Pirelli Historic Rally

BHRC preview, round two:The second round of the 2008 Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship will pit crews against the challenge of the mighty Kielder forest complex in Northumberland for the Pirelli Historic Rally (18/19 April 2008).

The crews will tackle four stages on Friday evening and a further three stages on Saturday, starting and finishing with a ceremonial flourish in Carlisle city centre. Category 1As usual, the oldest cars in category one (pre '68) will run first on the road and a resounding victory on the Robin Hood was just the start that Patrick Watts and Elgan Davies wanted in their Sunbeam Tiger. They'll be going all out to make it two wins from two starts on the Pirelli, as the Porsche 911 pack chase hard.

Heading the Porsche challenge will be Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride in their familiar Porsche 911, with Dessie sure to enjoy being back in the driver's seat after co-driving for his son Michael on the Circuit of Ireland over Easter. Another very quick 911 will be the car of John Keatley/Maurice Beckett, but the quickest of the Lotus Cortinas are really taking the fight to the Porsches.

In particular, the Cortinas of Bob Bean/Malcolm Smithson, Neil Calvert/Arlene Cookson and Jonathan Gale/Graham Gale are bang on the pace and Bean will be looking to continue his Robin Hood battle with Dessie Nutt. Clearly, reaching his 70th birthday that weekend has not slowed Bob down in any way!

Class B2 is likely to be a straight fight between the Mini Cooper S of defending class champions Terry Cree/Richard Shores and the MG Midget of James Stait/Gill Cotton, and it was Stait/Cotton who took a clear win on the Robin Hood when the Mini crew hit major problems.

Three Hillman Imp variants contest class B1, including round one winners Gary and Jane Edington (Singer Chamois). Mike Barratt/Jody Watson (Sunbeam Stiletto) and Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill (Imp Sport) will be challenging hard.Category 2Steven Smith and John Nichols turned in a mighty performance to win category 2 on the Robin Hood and their Porsche 911RS could well be the car to beat once more. However, the quickest of the Escort Mk1s will be flying along and it is the cars of defending BHRC champions David Stokes/Guy Weaver and Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard that should be the best of the pack.

Stokes/Weaver had a bad weekend on the Robin Hood when sidelined by a major misfire on the opening leg, so they will be looking to get their season properly underway on the Pirelli.The Porsche 911Rs of Andrew Haddon/Mark Crisp is another contender for category 2 victory, while the Escort Mk1 of Rupert Lomax/David Alcock is getting quicker and quicker.

However, category 2 is not just about classes C4 and C5. The 2-litre C3 category is shaping up to deliver some mighty contests this season, and local crew Ken Forster/John Stanger-Leathes should join the action after missing the opening event as they prepared their Escort Mk1 with a fresh Pinto engine. Major challengers include the Escorts of Russell Morgan/Martin Kenyon, Tim Jones/Don James, Neal James/Kevin Jones, James Young/David Young and Robin Shuttleworth/Mark Midgley.

Class C2 is well and truly up for grabs at the moment, with the pace likely to be set by Kevin Broadhurst and Andrew Turner (Escort Mk1). They suffered a disastrous engine fire on the Robin Hood but hope to have the car ready again in time for the Pirelli.Category 3The standard of entry in category 3 is every bit as good with four-time British Rally champion Jimmy McRae leading the field in the Prepfab Porsche 911RS. This freshly prepared car is one of the first 911s to run on a gravel event in category 3 and is sure to give the Mk2 Escorts a major fight for category spoils. As before, Andy Richardson partners McRae in the Stobart-backed entry.

Lining up to challenge McRae will be a gaggle of very quick Mk2 Escorts, all of them capable of challenging for victory. Robin Hood winners Richard Hill and Patrick Cooper set a stunning pace and are likely to be the benchmark, while Darren Moon/John McNichol were sensational on the Robin Hood and came very close to overall victory.

Other established contenders include Dick Slaughter/Geoff Dearing, while Phil and Mick Squires will make a late start to the season after missing the Robin Hood after Phil suffered a hand injury in the workshop. Other leading runners in Escort Mk2s include Charlie Taylor/Steve Bielby, Jason Lepley/Howard Pridmore, Frank Cunningham/Ryland James and Chris White/Chris Dewsnap.Class D3 for the 2-litre non-multi valve cars should also deliver a tremendous contest, with the fastest cars getting up amongst the BD-powered cars in D5. Richard Lane/Frank Richer pulled off a fine victory on the Robin Hood, but will face a big challenge from Will Onions/Tim Hobbs in their RS2000.

Elsewhere in category 3, welcome variety to the Escort pack will be provided by the Sunbeam Lotus of Adrian Seabridge/Daniel Seabridge and the Vauxhall Chevette HSR of Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks.The Pirelli Historic Rally is organised by the Cumberland Sporting Car Club and for more details about the event, please visit the website at: pirelliinternationalrally.co.uk