Monday, 13 July 2009

BHRC Round 5 Report: Isle of Man Historic Rally

Gwyndaf Evans completed a hat-trick of win in category three of the Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship when he dominated the Isle of Man Historic Rally (10/11 July). Partnered by Huw Lewis, Evans won every one of the 18 stages in a mighty performance in the Ford Escort Mk2 of Viking Motorsport as the island roads again delivered a fabulous challenge to the BHRC crews.

In category two, Steven Smith and John Nichols had to push hard in their Porsche 911 to battle ahead of the Escort Mk1 of David Stokes/Guy Weaver, while a measured performance from Rupert Lomax/David Alcock took them to the top of the championship table. In category one, Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride made it four Isle of Man wins in a row with their Porsche 911.

Category 1: The stage was set for a fine battle for category one between Nutt/McBride and the Sunbeam Tiger of Jonathan and Graham Gale after they shared fastest time over the opening two stages. Unfortunately, stage three was as far as the Tiger went when it slid off the road in Little London and was too badly damaged to continue. It was on a section of road that pre-event instructions said not to recce, and the Gales paid a price for following those instructions. With the same stage claiming the Porsche 911 of Rikki Proffitt/Phill Harrison with a broken gearbox, Nutt/McBride were left with a clear run. However, it was not all plain sailing as a rattle from the gearbox during Friday heralded a problem with first gear and the Tuthill team had to take the box apart on Friday night and fit a new first gear. "Richard and the guys did a great job," said Nutt after spraying the champagne on Saturday afternoon. "The car ran perfectly today."

The honour of second place in category one and B1 victory came after a mighty performance from Gary and Jane Edgington in their Singer Chamois. The highlight of their rally was matching the Porsche on the very foggy Cringle stage on Saturday, despite a time-consuming overshoot. "Gary loves the fog," said Jane of one of the drives of the rally, with the car running with commendable reliability. Things were far from good for Paul Mankin and Desmond Bell, however. Their Lotus Cortina broke a halfshaft on the start line of the first stage and then another as they tried to contest Saturday's stages. B4 victory therefore went to the Volvo Amazon of Manx veterans John and Stephen Moxon. Third and fourth places in category one went to the non-BHRC registered Minis of Stephen Higgins/David Corlett and Shinobu Kitani/Makoto Mizoi. Maximum B2 points should have gone to Mike Barratt/Jody Watson, but they clobbered a wall on the final stage and were denied a finish.

Category 2: Stokes/Weaver set the category two pace throughout Friday, despite a couple of problems. A wrong tyre call on the 21-mile Newtown stage cost them time, as did an unscheduled trip up a bridleway in Glen Roy, but they ended the day with a 25s lead over Smith/Nichols. For the Porsche crew, the opening day was troubled with brake dramas and they nearly went out right at the start with an off on the first stage. Saturday was better for Smith, however, and when it rained for the long Newtown stage he was able to really attack Stokes to move ahead. "We had a big moment in Newtown and backed off," reported Stokes, who ended the rally 70s down on the Porsche to win class C5. Third in category two was the subject of a fine battle as Ernie Graham/Ashley Trimble fought to keep their Escort Mk1 ahead of the Porsche of Derek and Roisin Boyd and the Escort of Rupert Lomax/David Alcock. That was how they finished after all three crews turned in excellent performances. "We had a really good rally," said Graham. "But it is very hard to beat Steven Smith and David Stokes."

Another excellent run from Drew Wylie and Howard Pridmore was rewarded with C3 victory in their Escort Mk1, going clear of Ken Forster/John Stanger-Leathes. "Thanks go to XS Racing for keeping the car in one piece," said Wylie, while Forster found his Escort much improved after a change of springs on Friday night. Despite a visit to a ditch, Peter Smith and Graham Wild took second in C5 in their Porsche 911, finishing clear of the similar car of Peter Lythell/Gill Cotton. Meanwhile, Neil Rudd and Brian Hodgson bagged class C2 after a sterling performance in their 1600cc Escort Mk1.

Category 3: Evans/Lewis stamped their authority on the event from the opening stage when they took an immediate lead. They pushed hard all day Friday to build a cushion ready for the rain that was forecast for Saturday and ended day one with a lead of over three minutes. The Escort Mk2 continued it's steamroller pace through Saturday when the rain largely stayed away and the winning margin was a whopping five minutes at the finish. "That's probably one of the most enjoyable rallies I've ever done," said Gwyndaf after a faultless drive.

Second and third in the category fell to the non-BHRC registered crews of Phil Collins/Diarmuid Falvey (Opel Ascona) and Mark Solloway/Den Golding (Ford Escort Mk2), and into fourth came Darren Moon/Chris Parsons after a hard-charging run in their Escort Mk2. "I'm pleased to get to the finish for the first time here," said Moon. Will Onions/Tim Hobbs netted third BHRC crew in D5 after climbing a big learning curve on only Will's second visit to the island. In the dry of Friday their pace improved all the time, despite rearranging some street furniture in the Castletown stage and running without a starter motor. Next up after a strong run was the Vauxhall Chevette of Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks. D3 victory on the rally fell to the non-scoring Escort Mk2 of Guy Woodcock/Iwan Jones, with Woodcock using his Manx experience to good effect. The runner-up slot went to Chris Shooter/Bev LeGood after Mark Clifford/Elgan Davies retired with a broken cam follower on their Escort Mk2.

The BHRC action continues with round six, the Harry Flatters Historic Rally, on 1/2 August.

By Paul Lawrence
Image by Songasport