DOU­BLE CHAM­PION?

Min­tex MSA Bri­tish His­toric Rally Cham­pi­onship pre­view. By Paul Lawrence CAN THE BHRC DE­LIVER AN­OTHER

Motor Sport News - - Historics - Scott re­turns with CA1, p16 Pho­tos: Paul Lawrence, Chi­cane Me­dia THE ROUNDS

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.

Q&A

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.”

Pritchard is af­ter a se­cond ti­tle

Robin­son is an in­ter­est­ing propo­si­tion in 131 Per­rott is de­fend­ing Cat­e­gory 2 cham­pion

FE­BRU­ARY 17 2016

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