Colin McRae Historic Forest Stages Rally Report

Dunlop/WONAGO MSA British Historic Rally Championship - round seven:

As well as being the top championship contenders to finish the Colin McRae Historic Forest Stages (Saturday 1 October), David Stokes and Guy Weaver also sealed the championship crown on the final round of the Dunlop/WONAGO MSA British Historic rally Championship.Stokes/Weaver always topped Category 2 in their Ford Escort Mk1, while Jimmy McRae and Pauline Gullick topped Category 3 in their Porsche 911.

Although Category 1 champion Rikki Proffitt, partnered by Phil Harrison, set the early pace, it was Graham Waite and Gill Cotton (Volvo Amazon) who took the win when Proffitt retired from second place after his Porsche 911 broke a driveshaft at the start of the last stage.Category oneRain was already falling as the first cars left Aberfeldy for the opening 6.5 mile Griffin stage. Proffitt didn’t particularly think he had a good opening stage and was somewhat surprised to find he had a lead of 40 seconds over Waite. “I had a misfire, which made me more cautious, so maybe that was a good thing,” said Proffitt. But Waite had also been delayed after he had caught the Porsche 911 of Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride. “We had no grip and were completely misted up,” said Nutt.

Derek and Roisin Boyd were therefore third in their Porsche 911. “We were misting up and sliding about too, I think it’s probably the toughest event we had done this year,” said Derek. Edmund Peel and Janet Craine were fourth best from Nutt and the Ford Cortina GT of Callum Barney/Ron Channon, in the driver’s first rally for 25 years.

Although the order remained the same after stage two through Auchtar Gate, Waite managed to reduce Proffitt’s lead to nine seconds. Following first service was the first of the longer stages through Errochty, from which Waite emerged as the new leader, with 19s in hand. “It was a great flowing stage, I really enjoyed that,” said Waite. Despite losing time to Waite, Proffitt was equally complimentary. “That was a proper stage,” he said.

After a second visit to the increasingly muddy service area, the rain became even heavier, but fog was the problem on stage four Craigvinean. “I just couldn’t see,” said Waite who was still quickest by a comfortable margin. “I had a big moment on the last stage though, off through a clearing and onto some grass, a lucky escape,” he added after taking his class B4 Volvo Amazon to a comfortable win of over six minutes once Proffitt retired from second place at the start of the last stage. “Something just went bang. I knew that was it, I think it was a driveshaft,” said Proffitt.

Boyd therefore inherited second and victory in B5, but only just. “Our engine was spluttering through the last stage and over the line, I think it was all that rain,” he said.

Fourth placed Peel was just happy to be at the finish. “Finishing feels like an achievement itself,” he reckoned. But down in penultimate place Nutt felt far from having achieved anything. “It probably got worse, a very difficult day and after the first two stages, we were never really in with a shout,” he said. Although Barney brought up the rear in his B3 Ford Cortina GT, he couldn’t have been happier. “Absolutely brilliant, apart from the wipers packing up on the last stage, the car was brilliant,” he concluded.Category twoStokes and Weaver arrived in Scotland as favourites to take the overall title in their Ford Escort Mk1 for the second successive year. After building a healthy 12-second lead on the opening Griffin stage, Stokes was never headed, despite a slight off on the second stage. “We slid off up a bank and hit the rear wheel,” he explained.

Initially Dick Slaughter and Geoff Dearing headed the chase, but lost out to Baz Jordan/James Gratton-Smith from stage two. “The first stage was rough and no grip, so I just gritted my teeth and got on with it,” said Slaughter. “Went through a ditch and out again on stage two,” Jordan added.Mark Holmes and Anthony Lindsay were also well up as both Andrew Siddall and Carl Williamson and Chris Browne and Liz Jordan struggled. “Treacherous; tarmac lines on forest stages don’t work,” said Siddall. “Muddy, slippery and scary, especially when I changed into fourth on a straight and then seemed to be heading for the trees,” Browne added.

Ian Drummond/David Holmes, George and Jacqueline Bryson and Ian Macdonald/Patrick Toorell’s Volvo 122S all had notional times on the first stage, following an off for the Escort of Peter Smith and Russ Langthorne. Smith was unhurt but Langthorne suffered a broken upper arm.Following service in Aberfeldy there was one more stage before they returned, serviced and completed the final leg of two stages. Stokes increased his lead to over 40 seconds from Jordan, with Slaughter still in third, but both Siddall and Browne moved up after Holmes hit trouble. “Far better stage,” said Browne. “When we left service we started to have an alternator problem, so we had to do the stage without wipers,” Holmes explained.

However, the weather continued to worsen and Stokes decided to ease up. “I had to play the game as there was so much fog on stage four and I just can’t drive in it. I wouldn’t risk it so just concentrated on bringing the car home,” he explained. Jordan, meanwhile, clawed back 16 seconds. “I like these conditions,” he reckoned.

But Stokes came through the final stage, which was a repeat of the first, unscathed to clinch the win and the title. Jordan survived for a well deserved second, with Slaughter holding onto third and winning C3, from Siddall, Browne, Holmes and Drummond. “I was just hopeless in the fog though,” Slaughter admitted. “I had hoped to catch Dick, but had a puncture on the last stage,” Siddall added. “I just loved the last two stages and chuffed that Dick beat me too,” Browne admitted.

Holmes had taken the battery off his service crew to guarantee his finish, while Drummond and Jeremy Wells/Ken Bowman completed the finishers.Category threeOn the opening stage Simon Webster and Pete Cotton set a scorching pace, to head Nick Woodman and Simon Mills by over 12 seconds in a battle of the Ford Escort Mk2s. “I broke a wheel on a rock on stage two, so we had to stop to change it,” Webster explained. Woodman was in trouble too. “I went into a log pile and a ditch and it damaged the rear axle,” he said after retiring at first service. Third best on the opener had been Tim Pearcey and Neil Shanks, but they were out too after their gearbox broke at the end of the stage.

Wayne Bonser and Richard Aston arrived at first service leading the BHRC crews, but they had been off too. “We went over a bank and nearly rolled, but it popped the steering rack out of the bushes,” explained Bonser. Phil and Mick Squires were next up, having slipped back after a good opening run. “I couldn’t get the power down,” said Phil.

Peter Egerton/Alun Cook (Escort Mk2) and Jimmy McRae/Pauline Gullick (Porsche 911) completed the early top four. “I let the tyre pressures down a bit to give me more grip,” said McRae, who went on to take maximum points in Category 3.

Most of the crews were full of praise for the third stage through Errochty, and McRae was the man on the move, shooting into the lead at the expense of Squires, Bonser and Egerton. “It was like Finland,” said McRae. “I just didn’t maximise a good stage,” added Squires. “I just lost the brakes going into the time control,” said Bonser. “We had a small fire in the fusebox going into the stage, so we lost our heated screen” said Egerton.

Bonser clinched D3 after a mighty performance, while Egerton and Squires completed the top four BHRC crews. Webster finished the rally as he had started, with the fastest time on the final stage, despite collecting a rear puncture. Andrew Barnes and Karl Simmons made it home in their Porsche 911. “My highlight was the bacon butty before we started,” said Barnes. Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear completed the finishers, but spent too much time playing catch up after a rear puncture on stage three.