Potter take WWRS R.A.C. win on Severn Valley, Report

James Potter and Bob Duck were the top finishers in the West Wales Rally Spares R.A.C. Rally Championship during round four, the Severn Valley Stages (Saturday 30 May).Potter and Duck moved ahead in the overall R.A.C. standings in their Ford Escort Mk2 when Open Category runners Phil Burton and Mal Capstick smashed a wheel on their Escort MK2 and handed victory in the Open section to the Toyota Corolla of Graham Waite and Mike Reynolds. Most of the leading crews made the visit to Wales for a compact eight-stage event based at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, although the Opel Manta of Simon and Alister Crook was absent after its accident on the Pirelli Carlisle Rally.Despite overnight rain the stages in the Crychan region were still very dry and abrasive. Burton’s Escort Mk2 was soon in charge at the head of the Open Category and was over a minute clear of second placed Layton Waters/Tudor Jenkins (Toyota Starlet) when they arrived at service after the first four stages. “We were overheating at the start, but it was soon okay. Just tyre wear to think about really,” said Burton.Waters had moved into second on stage three in Halfway after Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance (Ford Escort Mk2) overshot a hairpin and then punctured on stage four. Although Waters left service he soon returned without completing another stage. “The rear end handling wasn’t right, so we stopped, maybe it’s the diff. Then it had a misfire so we retired,” said Waters.Burton had further increased his lead on stage five when disaster struck in stage six in Crychan. “We smashed a front wheel on a compression and had to stop to change it,” he explained. Stevenson-Wheeler found himself in the lead, but he was in trouble again on the penultimate stage. “We had to stop as we got a rear puncture early into the stage,” he said.So it was Waite and Reynolds who took the Open Category spoils in their Toyota Corolla by just three seconds from Burton. “If we do any more events this year, we might change the tarmac suspension; it was bumpy,” said Waite. Burton still won his class, however, following Stevenson-Wheeler’s second puncture.Potter was comfortably the pick of the historic crews, turning his one second lead on the opening stage to a 1m16s victory over Gary Cooper/Jon Riley, who finally debuted their Talbot Sunbeam Lotus on the event.“During the first half I was just trying to manage my tyres, not to slow down to manage them,” said Potter at service. But he had his own drama on stage six, when a small boulder pierced the bulkhead and left a hole just under his Escort’s pedals.For Cooper just finishing the event was cause for celebration. “We had a lot of small problems but overcame them. We hadn’t finished a rally in the car yet, so we are really pleased and will probably do the Carlisle Stages now,” he said.Vince Bristow/Tim Sayer (Ford Escort Mk1) had one aim, which was to finish after a torrid season to date. Bristow not only achieved that but was also the Category 2 winner, well clear of the Escorts of Stuart Cariss/Linda Cariss, Matthew Honeyborne/James Curtis and Malcolm Bayliss/Siobhan Pugh.The Escort Mk2 of Grahame Standen/Jane Edgington won class D2 and was third historic crew as well as the best 1600cc car among the R.A.C. contenders. However, out the rally with a worsening misfire went the Talbot Sunbeam of David Hopkins/Tony Vart, the car’s first retirement in two seasons.The Severn Valley Stages was organised by the Midland Manor Motor Club. Full results are available at: http://results.djames.org.uk/results/index.php?EventID=385&e=385