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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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
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