Tag Archives: Richard Hill

Pritchard Masters Monsoon conditions to Top BHRC Title Race

Whilst Damian Cole and Jack Morton claimed overall Harry Flatters Rally victory for the second year in succession, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke revelled in the wet conditions to claim the BHRC honours.

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Rain, of biblical proportions and sideways in nature, greeted the 100+ Harry Flatters Rally entrants as they set off on the first of five stages across the infamous Epynt military ranges, where a slightly disappointing BHRC entry of just 38 was more than made up for by a whopping 79 in the modern event.

MODERN RALLY

Stage 1 was particularly treacherous with standing water leaving the possibility of aquaplaning at any given location.  And being first on the road in Damian’s new WRC Fiesta, Cole and Morton may well have encountered the worst of these conditions.  Whilst it therefore may not have been too much of a surprise to see the #1 seeds only register third quickest time through stage 1, few would have anticipated the pace of Mark Jones and Terry Martin.

In just over 14 stage miles the rear wheel driven BMW M3 crew had managed to set a time that was 18 seconds quicker than the 4WD Ford of Cole; a simply incredible stage time from a crew who must surely have had their Weetabix on Sunday morning!  In fact, such was their level of performance, that it wasn’t until the slightly less damp stage 3 that Jones would inevitably relinquish the lead to the Get Connected liveried machine.

Intercom problems had slowed Cole and Morton on stage 1 but once fixed the Epynt masters managed to set a time which was almost 1 minute quicker over the identical, if not slightly drier, stage 2.  And whilst Simon Chapman and Paul Wakely in the Proton and Eian Pritchard and Stephen McPhee in their Focus WRC were more competitive over the remaining stages, Cole and Morton would go on to set fastest time on three of the events five stages to take rally victory by 49 seconds; the Hereford man’s 4th Harry Flatters win in 5 years.

Meanwhile, Mark Jones and Terry Martin drove the wheels off their very powerful M3 to consistently record top six times, the fastest 2WD machine on every single test.  Whilst not able to match the outright pace of their 4WD rivals in the afternoon, they had built a margin significant enough over the morning tests to ensure the runner up spot remained firmly in their hands by the Brecon finish; capping off what must be one of the truly great Epynt performances of recent times.

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FULL MODERN RESULTS
HISTORIC RALLY

Nick Elliott and Dave Price’s final stage exit from the Severn Valley Stages had blown the British Historic Rally Championship wide open as the crews headed to the unforgiving tarmac roads of Epynt.  And with tarmac expert Jason Pritchard managing to snatch second place on the Mid Wales gravel, many would consider the Welshman title favourite over the asphalt biased second half of the season.

Rain can sometimes be a leveller but it was clear from the start that the battle for historic honours on the Harry Flatters Rally would be between the MK2 Escort of Pritchard and Clarke and the similar machine of historic interloper and tarmac legend, Melvyn Evans, co driven by the vastly experienced Patrick Walsh.

In fact it was Evans and Walsh who were quickest out of the blocks, setting a time 3 seconds quicker than their rivals over the very tricky stage 1.  However, this would be the rally car preparation man’s only stage victory of the day as Pritchard and Clarke went on to better the time of the #8 machine on all four of the remaining stages, taking the lead on stage 3 and establishing a 27 second winning margin by the end of the day.  This had been some drive by Pritchard, taking historic victory is one thing but beating Melvyn Evans in equal machinery is one hell of an achievement!

Rounding out the podium positions, was another F2 specification MK2 in the hands of Neil Williams and Peter James who ended the day just 58 seconds down on the rally victors; A great result for the Welsh crew, who registered their best BHRC result of the season by some margin.

Behind, a titanic battle for class D5 was taking place between historic heavyweights Nick Elliott and Richard Hill.  While both are more comfortable on the loose, Hill has more experience on the black stuff and it was he and Iwan Jones who held an early advantage after stage 1.  Elliott and Price meanwhile were holding their own and would gain the class lead with equal fifth quickest time on stage 2.

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Hill’s experience would come to the fore over the second half of the event though as he and Jones reclaimed the class lead on stage 3 before going on to record a 29 second class victory.  6th overall however is a more than respectable result for the Cheltenham based reigning RAC champs, who will be looking to build on their Epynt performance when the championship moves to the Isle of Man in mid September.

Meanwhile, third in Category 3, just 1 minute and 1 second behind Elliott in 7th position overall was the D3 specification Ford duo of Ian Jones and Iestyn Williams.  The pinto powered MK2 Escort crew put in a consistent performance on the Welsh tarmac to take class honours by over 6 minutes!

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Category 2 stalwarts David Stokes and Guy Weaver looked to be heading for yet another victory as they held the category lead by a massive 1 minute and 23 seconds after just 3 stages.  A slower time in stage 4 however signalled problems; the crew having to retire from the event shortly after the stage with Stokes not well enough to carry on.

The unfortunate demise of Stokes and Weaver therefore left the way clear for Jimmy McRae and Pauline Gullick to take category victory in the awesome Vauxhall Firenza.  But with the multiple British champion not registered for points it was Ernie and Will Graham who came away with the maximum class C5 and Category 2 tally ahead of Class C3 winners Neal James and Kevin Jones in a similar MK1 Escort.

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In line with recent trends, category 1 entries dwindled to just 5 for the Harry Flatters Rally, where only 2 managed to reach the finish.  That said, another strong performance by Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins saw the Ford Anglia duo claim the category 1 honours with 23rd position overall.

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Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride were the only other category finishes and were rewarded for a trying day on Epynt with class B5 victory, albeit some way down on the Category victors, finishing the event in 27th position overall.

FULL HISTORIC RESULTS
RAC CHAMPIONSHIP

Phil Burton and Mal Capstick were back to winning ways on the Harry Flatters Rally, recording their third RAC Championship victory of the season by over 3 minutes from the MK2 Escort of Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance.  The 2.4 litre Millington powered Escort looked at home on the Welsh tarmac and 9th overall in the ‘Modern’ event represented a great performance against some very strong Epynt regulars.

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LEADING BHRC CREWS AFTER RD5

Pritchard – 278 (275 from 4)
Elliott – 241 (238 from 4)
Stokes – 230 (225 from 4)
Perrott – 220 (220 from 5)
Hill – 204 ( 199 from 3)
Robinson – 182 ( 178 from 3)

*Brackets indicate current likely dropped scores position.

Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke are now sitting pretty at the top of the BHRC points table, their tally of 278 points being derived from 2 victories, 1 runner up position and a 4th place on the Mid Wales Stages.  And in theory, a good result on the Manx double header in September could see them take the title prior to the final round in Yorkshire.

Richard Hill, Nick Elliott, Matthew Robinson and David Stokes are all likely to have something to say about that however, where Hill and Stokes, having previously gone well on tarmac, could find themselves as biggest challengers to Pritchard’s crown.  Hill has also effectively used his drop scores already meaning any points picked up on the Manx and Trackrod would count towards his final championship score.

Meanwhile Elliott and Robinson are both likely to feature at the sharp end of the Trackrod leader-board, and so any bonus points gained on the narrow roads of the Isle of Man could keep them in the title fight.  And should Pritchard and Clarke encounter trouble on the Manx, the concluding round in the Yorkshire forests would not be one to miss!

Whilst short on BHRC numbers and despite the horrific July weather, this had been one of my better days on the tarmac roads of Epynt.  The commitment of the leading crews over the centre road jump on the final stage of the day was a sight to behold, with Melvyn Evans barely lifting!  A reminder, if needed, of why the slightly mad rally community travel hundreds of miles for a slice of the action.

IMAGES

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Hill Triumphs as Rivals Hit Trouble

While early front runners Nick Elliott and Matthew Robinson both hit trouble late on, Richard Hill and Iwan Jones judged their pace to perfection to take the Severn Valley spoils.

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Round 4 of the British Historic Rally Championship saw the crews head to Mid Wales for the Builth Wells based Severn Valley Stages, with the 97 car field facing 8 classic stages within the Crychan and Halfway forest complex.

Pleasant Spring sunshine greeted the cars as they headed for the morning loop of stages and it was Nick Elliott and Dave Price who picked up where they left on the Pirelli, stealing 4 seconds from their rivals over the relatively short Cefn opener.  As was the case in Kielder, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis would again face the tough challenge of chasing down the traditionally fast starting Cheltenham crew.

Indeed, while Robinson was able to fight back in Crychan to half the deficit, Elliott went on to take three seconds back in Halfway.   The Ford duo then tied the final stage of the morning loop, leaving the lead battle poised at 5 seconds in favour of the current RAC champions by the mid rally service halt.

Behind the leading two, Ben Llewellin and Ross Whittock had had a very good morning and were lying just 5 seconds behind Robinson in third.  Meanwhile, Pirelli giant killers, Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts were at it again, defying the odds to sit fourth; 1 second up on Hill and Jones and 8 in front of Pritchard and Clarke courtesy of some very impressive stage times.

Other leading contenders coming into the Severn Valley did not fare so well however.   Joe Price and Chris Brooks had been expected to feature but unfortunately fell foul of the infamous ‘Bell Hairpin’ in Crychan, while Meirion and Steffan Evans were again out of luck, retiring with Engine problems in Halfway.

The afternoon loop was an exact replica of the morning with a further 22 competitive stage miles providing ample opportunity for the aforementioned top 6 to shuffle positions.  With no interim service, and potentially rougher stage conditions on the second pass, the podium positions were far from settled.

By stage 6, it was clear that the afternoon tests were suiting both Hill and Pritchard as each recorded a fastest time to move up to third and fourth respectively.  This in part due to Ben Llewellin’s unfortunate demise in Crychan; the young Welshman forced to retire having bent a steering arm at junction 12.  Whilst not quickest Historic, Elliott was getting the better of Robinson; he and Price managing to increase the lead gap to 12 seconds.  With just two stages remaining the championship leaders appeared on course for a third straight victory …

Nothing is certain in rallying though and the second running of Halfway was where it all began to unravel for the 3 time Severn Valley victors; the glorious red, white and blue Escort developing a clutch problem which caused them to lose four seconds and make a rolling start to the Gwibedog finale …

But cruelly, just as Robinson and Collis could sense their maiden 2015 BHRC victory the pendulum had swung back in favour of Elliott and Price as the chasing Escort was forced to retire with alternator failure just three miles from the finish.  Thoughts of Elliott making it three in a row were over less than a mile later however as the pre event championship leaders joined them on the retirements list courtesy of a heavy roll after clipping a bank.  In one stage the shape of the event had changed completely!

Lying fifth at the halfway point, Hill was much quicker over the afternoon loop of stages but couldn’t ever have imagined that 3 of the cars in front would all fail to make it to the finish.  As the old adage goes, “to finish first, first you have to finish” but it was not as though Hill was taking it steady as he and Jones fought off the fast charging Jason Pritchard to take BHRC victory by 10 clear seconds.

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 CATEGORY 3

Second place in the National A Historic Rally for Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke was rewarded with class F2 honours; the Red Kite winners finishing 48 seconds clear of Tomas and Eurig Davies in their similar MK2 Escort.

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Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts were yet again in a class of their own.  For the second rally in succession they were amongst the BDA machines, finishing the National A Historic event in a fantastic third position overall to claim class D3 by an enormous 1 minute and 40 seconds!  The mind wonders what could be achieved in a D5 specification machine …

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Chris Skill and Captain Colin Thompson may have been the only crew to complete the event in class D2, however, 21st National A Historic home represented a good result for the 1600 MK2 pairing.

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CATEGORY 2

David Stokes and Guy Weaver went into the Severn Valley Stages looking for their fourth straight category victory and leapt into an early 9 second lead after the first 2 stages of the event.  John Perrott and Keaton Williams however, having run Stokes close on the Pirelli, were soon up to speed and had cut the gap to 5 seconds by the Builth Wells service halt.

Whilst the morning belonged to Stokes and Weaver, the afternoon sunshine was certainly shining on Perrott and Williams; Crychan being the pivotal stage as the orange MK1 Escort turned a 5 second deficit into a 5 second lead.  A gap which turned out to be the winning margin for the Hereford man, bringing an end to Stokes’ and Weaver’s fantastic run of class C5 victories.

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James Slaughter and Keegan Rees were again dominant in class C3, ending up just 1 win short of a second successive clean sweep of class stage victories.  The MK1 Escort crew finished the National A Historic event in a very creditable 16th position overall to record a 55 second class victory.

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Class C2 turned out to be a duel between the MK1 Escort crews of Dave Watkins and Tom Jordan and Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead.  And while Watkins jumped into a 5 second lead on the opening Cefn stage it was Shuttleworth who seemed to have the greater pace throughout the day; taking the class lead on the opening stage of the afternoon loop and ultimately taking class victory by 18 seconds.

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CATEGORY 1

The MSA’s running order regulations seem to be having more of a negative impact on the category 1 machines with each passing event, with just 6 cars appearing on the Severn Valley Historic Stages entry list.

Bob and Dale Gibbons in their MK2 Cortina GT had been quickest on stage 1, but Paul Mankin and Malcolm Rich in their respective MK1 Cortina and Ford Anglia were the front runners by the halfway point; Gibbons forced to retire with a blown engine at the start of stage 4.

Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell held the category lead in the early part of the afternoon, but the Halfway stage proved decisive as Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins registered a time which was 20 seconds quicker.  The Anglia pairing were then fastest again on the final stage to claim category honours by 21 seconds, taking class B3 in the process.

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Class B4 victory the consolation prize for Mankin and Bell …

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Meanwhile Phil Harris, this time aided by Paul Price, was the third category 1 car home; the Morris Mini Cooper crew ending the day 33rd overall in the National A Historic event and top of class B2.

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RAC CHAMPIONSHIP

Phil Burton and Mal Capstick were again amongst the National A front runners before losing over four minutes on the second running of Crychan.  Thus paving the way for James Potter and Bob Duck to claim class BD2 and the overall National B Historic victory; themselves setting a strong pace to defeat the stunning Lotus Sunbeam of Gary Cooper and Jon Riley by over 1 minute.

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Graeme Standen and Jane Edgington were the third crew home in the National B event, taking class BD1 in the process; a great result in their 1600cc Escort.

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Elsewhere, Vince Bristow and Tim Sayer made up for their off on the Pirelli to record victory in class BC1 while ex Volvo Amazon pilot Graham Waite, with Mike Reynolds on the notes, took the BH1 win in his Toyota Corolla.

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Following Burton’s time loss, Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance looked odds on for BH2 victory, however they too suffered a significant time loss on the very next stage which put them back behind the Lancastrian crew.

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Meanwhile Robert Rook and Miles Cartwright claimed class BC2 with 8th position overall in the National B Historic event.

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MODERN

Whilst on paper Bob Ceen and Andy Bull may have had the faster machinery, many would have expected the rapid pairing of Luke Francis and John H Roberts to bring home the bacon in their B13 specification Evo 9.  However Ceen and Bull put in a stellar performance in the aging WRC Subaru to register overall rally victory by 24 seconds and claim maximum points in the Welsh Championship.  Meanwhile Dylan Davies and Llion Williams rounded out the podium positions in their Subaru Impreza.

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COMBINED RESULTS

1. Bob Ceen / Andy Bull | Subaru Impreza WRC (M6) | 0:47:35
2. Luke Francis / John H Roberts | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (M5) | +00:24
3. Dylan Davies / Llion Williams | Subaru Impreza (M5) | +01:10
4. Roland Llewellin / Jamie Edwards | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (M6) | +01:45
5. Paul Davy / Roger Allan | Subaru Impreza (M6) | +01:55
6. Andy Davies / Dale Bowen | Subaru Impreza (M6) | +02:30
7. Richard Hill / Iwan Jones | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +02:42
8. Jason Pritchard / Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 (F2) | +02:52
9. Paul Barrett / Dai Roberts | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +03:00
10. Rudi lancaster / George Gwynn | Escort MK2 (D5) | +03:22

FULL RESULTS
TALKING POINT

Leading BHRC Championship Contenders after Round 4
Stokes / Weaver – 225
Pritchard / Clarke – 203
Elliott / Price – 188
Robinson / Collis – 182
Perrott / Williams – 170
Barrett / Roberts – 168
Hill / Jones – 145

Will Elliott and Price live to regret that off on the final stage?  With six scores from the eight BHRC rounds counting towards the end of year standings, the Cheltenham duo now have two scores that they would prefer to dispense with, meaning another non finish would seriously hamper their title challenge.

With 3 of the remaining 4 rounds being fought out on the black stuff, arguably asphalt expert Jason Pritchard may now be favourite for the title.  The cancellation of the Neath Valley Stages combined with Elliott’s lack of tarmac experience potentially swinging the pendulum away from the current RAC champions.

Pre dropped scores, it is David Stokes and Guy Weaver who now lead the championship chase and they cannot be ruled out.  Nor should Robinson, Barrett or Hill, although the Severn Valley Stages winner will need to approach the remaining events with caution having effectively already registered two non scores.  It is therefore with much anticipation that we look forward to round 5, The Harry Flatters Rally, on the undulating and unforgiving tarmac military roads of Epynt.  See you there in late July.

IMAGES

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Phenomenal fightback lands Pritchard the Red Kite

After a steady start Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke set a blistering pace over the second half of the event to claim victory on the Red Kite Historic Stages.

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The opening round of the British Historic Rally championship saw the crews head to Llandovery for the Red Kite Stages.  A fantastic entry list had been assembled with over 100 crews across the modern, historic and RAC categories set to take on 6 tests within Crychan and Caeo forests. The condition of the stages was a big talking point prior the event with the usually super smooth route likely to have a covering of snow and ice!

The weather forecast was indeed correct and just driving in through the spectator entrance in Crychan was challenging enough with several cars struggling up the hills; this would definitely be a day for the brave to shine.  Having been caught out by the cancellation of Crychan South, a fast retreat to stage 1 meant very little of the action was missed.  Daniel Jones was visibly quicker than most through Crychan North and therefore it was no surprise to see him at the top of the times.  Perhaps benefitting from his lowly seeding, Mark Holmes put in a sensational time in his category 2 Mk1 to go second quickest while the flamboyant Meirion Evans was third.

With snow and Ice defeating stage 2, the crews made their first visit of the day to Caeo forest following a service halt in Llandovery. Fastest time on this 12.5 mile test sent Meirion and Steffan Evans to the top of the time sheets while consistency was the key for David Stokes and Guy Weaver who moved into second overall in front of Daniel Jones and Kevin Lewis.  The conditions were really mixing up the field with several much fancied crews further back than expected.  Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke were 10th, 2014 RAC Rally winners Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were 17th while last years RAC Champions, Nick Elliott and Dave Price were lying in 27th position overall!

The effects of a sunny day and a full field of cars passing through the morning loop of stages had lead to much of the snow and ice melting; thus providing the opportunity for struggling crews to drag back some time.

In fact the leaderboard changed dramatically after stage 4 with Meirion Evans being the first to hit trouble.  A 90 left after junction 13 of Crychan North catching the Welshman out and with no chance of retrieving the damaged car from its deep ditch resting place his good run was over.  Stage 4 was not a good stage for the team, with the sister car of Daniel Jones and Kevin Lewis retiring with a seized gearbox just one junction before!  It was instead Jason Pritchard who set the fastest time; 5 seconds quicker than anyone else enough to lift himself and Phil Clarke up 6 places to fourth overall. The number 5 seeds now just 14 seconds behind surprise new leaders David Stokes and Guy Weaver.

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The current BHRC champions in turn holding a 7 second lead over Terry Brown and Den Golding, with last years Red Kite winner, Richard Hill, just 1 second further back.

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Hill, with Iwan Jones on the notes, was now a strong candidate for victory and a quick time in the dramatically shortened running of Crychan South moved them up to second overall.  With several other high seeds also regaining lost ground it really was all to play for over the 12.5 mile Caeo finale.

It would have been great to see Stokes and Weaver take the overall victory but it was just too much to ask of the category 2 machine.  A whole host of top spec MK2s were chasing them down including Robinson and Pritchard who both clocked a time of 8 minutes 45 for the final stage.  The time fast enough for Pritchard and Clarke to leapfrog Stokes, Hill and Brown to take and excellent 4 second victory.  Hill and Jones would have been many peoples favourites heading into Caeo and while a time of 8:56 moved them in front of Stokes it was not enough to keep the rapid F2 spec MK2 of Pritchard at bay; a consolation being the maximum D5 class points bagged for the championship cause.  Joint fastest time was also enough to salvage 5th place for Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis; a great effort given they were 17th at the halfway point.

Stokes and Weaver dropped back to 4th in the end but this still represented an incredible result given the cars they were up against.  They also took the category 2 and class C5 honours with a winning margin of 40 seconds.   Terry Brown and Den Golding quietly went about their business in their D5 spec Ford.  Lying 7th at the halfway mark, a quick time in stage 4 saw the vastly experienced crew leap into second place, only dropping back to 3rd as Hill and Pritchard turned up the heat.  An overall podium was just reward for an excellent performance in the tricky conditions.

Behind the leading crews Ben Llewellin and Ross Whittock claimed the D3 class victory with 8th; another fantastic comeback after a difficult morning left them lying in 23rd overall at the halfway service halt.

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Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh looked at home in the slippery conditions in their Opel Kadett and were rewarded with top spot in class C3.  They also had the honour of being the first non Ford crew home in 10th place overall.

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Further back Dave Watkins and Thomas Jordan ended the event on top of class C2 in 47th position while Chris Skill, with Gary Middleton alongside, claimed class D2 victory with 42nd.

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A nice variety of cars turned out in category 1, several of which were running in the national B event.  National A category honours however went the way of Rikki Proffitt and Graham Wild in their Porsche 911, claiming class B5 victory in the process with 39th position.  The very well driven Ford Anglia of Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins however kept them on their toes all day and topped class B3 with 40th position overall.

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Phillip Harris and Alan Walker finished 53rd and claimed the class B2 honours in their Mini Cooper while Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell took the class B4 victory with 56th position.

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NATIONAL B

National B and BH2 victory went the way of Phil Burton and Mal Capstick with 11th place overall in their MK2 Escort.  They were certainly one of the most impressive crews through this 90 left!

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Category 1 top spot was claimed by Aziz Tejpar and Yasser Slatch with 34th overall; unusual that it was to see a MK1 Escort entered in this class.

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Elsewhere, 50th overall saw Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson claim victory in class B1.

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David Hopkins and Tony Vart were just 1 place further back in 51st position to take class C1.

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Grahame Standen and Jane Edgington put in a strong performance to finish 41st overall and in turn take top spot in class D1.

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And Mark and Ed Bentley were top National B D5 runners after finishing the event in 32nd position.

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MODERN

Meanwhile in the modern event, a rare appearance for tarmac expert Melvyn Evans was rewarded with victory. The Impreza S11 pilot, with Mark Glennerster on the notes, taking top spot by 16 seconds from the Focus WRC engined Fiesta of Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson.

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IN SUMMARY

Photography wise my plans were scuppered by the cancellation of stage 2 which left me on the back foot all day due to the compact nature of the event.  However the main reason we all head out to the forests is to witness the incredible battle of man and machine against the best Mother Nature can throw at them.  And witnessing Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke’s monumental efforts to come out on top of a battle that saw the top 5 crews covered by just 15 seconds was worth the long trip alone.  The duo will now have the honour of topping the prestigious British Historic Rally Championship table heading into next months Mid Wales stages. This could be the closest title fight in years.  And as daft as it may sound, with driver-less cars not too far away in the distant future this could indeed be the future of British Rallying!

HISTORIC RESULTS

1. Jason Pritchard / Phil Clarke | Ford Escort RS (F2) | 00:40.39
2. Richard Hill / Iwan Jones | Ford Escort (D5) | +00.04
3. Terry Brown / Den Golding | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.07
4. David Stokes / Guy Weaver | Ford Escort RS (C5) | +00.12
5. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.15
6. Rudi Lancaster / George Gwynn | Ford Escort (D5) | +00.39
7. Nick Elliott / Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +00.42
8. Ben Llewellin / Ross Whittock | Ford Escort (D3) | +00.51
9. Rupert Lomax / Rich Jones | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +00.52
10. Peter Smith / Patrick Walsh | Opel Kadett (C3) | +01.08

Full results here

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Elliott Excels on Smooth Neath Valley Stages

Number 1 seeds, Nick Elliott and Dave Price, took their third RAC Rally Championship win of the year with victory on the Neath Valley Stages; in the process putting themselves back on top of the championship table with just one round remaining.

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Round six of the RAC Rally Championship saw the crews head to South Wales for 6 stages on the super smooth Vale of Neath gravel which up until recently were annually graced each November by the likes of Jari-Matti Latvala and co at WRC level; the use of Bryn also allowing us to tick another stage off the ‘to do’ list!

The opening section of stage 2 was our first point of call but before the crews reached us they were faced with 9 challenging miles through infamous Rheola.  Unfortunately, for everyone involved in the event, the Zutec sponsored Sunbeam of Owen Murphy and James O’Brien retired less than 1km into the first stage with electrical problems; a huge disappointment as they were in with a genuine chance of competing with the top Ford runners.

Elliott meanwhile had shot out the starting blocks, taking six seconds out of closest rivals Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke in Rheola with pre-event championship leaders Richard Hill and Steffan Evans a further 5 seconds back.  It was obvious that Elliott’s rivals were going to have to take a few risks to keep up with his flying Ford.

And by the end of stage 3 the pace had taken it’s toll on a number of the top runners with Terry Brown and Tomos Whittle falling foul of Bryn, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis retiring after stage 3 with overheating problems and, most spectacularly of all, Jason Pricthard and Phil Clarke having a massive off at Junction 5 of Margam.  Thankfully both crew members were ok, but unfortunately the same could not be said about the car!

Although losing further time in stage 2, both Hill and the fellow ford crew of Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones managed to claw back a few seconds in Margam leaving Elliott’s lunch time lead at just over 10 seconds.  Roger Chilman and Bryan Thomas were going well in fourth with top K2 class runners, Tomas and Eurig Davies, rounding out the top five.

K2Winners

Rain threatened the afternoon stages, and whilst their was only a short burst where we were in Bryn, it did come down quite heavily during the second running of Rheola.  Not that it had much of an impact on the event as Elliott and Price were able to extend their lead in stage 4 and confirm the inevitable on the second running of Bryn; taking a comfortable 20 second lead into the Margam finale.

And so it was Nick Elliott and Dave Price who emerged from Margam as victors; taking their third win of the year and returning to the top of the championship points table.  Taking dropped scores into account they have effectively wrapped up the title with just the Trackrod Historic Cup remaining in late September.

A season of consistency continued for Richard Hill and Steffan Evans as they secured second place in their D5 Escort.  While the flamboyant Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones capped off a well deserved third with a stage win on Margam 2.  Roger Chilman and Tomas Davies would hold station in 4th and 5th allowing Tomas and co-driver Eurig to claim the K2 victory.

David Stokes and Guy Weaver yet again took category 2 honours in their MK1 Escort with 7th overall.  Chris Browne and Ali Cornwell-Browne were runners up in class C5, almost a minute in arrears but just one place further back overall.  While victory in the all MK2 affair that is class D3 went the way of Ben Friend and Sean Kennedy with 11th overall.

D3Winners

It is always nice to see something slightly different on the stages and therefore great to see Peter Smith and Patrick Walsh take class C3 with 12th overall in their Opel Ascona; in the process claiming the honour of first ‘non Ford’ crew home.

Ascona

Ray Cunnigham and Arron Forde in their Mini had been putting in another giant killing category 1 performance over the morning stages; holding a 50 second lead at the lunch time service halt.  Gearbox issues however put pay to any chance of victory leaving the big Volvos of Graham Waite and Ian Beveridge to battle it out with the Ford Cortinas of Paul Mankin and Gwilym Roberts.

Roberts and co-driver Don James were lying second after the first loop of stages but a strong run from Waite, with Gill Cotton on the notes, through Rheola 2 saw the huge Amazon leap into the class lead.  Although quicker through the final 2 stages, a 30 second time penalty would ultimately cause Roberts and James to drop off the podium with Ian Beveridge and Paul Price, in their PV544 version of the Swedish marque, taking second, just 16.6 seconds away from the category victors; the Cortina of Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell claiming third, 6.4 seconds further back.

CatBWinners

In the modern event, Welsh Championship rivals Luke Francis and Alex Allingham would again lock horns in their quest for top spot on this very fast event.  Allingham, with Chris Williams alongside, would take an early lead in their Group N Impreza but were unable to keep the B13 specification Evo 9 of Luke Francis and John H Roberts at bay over the remaining five tests. Karl and Guy Simmons, in their S11 WRC Impreza, would come home third some 45 seconds behind the winners.

ModernWinners

Meanwhile, in the RAC Open category, Simon and Alister Crook would take top spot in their Opel Manta, finishing a very credible 9th overall; an equivalent time in the Historic event would have landed them eighth position.

OpenWinners

Overall It had been another great day following the RAC championship and nice to be back in the South Wales forests for the first time in nearly two years.   The last time I attended the Neath Valley Stages it was a compact event within the confines of the Rheola / Walters Arena complex and whilst it has always been a top event it is great to see it mature into a proper multi venue stage rally.

We now have a three week break before hitting the Shropshire forests for the next round of the BTRDA Championship; the Woodpecker Stages on August 30th.

RESULTS

1. Nick Elliott / Dave Price – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – 00.46.53.1
2. Richard Hill / Steffan Evans – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.19.8
3. Meirion Evans / Iwan Jones – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.34.5
4. Roger Chilman / Bryan Thomas – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +00.53.0
5. Tomas Davies / Eurig Davies – Ford Escort MK2 (K2) – +01.08.1
6. Tim Freeman / Paul Williams – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +01.41.9
7. David Stokes / Guy Weaver – Ford Escort MK1 (C5) – +01.49.5
8. Chris Browne / Ali Cornwell-Browne – Escort MK1 (C5) – +02.37.9
9. Gareth Lloyd / Ryland James – Ford Escort MK2 (K2) – +02.41.0
10. Roger Matthews / Tom Marrott – Escort MK1 (C5) – +03.03.8
11. Ben Friend / Sean Kennedy – Ford Escort MK2 (D3) – +03.39.6
12. Peter Smith / Patrick Walsh – Opel Ascona (C3) – +03.45.3
26. Graham Waite / Gill Cotton – Volvo Amazon (B3) – +07.53.8

Full Historic Results
Full Modern Results

Standard prints available HERE.

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Elliott charges to Mid Wales Stages Victory

Nick Elliott and Dave Price made up for the last stage error on the Red Kite by taking maximum BHRC and RAC points on the Mid Wales Stages. Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis came a close second while in turn claiming the 55 mile event honours. Meanwhile 2013 Welsh Champions Alex Allingham and Chris Williams came out on top in the slightly shorter modern event.

If the route through Tarenig forest into the Pikes Peak stage was anything to go by this was going to be a very tricky event for the competitors.  Prior thoughts of combining Motorsport images with the fantastic mid Wales scenery looked to be difficult; confirmed by the high winds and sideways rain which aggressively met the hardy spectator who ventured onto the barren mountain range dividing Myherin forest and the Pikes Peak hairpins.

Having settled on a sweeping 90 left for stage 1 of the combined historic/55 mile event, it was obvious that this was going to be tough photography wise.  Not being someone who is happy to get equipment wet, I was left with no option but to bolt the 70-200 on, attach the monopod, and see what could be achieved whilst holding an umbrella.

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The photography may not have been great but the commitment of the historic guys through this section was superb.  Richard Hill and Jason Pritchard were as entertaining as ever.  Pritchard would unfortunately retire, however RAC round 1 winner Richard Hill, with Steffan Evans on the notes, would go on to take fifth overall to keep him firmly at the top of the points table.  It may have been an even better result had it not been for a 1 minute time loss in Stage 2.

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A phenomenal drive through Pikes Peak and Myherin saw Nick Elliott and Dave Price take a commanding 36 second Historic lead into the first Sweet Lamb service.  The hard work had already been done in the battle for top RAC honours too as they also held a 17 second lead over Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.  Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones were putting in a strong performance to hold second in the Historic event with David Stokes and Guy Weaver rounding out the podium positions.  Behind Robinson in the 55 miler sat Terry Brown and Den Golding who in turn were closely followed by the first non Ford crew of Owen Murphy and James O’Brien.

2013 Welsh Champions Alex Allingham and Chris Williams were quick out of the blocks in the modern event. They gained most of their 28 second winning margin on stage 1 alone and would go on to set fastest time on all four stages. Their commitment through this tightening 90 right of stage 1 was second to none.

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Daniel Humphreys & Ian Pryce claimed the runner up spot with a great run over the final 3 stages; giving up less than 5 seconds to the eventual winners over the Myherin, Hafren and Sweet Lamb tests. Paul Davy and Roger Allan would follow them home with third overall.

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The afternoon schedule saw the crews tackle Hafren and Sweet Lamb before a short service and another run through Pikes Peak. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of witnessing the downhill running of the final stage and subsequently headed to the last but one hairpin of this infamous stage. On arrival it looked as if the weather was going to play ball. Luck however was not on our side; as before I even had chance to swap to the wide angle lens the heavens opened. This time it was definitely more than a passing shower. Combined with the frequent gusts of wind, the ‘Epynt style’ sideways rain made capturing any sort of movement ‘troublesome’ at best.

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Fortunately the odd one or two images came out but this was more than a slight anti-climax after what had turned out to be a very good morning. “If only this event still had it’s summer slot?” was one of the topics of conversation on the long walk back to the car …

Upon reading the results on the way home it was no surprise to find out Elliott and Price had claimed the BHRC victory. The Historic event podium positions also remained unchanged throughout the afternoon’s 3 stages leaving Evans and Jones to take a well deserved second and Stokes and Weaver to take the C5 victory with third overall.  Confusingly however Robinson and Collis would be the second BHRC registered crew home with their victory in the Open event.  Category 1 honours went the way of Graham Waite and Gill Cotton in the mighty Volvo Amazon.  It is always a pleasure to witness this machine being man-handled around the stages.

Following Robinson home in the RAC event were Owen Murphy and James O’Brien in the crowd pleasing Sunbeam and round 1 winner Richard Hill in his bright yellow Ford.  Ray Cunningham and Gary McElhinney followed up a great run on the Red Kite with another stunning performance to take category 1 honours and a fantastic 22nd overall.

Although leading to slightly confusing results, the BHRC and RAC organisers must be highly praised for allowing competitors to score points in both championships.  It did worry me that the split of historic competitors across two series at the start of 2013 would not necessarily be in the best interests of the sport. However collaboration like this can only aid what is by far the closest and most exciting category of rallying currently available on British shores.

The two championships now head in different directions with Rally North Wales being the next event for the BHRC runners and the Tour of Hamsterley next up for the RAC contenders.  It is looking more and more like being another great year for historic rallying.  Lets hope the entries grow even bigger over the forthcoming events.

For full results see Rally Roots

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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)