Todd’s Leap Ulster Historic Rally Review

Dunlop/WONAGO MSA British Historic Rally Championship round five:

Tomas Davies and Eurig Davies were the toast of Ulster after a superb category three victory on round five of the Dunlop/Wonago MSA British Historic Rally Championship, the Todd’s Leap Ulster Historic Rally (19/20 August). The Welsh crew overcame some fierce challenges on their way to a first BHRC victory as the Ulster Rally again delivered stunning stages and a mighty challenge.

A fine drive to category two victory from David Stokes and Guy Weaver was a very important result in terms of the 2011 title race, while Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride were back on form to win category one in their Porsche 911.The BHRC’s second visit to Ulster underlined the quality of the rally, with a warm welcome, great stages and slick organisation.Category one Despite suffering with a cracked rib, a legacy of a heavy landing on Epynt, Nutt set the pace from the start as six stages ran through Friday afternoon and evening, including two runs over the classic Torr Head test. Dessie reckoned that he first tackled Torr Head ‘as a child’ on the 1969 Circuit of Ireland.

Determined to win on their home rally, Nutt and McBride were a massive four minutes clear as they arrived back in Antrim late on Friday evening. “Absolutely fantastic; everything is just spot on,” said McBride. With six more stages on Saturday, Nutt was able to ease his pace but still pull away and was over five minutes to the good by the finish. “We had a difficult few events earlier in the year and things finally started to go well on the Harry Flatters; we’ve just carried on with that,” said Nutt.

“Dessie is on a mission,” said BHRC points leader Rikki Proffitt. Partnered by Phill Harrison, Proffitt had no answer to Nutt’s pace and, instead, had to concentrate on the challenge from the similar Porsche 911 of Derek and Roisin Boyd. Though back in third overnight, Proffitt edged ahead during Saturday to finish second and retain the overall BHRC lead.

There was yet more bad luck for Paul Mankin and Peter Scott when their Lotus Cortina snapped a halfshaft on the second set of uphill hairpins on the first Torr Head stage. With the Volvo Amazon of John and Stephen Moxon off the road on Saturday, the final BHRC scorer in category one was the Sunbeam Imp Sport of Geoff Taylor and Steve Greenhill, which also won class B1. They battled a misfire through Friday but were elated with a finish. “It’s been a fantastic rally,” said Taylor.Category two Stokes knew he had to be on it right from the start of the rally and, while others played themselves in on the opening eight miles of Knockboy, Stokes attacked to take an immediate lead of 20 seconds. In trouble almost from the off was one of his rivals when Stefaan Stouf and Joris Erard suffered a stub axle failure inside three miles, which set a front wheel free and effectively ended their rally. Also struggling with a misfire was the crew that Stokes expected to be his biggest threat; the Porsche 911 of Keith McIvor and David Burns. They retired early on Saturday morning with gearbox failure.

Through the dry stages on Saturday, Stokes and Weaver continued to build their lead as the Escort never missed a beat and their final winning margin was over two minutes. “We pushed hard early on and then eased back a little," said Stokes, who was only concerned by a bent wheel through the Slieve Gallion and Lisnamuck stages which prompted a major vibration.

Rupert Lomax/Dave Alcock (Escort Mk1) went out on Saturday with a blown engine, so second in category two among the BHRC pack was a great result for Andrew Siddall and Carl Williamson, who topped class C3 in their Escort MK1. “The car ran beautifully,” said Siddall after a strong start on Friday evening. Third, and second in C5, were Chris Browne and Liz Jordan in their Escort Mk1. “We’re 15s up on last year and David is still a minute ahead,” said a bemused Chris on Friday night. “That was an incredible rally,” he added the following afternoon.Philip Wylie and Howard Pridmore bagged second in C3 in their Escort Mk1, while Terry Nowlan and Ben Giles had an attacking run to fifth place in category two.Class C4 winners were Peter McDowall and Peter Moss in their Porsche 911, while David Kirby and Ben Friend took maximum C2 points in their Escort Mk1.Category three The drama started early in category three when Will Onions and Dave Williams rolled their Escort Mk2 just three miles into the rally. It was a proper Irish accident,” said Onions when they rolled four or five times after understeering into a bank when flat in fifth. “It was 120 yards from start to finish of the accident,” he added.Davies and Davies were on it from the start and took a nine-second lead into the overnight halt over the Vauxhall Chevette of Rob Smith/Shaun O’Gorman, with the Escort Mk2 of Connor Corkill/Mark Perryman only six seconds further back. “It’s going to be tight tomorrow,” promised Davies at the end of the leg.The pace was stunning from the start of Saturday’s six stages and all three crews pushed hard through the opening Langford Lodge stages. Davies was fastest by six seconds as Corkill dropped a little time. But on the next stage at Tardree, it all went wrong for Smith when he had to stop and replace the Chevette’s fan belt, dropping two and a half minutes in the process.

 Despite running with a cracked exhaust manifold over the final four stages, Davies never stopped pushing and was half a minute clear of Corkill after the final stage at Tardree. “We lost a bit of power towards the end,” said Tomas after the biggest win of his career to date. Corkill was a worthy second. “The roads here are incredible and a bit scary,” said the student. Third, and D4 victory, was scant reward for Smith/O’Gorman, who would have been very close to Davies without the fan belt delay.

Two crews new to Ulster wrapped up the top five with Alan Walker/Jez Rogers taking an attacking fourth with Tim Pearcey/Neil Shanks next up after a strong learning rally. Walker picked up a minute penalty for a jump start, which cost him third ahead of Smith. Right up with them after an excellent run should have been Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks, who ran fourth on the opening day, Unfortunately, an extra lap of the loop in Tardree cost them over three minutes.

Though they went out on Friday with a holed radiator, Graham Waite and Gill Cotton took maximum points in D3 with their Opel Ascona.