Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally Historics Preview

Dunlop/WONAGO MSA British Historic Rally Championship round seven: For the first time, contenders in the Dunlop/Wonago MSA British Historic Rally Championship will compete over gravel stages in Scotland as the championship makes its debut on the Colin McRae Stages (Saturday 1 October). The Aberfeldy-based event will now be the final round of the 2011 championship.Over the last two months, the leading crews have competed on the asphalt closed roads of Ulster and Flanders in Belgium, but now the focus switches back to gravel for the final event of the season; the first time on gravel since the Severn Valley Stages in early June.The crew with the upperhand as the BHRC contenders head north is David Stokes and Guy Weaver in their Category 2 Ford Escort Mk1. Apart from a retirement on the Severn Valley with halfshaft failure, the defending champions have enjoyed a superb season and now Stokes returns to stages that he last drove over in the 1970s. Their best plan is, as ever, to go out and win Category 2 and then they cannot be beaten.Another maximum score in Scotland will make Stokes and Weaver champions for the third time. Only one crew can now come between Stokes and Weaver and the BHRC crown and that is Rikki Proffitt/Phill Harrison in their Porsche 911 from Category 1. If Proffitt wins Category 1 and Stokes does not win Category 2, then the Porsche driver will be champion. Weaver, however, is now secure as champion co-driver.To add to the challenge faced by Proffitt, his class opposition includes the rapid 911 of former champions Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride as well as the flying Volvo Amazon of Graham Waite and Gill Cotton. Waite has fabulous pace on gravel with his spectacular handling of the Volvo and will surely press the Porsches hard.Elsewhere in a strong Category 1 field are more Porsches for father and daughter crew Derek and Roisin Boyd and Edmund Peel/Janet Craine as well as another Volvo Amazon for Dave Reynolds and Paul Heath. Making their BHRC debut in their Ford Cortina GT are Callum Barney and Ron Channon, while among the smaller-engined cars is the wonderful Sunbeam Imp Sport of Geoff Taylor and Steve Greenhill.The chief rivals to Stokes and Weaver in Category 2 are Chris Browne and Liz Jordan in their Ford Escort Mk1. The Kent-based crew make the long haul north after a strong opening salvo last time out in Belgium; their local BHRC event. On the opening leg they traded times with Stokes but ended their rally on day two in a field of Brussel sprouts! Peter Egerton/Alun Cook and Jeremy Wells/Ken Bowman are other class C5 crews, while class C3 should feature a great battle between the Pinto-powered Escort Mk1s. Andrew Siddall and Carl Williamson are the crew to beat, but Dick Slaughter and Geoff Dearing, another crew from Kent, are very quick on gravel and make the trek north in search of a strong haul of championship points. Chasing the top two C3 crews will be Ian Drummond and David Holmes in another Escort Mk1.The Category 3 field includes two of the biggest names in rallying history; Stig Blomqvist and Jimmy McRae. Legendary Swede Blomqvist and co-driver Anna Goni are in a Ford Escort Mk2 from the Viking Motorsport squad of former World Champion co-driver Phil Mills. Though not registered for the BHRC, the presence of such a famous driver as Blomqvist adds tremendously to the buzz around this rally.McRae, on the event that means so much to his family, is again competing in the Tuthill Porsche Challenge, a sub-set of the BHRC for identical Porsche 911s from the Tuthill Porsche squad. Jimmy is co-driven by Pauline Gullick, while Andrew Barnes and Guy Simmons are in a similar class D4 911.Rivalling Blomqvist in class D5 for the most powerful Escort Mk2s are Yorkshireman Tim Pearcey and his Scottish co-driver Neil Shanks, as well as Nick Woodman and Simon Mills, who have been showing increasingly strong pace this season in the Grant Shand-tended car, and rallying twins Phil and Mick Squires. Simon Webster and Pete Cotton are another strong Escort Mk2 pairing. Finally, in class D3, for the Pinto-powered Escort Mk2s, Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear take on Wayne Bonser and Richard Aston. Rayner will be hoping for a clearer run than in Belgium three weeks ago when they battled to the finish against a whole catalogue of dramas.The Colin McRae Stages is organised by Coltness Car Club. For more details about the event, please visit the website at: coltnesscarclub.com