Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship preview. By Paul Lawrence CAN THE BHRC DELIVER ANOTHER
On Sunday, the forests of Crychan in Wales will echo to the sound of hard-revving classic engines like the BDG as the 2016 Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship gets underway with another fantastic entry for the Red Kite Stages.
Heading into the championship’s 17th season, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke will bid to become the first back-to-back BHRC champions since the late David Stokes and Guy Weaver did the double in 2010 and 2011. There is every reason for them to be pre-season favourites.
The Pritchard/clarke and Ford Escort Mk 2 combo has no real weaknesses; both crew members are at the top of their game and are just as strong on asphalt as they are on gravel, with Pritchard being particularly at home on the daunting lanes of the Isle of Man. Their only slip of 2015 came a week after they had settled the title in Douglas when they gently inverted the Escort in Yorkshire.
For sheer pace on gravel, however, Nick Elliott and Dave Price take a lot of beating. With the best six scores from nine rounds to count, Elliott could win the title with a perfect season on gravel but that is a big ask even for someone as quick and committed as the Cheltenham Ford Escort Mk2 flyer. They will miss the Harry Flatters due to other commitments and may need to consider an Isle of Man debut if the title is still in reach by September.
The real darkhorse is the newlyprepared Fiat 131 of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis, the latest edition to emerge from Rallysport Development in Malton. Robinson’s Escort pace on gravel in recent seasons has been sensational and his progress with the Fiat will be a major early-season talking point. Whatever happens, there will be a lot of laughs and some epic takeaways along the way for this pair.
So who can challenge the big three? Well, we’ve not yet seen the best of Joe Price and Chris Brooks since they switched to historics and they surely have the pace to win on gravel in their Ford Escort Mk2, while the similar car of Terry Brown and Den Golding – rallying’s fastest pensioners – are a match for most of the young upstarts.
Other crews poised to join the big league this season are Rudi Lancaster/george Gwynn, Steve Bennett/iain Tullie and Simon Webster/jez Rogers. All three are Escort-mounted and showed ever-increasing pace last year despite a lack of seat time and, in the case of Lancaster, a very long break from the sport.
Two Pinto-powered Escorts from Northern Ireland will be right in the mix against the more powerful Bd-engined cars. Paul Barrett/dai Roberts (Mk2) and Stanley Orr/ Guy Weaver (Mk1) have prodigious pace and the fact that Barrett has been seeded as sixth historic on the road this weekend shows just how strongly that pace is rated. Both crews will certainly set class benchmarks.
In Category 2, for the pre-1975 cars, defending champions John Perrott and Keaton Williams should pick up where they left off last year in their Escort Mk1 and can count Warren Philliskirk/nigel Hutchinson (Mk1) and Simon Tysoe/paul Morris (Mk1) as key rivals along with Orr/weaver.
Sadly, the revised running order arrangements have decimated Category 1 for the pre-1968 cars and just five will start on Sunday. Father and son Bob and Dale Gibbons (Ford Cortina Mk2 GT) and the evergreen Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson (Lotus Cortina Mk1) will set the pace. Bean will be two weeks short of his 78th birthday when he starts another season of rallying.
Several significant cars have the potential to feature prominently. Alongside Robinson’s Fiat 131 is the Hillman Avenger of his mate Barry Jordan, the first such car to run in the BHRC with BRM power. It’s a fascinating package that could spring some surprises. Add in the rapid Sunbeam Lotuses of Guy Anderson/steven Davey and Gary Cooper/jon Riley along with the fresh Triumph TR7 V8 of David Kynaston, it makes a fantastic entry.
In the classes, Irishmen Barrett (D3) and Orr (C3) will be hard to beat, but chasing Barrett will be Ben Friend/cliffy Simmons in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk2. Friend is undoubtedly the rising young star of the BHRC. From the 1600cc ranks, Chris Skill and Tom Jordan (Mk2) will be the standard in Category 3, while Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis head the 1600cc Category 2 cars in a Mk1. Milner, who will make his Welsh debut, was a star of last year’s Trackrod despite minimal previous experience on four wheels. His pace away from Yorkshire will be watched with great interest.
With close to 70 historics, it has the potential to be another great BHRC season. The smart money this weekend will be on Pritchard and Elliott, but there plenty of others in the hunt. ■
championship loves a winter rally and it loves Norway and Sweden. From the promoters’ point of view, this rally has a good market, great media and television and a strong commercial side.”
Despite the new deal with Sweden, Ciesla said he would still continue talking to other winter rallies. “I am looking at other possibilities to run as a second winter rally, including possibilities in Canada, Russia and Japan,” added Ciesla.
Olsson wouldn’t be drawn on any potential future home for the event. He said: “It’s too early to talk about that.
“We need to have a dialogue with the FIA and the promoter on how we handle the future, we still have big demands for a snow-safe event and we have big financial demands.”
Remaining in Karlstad with more Norwegian stages at a higher altitude is one of the possibility. The other is to move a long, long way up country.
situation was totally different then.”
You started by moving the recce, was that a tough decision? “We had to do it. The cold was coming Thursday. We knew Wednesday would be tough, but we also knew we could fix the roads afterwards and we knew when the cold came that would make the roads OK.”
As long as the cold came, you were confident? “Yes. I was quite certain, if we get the cold weather again then I knew the roads would freeze in 24 hours. We had so much water in the roads, they were rock-hard in a day. That was the result. We actually had less road damage on this year’s event than we had last year.”
What would it have cost you to cancel? “It would have been a 2m euro loss. The company would have gone down, I don’t see how it could have continued. It’s been a real saga.”