwards

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

Allingham

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

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

Naughton

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

Robinson

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

Smith

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

Freling

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

Ireland

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

Leigh

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

Tuckman

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

BMW

Hijazi

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

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

RESULTS

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

 Full Results

 

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Trackrod Trophies end up in Chesterfield

Steve Perez and Paul Spooner ensured the BTRDA title fight will be settled on the final round of the series with victory on the Trackrod Forest Stages.  Meanwhile fellow Chesterfield man Richard Hill, co-driven by Steffan Evans, was able to claw back all of the previous day deficit to take top spot in the Historic event.

Winners

HistoricWinners

The Trackrod rally, based in the forests of North Yorkshire, represented both the final round of the RAC Rally Championship and the penultimate round of a very tightly contested BTRDA season.  The slightly longer Historic event starting on the Friday evening with two night stages in the Dalby forest complex.

BTRDA

First up was the longest stage of the event with 10.5 miles through the infamous Langdale test.  And it was Steve Perez and Paul Spooner who shot out of the blocks and opened up an 8.4 second lead over championship rivals Paul Bird and Aled Davies.  Local man Jim McNeil also put in a stellar first stage performance in his B13 Subaru, splitting the two Fiesta R5s of Stephen Petch and Charlie Payne.  It would not last long though as a stage 2 off caused the York driver to take a stage maximum, sending himself and co-driver Tom Hughes tumbling down the order.

Meanwhile in the 1400 section a much anticipated tussle between David Bennett and Mat Smith was over before the cars reached Gale Rigg as Smith, co driven by Giles Dykes, broke a drive shaft following a trip into a Langdale ditch.  They would manage to carry on but lost 8 minutes to their rivals as a result.

David Weston and Kirsty Riddick, having lost a significant amount of time to their rivals in stage 1, jumped 4 positions to 4th overall with stage victory in Gale Rigg (Stage 2); more than 5 seconds quicker than anyone else.  It was a good stage for Steve Perez also as he increased his overall lead to 12.9 seconds.  A 4.5 second increase in margin that was then effectively reversed following Bird’s first stage win of the day in neighbouring Cropton.

As in previous rounds, the Fiesta’s just don’t seem to have the outright grunt of their elder siblings and Stephen Petch, try as he might, could not keep up with the two foci in front, or the now charging S12 Impreza of David Weston; Weston claiming third overall from the SGP Motorsport machine following the Cropton test.

Bird found his rhythm as the day went on, taking his second stage win in Staindale to leave a 5.9 second margin heading into the Dalby finale.  But whilst the Cumbrian took his third consecutive stage victory, Perez had done just enough to hold onto top spot, taking victory by a mere 3.4 seconds.  David Weston rounded off a solid performance with 3rd overall, 25 seconds behind the leader.  A what might have been story given the Scotsman lost over 23 seconds in stage 1.

GroupN

Group N honours went the way of Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy who had the edge on Thomas Naughton and Andi Mort’s similar machine throughout the day, eventually taking class victory by 21.3 seconds and finishing a very credible 6th overall.  Fellow Mitsubishi crew, Thomas Preston and Jamie Forrest claimed the B13 class victory with 9th overall while Martyn Hawkswell and Benjamin Cohen were the first rear wheel drive competitors home with 14th overall in the B11 MK2 Escort.

B11

David Bennett, with Alistair McNeil alongside had set a blistering pace throughout the day in the 1400 category, eventually taking class victory by over 3 minutes with a mighty impressive 12th overall.  Justin Lawson had been challenging early on but lost a wheel in Staindale causing retirement whilst also ending his title hopes.

1400_winners

15th overall was enough for Paul Street and Clive Hilton to take the historic class victory in their Ford Escort, with B10 victors, Kit and Tim Leigh, finishing one place further back.  The Porsche Boxster of Ian Jemison and Dean Kellett was going better than ever on home soil, finishing 17th overall and claiming B12 honours in the process.

Championship wise, the gold star title is now a purely Ford Focus WRC affair with just the Cambrian Rally remaining.  Perez currently has 167 points banked and can improve to 175 with a victory while similarly Bird can tally 176.  Essentially whoever wins the final round will take the crown with various complicated outcomes should neither be on the top step of the podium.  Luke Francis, David Weston and Stephen Petch are now all out of the running courtesy of the 167 banked total of Steve Perez.

It is mathematically a 4 way battle for the 1400 crown; Ryan Weston and Marcel Freling still in with a chance if Dan Gray and Mat Smith fail to finish well on the Cambrian Rally next month.  Realistically though it is a dual between Dan Gray and Mat Smith; the odds stacked heavily in Smith’s favour with Gray needing to take maximum class points and have 3 cars between his 106 and the little KA to take the title.  Smith’s impressive fight back on the Trackrod, resulting in a 21 point haul, may just be enough to take top spot.

BTRDA RESULTS

1. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – 41:08.0
2. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00:03.4
3. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Subaru Impreza (B14) – +00:25.4
4. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) – +00:36.8
5. Charlie Payne / Andrew Roughead – Ford Fiesta (B14) – +01:14.2
6. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +01:58.4
7. Tom Naughton / Andi Mort – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +02:19.7
8. Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +03:31.3
9. Thomas Preston / Jamie Forrest – Mitsubishi Evo (B13) – +03:51.2
10. Steve Petch / John Richardson – Mitsubishi Evo (B13) – +04:19.7

Full Results

RAC

There may have been no Stratos in the Yorkshire forests this year but this was more than made up for by an entry list boasting Ryan Champion in a Porsche, Julian Reynolds in a Fiat 131 and Ben Mellors in a Toyota Celica RA40; enough to wet the appetite of any enthusiast.  With the early morning sun shining on a recently felled section of Gale Rigg there really was no better place to take in the action.

In similar fashion to the 2013 event, Matt Edwards, co-driven by Paul Morris, had been able to build a healthy lead of 14.9 seconds after the two friday night stages.  Many competitors suffered problems however including local hero Steve Bannister, who went off the road and out of the rally in Staindale.  Champion also had issues but was able to restart on Saturday morning under Super ‘Rally rules’ where he and Craig Thorley managed a stage victory on the Cropton test.  Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were another front running crew to lose time; an off in Staindale causing a time loss of over 2 minutes.

Unlike last year however Edwards was not able to maintain the top spot throughout Saturday’s four stages.  Instead Richard Hill and Steffan Evans, having taken time out of them on every stage, snatched the victory on the very last test, winning the rally by just 7.4 seconds.

Behind, Tim Pearcey and Neil Shanks recorded some solid stage times on their way to a well deserved third overall with Category 2 victors, David Stokes and Guy Weaver finishing 4th in their Mk1 Escort.  An impressive result given vastly experienced local man and class runner up, Warren Philliskirk, was over a minute behind.

Cat2

Meanwhile category 1 victory went the way of Bob Bean. The evergreen MK1 Cortina pilot securing a winning margin of over 25 seconds by the end of the day.

Cat1

Nevertheless, second in class was enough for Ray Cunningham to wrap up the title; greatly deserved as it is a long time since the UK rally scene has been treated to a Mini driven like that!  I for one hope they return in 2015.

RESULTS

1. Richard Hill / Steffan Evans – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – 54:41.3
2. Matt Edwards / Paul Morris – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +07.4
3. Tim Pearcey / Neil Shanks – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +01:10.9
4. David Stokes / Guy Weaver – Ford Escort MK1 (C5) – +02:17.0
5. Tim Freeman / Paul Williams – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +02:19.6
6. Warren Philliskirk / Nigel Hutchinson – MK1 (C5) – +03:23.3
7. Charlie Taylor / Steve Bielby – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +03:48.7
8. Chris Browne / Ali Cornwell-Browne – Escort MK1 (C5) – +03:49.9
9. Tim Mason / Graham Wild – Porsche 911 (C4) – +4:01.3
10. Andrew Siddall / Carl Williamson – Escort MK1 (C5) – +04:11.6

Full Results

And so a big well done was in order for the Chesterfield rally community having produced both winning drivers.  The annual trip to the North Yorkshire stages had been as enjoyable as ever, with the irritation of Midge bites and a split pair of jeans more than made up for by a fish and Chip tea at the one and only Thompsons!  I really have no idea which way the Gold Star title pendulum will swing, but I am thoroughly looking forward to finding out on next month’s Cambrian Rally finale.

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Bird is the Word in Shropshire Forests

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

Car_2

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

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

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

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

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

Allingham

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

3rdPlace

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

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

Car_101

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

Car_203

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

Car_202

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

Car_107

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

Car_143

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

Avenger

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

Car_134

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

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

 RESULTS

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

FULL RESULTS

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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)

 

 

 

New Territory, Windscreen glare and an incredibly close finish to the Somerset Stages

Steve Perez and Paul Spooner held off a late challenge from Stephen Petch and Ian Windress to take the Somerset Stages victory on a first stage tie breaker.

IMG_5174_PRO_PSA_LR2

100

In hindsight the bottle of wine in Pizza Express on friday night was not the wisest decision with such an early start.  However I wasn’t driving and was suitably refreshed by the time we arrived at Knowle some three hours later.

Having not attended the Somerset Stages since 2009 and with a new stage to tick off the list I was really looking forward to this one especially with four Foci and a WRC Impreza filling the top five spots on the entry list.

After the misfortune of getting caught up behind a slow moving wide load on the A39 we just about reached junction 12 before the zero car arrived.  As expected the light was proving to be a bit of an issue but fortunately I had come prepared with a couple of polarizing filters in an attempt to combat the anticipated windscreen glare.  Not having much luck with the Hoya wide angle filter I decided to revert to the UV for a couple of shots on the inside of the junction.  This was the best of the bunch with a black and white conversion a necessity in the strange light.

Car_221

With great disappointment, the super fast David Bogie had retired with ignition coil failure before the cars even reached stage 3.  The rest of the field more than made up for his departure however with some spectacular driving around this relatively tight hairpin.

The B&W polarizer I had on the 70-200 was working much better ( and to be honest, even though cheaper than the hoya filter, is a much better quality piece of kit).  The Marshal’s car parked behind the junction was perfectly positioned in the sense that no practice shot was required to set the filter; but less well positioned when, along with the infamous red & white tape, it filled the background of the majority of my shots.  I don’t like to overly use Photoshop but it does come in useful every now and then!

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By the halfway mark, Paul Bird and Aled Davies in their Focus WRC had built up a 13 second lead over the similar machine of Steve Perez and Paul Spooner with Stephen Petch, David Weston and Luke Francis rounding out the top five.  Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence were getting the better of their Group N opposition with 6th overall whilst the in form Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were leading the historic class in 11th.  Darren Pinchin was making the most of David Bennett’s retirement and Mat Smith’s decision to miss this event by leading the 1400 section with 21st overall.

Car_2

With the aid of Google Maps, it was decided that junction 3 was worth a look for the second running of the stage.  Listening to a couple of my Dad and Uncle’s familiar Mini related stories from their competitive days helped pass the time.  I lose count of the number of times I have heard the one about the loose wheel and the nettles ….

After a small delay for the recovery of stranded vehicles the leading 1400 contenders soon came into view with the light still proving to be an issue from a photographer’s perspective.  The crews were able to really attack this wide open downhill hairpin left with Jon Ballinger and Mike Wilding in their Opel Manta being by far the most spectacular through this section.

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Car_213

104

A sit down with a cuppa as opposed to chasing off to the final stage was the preferred option by the time we had got back to the car.  This gave time to catch up on the results and discover that Paul Bird and Aled Davies had unfortunately retired on the 10th stage of the rally with a reported broken drive shaft.  This left Steve Perez and Stephen Petch to battle it out for victory.

With two stages remaining Perez held a 7 second lead over Petch with David Weston a further 26 seconds back.  Incredibly Petch went 3 seconds quicker in the short Timberscombe stage and then 4 seconds faster in Bats Castle to tie Perez with a total penalty of 42.28!  Petch and Windress had actually won more stages throughout the day but the tie breaker rewards the the crew who are quickest out of the blocks.  And so it was Steve Perez and Paul Spooner who would come out on top courtesy of their quicker stage 1 time.

David Weston and Kirsty Riddick would consolidate a strong run with the final step of the podium while Luke Francis and John H Roberts claimed B13 honours with 4th overall.  Tom Naughton and Andi Mort took the group N victory by just 1 second from Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence after a stunning final stage push.  They went into the Bats Castle finale with a 5 second deficit to make up.

Class B12 went the way of Callum Black and Paul Wakely in their front wheel drive DS3 with 10th overall.  Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis held onto the Historic lead throughout the day with 11th whilst B10 went the way of Andy Burnell and Scott Cleverdon in the Skoda Felicia Kit car.  The very flamboyant Jon Ballinger and Mike Wilding claimed B11 with 18th overall and Darren Pinchin and Karen Jenkins took the top spot in the 1400 category with 19th in their Proton Satria.

Minehead was the next point of call for fish and chips (Yes with the mushy peas on the chips thank you) and an opportunity to put my back out skimming stones into the sea.  All in all it was a top day out.  It is always good to get into new territory and Knowle proved a pretty good stage to watch.

With the Sportscar racing season starting this weekend, my next rally is looking like being the Dukeries in June.  Hopefully Britain will be in the middle of a heatwave by then ….

Results:

1. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC – 42.28
2. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Focus WRC +0.00
3. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Subaru Impreza WRC +0.28
4. Luke Francis / John H Roberts – Mitsubishi Evo 9 +01.32
5. Tom Naughton / Andi Mort – Mitsubishi Evo 9 +01.57
6. Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence – Mitsubishi Evo 9 +01.58
7. Martyn England / Dawn England – Mitsusbishi Evo 10 +02.55
8. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo 9 +03.08
9. Roland Llewellin / Jamie Edwards – Mitsubishi Evo 9 +03.15
10. Callum Black / Paul Wakely – Citroen DS3 +04.09

Full Results

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)