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Edwards Ecstatic to land home BRC Victory

The 2019 Cambrian Rally would combine the opening rounds of both the BTRDA and British Rally championships with runners in the latter National A event intriguingly set to complete an additional 3 stages in the dark.

A healthy contingent of latest spec R5 machinery at the sharp end of the entry list had added additional excitement to the North Wales based event, which included 2 M-Sport entered Fiesta’s for FIA Priority 2 seeded Chilean brothers Pedro and Alberto Heller.

It was another M-Sport Fiesta in the hands of 2018 BTRDA and BRC champion Matt Edwards that again proved to be the class of the field however.  In a field stacked with quality, David Bogie and Tom Cave, would prove his closest challengers but whilst both claimed stage wins neither could match Edward’s consistency, with the Swift backed Ford man (co-driven by Patrick Walsh) going on to claim victory by 26.5 seconds.  Edwards’s later describing success on his home turf as a dream come.

Cave’s challenge would infact come to an unfortunate late end; despite completing the full stage mileage, the unlikely misfortune of suffering 3 punctures over the final loop of stages left the Welshman unable to attempt the final road section, allowng Bogie to claim the runner up position in his Fabia, and the similar machine of Northern Irishman Martin McCormack to round out the podium positions.

Behind, Peugeot 208 crew, James Wilson & Arthur Kierans claimed a hotly contested BRC Junior category victory which saw the top five runners separated by just 30 seconds!  Gaining the lead in stage 5, Wilson and Kierans managed to hold off a fast recovering Will Creighton (puncture delayed) over the final few stages to take class honours by less than 2 seconds!

In the National B event meanwhile, Euan Thorburn made a winning return to action in his WRC Focus.  Benefiting from a healthy lead developed over the morning loop, he and co-driver Paul Beaton had just enough in hand to nurse their misfiring Ford to Goldstar glory, with the Fiesta WRC of Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson a close second.

Perhaps benefiting from a return to running first on the road, it was runners from the 1400 and historic classes  that would fill the Silver Star podium positions.  2018 Champion, George Lepley switched to RWD machinery for the Cambrian and, co-driven by Arwel Jenkins, duly shone in Barry Jordan’s historic spec 8v Avenger, ending the day in a phenomenal 13th position overall and in turn claiming historic honours by over 40 seconds from the BDG powered Escort of Hugh Hunter!

2018 class winners Chris Powell and Jim Lewis, again topped the 1400 time sheets; the Sunbeam crew catching and passing 2019 Champion Dave Brick over the damp afternoon stages to claim a hard fought 2nd overall in the Silver Star category.  With the final step of the 2WD podium just reward for a strong drive by Brick.

Elsewhere, Lancer Evo 9 crew, Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence, were first home in the showroom category with 4th overall whilst Ian Bainbridge and Daniel May claimed B13 victory with an excellent 5th in their very nicely turned out Subaru Impreza.

FULL RESULTS

NATIONAL A
NATIONAL B

PHOTOS (click “view full size” for best resolution)

 

 

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Edwards Dominates Rallynuts Stages to claim Maiden BTRDA Victory

With the Malcolm Wilson rally falling victim of the weather, the BTRDA contingent would instead head to mid Wales for round 2 of the championship, the recently re-branded Rallynuts Stages Rally (previously Severn Valley Stages).  And, after a month or two of less than pleasant weather, it was rather apt that one of the warmest days of the year so far would welcome the Midland Manor Motor Club Organised event to the championship after several years of association with Historic rallying.

Much like the Cambrian Rally, the entry list was filled with rapid machinery, including 4 WRC Ford’s.  But, also following a similar theme to the season opener, it was an R5 machine, more specifically a Fiesta R5 in the hands of Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod, that would take centre stage.

OVERALL

Edwards truly was in a league of his own on this event and with no protruding logs to halt his progress, would go on to record fastest time on all 7 stages and claim a maiden BTRDA victory by a mammoth 40 seconds from the WRC Ford’s of Luke Francis and Paul Bird;  the Welsh star clearly enjoying his home stages having now set fastest time on 12 of the Championship’s first 14 stages, all 12 of the stages completed by the Swift backed Fiesta man (missed stages 2 & 3 of Cambrian)!  With pace like this, there is little doubt Edwards will be at the sharp end of the British Rally Championship battle when the series kicks off later this month.

Behind, Luke Francis and John H Roberts had a much stronger second BTRDA championship outing in their Melvyn Evans Motorsport prepared Fiesta WRC.  Forced into retirement after clipping a rock on the Cambrian, the North Wales based duo registered second fastest time on every stage bar the last to finish the event in a very comfortable second.

Rounding out the podium positions, Paul Bird, with Jack Morton alongside, continued his strong start to the season after a 2 year lay off.  Locked in a tight battle with the Fiesta of Hugh Hunter throughout the morning stages, the North of England duo managed to snatch third in stage 3 before inching away from their rivals over the final 4 tests; thus ensuring they maintained their early championship lead.

CLASS RESULTS

Well inside the top ten, class B13 victory went the way of Tom Cave and Dale Bowen.  Cave, making a guest appearance in the family owned Subaru, was near untouchable over the classic Welsh terrain, finishing the event 1.5 minutes clear of his nearest class rival; his speed further rewarded with 7th position overall and the honour of first non Ford home.

With 11th overall, Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy claimed a comfortable class NR4 victory in their Mitsubishi Evo 9.  Their day was perhaps made a little easier when usual front runners Patrick Naylor and Ian Lawrence suffered a stage 1 mechanical, however a 40 second class victory over the similar machine of Tom Naughton is proof they would have been a match for anyone on the day.

A thrilling Silver Star battle produced a somewhat surprise result with Max Utting and Mike Ainsworth making a mockery of their seeding to claim category victory in their Ford Fiesta ST.  It was in fact a sensational come back by the Oxford based duo who, having  found themselves 14 seconds behind the Category leading Escort after SS3, completed the Radnor and second Crychan tests some 29 seconds faster than their rivals!  And with just the 2 short stages remaining, Utting and Ainsworth would maintain their advantage to record a very impressive top twenty finish.

B12 Class winners, Owen McMakin and Lee Taylor had lead the Silver Star category through the first 3 stages, however the remainder of the event did not go so well;  The Irish / Welsh pairing not only losing the lead to Utting in stage 5 but also falling behind the Class B11 Escort of Rob Dennis and Andrew Boswell.  McMakin’s strong early pace was however rewarded with his second BTRDA class win of the season and third overall in the Silver Star Category.

Class B10/R2 honours went the way of Josh McErlean and Aaron Johnston in their Fiesta R2; the pairing having snatched the lead from the similar machine of George Lepley in Radnor before gradually pulling away over the afternoon stages to record a 9 second class victory with 24th overall (4th in the Silver Star Category).

Rounding out a very successful day for the blue oval marque, James Giddings and Sion Cunniff claimed class N3 victory in their Fiesta ST with 46th position overall; the 4th class win of the day for a Fiesta crew!

In the 1400 category, round 1 winners, Chris Powell and Jim Lewis exploded into a 31 second lead after the first 3 stages only to find themselves condemned to the retirements list just one stage later.  This left the door wide open for Dave and Toby Brick, this time in a Vauxhall Corsa, to take a commanding 3.5 minute victory with 37th position overall.  Meanwhile Perry Gardener and Steve Link would take the 1400C honours with 78th position overall in their Vauxhall Nova.

By the end of SS4, two of the leading Historic contenders, Nick Elliott (engine issues in SS1) and Rudi Lancaster (Gearbox) were out of the event, which left the Escort’s of Ernie Graham and Terry Brown to battle it out for category victory.  There was absolutely nothing to choose between the two cars over much of the morning before a slow time in Radnor for Brown and co-driver Den Golding put pay to their challenge; the 18 seconds lost allowing Graham and co-driver Robin Kellard to go on and record their second BTRDA Historic victory in as many events.

Behind, Tom Coughtrie and Baz Green seemed to have the H4 spec, ex works, Mitsubishi Galant running well and duly claimed class honours with 4th in category and 47th overall.  Whilst, just one place further back in 48th, Gareth Lewis and Mark Crisp dominated class H1/H2 in their MK2 Escort, claiming class victory by nearly 2 minutes from the similar Ford of Jeff Wincott.

After a day long battle with Bart Lang, Andrew Wheatley made it two Rally First victories out of 2 in his Ford Puma.  He and Ian Nichols finishing the event in a very commendable 62nd position overall.

FULL RESULTS

Next up, the BTRDA contenders head further North for another Welsh outing, this time for the Knutsford & District Motor Club organised Plains Rally on 12th May.  A rally in which Stephen Petch will be hoping to repeat his 2017 success and keep himself at the forefront of the title battle.  If the in-form Edwards should make an entry however he and co-driver Michael Wilkinson may well have their work cut out!

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Mellors Masters Cambrian in Brand New R5 Proton

Ollie Mellors and Max Freeman stylishly proved the pace of the Proton Iriz R5 on the North Wales based Cambrian Rally; the pairing fighting off a large contingent of R5 and WRC machines to claim a maiden BTRDA victory.

The BTRDA season opening Cambrian Rally had by no means attracted the largest of entries, but what it did boast was a quality filled top 20.  And with this in mind, few would have expected Ollie Mellors and Max Freeman, in the brand new Proton Iriz R5 to head the time sheets as the rally returned to the Llandudno finish; especially given the pairing had never even met prior to the event and many a WRC Ford were seeded in front of them.

The technical nature of the Snowdonia National Park stages more often than not reward local knowledge, skill and bravery however, and, despite the power disadvantage, it was the R5 cars which shone in the glorious North Wales sunshine.

Indeed, it was BRC regular Matt Edwards who leapt into a massive 16 second lead after the first run through Penmachno South, only for his victory challenge to be dramatically cut short when clipping a hidden log in stage 2.  Under new regulations however, Edwards and co-driver Darren Garrod were able to re-join the event for the final four stages thus gaining valuable seat time and continuing their utter domination of the stages; claiming stage victories by 6, 12, 8 and 4 seconds respectively!  A case of what might have been …

“To finish first, first you have to finish” is well known phrase in rallying, and Mellors was in prime position to take advantage of Edward’s indiscretion, taking a 7 second lead after stage 2 and managing to hold the Focus WRC of Paul Bird and Jack Morton at bay for the remainder of the event to record a mighty impressive 6 second victory, the most significant to date for the new Iriz R5.  An even more remarkable feat when you consider the Proton suffered a puncture in the penultimate stage.

Bird may well have fancied his chances against R5 machinery but, following a 2 year ban, will have been more than happy to commence his full time BTRDA return with maximum points; reward for the first championship registered crew home in second place overall.

Meanwhile, current champions Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson in the WRC Fiesta, made a strong start to their title defence.  After a conservative approach to stage 1 saw them lying 8th overall, the WD40 sponsored Ford crew upped their speed as the day went on to eventually round out the podium positions, just 30 seconds shy of the eventual winners.

Further back, Dylan Davies and Llion Williams claimed B13 class honours with 8th position overall in their Subaru Impreza whilst Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy were the first “showroom” class crew home in 10th aboard their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.

And, finishing just outside the top 40, Tom Coughtrie and Baz Green claimed the first ever class H4 victory for pre-91 historic machinery in their ex-works Mitsubishi Galant VR4.

SILVER STAR

The battle for 2 wheel drive victory was fought out by a wide variety of machinery and it was Ieuan Rowlands in the freshly built Historic specification Avenger who was quickest out of the blocks.  Usually aboard a Volvo engined MK2, the Ffestiniog resident, with Emyr Hall alongside, was using the event to shakedown the BRM engined machine ahead of a full British Historic campaign and held a 13 second Silver Star category lead until a stage 4 puncture dropped them back.

17th, 14th and 15th fastest time in the remaining three tests would however secure the local crew third place and top spot in the historic category.  On this evidence they will be at the sharp end of the BHRC battle when the series kicks off on next month’s Rally North Wales!

John Rowlands, in his usual B11 class MK2 Escort, would head a 2WD top ten remarkably covered by just 52 seconds following brother Ieuan’s issues in Alwen, themselves lucky to still be in the event following a huge moment in stage 1 (see Facebook!) And using his local knowledge to full effect was able to pull away from the field over the afternoon stages to register a relatively comfortable Silver Star victory for he and Glenn Latham.

2nd in the Silver Star category represented a fantastic result for Chris Powell and Jim Lewis in their 1400 Talbot Sunbeam.  The Herefordshire based duo putting in an incredible performance to end the event just 24 seconds behind John Rowlands in 17th position overall and take the 1400 category by over 3.5 minutes!

Elsewhere, James Williams and Ross Whittock claimed the combined B10/R2 honours with 19th overall in their Vauxhall Adam.  BRC regular, William Creighton in his Peugeot 208 had provided stiff early competition and held the class lead before losing 2 minutes in Penmachno North (SS6); thus leaving the door wide open for Williams and Whittock to claim the honour of first front wheel drive crew home.

Owen McMakin and Lee Taylor registered class B12 victory with 24th position overall in their MK2 Escort after a day long battle with Richard Sykes.  Sykes was in fact leading the class by 4 seconds in his Citroen DS3 before ending the day in a stage 6 ditch.

Josh Browne and Jane Edgington would wrap up a 23 second combined H1 & H2 historic class victory with 26th position overall whilst the second placed MK1 Escort crew of Ernie Graham and Robin Kellard were left to rue the 26 seconds lost on the opening 2 stages of the event.

Zak Hughes and Tom Wood claimed N3 class victory with 33rd position overall in their Fiesta ST whilst the Vauxhall Nova crew of Perry Gardener and Toby Brick were first home in 1400c with 48th position overall.

Rounding out the class winners, Sam & Liam Johnson and Matthew Baddeley & Shaun Hughes claimed the respective RF1.4 and RF2.0 classes in what turned out to be a tough event for the small contingent of Rally First crews.

Full Results

Concentrating on the front of the field you could be forgiven for believing UK Forest Rallying to be in good health.  However just 4 Rally First cars and not that many more 1400 machines started the Cambrian; the ludicrous MSA running order regulations surely contributing to the decline in numbers.  The second running of Llyn Elsi was described as rough by the top runners so you can only imagine how it felt for the smaller runners at the back.

Rally 2WD appears to be the way forward for some rallies but this format is unlikely to suit the BTRDA Championship and Nicky Grist, amongst others, has called for a return to running 2 wheel drive and historic machinery nearer the front.  Let’s hope common sense prevails before too long as with just over a week to go before round 2, the Malcolm Wilson Rally, the entry list is not exactly bursting at the seams!

However, this should not deter from was ultimately an excellent Cambrian following the snow and ice enforced cancellation of last years event.  The battle at the sharp end was as close as ever and despite long delays early on no stage mileage was lost, for which the organisers deserve massive credit.  But whilst the Cambrian has BRC ambitions for 2019, the question that has to asked is how sustainable the current BTRDA entry levels are? especially given last seasons hike in forestry commission charges.  Changing the running order may well be the only viable solution …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

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)

 

 

Banner Bags Trackrod as Pritchard Takes Title

Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson, put in a scintillating performance to secure a dominant Trackrod Historic Cup victory whilst Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke claimed a second successive BHRC title with a steady run to 5th.

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The Malton based Trackrod Historic Cup would not only form round 9 of the 2016 BHRC but also round 8 of the Northern Historic Rally Championship; largely the reason why the likes of Steve Bannister, in the infamous red striped, white MK2 Escort, would feature at the head of a 40 strong entry list.

With several of the BHRC class and category titles already wrapped up many of the regulars had elected not to make the trip;  the respective category 1, 2 and 3 champions, Bob Gibbons, Simon Tysoe and Paul Barrett to name but a few.  The overall BHRC title was however still yet to be decided, with Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, realistically just requiring a finish to secure a second successive crown.

The 2016 rendition of the event would feature some 54 competitive stage miles including a Friday evening test in Dalby and followed by 5 further stages on Saturday.  And it was Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson who would open up an impressive 20 second overnight lead; the legendary Ford Escort star still proving difficult to beat in the forests he knows so well.

Whilst, as expected, Pritchard and Clarke were taking extra care on the super fast North Yorkshire forest tracks It would be another Yorkshire-man in the form of Matthew Robinson who would emerge as ‘Banner’s’ closest pursuer.  In fact the Fiat 131 pilot, with Sam Collis alongside, would hold a clear second place throughout Saturday morning’s tests before a propshaft failure would ultimately end their event prematurely.

With Robinson out, Bannister and Atkinson would find themselves with more than a 2 minute cushion over rest of the field with just the Cropton and Gale Rigg stages remaining.  With this in mind you may have thought a casual drive to the finish was in order?  Not a chance; the Malton man going on to record a clean sweep of fastest stage times to claim overall Trackrod Historic Cup glory by a mammoth 2 minutes and 13 seconds!

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The podium positions would be completed by two more class D5 specification MK2 Escorts in the hands of Steve Bennett and Mark Bentley, both of whom had increased their pace throughout the Saturday stages.  Bennett, co-driven by Paul Spooner, was second quickest in Dalby, Cropton and Gale Rigg to cement second position overall whilst Mark and Ed Bentley would set 3rd fastest time on each of the aforementioned tests to impressively climb from 11th to third!

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Bentley would in fact just pip the very rapid Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis to the final podium position by a mere 0.3 seconds.  Despite a couple of overshoots, Milner, in a crossflow engined MK1 Mexico would lead category 2 overnight and was lying in the overall podium positions right up until the final stage of the event.

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After previous star performances had ended in the Welsh scenery, Milner and Jarvis on this occasion approached the final couple of stages with caution, ensuring they would end the event in a phenomenal 4th position overall.  With Bannister and Bentley not registered for points, there can’t have been too many occasions where a 1600 category 2 car has featured on the overall BHRC podium!

5th overall was exactly what Pritchard and Clarke would have been hoping for and more than enough to maintain their overall BHRC title.  Given the often rough nature of the Yorkshire stages there are easier places to drive for a finish!  Whilst rarely troubling the top of the time sheets, the formidable duo still ended the day as third BHRC registered crew home.  A perfectly judged drive by the now double champions.

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Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear were able to take advantage of the none appearance of Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts to claim class D3 honours with a strong run to 6th overall.  Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons had held the class lead overnight but could not match the the pace of the Windsor man over Saturday’s stages; Rayner and Deer in the end taking the class win by 21 seconds.

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Warren Philliskirk made it 3 Yorkshire men in the top 7 as he and Nigel Hutchinson went on to claim class C5 victory and second in category 2; ending the event 31 seconds in front of the Datsun 240Z of Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds.

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15th in the end turned out to be a slightly disappointing result for Chris Skill and Tom Jordan.  The class D2 winners had been flying on the Yorkshire forest tracks and were lying in 6th position overall with just 1 stage remaining.  Final stage dramas (a Gale Rigg ditch) would however cost the East Midlands pairing over 2 minutes and 9 positions!

Yet another Yorkshire man in the form of Terry Cree would claim class C3 top spot in his BMW 2002ti.  Co-driven by Richard Shores, the Thirsk pairing would get the better of Simon Pickering and Colin Jenkins on all but two of the stages to take class victory by 26 seconds.

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Further back, 25th historic car home was the category 1 winning MK1 Cortina of Bob Bean and Captain Thompson.  Again mixing it with the category 2 and 3 machines, the vastly experienced Cleckheaton man would go on to record category victory by a mammoth 13 minutes over the class B2 winning Morris Mini Cooper of Phil Harris and Paul Kendrick.

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Elsewhere, Paul Street and Ian Jones fought off challenges from Robin Shuttleworth and Barry Jordan to claim top spot in the BTRDA Historic Cup on the Saturday only Trackrod Forest stages event.

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RESULTS
  1. Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson | Ford Escort MK2 | 0:58:05.1
  2. Steve Bennett/Paul Spooner | Ford Escort MK2 | +02:13.3
  3. Mark Bentley/Ed Bentley | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:00.3
  4. Adam Milner/Roy Jarvis | Ford Escort Mexico | +03:00.6
  5. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:03.5
  6. Shawn Reynar/Declan Dear | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:28.5
  7. Warren Philliskirk/Nigel Hutchinson | Ford Escort | +03:39.7
  8. Tom Hewick/Mick Johnson | Ford Escort MK2 | +03:40.5
  9. Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance | Escort | +03:42.8
  10. Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons| Ford Escort MK2 | +03:49.3

FULL RESULTS

Whilst far from the thrilling end to the championship battle we had at one stage hoped for, the journey through the Yorkshire forests for Pritchard and Clarke must have been more than a little nail biting.  The Welshman may have been driving well within himself but the pace at the front was electric.  Few would have been able to compete with Banner in this sort of form but as closest rivals through the early stages it is a real shame that Robinson and Collis were not able to fulfil their early promise and grab a first ever BHRC maximum score for the glorious 131.

Despite Category 1 forest rallying almost being killed off completely by the ludicrous MSA running order rules we can still look back on an excellent year of historic rallying.  On gravel there was little to choose between Elliott, Price, Pritchard and Barrett but again Pritchard proved the man to beat on tarmac; he and Clarke more than worthy championship winners having evenly split their 4 maximum scores across both surfaces.  And it is their ability to win just about anywhere which will make them tough to beat again in 2017 …

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