Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship
Report, round four: Mid Wales Historic Stages
Martin McCormack returned to the 2008 Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship for the Mid Wales Historic Stages on 28/29 June and turned in a mighty drive to claim category three spoils.
On an event that once again drew rave reviews from the competitors, McCormack and Joe Agnew charged back into the lead after delays on the opening day, while an equally strong recovery drive after an even bigger delay from Richard Hill/Patrick Cooper netted third in the category behind Darren Moon/John McNichol.
David Stokes/Guy Weaver finally shrugged off their bad luck with a great run in category two, but were edged back to second by Steven Smith/John Nichols, while Patrick Watts/Elgan Davies bagged another category one win in their Sunbeam Tiger.Category 1The rally opened with two stages on Saturday afternoon and crews went straight into the amazing Pikes Peak stage, a long climb up the mountain via a series of wide-open hairpins. Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride set the pace in their Porsche 911 despite a puncture towards the finish and ended the first leg with a lead over the rumbling Tiger. "I'm surprised we took time off Patrick," said Nutt before the restart on Sunday morning.
The opening two stages in Hafren on Sunday were in superb condition and Watts really got into his stride to take over the lead of the category. He duly went on to build his advantage to nearly a minute.
"Perfect; we enjoyed ourselves," said Watts back at the finish in Newtown. Nutt dropped time in Myherin when a stone jammed between the wheel and the caliper, but still took second, clear of a tremendous battle for class B4.
Into the last stage it was level between Neil Calvert/Arlene Cookson (Lotus Cortina) and Graham Waite/Mike Reynolds (Volvo Amazon) and it took a big push from Calvert to grab the class from the charging Volvo. Then, there was a late scare for the Cortina crew when the car refused to restart for the run to the finish and they only just made it to the final control on time.
Clutch problems on Saturday cost Bob Bean/Malcolm Smithson a chance of joining the contest, but they still took third in class in their Lotus Cortina.
B2 was a straight fight between Terry Cree/Richard Shores (Mini Cooper) and James Stait/Gill Cotton (MG Midget). Until the water crossings in Sweet Lamb, Stait had been trading times with the B4 pack and reckoned third overall was within reach. But the Midget didn't like the deep water and the time lost helped Cree/Shores to class victory.
"The best event," reckoned Geoff Taylor after taking B1 spoils in his Sunbeam Imp Sport, partnered by Steve Greenhill. Into second, and delighted just to finish, came Mike Barratt/Jody Watson (Sunbeam Stiletto).Category 2Putting a torrid season firmly behind them, Stokes and Weaver were on the attack from the start and headed the category overnight, four seconds up on Smith/Nichols, while Tim Mason/Graham Wild were well in touch in third in their Porsche 911.Through Hafren, Stokes and Smith were virtually level and it was not until the 13-miler in Myherin that the Porsche edged ahead. Then, it all nearly went wrong for Stokes when he slid off at the flying finish of the Sweet Lamb stage and it took eight minutes to get back on, but fortunately they were over the flying finish line, so their result was not affected.Smith/Nichols duly claimed the category after a fine run, while C5 spoils and a top finish were long overdue for the Escort crew. Sadly, Mason's ill-luck struck again, having set a pace well in touch with Smith for much of the event. Then, a puncture in Sweet Lamb cost them eight minutes and a top result. Into third in the category went Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard (Escort Mk1).
In C3, Tim Jones and Don James were dominant winners in their Escort Mk1, winning by nearly two minutes over Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne, who had a good run in their XS Racing run Escort Mk1.
"The stages were very good and we were driving to make sure of the class," said Jones, after leading rivals Neal James and Kevin Jones went out on Saturday afternoon with gearbox failure. Ken Forster/John Stanger-Leathes got their Escort to the finish but time lost due to an electrical gremlin and then a puncture left them well down the order.
The new partnership of Vince Bristow/Ian Harden was easily clear in C2, their Escort Mk1 a long way clear of the similar car of Kevin Broadhurst/Andrew Turner.Category 3The action in category three kicked off on the opening stages as McCormack/Agnew lost third gear and then had the fire extinguisher go off, while Hill/Cooper hit a post and damaged their steering. McCormack was 40s down, but Hill was two and a half minutes down overnight. Instead, Paul Griffiths/Sam Collis led at the end of the first day after a storming start, but Darren Moon/John McNichol were only three seconds behind in their Escort Mk2.
On Sunday morning it was all about McCormack and Hill as they flew through the pair of Hafren stages. McCormack was 18s quicker than Hill and they were both well clear of the rest in a stunning display. That pace soon put McCormack into the lead and he was able to measure his pace through the later stages on his way to a resounding victory. "We were really flying. It felt so good and the adrenalin was pumping," said Martin.
Griffiths should have bagged second, but lost around two minutes driving four miles of Sweet Lamb with a puncture, so it was Moon/McNichol in second after a tremendous performance on their first run through these stages. Hill's mighty recovery drive netted third in category three and fastest times on the final two stages.
In a typically competitive D5, a gaggle of quick Escorts packed out the next places with Terry Brown/Den Golding fourth from Griffiths/Collis and Dick Slaughter/Geoff Dearing.
An inspired Arwel Evans, co-driven by Arwel Jenkins, blitzed D3 and finished well up among the D5 cars in their Escort RS2000, while second after a time-consuming puncture were Will Onions and Tim Hobbs in their RS2000.