Thursday, 9 April 2009

BHRC heads for Pirelli Historic Rally

The second round of the Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship will pit another fine field of historic rally cars against the challenge of Kielder on the Pirelli Historic Rally (Friday/Saturday 17/18 April).

With two stages on Friday evening and then four more in a quick-fire leg on Saturday morning, it will be a hugely competitive event with battles across all the classes.

Category 1: Category one is for the oldest cars, from the pre '68 era, and they run first on the road with a short gap before the rest of the historic field. One of the stars of the Bulldog was Jonathan Gale, having his first rally in the ex-Patrick Watts Sunbeam Tiger. Co-driven by his father Graham, Jonathan drove superbly in Wales to win category 1 for the pre '68 cars. Gale's rivals will again include Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride (Porsche 911) and Newcastle crew Paul Mankin/Desmond Bell (Lotus Cortina) on their home event. Meanwhile, returning to the category for this event with their Porsche 911 will be Phil and Barbara Smith.
One of the best battles on the Bulldog was for class B1 as Gary and Jane Edgington (Singer Chamois) beat Steve Taylor and Steve Greenhill (Hillman Imp Sport) in a great final stage contest.

Category 2: In category two, for the post-historic cars, it is Ford Escort Mk1s against Porsche 911s at the head of the category. Former British Rally champion David Higgins is mounting a serious bid on the historic title this year in a Mk1 Escort from Mark Solloway's stable and started his campaign with category two (1968-74) victory in Wales. With Ieuan Thomas alongside, Higgins won despite a serious hand injury and having to adapt to route notes after nearly a decade using his own pace notes. He will surely be quicker still in Kielder. Sure to go well, however, will be Rupert Lomax and David Alcock in their Escort Mk1. They took second to Higgins in Wales and won here a year ago, on their Kielder debut. Meanwhile, a real dark horse in class C5 is Bob Bean, the amazingly quick 71-year old who has acquired the ex-Jeremy Easson Escort for this season and has Malcolm Smithson alongside as usual. Tim Mason/Graham Wild are overdue a strong result and have previously shown their pace in the region with their Porsche 911, while the newly completed 911 of Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne could also be a major contender. Ranged against the Porsches in class C4 will be the Ford Capri RS3100 of Jeremy Easson/Alun Cook, fresh from a great result on the Bulldog.

Class C3 is dominated by the 2-litre Pinto-powered Escort Mk1s and there are a gaggle of potential class winners in what will surely be one of the most competitive classes of the rally. Strong contenders include Bulldog victors Tim Jones and Don James, while Northumberland crew Ken Forster and John Stanger-Leathes will also be right up there on their home event along with Drew Wylie/Howard Pridmore and Andrew Siddall/Captain Thompson.

In class C2 for the 1600cc cars, championship newcomers Richard Williams and Richard Ekin took their Mk1 Escort to victory on the Bulldog.

Category 3: Category three is for the cars produced from 1975 to 1981 and here it is the Ford Escort Mk2 that is the car to beat. With a stunning charge, Nick Elliott and Dave Price won the Bulldog to make it two wins from two BHRC starts. Can the Cheltenham crew complete the hat-trick in Cumbria?
Their major rivals include Julian Reynolds/Ian Oakey, who claimed second in Wales despite some pre-event engine dramas, while more fast and spectacular Escorts will be in the hands of 2008 Pirelli winner Darren Moon, now teamed with Chris Parsons, Bulldog star Seamus O'Connell, Will Onions/Tim Hobbs and Simon Tysoe/Cliff Simmons. Joining the D5 ranks for this event will be David Stokes and Guy Weaver in the Escort Mk2 of Jonathan Brace, which is on loan after Stokes' regular Mk1 was badly damaged on the Bulldog. But no one should see class D5 as just about Ford Escorts. Two Vauxhall Chevettes are sure to fly, with the car of Rob Smith/Shaun O'Gorman more than capable of shaking up the Escort ranks, while Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks are getting quicker and quicker in their Chevette. Added to the mix is the Triumph TR7 V8 of Mike Anderson/Mark Perryman, with its Bulldog engine maladies hopefully resolved.

In D3, for the Pinto-powered Escorts, the benchmarks should be the Mk2 Escort of Richard Lane/Frank Richer, which was hobbled by a puncture in Wales, and David Lloyd-Roberts/Dei Jones, while Chris Shooter/Bev LeGood will also be up there in another Escort Mk2.

In D2, the Escort Mk2 crew of Jakob Scannell/Nina Thompson make the long trek north from Dorset in search of another class win.

The Pirelli Historic Rally is organised by the Cumberland Sporting Car Club and for more details about the event, please visit the website at:

By Paul Lawrence
Image courtesy Songasport