Tag Archives: Ray Cunningham

Trackrod Trophies end up in Chesterfield

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

Winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BTRDA RESULTS

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

Full Results

RAC

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

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

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

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

Cat2

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

Cat1

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

RESULTS

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

Full Results

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

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Hill wins as Red Kite sets the standard

Richard Hill and Pat Cooper took a last gasp victory on the very well organised Red Kite Historic Stages after long-time leaders Nick Elliot and Dave Price left the road on the Crychan finale.

An extra early start was in order to ensure I was signed on in time and heading over to Caeo forest for stages 1 and 4 of the scheduled 5.  The 4am alarm was a killer but well worth it given the cracking entry list and the chance to access new territory.

Junctions 4 and 5 were my chosen destinations for stage 1.  The long walk along the super smooth track in the glorious morning sunshine was convincing enough that I was not ENTIRELY mental for spending my spare time in this manner.

The Cat 1 historic entry for the Red Kite was particularly impressive, if anything only missing one or two more Porsches to further bolster the list.

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This was more than made up for by the 2 very rapid red Irish Mini’s of Ray and Frank Cunningham.  Ray, paired with Gary McElhinney would eventually take a phenomenal 19th overall and with it the unofficial Cat 1 victory.

At the front of the field Elliot and Price showed their class by taking 6 seconds out of Hill and Cooper on stage 1, who in turn were no slouch as they were a whole 23 seconds quicker than the trio of Brown, Murphy and Davies through the 8 miles of Caeo.

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It was great to see the sunbeam of Owen Murphy and James O’Brien take the fight to the mighty blue oval machines; lying 4th overall until sadly retiring on the very last stage.  Meirion Evans & Iwan Jones were also massively committed through junctions 4 & 5 of this stage; maybe too committed as they lost nearly 2 minutes to their rivals following a trip into a ditch.  This was a shame as they were quicker than ninth place suggested, and even set fastest time on Crychan Main.

Following a twenty minute service the crews headed east for 2 stages in Crychan forest.  Hill was able to match Elliot’s pace through Crychan West, but the number 1 seed proved just too quick in the shorter East stage.   Elliot would take a healthy lead of 21 seconds back to Llandovery with Brown, Murphy and Davies over 30 seconds further back.  The battle of the MK1’s (C5) was mighty close and being lead by Roger Matthews & Paul Morris with Chris Browne and Simon Tysoe both within 10 seconds of the top spot.

The compact nature of this event meant there wasn’t a great deal of time to scout out locations for the afternoon run of the Caeo stage.  Fortunately however I came across what can only be described as a small lake covering 3/4’s of a very fast part of the track.  With the rain starting to fall more heavily I decided this would be the best option for Stage 4 and would hopefully make for photos which were typical of the recent weather seen in the UK.

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I assumed that the aforementioned water feature would be cautioned but you would not have thought so as many a brave crew hardly lifted.  Adrian Hetherington in the Red Kite Modern rally was probably the most impressive; the impact of the water throwing his MK2 sideways and leaving me to consider running for cover!

The second running of Caeo would again see Elliot top the times and would leave him with a seemingly comfortable 28 second cushion going into the mammoth 14.5 mile final stage.  It was however not to be as Richard Hill and Pat Cooper emerged from the stage with victory.  Second went to the vastly experienced crew of Terry Brown and Den Golding in their infamous red MK2 with the podium being completed by Tomas & Eurig Davies.  A good result following their rather large off in Craik on last year’s RAC.

Simon Tysoe and Cliffy Simmons came out on top in the ultra competitive C5 class with 10th overall; the top 3 being covered by a mere 2 seconds!  Gareth Lewis & Dan Holley took D3 honours with 13th overall in their MK2.  Peter Smith & Patrick Walsh claimed C3 in the immaculate Opel Ascona, a more than welcome addition to the championship and a well deserved 15th overall.

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Together with 30th overall Paul & Daniel May won class C2 in their MK1 Mexico.  James Stait and Mike Harris claimed class D4 in their Sunbeam with 33rd overall following the retirement of Owen Murphy’s similar machine.  With 38th overall, Dave Hopkins and Tony Vart took the D2 victory.

Behind Ray Cunningham in the Cat 1 historics, Simon Wallis & Graham Wride took an equally impressive 20th overall and with it top spot in class B4.  Bob and Dale Gibbons took class B3 victory in their MK2 Cortina and last but not least Stephen Higgins and Dom Bramfoot claimed class B1 in the unmistakable Saab 96.

By 5.30pm I was back home and dry, even with a short delay during the second run.  Hats off to organisers for putting on a top event, If only more were this compact. Overall it was a great way to start the new championship year.  I am already looking forward to round 2, the Mid Wales Stages, in early March.  Let’s hope it is a little warmer than last year ….

For full results see: AMC Rally Results

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)