Historic Tour of Flanders Rally

BHRC preview, round six:

Dunlop/WONAGO MSA British Historic Rally Championship

The asphalt stages of the Flanders region in Belgium are the next challenge for the Dunlop/Wonago MSA British Historic Rally Championship as crews prepare for the Historic Tour of Flanders (9/10 September).While Rikki Proffitt (Porsche 911) continues to head the overall points, the balance of power has shifted towards David Stokes (Ford Escort Mk1) following the recent Ulster Historic Rally. Stokes is now the only driver in the BHRC with the potential to score a championship maximum and so his target in Belgium is another top score in Category 2.Standing proudly at the head of the overall title race is the Category 1 Porsche 911 of Proffitt, who will renew a partnership with Graham Wild for the Belgian event. Proffitt and Wild first teamed up a year ago in Flanders and should be strong, but they will be pushed hard to fend off the similar car of Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride. After a storming run on their home event, the Irish crew will go to Belgium aiming to win again and will be favourites for Category 1. Two more Porsche 911s pack out the BHRC field in Category 1, with Derek and Roisin Boyd and Edmund Peel/Janet Craine aiming to chase the cars of Nutt and Proffitt.Stokes and Guy Weaver will surely set the pace in Category 2 with their Ford Escort Mk1 following a tremendous run in Ulster. Ranged against them will be similar cars for Chris Browne/Liz Jordan, Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne and Peter Egerton/Andrew Bargery. Browne and Jordan have bags of Belgian experience and should be the biggest rivals to Stokes, but Smith/Langthorne should also be firmly in the battle and ready to pounce if Stokes has any problems.Up among the class C5 Escorts will be the Pinto-powered cars from class C3, with Dick Slaughter/Preston Ayres and Andrew Siddall/Carl Williamson likely to be challenging for the Category 2 podium. Slaughter makes a welcome return to asphalt and is partnered by an equally experienced co-driver in Ayres, while Siddall/Williamson had a mighty run in Ulster and should be just as strong in Belgium.However, C3 is not just about the Pinto-powered Escorts as the BMW 2002Ti of Terry Cree/Richard Shores is getting quicker and quicker and its pace on asphalt will be watched with great interest. Meanwhile, in C2 the Escort Mk1 of Vince Bristow/Jane Edgington will absolutely fly and will be attacking the more powerful C3 cars.Category 3 is more wide open than it has been for several seasons and five crews got into Flanders with a serious chance of victory. Three Ford Escort Mk2s, a Porsche 911 and a Sunbeam Lotus are all in the hunt for what should be an excellent contest. Heading the Category 3 field is the Sunbeam Lotus of Guy Anderson and Kim Baker and this fresh car could be a real contender if there are not too many new car teething troubles. Anderson did the event a year ago in his father’s Sunbeam Ti and showed great pace, so the more powerful car should fly.The Escorts are for Phil and Mick Squires, Martin Jones/Kevin Owens and Nick Woodman/Tim Sayer and any of them could win the category. The Squires brothers have the greater experience of Flanders, while Jones and Owens have done very little rallying in the last year or two. Meanwhile, former motorbike racer Woodman is building his experience and has enlisted the local knowledge of Sayer for his first rally in Belgium. Lining up against the Escorts is the Porsche 911 of Adrian Kermode and Maurice Beckett.Finally, there should be another class battle in D3 for the Pinto-powered Escort Mk2s. Chris Shooter and Bev LeGood have decent Flanders experience, while Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear are pretty new to asphalt and will be making a Belgian debut. In D2, Pat Anderson and Tom Mansfield run their Sunbeam Talbot.After three stages running into the darkness of Friday evening, the event continues with a full day of rallying over 11 stages before finishing late on Saturday evening. The Historic Tour Flanders is organised by the Autoclub Midden Vlaanderen. For more details about the event, please visit the website at: omloopvanvlaanderen.be