Elliott tops BHRC on Mid Wales Stages, full report

Nick Elliott and Dave Price were the big winners on round two of the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship, the Viking Motorsport/Links Electrical Mid Wales Stages (Sunday 1 March). Despite some truly demanding conditions on some classic gravel stages, the Ford Escort Mk2 crew made it five wins from six in the historic section of the event.On a day when strong winds, heavy rain, sleet and snow made conditions very tough, Elliott drove a faultless rally to finish 28s ahead of Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis and impressive championship newcomers Joe Price and Chris Brooks.Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke (Ford Escort Mk2) took fourth overall and Category K to retain their early championship lead, while David Stokes/Guy Weaver (Ford Escort Mk1) and Rikki Proffitt/James Whitaker (Porsche 911) also won their respective categories.This was the second event of the BHRC’s new five-year term under the management of the Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club. Once again a fine entry assembled in Newtown with a total field of 82 cars covering 14 marques and 19 models. The outstanding effort and commitment of the organisers and marshals ensured a safe day’s rallying despite the dreadful conditions.Four superb stages made up the route, including a mighty 16-mile stage that started in Sweet Lamb and then ran in to Hafren forest. The rally opened with the fabulous climb up the Pikes Peak stage followed by the second stage in Myherin and after those two stages Elliott had built a slender lead over Price with Pritchard and Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis packing out the top positions.A big attack on the 16-mile Hafren stage set the seal on Elliott’s victory as rain, wind, sleet, snow, thunder and lightning made conditions very tough. However, Meirion Evans and Steffan Evans ran Elliott close and were only two seconds behind after more than 17 minutes of rallying to move into second place with one stage remaining.The rally finished in spectacular style on the descent of Pikes Peak and Elliott made sure of victory with a strong final stage. However, Evans hit trouble when he picked up a puncture with six miles of the stage still to run. He battled on, but the time lost cost him second place and dropped him to fifth. “Brilliant!” said Elliott as he arrived back in Newtown. “We just seem to go well on these stages.” He also claimed the RSR Historic Engineering Category 3 spoils.Robinson took second place, but only just. Price started the last stage four seconds behind and the gap was down to four-tenths of a second by the finish. “We’re pleased to be up there on pace,” said Price of his impressive BHRC debut. Only four seconds adrift of Price in fourth was Pritchard who won the Holton Homes Category K for cars running to Appendix K specification from Evans, who finished the rally understandably disappointed with fifth.Youngsters Ben Llewellin and Ross Whittock went well in the tough conditions to take sixth, despite dropping a chunk on time in Hafren with a misted screen. Equally impressive in seventh overall and dominant winner of class D3 was the Pinto-powered Escort Mk2 of Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts. After a nightmare ferry trip trying to get to the Red Kite, this was just reward for Northern Irish driver.Behind Barrett in class D3 were Ben Friend and Sean Kennedy, one of several crews to be held up when another car slid off in Hafren. Close behind were Ian Jones and Iestyn Williams in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk2.Stokes/Weaver made it two out of two this season in the Capital Construction Category 2 despite having to change a gearbox at the first service. Stokes had half a minute in hand over a mighty Escort Mk1 contest for second in class C5 and it was Rupert Lomax and Rich Jones who took the position from John Perrott/Keaton Williams and Ernie Graham/Will Graham.Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead (Ford Escort Mk1) turned in a storming performance to win class C2 and beat a gaggle of more powerful cars in the process. They headed Baz Jordan/James Gratton-Smith (Hillman Avenger), while Terry Cree/Richard Shores (BMW 2002Ti) made a winning return in class C3 after a day-long battle with Phil Jobson/Arwel Jenkins (Ford Escort Mk1). Cree really won it on the Hafren stage on his return to competition after rolling the BMW on the Neath Valley Stages last August.In the Walker Diecastings Category 1, Proffitt/Whitaker had to contend with a misfire after the Sweet Lamb water splash and then slush on the high ground in stage four as they ran first on the road. But it was still an accomplished performance that gave Proffitt his second Category 1 win of the season.However, it was never easy for Proffitt as Bob and Dale Gibbons (Ford Cortina Mk2 GT) flew through Hafren to take a seven-second lead into the final stage. Trying just too hard to hold his advantage, Gibbons slid off the road and lost five minutes before spectators got them going again. Meanwhile, as well as winning class B4, Ian Beveridge/Paul Price (Volvo PV544) gave spirited chase to the winning Porsche and were only 18s down at the finish.The Gibbons father and son pairing still won class B3 as Philip Harris/Alan Walker (Mini Cooper) took B2 despite spending several minutes off in Hafren. Luckily, four burly chaps were there to manhandle the Mini back on to the road.Finally, Trevor Hancock/Jody Watson (MG Metro) scored a personal victory for the driver by winning the Jondel Engines Category 4 on Hancock’s return to competition after a stroke. The 2015 Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship continues with round three, the Pirelli Rally on Saturday 25 April.The Mid Wales Stages was organised by the Newtown and District Automobile Club. Full results are at: www.amcrallyresults.co.uk