Nick Elliott and Dave Price made it three wins out of four this season as the Dunlop/WONAGO.com MSA British Historic Rally Championship made its final visit of the season to Wales on Sunday (20 June) for the Mid Wales Historic Stages. Rob Smith/Shaun O’Gorman challenged, but their Vauxhall Chevette collected three punctures and handed second in category three to the Escort Mk2 of Gareth Lloyd/Ryland James. Jeremy Easson/Alun Cook (Ford Escort Mk1) finally took a win in category two, having led the duelling Tim Jones and Andrew Siddall all day, while rivals David Stokes/Guy Weaver ended their rally in a ditch. In category one the Porsche 911 of Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride was briefly led by the Sunbeam Tiger of Jonathan Gale, until the Tiger became permanently beached on a bank.
Category 1: For the third successive rally dust was a prime factor, but it didn’t seem to bother Nutt/McBride, as the Porsche 911 pulled out an immediate 12 seconds lead over Gale/James Whittaker on the opening stage in Hafren South. “It was a lovely stage, but the dust wasn’t clearing,” said Nutt. “We had a stall which didn’t help,” Gale replied.
Graham Waite and Gill Cotton reported a quiet start in their Volvo Amazon, but were still third and well clear of fellow Amazon crew Dave Reynolds/Cliff Doe. “It was dying on me a bit out of hairpins so I had to keep dipping the clutch,” said Reynolds. Gwilym Roberts/Gwawr Hughes (Lotus Cortina) had a few brake problems, but Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill (Imp) had to stop in the stage after finding Steven Graham’s Lancia Fulvia on its roof in the middle of the stage. There was a stage in Hafren North and a repeat of the opener before returning to service. “I am almost fell off the road on stage two, it was very loose and I slid around a lot,” said Nutt. The result was Gale in the lead by one second, only to go out of the rally on stage three, with the Tiger beached on a bank. Nutt was left 39 seconds clear of new second man Waite, who really went for it over the remaining stages.
However, Nutt still had 28 seconds in hand at the finish. "That was very hard work all day,” said the defending champion. “I forgot to plug the intercom in on stage five so lost a bit, but the Pikes Peak stage four was awesome,” said Waite. Reynolds held on to third with Roberts fourth after a dramatic end to the day. “We had the brakes go and then a rear puncture on stage three, before breaking the gear lever at the first corner of stage four. So we used mole grips but forgot there was no gaiter when we went through the water splash,” said a soggy Roberts. Taylor’s Imp had been plagued with oil pressure problems and overheating in the dust all day. “The clutch seized and then the engine blew on stage four,” he reported of the car's demise.
Category 2: Easson and Cook had come close to winning on several occasions this year, but finally clinched victory this time around. Both Easson and Stokes were given a notional time in stage one after a stoppage, which left them tied with Andrew Siddall/Colin Thompson and seven seconds up on Tim Jones/Don James as Siddall and Jones contested class C3. “It was lucky for us, as when we returned to service we found a rear puncture,” said Easson. Jones had lost time after damaging the steering on his Escort Mk1. “I hit a bank and it took the steering wheel out of my hands, it’s hurt my wrist too,” said Jones.
With two stages before returning to service it was nip and tuck between Easson and Stokes, but on stage three Stokes was caught out in the dust. “I was too quick into a hairpin, I could see trees so went left through the tapes and hit reverse. I thought I had kept it straight but we tipped it on its side in a ditch,” he admitted.
Easson was left 27 seconds clear, but second placed Siddall only had four seconds in hand over Jones. “We had two good runs and got the time back,” said Jones. “We went off on stage three, I stayed on the brakes too long and went up a bank,” Siddall replied.
Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne (Porsche 911) worked its way past Chris Browne/Liz Jordan (Escort Mk1) for fourth. “We peeled the front back a bit on the bumps,” said Smith. “I hit something on stage three and it affected the handling,” Browne added. Jones' pressure gave him second place from stage four and he even took time out of Easson on the last stage to clinch second and C3 honours over Siddall. “That was a really hard rally,” said Easson at the finish. “It was no holds barred and we tried our hardest,” Siddall explained. “We just went for consistency and got Andrew, but my wrist was really beginning to hurt,” Jones concluded. C5 winner Smith retained fourth relatively unscathed, but as Browne slipped back to settle in 11th and second behind Easson in C5, Vince Bristow/Tim Sayer brought their Escort Mk1 into fifth from stage four. “We had an oil leak from the gearbox early on and it got onto the clutch. Towards the end it was slipping badly," said the giant-killing class C2 winners.
Rex Ireland/Adrian Scadding were sixth and second in C2, while Jeremy Wells/Pete Phillips broke away from Dave Kirby/Sean Kennedy (class C2 Escort) to secure seventh and third in C3. Fellow C3 crews Richard Morgan/Tim Madeley (Porsche 914) and Richard/Pat Egger (Escort Mk1) completed the top ten. Peter McDowell/Max Utting (Porsche 911) collected second in C4 and there was even a starter in C1 this time, but the BHRC debut of Steve and Tony Graham lasted only half a stage before their Lancia Fulvia rolled. The maiden outing for Terry Cree and Richard Shores in their eagerly awaited BMW 2002 netted them fourth in C3.
Category 3: There was a dramatic start to the day, which underlined the decision of Elliott and Price to proceed with caution. Will Onions and Dave Williams were off at the flying finish on the opening stage with their Escort Mk2 and the next four crews were give a notional time. “We were sideways for about 100 yards on the approach and then hit a bank head on. A bit too enthusiastic,” said Onions. It was a lucky break though for Smith/ O’Gorman. “When we got into service we realised we had a rear puncture,” said the Chevette driver. Onions had still set a time, albeit 10s slower than Elliott. Roger Kilty and Lynette Banks were the first to get a clean run after the restart, but had clutch problems.
Elliott was quickest through stage two in Hafren North and the re-run of the opener in Hafren South to reach service 56s clear of Smith. “We were right on the pace, but had a near over the edge moment on stage two so held back a bit after that,” said Elliott. Connor Corkill/Rob Fagg (Escort Mk2) had gone into second place on stage two, only to roll on the third. “The corner went on a bit longer than I expected, we caught a bank and was over. We then had to stop again as it had punctured a rear tyre,” said Corkill.
Although second, Smith hadn’t had an easy run either. “We caught Corkill’s dust and it was losing gears and oil on stage three,” said Smith. Tim Pearcey/Craig Drew had slotted into fourth and despite a spin on stage three they held their place, but had been usurped by Gareth Lloyd/Ryland James (Escort Mk2). “The brake pedal went hard at a hairpin on stage two, but then it cleared again,” explained Lloyd. Elliott was quickest on all but the last stage to take a comfortable victory, his third out of four this season. “I had time in hand so eased a little but stayed cautious,” he said. Lloyd made it into second on stage four, after Smith had another puncture. “It was another rear and then only half a mile into the last stage we had a third puncture but just kept going,” he said after retaining third in category three and class D4 victory.
“I’m exhausted, it seems like I was in the car for weeks,” said Pearcey after coming home in an encouraging fourth, while in fifth Kilty was delighted to record his best ever finish. Alan Walker/Jez Rogers (Escort Mk2) survived a last stage scare to hold onto sixth. “We fell off on a downhill righthander,” said Walker. Phil and Mick Squires edged away from Simon Tysoe/Cliff Simmons to consolidate seventh, while Dick Slaughter/Geoff Dearing took ninth in their first outing since rolling in Kielder. “The clutch was playing up a bit, but we weren’t looking for heroics,” said Slaughter.
Class D3 winners Richard Lane and Frank Richer completed the top ten in their Escort Mk2 after bending the steering on the second stage. Jakob Scannell and Andrew Smith (Escort Mk2) were the only starters in D2 and despite losing the brakes on stage three were there at the finish. In D3 David Lloyd-Roberts/Dei Jones (Escort Mk2) followed Lane, with Wayne Bonser/Richard Aston third after Stephen Richards and Ian Withecombe rolled their Escort on the opening stage.