Round four of the 2008 Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship will pit crews against some classic forest stages on the Mid Wales Historic Stages (28/29 June).
The Newtown-based event will cover stages in the Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Myherin region, so the BHRC crews will be competing over the stages that will form the opening day of Wales Rally GB in December.Category 1The oldest cars in category one (pre '68) will lead the field away and a double victory on the Robin Hood and Pirelli rallies was the perfect start to the year for Patrick Watts and Elgan Davies in their Sunbeam Tiger. However, they retired from the most recent round, the Severn Valley Stages, after sliding off the road and so they will be eager to get their title bid firmly back on track.Heading the Porsche challenge will be Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride in their familiar Porsche 911, with other 911s for Phil and Barbara Smith and Steve Troman/Kevin Devine.
But the Porsches will be pressed hard by the fastest of the Lotus Cortinas, notably those of Bob Bean/Malcolm Smithson and Neil Calvert/Arlene Cookson. Chasing the Cortinas in class B4 will be the mighty Volvo Amazon of Graham Waite/Mike Reynolds.Class B2 will again 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 are firmly in contention for the overall title after the opening three rounds.
Two Hillman Imp variants contest class B1, including round one and three winners Gary and Jane Edington (Singer Chamois) and round two winners Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill (Imp Sport).Category 2Category two will be a battle between the Porsches and Ford Escorts Mk1s, although the ever-improving Lancia Stratos of Steve Perez will be a welcome addition to the field and could be a major contender. Set to head the Porsche contingent is the 911RS of Steven Smith and John Nichols, which has now won twice from three events.
Among the Escorts, it will surely be the cars of David Stokes/Guy Weaver and Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard setting the pace. It has been a dire season so far for Stokes, the defending champion, with just one delayed finish to his tally from three starts. Graham, meanwhile, has three strong results under his belt and is currently top dog overall in category 2.However, another very strong contender will return to the BHRC for the Mid Wales in the form of the Escort of Rupert Lomax/David Alcock. After a famous victory on the Pirelli Historic Rally, they missed the Severn Valley due to the clashing Rally Barbados, but they are now back and looking to go very well on home ground.
However, category 2 is not just about classes C4 and C5. The 2-litre C3 category regularly delivers some great battles, and it is brothers James and David Young who currently top the points after a great run on the Severn Valley. Their opposition is very tough and includes Ken Forster/John Stanger-Leathes and strong Welsh crews of Tim Jones/Don James and Neal James/Kevin Jones.
The class C2 entry marks the return to rallying of former class pacesetter John Worthing, partnered by John Cadwallader in his Escort Mk1. On his first rally of 2008, Worthing should start as favourite over stages he knows well, with Kevin Broadhurst/Andrew Turner leading the challenge.Category 3Category three is all about a gaggle of very quick Mk2 Escorts, all of them capable of challenging for victory. With two wins from three starts, Richard Hill and Patrick Cooper are the men to beat, but Darren Moon and John McNichol have been right on the pace despite a complete lack of prior knowledge of the Welsh stages. If gearbox problems are resolved in time, Moon will be flying
So too, will be Martin McCormack on his return to the BHRC having missed two events while campaigning a Citroen C2 in the BRC. The last time all three crews competed together just seven seconds split them at the finish, so another mighty battle is likely.
Other established Escort Mk2 contenders include Dick Slaughter/Geoff Dearing, Simon Tysoe/Rob Dyson, Phil and Mick Squires, Charlie Taylor/Steve Bielby, Frank Cunningham/Ryland James and James Potter/Steve Smallbone, while Paul Griffiths/Sam Collis could be right at the head of the action in their Escort Mk2
Class D3 for the 2-litre non-multi valve cars will also deliver a fine contest, with the fastest cars getting up amongst the BD-powered cars in D5. Will Onions and Tim Hobbs (RS2000) are leading the championship standings, but have plenty of rivals including Richard Lane/Frank Richer and Arwel Evans/Arwel Jenkins, while BTCC racer Mike Jordan makes his Welsh rallying debut in his RS2000. A dark horse could be the Escort Mk2 of former Avenger driver Stephen French and Colin Booth.Elsewhere in category 3, welcome variety to the Escort pack will be provided by the Sunbeam Lotuses of Adrian Seabridge/Daniel Seabridge and Julian Burch/Simon May and the Vauxhall Chevette HSR of Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks.The Rally Marketing Mid Wales Historic Stages is organised by Newtown and District Automobile Club Ltd. For more details about the event, please visit the website at: newtown-mc.co.ukThe historic rally starts from Newtown at 4pm on Saturday, 28 June and resumes at 8am on Sunday morning.