Historic Tour of Flanders review

Dunlop/WONAGO MSA British Historic Rally Championship - round six

David Stokes and Guy Weaver underlined their bid to retain the Dunlop/Wonago MSA British Historic Rally Championship title with an emphatic victory on the asphalt roads of Belgium during the Historic Tour of Flanders (9/10 September). Once Chris Browne and Liz Jordan went out after a superb start, Stokes/Weaver were untroubled, while their major title rival Rikki Proffitt also retired with damaged suspension on his Porsche 911. Instead, Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride romped to category one victory in their Porsche 911.Guy Anderson and Kim

Baler had a fairly tale rally as they won category three with a storming debut event for their Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, finishing ahead of a wonderful Escort Mk2 battle between Phil and Mick Squires and Nick Woodman/Tim Sayer.Category one A great start to the event over the three stages of Friday evening put Proffitt and Graham Wild ahead in category one by half a minute, although they were among the historic crews to miss the second run through Izegem after earlier delays in the modern rally.Nutt/McBride responded when the action restarted in Passendale on Saturday morning and pulled back around 15s. Sadly, it was soon all over for Proffitt and Wild when they bounced high out of a massive cut on the three-lap Zilverburg stage. The Porsche 911 suffered bent suspension and the bodywork soon destroyed the tyre. They got out of the stage and fitted the spare wheel, but that only lasted a couple of miles of the next road section.

With Proffitt out, Nutt backed his pace off, but had to push on again when he was headed on a couple of stages by the rapid Mini Cooper of Clive King/Bob Ward from the HRCR Challenge.

After a talking to from McBride, Nutt upped his pace again and pulled out a winning margin of over a minute and a half as the other Porsche 911s both retired; Derek Boyd/Roisin Boyd with distributor problems and Edmund Peel/Janet Crane in one of the many Flanders ditches.King and Ward but were delighted to bring the Mini home second from the crowd-pleasing Austin Healey 3000 of Peter Gilbert and Graham Goodall, who were making their debut in Belgium within the HRCR Challenge.Category two “We came here with one thing to do and we achieved it,” said Stokes with an emphatic victory after a trouble free rally. However, Browne/Jordan had gone very well on Friday evening and their pace ensured that Stokes/Weaver were on the attack right from the start on Saturday morning.

Stokes/Weaver took the lead on Passendale but worse was to come for Browne when they went off into a field of Brussel sprouts on the following Gits stage. They eventually got out of the field after dropping a lot of time but retired soon after with overheating woes.Stokes was now able to set a pace that ensured his lead over Peter Smith and Russ Langthorne grew, whilst not taking any big risks. Rallying their Escort Mk1 on asphalt for the first time, Smith and Langthorne were flying until a penalty for a wrong stage at Zoning ended their rally. “We had been getting to grips with it,” said Smith, wary of the 2010 event when he had gone off on the final leg of stages. With the result gone, he elected to retire at service.

Second in the category and commanding C3 winners were Andrew Siddall and Carl Williamson in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk1. “It ran like a Swiss watch,” said Siddall after finishing over a minute clear of class rivals Dick Slaughter and Preston Ayres. Despite this being Slaughter’s first asphalt event for three years, he got back into the groove well.

Peter Egerton and Andrew Bargery had a cracking run to take fourth in their Escort Mk1, while Terry Cree and Richard Shores were third in C3 on the first asphalt rally for their BMW 2002. A spin and then a visit to a beech hedge allied to major brake worries kept them working hard. Category three  “I can’t believe it; straight out of the box,” said a jubilant Anderson after scoring an impressive debut win in his Sunbeam Lotus. The rally was a voyage into the unknown as he had not driven the car in anger before the start of the first stage but by Saturday morning he was throwing it around in style and the category win was richly deserved.

Class D5 spoils and second in category three was the subject of a fabulous battle. The result went to Phil and Mick Squires by just 18s after a tremendous performance, but it had been nip and tuck all the way as they battled with Nick Woodman and Tim Sayer. For his first event in Belgium, Woodman turned in a mighty drive, supported by Sayer’s experience of the Flanders stages. Even going into the final two stages the gap was only six seconds. “That last stage was horrible,” said Woodman after a thunder storm hit the last run of Gits. “Fantastic; really tough,” said Phil Squires. “Nick really made me work. Fancy us taking maximum points on asphalt,” he added.

Adrian Kermode and Maurice Beckett (Porsche 911) had a good run to fourth in the category, and second in class D5, while Chris Shooter and Bev LeGood took class D3 after a superb performance in their Escort Mk2. “Brilliant; the car has been fantastic,” said Shooter after one of his best ever results. In contrast, his class D3 rivals Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear had a torrid rally that started in a ditch on Friday night and included clutch, gear linkage, throttle cable and brake dramas. Finally, Pat Anderson and Tom Mansfield made it a good rally for the Anderson family squad by winning D2 in their Talbot Sunbeam.