The FUCHS LUBRICANTS MSA British Historic Rally Championship will get off to a flying start on Rally North Wales (Saturday 24 March) with around 60 registered contenders in a two-wheel drive entry that has outstanding quality to match quantity.
As well as being the first of eight BHRC rounds, Rally North Wales is also the first round of the BHRC Forest Challenge, supported by Rally and Competition Equipment.
The BHRC field is packed with quality and is headed by the crew that came so close to taking the overall title in 2017. Nick Elliott and Dave Price (Ford Escort Mk2) will return to the event they won the historic section of in 2017 in a bid to get a fresh title challenge off to a flying start.
In what is the best BHRC field for at least three seasons, Elliott and Price have a raft of rivals including similar Mk2s for Joe Price/Chris Brooks, Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis, Paul Barrett/Dai Roberts and Ryan Barrett/Paul McCann. The battle at the head of the historic rally is also sure to feature two more Escorts in the expert hands of Osian Pryce and Marty McCormack, but they may not be registered for the BHRC due to other commitments this season.
Another pack of very quick Escorts could well be in the mix including the cars of Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver, Alan Walker/John Connor, Steve Bennett/Osian Owen and Simon Webster/Jez Rogers. Rivalling the Escorts will be two spectacular cars from Barry Jordan’s stable and the Hillman Avenger BRM of Ieuan Rowlands/Emyr Hall could really mix it with the top Escorts. Jordan and Paul Wakely will wow the crowds with their Fiat 131.
Class D3, for the Pinto-engined Escort Mk2s in Category 3, has one of its strongest entries for some time as class pacesetters Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons plan to carry on where they left off last season. However, they’ve got some serious opposition in the form of similar cars for Stuart Egglestone/Brian Hodgson and Josh Browne/Jane Edgington.
An excellent Category 2 entry is topped by BDA-powered Escort Mk1s for Chris Browne/Ali Cornwell-Browne, Chris Skill/Tom Murphy, Andrew Stokes/Adrian McNally and Mark Holmes/Craig Simkiss, while the glorious Datsun 240Z of Graham Patten/Pauline Hale makes a first foray onto gravel.
Finally, a cracking entry in class C3 promises yet another fierce class contest as BMW 2002 pilot Terry Cree takes on the quick Escort Mk1s of Josh Carr/Ben Hall and Mike Simpson/Dale Gibbons.
BHRC2 supported by Sherwood Engines
Significantly, the event’s new format has caught the imagination of those contesting the new BHRC2, supported by Sherwood Engines, which has been created to turn the spotlight on the Category 1 (pre-1968) and up to 1600cc cars in the championship.
Well over 20 cars will line-up for the inaugural round of BHRC2 and it is the class C2 Escort Mk1 of Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis that will be expected to set the pace. Yorkshireman Milner is a prodigious talent and despite limited experience in Wales, he will be tough to beat.
Ranged against Milner in C2 are similar Escorts for John Williams/Gethin Sollis, racers David Gathercole and Martyn Donn and Stuart and Linda Cariss. Back on gravel in his Escort after a lengthy gap is Matt Fowle and he will be quick, as will BHRC returnee Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead. Irishman Ken Graham is another swift Avenger pilot in one of the most hotly-contested classes of all.
A glorious Category 1 entry has clearly shown that these cars are ready to rally if given a fair deal on running order and road condition. Topping the field are the Porsche 911s of Rikki Proffitt/Graham Wild and Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride, but flying Lotus Cortinas will chase them hard. Notably Bob Bean, who is tackling his first rally since his 80th birthday, and Paul Mankin will head the Cortina charge while Ian Beveridge is back in his Volvo PV544. From class B3 are two very potent Fords: the Cortina Mk2 GT of Bob Gibbons/David Nicholson and the Ford Anglia of Malcolm Rich/Arwel Blainey.
Class B1/B2 for the up to 1300cc Category 1 cars features wonderful variety as Mark Ferreday/Jordan Joines (VW Beetle) take on the Sunbeam Stiletto of Mike Barratt/Fiona Scarrett.
The final element of BHRC2 is the 1600cc cars from Category 3 and they will be chasing a slice of BHRC2 glory, with the Talbot Sunbeam of David Hopkins and Tony Vart to the fore.
Rally North Wales, which is sponsored by North Wales Rally Services, is the first rally to run to the new Rally 2WD format, which means that all of the 2WD cars will complete all of the 45 stage miles before the 4WD entries.