Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally ChampionshipPreview, round three:The third round of the 2008 Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship will take crews to Wales for the first time this year for some classic mid-Wales stages during the Severn Valley Historic Rally (Saturday 31 May).
With two very long stages making up the meat of the 45 stage miles, it's going to be a challenging event for another excellent BHRC field.Category 1As usual, the oldest cars in category one (pre '68) will run first on the road and a double victory on the Robin Hood and Pirelli rallies has been the perfect start to the year for Patrick Watts and Elgan Davies in their Sunbeam Tiger. They'll be going all out for a hat-trick in Wales and will start as clear favourites.
Heading the Porsche challenge to the rumbling Tiger will be Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride in their familiar Porsche 911, but the long fast straights in Radnor should give the Tiger crew a flying start to the rally.
However, as well as chasing the Tiger, Nutt/McBride will be working hard to fend off the quickest of the Lotus Cortinas, notably those of Bob Bean/James Whitaker and Neil Calvert/Arlene Cookson. With regular co-driver Malcolm Smithson away on holiday, 21-year old Whitaker will co-drive for 70-year old Bean for the first time. Chasing the Cortinas in class B4 will be the mighty Volvo Amazon of Graham Waite/Mike Reynolds.
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 is Stait/Cotton who have taken two wins so far as Cree/Shores hit a whole range of problems. If both crews have a clear run, it could be quite a contest.
Three Hillman Imp variants contest class B1, including round one winners Gary and Jane Edington (Singer Chamois) and round two winners Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill (Imp Sport), while Mike Barratt/Jody Watson will be hoping that their Sunbeam Stiletto is ready to rally again after a disastrous engine failure just before the Pirelli.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. Smith will be keen to get his campaign back on track after falling victim to a dreaded Kielder ditch on the Pirelli.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 have had a tough start to the season with two non-finishes after mechanical dramas, so they will be determined to score a strong result on the Severn Valley to get their season on song.
However, category 2 is not just about classes C4 and C5. The 2-litre C3 category is already delivering some mighty contests this season, and it was Ken Forster and John Stanger-Leathes who took their Escort Mk1 to a fine win on the Pirelli. But on the opening event, the Robin Hood, Welsh crew Tim Jones/Don James scored a fine win and will be eager to repeat that victory on home ground.
Other major challengers include the Escorts of Neal James/Kevin Jones, James Young/David Young and Robin Shuttleworth/Mark Midgley.The Class C2 pace should be set by Vince Bristow/Tim Sayer (Escort Mk1), but youngsters Adam Morgan and Chris Kenyon are getting quicker and quicker as they build their experience.Category 3With the Porsche 911RS of Jimmy McRae absent after its accident on the Pirelli, category 3 is all about a gaggle of very quick Mk2 Escorts, all of them capable of challenging for victory. Robin Hood winners Richard Hill and Patrick Cooper and Pirelli winners Darren Moon and John McNichol will be right at the head of the battle, although Moon has never seen this part of Wales before.
Other established contenders include Dick Slaughter/Geoff Dearing, Simon Tysoe/Rob Dyson, Phil and Mick Squires, Charlie Taylor/Steve Bielby, Jason Lepley/Howard Pridmore, Frank Cunningham/Ryland James and Chris White/Chris Dewsnap, while Welsh legend – and pensioner – Terry Brown, partnered by the slightly younger Den Golding, will use his knowledge of these stages to good effect.
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 Pirelli winners Will Onions/Tim Hobbs in their RS2000. Also out to fight for D3 honours will be Arwel Evans/Arwel Jenkins and father and son crew Mark and Brett Clifford.
Elsewhere in category 3, welcome variety to the Escort pack will be provided by the Sunbeam Lotus of Adrian Seabridge/Daniel Seabridge, the Vauxhall Chevette HSR of Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks and the Rover SD1 of Steve Holtom/Adrian Jay.The Severn Valley Historic Rally is organised by Midland Manor Motor Club Ltd. For more details about the event, please visit the website at:severnvalleynational.co.uk