Thursday, 25 June 2009

BHRC Report: Mid Wales Historic Stages

Gwyndaf Evans made it two wins on the trot in category three of the Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship when he won the Rally Marketing Mid Wales Stages on Sunday (21 June). Partnered by Gareth Roberts, Evans swept ahead when both Julian Reynolds/Ian Oakey and Nick Elliott/Dave Price hit trouble after they has set stunning times over the opening stages. In category two, David Stokes/Guy Weaver turned in an excellent run to claim victory while Jonathan and Graham Gale bagged category one in their Sunbeam Tiger. Once again the classic stages in Hafren and Myherin drew unanimous praise from the crews and the new organising team behind the rally delivered a first class event.

Category 1: Despite running first on the road throughout the rally, Gale was always top dog in category one having pushed the Tiger clear on the opening 10-mile stage that started in Hafren and finished in Sweet Lamb. Through the second pair of Hafren stages, Gale extended his lead, but it was never a case of just cruising to victory. The first big drama came on the descent from Pikes Peak when a huge moment caused a deal of excitement inside the car. Then, fuel vapourisation struck and they struggled into the long Myherin stage. Finally, a detached windscreen wiper and misted screen made vision very difficult in the last stage to Elvis Rock, so it was a relieved Gale who returned to Newtown with victory confirmed. "That was an enormous moment coming down from Pikes Peak," reported Jonathan.

Leading the chase of the Tiger was non-BHRC crew Graham Waite/Gill Cotton, who pedalled the Volvo Amazon with typical verve to head Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride (Porsche 911). With the Porsche still bearing the scars of the off on the Severn Valley, Nutt was happy to reach the finish without any dramas. "The car hasn’t missed a beat," reported Paul Mankin and Des Bell after another class B4 victory to put themselves back into the overall BHRC lead, while Mike Barratt/Jody Watson took B2 in their Mini Cooper despite Watson being ill for most of the rally. In B1, with the Sunbeam Imp of Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill out with a broken gear lever, it was down to the Saab 96s of John Parker/Caroline Lodge and Nick Pinkett/Jonathan Lodge. In a tribute to his former co-driver Bob Harrison, who died recently, Parker claimed the class on his first rally for over a year.

Category 2: The decisive moment in category two came towards the end of the second run through Hafren South when Rupert Lomax/David Alcock sportingly pulled over to let Stokes/Weaver go by. They had been only a second apart on the first stage, but a stuck throttle cost Lomax more than a minute as they drove out of the stage on the cut-off switch. They were again closely matched over the later stages, but the damage had been done and Stokes/Weaver won by a minute and a half after a faultless performance. "Once I passed Rupert I didn't take any risks," reported Stokes after a result to end a run of troubled rallies.

Tim Mason/Graham Wild ran with the Escorts over the opening stages in their Porsche 911, but went out of the rally in mysterious circumstances in Myherin. Running first on the road after a gap following Nick Elliott's accident, they arrived at a corner to find a large log in the road and the resulting suspension damage ended their rally in a most unfortunate manner. With the Porsche out, Lomax fought back to second to maintain his title bid heading for the Isle of Man.

Into C4 victory came Jeremy Easson/Alun Cook in the mighty Ford Capri, though Easson admitted that the twisty section of Sweet Lamb was definitely not Capri territory. A couple of offs and a puncture cost Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne (Porsche 911) a good result, but they set some encouraging times in the process.

As ever, the contest for C3 glory was spectacular and fiercely competitive among the Escort Mk1s. Drew Wylie and Howard Pridmore lost over half a minute on the first stage when Wylie admitted to having not woken up. Instead, Tim Jones/Don James took the lead and had to push very hard to fend off the flying Neal James/Kevin Jones, with the margin just four seconds after a fine battle. "We had a bad stage in Myherin," said Jones after a long wait at the start of the stage. Wylie/Pridmore took third from Ken Forster/John Stanger-Leathes.

Vince Bristow/John Cadwallader were well on target for C2 spoils with a great run when a melted piston ended their rally. Instead, Matt Fowle/Robert Cook took the class and tenth overall in category two despite nursing their Escort home with a failing head-gasket.

Category 3: The pace among the top three Escort Mk2s in category three was sensational as Reynolds/Oakey and Elliott/Price tied on the opening stage, 12s up on Evans/Roberts. Reynolds then went 2s faster than Elliott in Hafren North before adding nine seconds to his lead on the second run through Hafren South, aided when Elliott lost the intercom. But it was stunning stuff and the many spectators out on the stages loved the spectacle. Heading out of service towards Pikes Peak, Reynolds was 11s up on Elliott and 23s up on Evans, who felt he had lost time with a wrong tyre choice, but gave full credit to the speed of his rivals. However, Pikes Peak dealt Reynolds a crushing blow with an early puncture and they lost nearly four minutes changing the wheel. But worse was to come for Elliott on the 12-miler in Myherin. An off-camber left threw them into the ditch and the Escort went over twice. Though unharmed, Nick had breathed in some fire extinguishant and felt groggy, so the stage was halted while medical crews attended. "It was all going fairly comfortably and we'd just inherited the lead," said Elliott. All of this left Evans with a clear lead but he acknowledged the pace of his rivals. "They were both going well and I wasn't going quick enough to catch them," he said. Nevertheless, a second victory on the run went to the Viking Motorsport crew. Through to a fine second pace came Will Onions/Tim Hobbs after their best BHRC run so far. "A very good day; no problems," reported Hobbs as they ended the rally half a minute up on Paul Griffiths/Sam Collis. Out for the first time this season, Griffiths got back into the groove very well to bag third by just three seconds from Darren Moon/Chris Parsons, who spent the day working back from a steady first stage.

The D3 battle was another final stage cliff-hanger as Mark Clifford/Elgan Davies stormed through Elvis Rock to win by two seconds, having been level with Guy Woodcock/David Williams going into the last 6-miler. "That was a fantastic battle," said Clifford, before admitting to a big moment in that last stage.

In D2, Jacob Scannell/Nina Thompson got a well-deserved finish and class win in their Escort Mk2 after a series of dramas on previous events, while D4 fell to the Volvo 244 of Bill Douglas/Stephen Hancock.

The BHRC action continues with round five, the Isle of Man Historic Rally, on 10/11 July.