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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)

 

 

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

S’No’w Stopping Evans on BRC Opener

An impressive late charge after an unfavourable early road position saw Welsh duo, Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry, overhaul the similar Fiesta of Fredrik Ahlin and Morton Erik Abrahamsen to claim a hard fought Mid Wales Stages victory; the opening round of a rejuvenated British Rally Championship.

Evans_MW16

After years in the doldrums culminating in a 1 year break, the British Rally Championship was back with a bang in 2016.  The Newtown based Mid Wales Stages was a completely new event to the BRC calender but appeared to have captured the imagination of the nations best drivers.  An impressive entry list topped by current M-Sport WRC2 crew Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry but also including a whole host of leading British crews proof, if ever it were needed, that the R5 headlined BRC was most definitely back on track.

68 stage miles lay ahead of the crews, with 2 classic tests in Hafren and Myherin on the Saturday evening to kick off proceedings; talk about jumping in at the deep end!  This, combined with the sprinkling of snow on higher ground, is precisely the kind of challenge that should exist in a top level national series.

BRC1

Whilst still on M-Sport’s books, Evans was unlucky to lose his full time WRC drive at the end of 2015 and would head into the opening round as a huge favourite for the event win.  And true to form the DMACK Fiesta R5 man was electric out of the blocks to set a time that was 18 seconds quicker than anyone else through the slippery 16 miles of Hafren Sweet Lamb.

Anyone who thought the Welshman would have it all his own way was however silenced on stage 2 when Swede and fellow Ford man, Fredrik Ahlin, topped the time sheets, cutting the overall deficit to 17 seconds at the overnight halt.  With the mountainous Myherin/Pikes Peak stage seeing more of the snow fall, could it be that the Swedish native had a better set up for the white stuff? …

Ahlin_MW16

It certainly seemed that way on the morning of day 2 as the impressive Scandinavian, whilst benefiting from a good road position, was able to set fastest time on both stages 3 and 4 to claw back all of the time lost to Evans and jump into a 3.5 second lead by the mid-day service halt.  But whilst thoughts of an upset may have crossed onlooker’s minds, Evans would no longer be sweeping the roads.  With snow and Ice now few and far between on stages already passed once, the rapid Welshman was able to fully attack the event’s final 23 stage miles.

As was the case on stage 1, no one could live with Evans’ pace through Hafren Sweet Lamb; Ahlin losing 16.4 seconds and ultimately the rally victory as Evans showed what the Ford WRC team were missing.  Their loss however is most definitely the British Rally fans gain as the number 1 seeds rounded off a fantastic fight back with their third stage win of the rally to wrap up victory by just 17 seconds; a much closer battle than many would have imagined pre event.

Behind, despite both David Bogie and Tom Cave enduring difficult starts to the event, it was they who would find themselves challenging for the final podium position.  A puncture had dropped Cave and co-driver, James Morgan, behind the Fabia of Bogie and Kevin Rae overnight, but a quick time on the very tricky opening Saturday morning stage, coinciding with an off for Bogie, would promote the young Welshman back up to third.

Cave_MW16

However, Bogie definitely had the pace, and after stringing together 2 impressive times in Myherin and Hafren found himself within touching distance of Cave’s Fiesta as they entered the final 8 miler.  But whilst Cave was able to set 3rd quickest time on stage, a differential problem would end Bogie’s charge, causing the recent Red Kite Stages victor to settle for a hard fought 4th.

DMACK JUNIOR BRC

Having not paid much attention to the junior ranks prior to the event, the front running crews turned out to be some of the stars of the Mid Wales Stages.  Who said FWD’s don’t go sideways?!  In what turned out to be a Ford/Vauxhall/Renault battle, it was the little Twingo of Norwegians’ Sindre Furuseth and Goril Undebakke who held an 8 second overnight lead after a blistering 11th quickest time overall on a tricky stage 2!

Furuseth_MW16

However, lying second at the start of day 2, Gus Greensmith and Alessandro Gelsomino increased their pace on the Saturday morning stages and stole the class lead on Pikes Peak before another quick time on stage 4 would see them hold a 3 and 11 second advantage respectively over Furuseth and the Vauxhall Adam of Robert Duggan and Gerard Conway at the mid-day service.

And despite fastest class times going the way of Furuseth and another Vauxhall junior driver in the form of Matthias Adielsson over the final 2 stages of the rally, it was Greensmith’s consistency which earned him and Gelsomino the well earned maximum class points.  I for one cannot wait to see this battle continue as the season progresses!

Greensmith_MW16

NATIONAL A CLASS RESULTS

Matt Edwards and Will Rogers were in a class of their own in the Swift Caravans backed Mitsubishi Evo 9.  The pair were never outside the top ten stage times to claim BRC2 victory by more than 5 minutes with a fantastic 7th position overall.  Along the way setting 4th quickest time on the very tricky stage 2; one of the highlights from a quite brilliant drive.

Edwards_MW16

Gee Atherton and Keaton Williams would end the day on top of the class BRC4 pile after a consistent drive saw them claim class victory by almost 2 minutes with 23rd position overall.

Atherton

Recent Top Gear addition, Chris Harris, co-driven by Brynmor Pierce suffered many a problem on the Mid Wales Stages but still managed to claim BRC3 victory in their glorious Toyota GT86 with 30th position overall.

Harris

NATIONAL CUP

Due to a lack of homologation, the trio of Mitsubishi Mirage R5’s were disappointingly forced to take part in the 68 mile National Cup instead of the full on National A event.  Whilst covering the same tracks as the BRC, the National Cup competitors would not be party to the Friday Recce of the stages.  And with this in Mind, Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss’ time of 16:46.8, good enough for fourth overall on combined times, on the opening Friday night stage was even more impressive.

Pryce_MW16

In fact by the end of the event the rapid Welshman was only beaten by Evans, Ahlin, Cave and Bogie on combined times as he and Furniss absolutely dominated the National Cup to take victory by a mammoth 8 minutes!  Such a shame that the Mirage is not eligible for the main BRC as a full recce may well have seen Pryce in a theoretical podium position!  A sublime performance.

CLUBMANS STAGES

Dylan Davies and Llion Williams were the class of the Clubmans field, setting fastest time on all but 1 of the 4 stages to claim victory by 55 seconds from another Subaru in the hands of Andy Davies; claiming maximum Welsh Rally Championship points in the process.

Davies_MW16

Elsewhere, 6th overall was enough for Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver to claim maximum HRCR Old Stager championship points.  The MK1 Pinto pairing getting the better of the similar powered MK2 Escort of Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmonds to take top spot by 20 seconds.

Orr_MW16

NATIONAL A RESULTS
NATIONAL B RESULTS
CLUBMANS RESULTS
THOUGHTS

Night stages, sleeping in the car, good access for spectators and the addition of a little snow made for a fantastic weekend.  There was a definite feeling that the BRC was back to its best!

We can only hope that the remaining rounds of the season can attract such strong entries as the Mid Wales and that Evans’ joker inflated maximum points haul does not deter leading crews from entering rounds later in the season.  Surely the BTRDA best 6 scores from 8 rounds concept would be a better way of maintaining interest for longer?  As it stands, Evans, clearly the favourite for the crown anyway has a monumental lead that is now unlikely to be challenged.

That aside, from a standalone event perspective you cannot fault what has been put together in 2016.  I never imagined for one moment that some of the best action would come from the junior ranks.  Furuseth, a much deserved Spirit of the Rally winner, and all 3 Vauxhall Junior drivers were an absolute delight to watch; I had forgotten just how quick these machines can be in the hands of top driving talent.  And up front the quality was just as good, If some time ago you would have told me that the Mid Wales entry would include previous BRC and SRC champions as well as two current WRC2 competitors I would never have believed you.  Roll on the Pirelli in April, my anticipated next slice of the BRC action …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

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

A Perfect Start to Pritchard’s Title Defense

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

Pritchard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elliott

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

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

CATEGORY 3

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

Barrett

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

Anderson

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

Skill

CATEGORY 2

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

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

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

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

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

Orr

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

Tysoe

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

Milner

CATEGORY 1

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

Gibbons

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

Harris

NATIONAL B

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

Bogie

FULL NATIONAL A RESULTS

FULL NATIONAL B RESULTS

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

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

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Outrageous Orme Charge Lands Francis Cambrian Victory

Luke Francis & John H Roberts claimed a sensational Cambrian Rally victory, defying the odds to convert a 10 second deficit into a 1 second winning margin with a phenomenal run over the Great Orme finale.

Francis_Alwen

With the Wyedean Rally no longer part of the BTRDA rally series, the Cambrian Rally, based in Llandudno, would take it’s place as the opening round of the season, just 4 months after concluding the 2015 championship.

An intriguing 127 car entry list had been compiled by North Wales Car Club which included the stage rally debuts of Euan Thorburn’s 208 R5 and Connor McCloskey’s WRC Mini.  The moderately sized field set to face 7 stages within the Snowdonia forests, rounded off by a quick blast over the infamous Great Orme toll road.

GOLD STAR

Amongst the leading crews were ex Gold Star champs Steve Perez, Hugh Hunter and Shaun Gardener but the main story of the 2016 Cambrian rally featured the contrasting fortunes of 3 crews in particular; 2015 King of Yorkshire, Charlie Payne in the Focus WRC engined Fiesta, local crew Luke Francis and John H Roberts in their familiar B13 Evo and 2013 Gold Star champ, Euan Thorburn, in his glorious new Peugeot 208 R5.

Few crews would have passed through Gwydyr before the event and with this in mind Charlie Payne’s 5m23s benchmark was mighty impressive.  Only Euan Thorburn, with Paul Beaton on the notes, was able to get within 10 seconds of the Ford man, the Peugeot possibly suffering a horsepower disadvantage on the steep climbs.

Payne, co driven by Carl Williamson, would continue his strong start with top 3 times on both the following Elsi and Penmachno tests.  In fact the Yorkshire-man was never outside the top 5 all day and it was this consistency which left the Fiesta crew heading into the Great Orme finale with what appeared to be a comfortable 10 second rally lead.

Payne

Thorburn meanwhile also went well in stages 2 and 3; the Scotsman setting second fastest time in Elsi before topping the time sheets in Penmachno to sit just 3 seconds behind Payne.  It would all go horribly wrong in Clocaenog East however as a trip into a ditch would cost the Peugeot man over 40 seconds and with it any chance of a debut victory.  The 2014 Scottish Rally Champions most definitely seemed at home in their new ride though and would be back in the podium positions before the day was out.

On paper Francis was up against it, his older Mitsubishi no match for many of the newer B14 machinery.   However, the local man’s secret weapon is his knowledge of the stages and whilst he and John H Roberts had not topped the time sheets on any of the forest stages,  consistent top 7 times had left them sitting 10 seconds behind Payne in second with just 2.95 miles of tarmac remaining.

A ten second gap over such a short stage may have seemed unbridgeable, but Francis has form on the Great Orme.  Just 4 months ago, the Rhuddlan man set fastest time by 8 seconds with a 2m38s stage time to claim an incredible second place overall.  Could he go one better in 2016?  With Payne registering a 2m51s stage time, the win was definitely on the cards.  And whilst Francis was not able to match his 2015 time, 2m40s was enough to claim the rally victory by a solitary second.  With that opposition a B13 car should not be taking BTRDA rally victories.  A simply stunning drive!

B14 top spot is unlikely to have been much consolation for Payne and Williamson in the circumstances, however they have got to be happy with their pace over the event.  After all, finishing ahead of Thorburn is no mean feat!

Elsewhere, fourth position overall represented a strong debut for Connor McCloskey and  Damien Duffin in the WRC Mini; ending the day just 32 seconds down and setting a fastest time along the way.  BTRDA Rally wins may well be on the cards in 2016 for the Northern Irishman.  Meanwhile 5th and 6th, on equal times and just 38 seconds down were the Fiesta R5’s of Hugh Hunter and Rhys Yates; both showing promising pace ahead of expected full season campaigns in the rejuvenated British Rally Championship.

PRODUCTION CUP

Perhaps lacking the strength in depth of 2015, the production cup battle quickly turned into a rally of attrition.  In fact, by the end of stage 3, we were down to just 4 remaining NR4 competitors with Aaron McClure rolling in Penmachno and Andy Davies retiring with gearbox problems.  Whilst Davies had been quickest in stage 1, it was 2015 front runners, Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy who lead for most of the day; building a 54 second lead over the Subaru of Paul Davy and Roger Allan by the end of stage 6.

Clitheroe man, Thompson, would however be cruelly robbed of a victorious start to 2016 following a mechanical failure on the stage 7 start line leaving Davy and Allan in pole position to take the Production Cup honours.  And that they did, building a 54 second winning margin over the Mitsubishi Evo 10 of Roland Llewellin and Ian Lawrence by the end of the day to claim an impressive 13th position overall.  With Davy not BTRDA registered however it was Llewellin and Lawrence who picked up maximum championship points.

Davy

Elsewhere, Owain Rowlands, with Tom Jordan this time alongside, repeated his 2015 success to claim class N3 victory with a strong 34th position overall.

SILVER STAR

Traditionally, Ffestiniog brothers, Ieuan and John Rowlands have featured at the sharp end of this event.  But whilst John was able to follow up his 2015 class B11 and Silver Star success with an impressive 15th position overall, early category leader, Ieuan, in the 2.8 litre Volvo engined MK2 was forced to retire with gearbox problems after just the third test of the day.

Rowlands_Alwen

John Rowlands, with Glenn Latham on the notes, was not as dominant as you may have imagined however.  In fact, number 53 seeds, Gavin Edwards and Caron Tomlinson kept the Welsh crew on their toes throughout the day.  And by the Llandudno finish were just 35 seconds in arrears in 16th position overall.

Meanwhile, 2015 RAC Championship winners, Phil Burton and Mal Capstick, had turned their attentions to the BTRDA series for 2016 and, whilst not able to match the pace of the aforementioned B11 Fords, were able to capitalise on the unfortunate retirement of Ieuan Rowlands; The Morecombe man going on to claim top spot in class B12 and 3rd place in the Silver star category with 18th position overall.

Burton

Elsewhere, BRC hopefuls, Josh Cornwell and Dai Roberts claimed class B10 honours with 30th position overall in their Fiesta R2, whilst the top scoring BTRDA registered crew were Bob Vardy and Sarah Ceen in 42nd position.  The latter pairing getting the better of Vauxhall Nova crew, James Hutchings and James Hood by a mere 8 seconds!

Cornwell

THOMAS PANELS BTRDA 1400

Whilst the entry list may have lacked 2015 champion David Bennett and fellow front runner Ash Slights, the expected FWD/RWD battle between Dave Brick and Josh Powell was tough to call; the latter having claimed a brilliant second in class back in October.  Disappointingly however the battle was over before it had really begun; the Sunbeam of Powell and Jim Lewis ending the day on it’s roof less than 1 mile into stage 1.

Despite his main opposition out, Brick, with 2015 BHRC champion Phil Clarke alongside, was never going take it easy; the Ludlow man going on to set fastest time on every stage bar the last to claim a commanding 1400 class victory with 22nd position overall.  A final position which may have been stronger were it not for a slow time over the Great Orme finale.

Behind, Jordan Hone finished second in class with 27th position overall; a strong result for the Proton Satria convert, whilst Matt Jackson and Claire Williams rounded out the podium positions in their Nissan Micra.  Rory Jones and Tom Hughes would claim 1400C top spot with 51st position overall in their MG ZR.

BTRDA HISTORIC CUP

Whilst Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis made all the headlines pre event by swapping their formidable MK2 Escort for an RSD prepared Fiat 131, it was Jerry Bailey and Graham Lacey who emerged from the Gwydyr opening stage with the category lead.  A lead which the Ford Escort pairing were able to build to as much 15 seconds by the end of stage 3.

From then on in though it was all about Theo Bengry and Les Forsbrook.  The vastly experienced Leominster man leaping into the class lead on the super-fast Alwen test before going on to record a 37 second Historic and class H3 victory.

BengrySS1

Bengry_Alwen

In class H2, it was David Dobson and Steve Pugh who were leading the way before taking a wheel off in Clocaenog East.  This left Dave Forrest and Steve Ward to battle it out for class honours over the remainder of the event.  Ward held the advantage over the morning stages but the tables turned on stage 6; a slow time allowing Forrest, with Charlie Carter on the notes, to slip into the class lead.  And from then on in the Yorkshire based crew never looked back; claiming 4th in the historic category with 40th position overall.

Forrest

Like Ward, H1 Winners, Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead had been in front of Forrest for much of day but a slow time on the second running of Gwydyr allowed the Eaton Yale Escort to close in and ultimately take the position on the final stage.  Still, 5th in category, and 1st in class H1 was a great result for the MK1 Escort crew.

Shuttleworth

VITAL EQUIPMENT RALLY FIRST

And finally, the MSA running order regulations have not been kind to the rally first crews; a noticeable drop in entry numbers as a result.  However, Dominic Hodge and Stefan Arndt put in a great performance to claim category and RF1.4 victory in their Nissan Micra with a fantastic 44th position overall, beating several 1400C class cars in the process.  Meanwhile, Roger Lovatt and Osian Owen claimed RF1.0 honours and Des Fletcher and Bridge Carey were the first RF1.6 crew home.

FULL RESULTS

From our point of view the Cambrian Rally proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable start to the 2016 season and I personally prefer it’s new position in the calendar.  Photography was tough as always on this event but thankfully the weather remained dry, and despite cold temperatures, viewing on the Orme turned out to be unexpectedly pleasant.

If we learned anything from last weekend it is that Luke Francis and John H Roberts may well be the fastest Mitsubishi Evo 9 crew on the British Isles and if the pace of Rhys Yates, Hugh Hunter and Euan Thorburn is anything to go by, this year’s BRC will be an absolute belter!

Next up is the Red Kite Stages, see you in Mid Wales …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)