Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship Preview, round seven: Historic Tour of Flanders
Contenders in the Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship will cross the channel this weekend the penultimate event of the season, the Historic Tour of Flanders (13/14 September).
The third and final asphalt event of the season is always a popular event and the roads around the host town of Roeselare in Belgium provide a unique challenge for the crews. Nearly half of the 80-car historic entry is made up of BHRC contenders and with only the Trackrod Historic Rally to follow Flanders, the championship battle is finely balanced.Category 1Patrick Watts and Elgan Davies head the category one entry in their Sunbeam Tiger and can still challenge to retain the overall BHRC title if they win the category in Belgium. However, they certainly cannot afford another non-finish, so the pressure is on the former BTCC racer and his car to have a clear run.
Running close behind the Tiger will be another crew still well in contention for the title, Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride in their Porsche 911.
While the pair of sports cars battle for category one, the Lotus Cortina of current championship leaders Neil Calvert and Arlene Cookson will be chasing hard and bidding for class B4 honours to keep their title bid running.
In the 1300cc category, class B2, James Stait and Gill Cotton are having a great season in their MG Midget and are well up in the overall championship standings. Last year's trip to Flanders was not a good event for the rapid MG and Stait will be eager to finish with another class win this time around.
The Sunbeam Imp of Gary and Jane Edgington and the Sunbeam Stiletto of Mike Barratt and Jody Watson top class B1 and it is the Edgingtons who should set the pace, despite being unfamiliar with the event.Category 2Category two is for the cars produced from 1968 to 1974 and Steven Smith and John Nichols head the key title contenders in their Porsche 911RS. Like Watts/Davies, they need another maximum score to keep their title hopes alive, but they face a mighty gaggle of Escorts, as well as the Porsche 911s of Peter Lythell/Chris Parsons and XS Racing team mates James Sutherland/Howard Pridmore.
In Escorts in class C5 will be defending champions David Stokes and Guy Weaver, ranged against Frank Cunningham and Ryland James for what could be a repeat of their fabulous battle of Flanders in 2007. However, more very rapid Escorts in the hands of Ernie Graham/Alec Cooper, Rupert Lomax/David Alcock and Craig Salter/Preston Ayres will add to what promises to be a mighty C5 battle.
The contest among the Escort Mk1s in class C3 should be another feature of category two with Flanders newcomers Tim Jones and Don James taking on the XS Racing cars of Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne and Andrew Siddall/Captain Thompson as well as Robin Shuttleworth/Mark Midgley. Adding welcome variety to class C3 will be the Saab 99 of Jim Valentine/Andy Marris, while in C2 is the Escort Mk1 of Neil Rudd/Brian Hodgson.Category 3Two of the quickest cars in category three will be Ford Escort Mk2s of Richard Hill/Patrick Cooper and Darren Moon/John Stanger-Leathes, but neither driver has ever rallied in Belgium before, so they face a steep learning curve when the rally starts on Saturday morning. Ranged against the quickest of the Mk2 Escorts will be the Porsche 911RS of Adrian Kermode/Liz Jordan and more rapid Escorts in the hands of Simon Tysoe/Rob Dyson and brothers Phil and Mick Squires, another crew making a debut in Belgium. Chasing the Escort pack in class D5 will more Flanders virgins in the form of the Sunbeam Lotus of Adrian and Dan Seabridge and the Vauxhall Chevette HSR of Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks.
A tremendous entry for class D3, possibly the best ever, has five versions of the 2-litre Pinto powered Escort in contention. Picking a winner will be very difficult, with Will Onions/Tim Hobbs, Arwel Evans/Arwel Jenkins, Mark and Brett Clifford, Chris Shooter/Bev LeGood and Richard Lane/Frank Richer all lining up with serious intent to win the class.