BHRC preview, round five:
After rave reviews for the 2010 event, contenders in the Dunlop/Wonago MSA British Historic Rally Championship return to the Todds Leap Ulster Historic Rally (19/20 August) for round five of the championship.The event marks the start of the asphalt element of the championship and comes after four gravel rallies in and a strong BHRC contingent is within the 48-strong historic event for the Antrim-based rally. Category OneStarting the event proudly at the head of the overall title race is the Category 1 Porsche 911 of Rikki Proffitt and Phill Harrison. Proffitt has had his best ever season so far, but is surprised to be leading the championship by the significant margin of 16 points. Proffitt has been consistently quick across the four gravel rallies to date, but knows that the Ulster Rally will be one of his toughest challenges as he goes up against two local aces. Former champions Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride have endured a troubled start to the season with their Porsche 911, but will surely be bang on the pace on their home rally. Equally, local legend and former Ulster Rally winner Derek Boyd and his daughter Roisin will be strong in their 911. Elsewhere in Category 1, for the pre ’68 cars, the Lotus Cortina of Paul Mankin and Peter Scott is overdue a strong run after being plagued by misfires, while brothers John and Stephen Moxon take their Volvo Amazon to Ulster for the first time after competing on the Isle of Man every year for three decades. At the bottom of the engine size ranks is the rapid Sunbeam Imp Sport of Geoff Taylor and Steve Greenhill.Category TwoA non-finish after a driveshaft failed on the Severn Valley Stages has dented the title bid of reigning champions David Stokes and Guy Weaver in their Category 2 Ford Escort Mk1, but they know that a strong run this weekend will shoot them right back into contention. The big rivals to Stokes are Belgians Stefaan Stouf and Joris Erard and Rupert Lomax/Dave Alcock in their similar Escorts. Stouf and Erard don’t have benefit of a year’s experience on this rally, but they are very quick on asphalt and should push Stokes hard, while the ever-spectacular Lomax is another strong contender. Chris Browne and Liz Jordan are another quick pairing in class C5, while local crew Keith McIvor and David Burns will surely be bang on the pace in their class C4 Porsche 911.
In class C3, for the Pinto-engined Ford Escorts, it is Andrew Siddall and Carl Williamson should set the pace as they return to the BHRC after recent rallying trips to Barbados and Sweden. Ian Drummond and Yvonne Coppin offer opposition in their Escort Mk1, along with England-based Ulsterman Philip Wylie, who is partnered by seasoned co-driver Howard Pridmore in another Escort Mk1. Lining up to challenge the Escort domination of class C3 is the increasingly rapid Porsche 914 of Welsh crew Richard Morgan and Tim Madeley, who went to Ulster last year and loved the whole experience. In class C2, for the 1600cc cars, youngsters David Kirby and Ben Friend head the entry.Category ThreeCategory 3 is for the cars from 1975 to 1981 is dominated by the Ford Escort Mk2s. Top of the pack and challenging for the overall BHRC title are Will Onions and David Williams, who had a superb run a year ago on their first visit to Ulster. A good weekend this time could really set Onions up for an overall title bid over the second half of the season and with an extra half set of points to be won in Ulster, it is all to play for.But Onions has a gaggle of rivals, including 2010 Ulster Historic Rally winner Connor Corkill who is partnered by Mark Perryman in his Escort Mk2. Having sat out the first half of the season due to university studies, Corkill is now eager to go rallying again and should be a major force. Another big rival to Onions is his good mate Rob Smith, partnered as usual by Shaun O’Gorman in his Vauxhall Chevette. Like Onions, Smith had precious little asphalt experience when he went to Ulster a year ago, but he loved the event and goes back this time as a strong contender.More rapid Escort Mk2s are entered for Tim Pearcey/Neil Shanks, Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks, Alan Walker/Jez Rogers, James Slaughter/Geoff Dearing and Nick Woodman/Simon Mills, while a couple of very rapid Porsche 911s add to the depth of quality of the Category 3 field. Jimmy McRae, a former winner of the Ulster Rally, needs little introduction as one of the most successful and experienced competitors in British rallying. Although he’s a bit light on recent asphalt experience, Jimmy is a true legend of the sport and, partnered by Pauline Gullick, will be a key contender in both the overall rally and the Tuthill Porsche Challenge.
Also Porsche 911-mounted will be Manxman Adrian Kermode with local co-driver Maurice Beckett and they could rival the very best of the Escorts, while the superb Opel Ascona 400 of Steve Magson and Geoff Atkinson is also showing excellent pace this season and adds to the glorious variety of Category 3. That variety takes in the raucous Mazda RX7 of Jake Scannell and Adrian Stevens, which will make its asphalt rallying debut.Away from the top two classes of Category 3, in class D3 it is Graham Waite and Gill Cotton to the fore in their ex-Magson Opel Ascona. They usually run Waite’s Volvo Amazon in Category 1 and fly on the gravel events. But the big Volvo is not ideal for asphalt evens so they have switched to the Opel for this rally.The Ulster Historic Rally is organised by the Northern Ireland Motor Club Ltd. For more details about the event, please visit the website at: ulsterrally.com The historic rally starts from Antrim on Friday afternoon (19 August) and finishes on Saturday afternoon.