Eliott on top on Severn Valley Historic Stages

Nick Elliott and Dave Price took their second championship win of the season on the Severn Valley Historic Stages (Saturday 31 May), the fourth round of the West Wales Rally Spares R.A.C. Rally Championship.From a field packed with quality, Elliott and Price (Ford Escort Mk2) revelled in stages in Crychan, Cefn and Halfway but had to keep pushing hard to see off a concerted challenge from the similar car of Richard Hill/Steffan Evans. However, one of the drives of the rally came from young Ben Llewellin and co-driver Paul Williams on their first full historic outing. They took third overall in their Ford Escort Mk2, just nine seconds adrift of Hill.

Ray Cunningham and Andrew Bushe were mighty in their Mini Cooper S to win Category 1, but only by 14 seconds from the Lotus Cortina of Simon Wallis and Graham Wride. Cunningham also took maximum points in the Aldon Automotive Mini and Imp Cup. Championship newcomers and father and son crew Ernie and Will Graham (Ford Escort Mk1) took a fine victory in Category 2. Meanwhile, other category winners included Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Escort Mk2) in Category K and brothers Simon Crook and Alister Crook (Opel Manta) in Category O.With 70 registered contenders starting the rally, the Builth Wells-based event maintained the high level of entries for the 2014 WWRS R.A.C. Rally Championship and also marked the third round of the Geoff Jones Motorsport Welsh Challenge.Fresh from his trip to Morocco to service for his brother Frank, Ray Cunningham had a new co-driver in Andrew Bushe alongside and, after Bob Gibbons put his Ford Cortina Mk2 off on stage three, Cunningham led the Walker Diecastings Category 1 for the rest of the day. “It was okay until the last three stages when we lost second gear. So we just held on and kept it safe,” said Cunningham. Peter Stimson and Mark Butler had been flying in their Ford Anglia. “We spun on stage two, but have more speed and confidence,” said Stimson. They remained Cunningham’s closest challenger, but Simon Wallis and Graham Wride (Lotus Cortina) were gaining on them too. Stimson and Wallis started stage four one second apart but by the end Wallis was ahead by ten and into a secure second place.Stimson’s push continued but now Ian Beveridge and Paul Price (Volvo PV544) were closing in. The Anglia was still six seconds up as they started the penultimate stage through Crychan, where sadly Stimson rolled into retirement.Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill (Sunbeam Imp Sport) lost three minutes in Halfway when they had to stop. “We had a rock jammed between the carburettor and manifold and it left the throttle stuck wide open. So we had to stop and chip it out,” Taylor explained. They still won class B1 but with only 14 seconds in hand over the Saab 96 of Stephen Higgins/Don Bramfoot.Stimson’s Anglia dominated B3 after Gibbons had put his Cortina off the road on stage three. But the late demise of the Anglia handed the class win back to the recovering Gibbons while Callum Barney and Ron Channon picked up four minutes road penalty in their return with a re-shelled Ford Cortina GT. Wallis led class B4 all day, with Beveridge consolidating second despite overheating worries after Graham Waite/Gill Cotton (Volvo Amazon) retired at service. “The gearbox mount broke, so it was leaning on the engine and before that we had a rear brake problem and had to use the handbrake,” said Waite. Ernie and Will Graham collected the Capital Construction Category 2 spoils with a tremendous performance in their Escort Mk1 but had trailed David Stokes/Guy Weaver similar until stage five. “It was a normal day at the office until then,” said Stokes. Victory for Graham was a great start to their R.A.C. Championship campaign.Warren Philliskirk/Nigel Hutchinson had led the chase to the Stokes versus Graham duel, but found Chris Browne/Ali Cornwell-Browne closing. Going into the penultimate stage they were tied, but Philliskirk hit a rock and rolled, handing the place to Browne. “I just had to get a finish this time, so I’m really pleased with the result,” said Browne.Stuart and Linda Cariss (Ford Escort Mk1) topped class C2 and did a great job without any service crew, with rivals Robin Shuttleworth/Mark Midgley out after the opening stage with clutch failure. Championship newcomers Nick Danks and Martin Corbett (Escort Mk1) showed impressive pace and headed Peter Smith/Paul Spooner (Opel Ascona) in C3. Hamsterley winners Dave Kirby/Chris Rixon also went out with an off on stage four when lying second, bringing Kirby’s impressive R.A.C. finishing record to a temporary halt.There were dramas from the start in the Rob Smith Rallying Category 3 when Tour of Hamsterley winner Matt Edwards, with Sam Collis back alongside, went OTL after water was found in his Escort Mk2’s fuel. A contaminated supply at a filling station was the likely cause.Elliott and Price went straight into a three-second lead over Hill on the opening stage. “I didn’t want to push too hard but just keep a balance,” said Elliott. But Hill found the Halfway stage a different challenge. “I just couldn’t get into it,” he said, which was reflected in the times as he lost second place to Llewellin.But it was Llewellin’s turn to make a mistake in stage four. “I was too fast into a right hander and stalled,” he admitted. Not only did Hill go back ahead, but Meirion Evans/Iwan Jones did too and it became a tie for second place. Hill was just managing to keep Evans at bay, while Elliott survived a couple of minor excursions on the last stage to take a second win of the year. With Evans off in the penultimate stage, Llewellin took a most impressive third in Category 3 and overall. Terry Brown and Den Golding brought their Escort Mk2 home in a strong fourth despite damaging the steering rack during the morning stages while Tomas Davies/Eurig Davies were a creditable fifth in D5 after changing cars on the morning of the event after hitting engines dramas on Friday in their own car.The Hillman Avengers of Graham Thatcher/Robert James and Keith Davison/Henry Richardson battled it out for class D2 honours. “We had water leaking onto the clutch pedal from the heater matrix, which was fun at hairpins,” said Thatcher after taking the win. “We had a new engine and we have got power now,” said Davison.There was a close finish in D3 among the Pinto-powered Escort Mk2s with Adrian Young/Gwynfor Jones taking the win by only three seconds from Ben Friend/Sean Kennedy after an enthralling day-long duel. Owen Murphy/James O’Brien (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus) comfortably led home the similar car of James Stait/Mike Harris in class D4.Pritchard and Clarke were never headed in the Holton Homes Category K, but had their share of early problems. “We almost ran out of fuel on stage three, even though we had filled it to the brim,” said Pritchard. Tom Coughtrie/Calvin Cooledge were next up after Darren Moon/Tim Sayer stopped in the opening stage and retired after three stages with coil failure.In the Open Category Simon and Alister Crook had a cracking day in their Opel Manta and led all the way to finish almost a minute up on the Toyota Starlet of Layton Waters and Kevin Bowcott. Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance (Escort Mk2) closed on Waters towards the end as Neal Dwyer/Simon Dwyer (Escort Mk2) and Alan Carfrae/Liam Carfrae (Escort Mk1) were next up.