Row­lands stars on in­au­gu­ral ST Tro­phy event FI­ESTA ST TRO­PHY

Motor Sport News - - Round - South Downs Stages re­port, p27 STAR OF THE RALLY

11 Barry Ground­wa­ter/ Sean Don­nelly (Lancer E10); 12 Karl Sim­mons/ Mark Glen­ner­ster (Subaru Im­preza S11 WRC); 13 Paul Davy/ Roger Al­lan (Im­preza); 14 Si­mon Rogers/ Wyn Davies (Lancer E9); 15 John Row­lands/ Glenn Latham (Ford Es­cort Mk2); 16 Gavin Ed­wards/ Caron Tom­lin­son (Es­cort Mk2); 17 Roland Llewellin/ Ian Lawrence (Lancer E10); 18 Phil Bur­ton/ Mal Cap­stick (Es­cort); 19 Meirion Evans/jonathan Jack­son (Fi­esta R2T); 20 Toni Caran­nante/ Chris Wil­liams (Im­preza STI).

throt­tle stuck open. Aside from that, he was back on the pace quickly.

Thor­burn wrote off his chances of a win by drop­ping over 40s to the lead­ers on Clo­caenog East. There was no dam­age on the car af­ter a spin but Thor­burn has his mind set on Mid Wales in March, and wasn’t go­ing to put that in jeop­ardy. He was sixth and 41s down over­all af­ter the in­ci­dent.

With Thor­burn out of con­tention, it was left to Fran­cis and Payne to fight it out in the kind of close bat­tle that be­came a fa­mil­iar fea­ture in the se­cond half of last sea­son. Af­ter four stages, Fran­cis was the leader but his sev­enth fastest time on stage five, Al­wen, gave Payne the ad­van­tage. Fran­cis was much closer on stage six, for­mer Rally GB test Gwydyr. That left eight sec­onds in it head­ing into the fi­nal two runs.

Crews re­ported Elsi to be rut­ted and not in the best con­di­tion, and Payne cap­i­talised in his Fi­esta to lead head­ing into the fi­nal stage by 10s. That gap might have been man­age­able against Fran­cis on any other stage in the coun­try. Ex­cept this one. The Great Orme, which caught out Se­bastien Ogier in 2011, is some­thing of a spe­cial stage for Fran­cis and co-driver John H Roberts and the pair set off with a ma­jor dose of deja vu.

On the Cam­brian last Novem­ber, the home crew needed 10s to jump Josh Mof­fett for se­cond place over­all, and they pulled it off with a 2m38s. In 2016 they man­aged a 2m40s to take what turned out to be the over­all vic­tory by a se­cond. It was the per­fect start to the sea­son for Fran­cis as he also scored max­i­mum points to­wards the Welsh cham­pi­onship which also got un­der­way in Llan­dudno.

Payne was in the sit­u­a­tion no­body wanted to see, hav­ing cel­e­brated the win with co-driver Carl Wil­liamson only to have it so cru­elly taken away.

Thor­burn hit back to take third hav­ing set scratch times through stages five and seven, happy with the pace of the Peu­geot ahead of his as­sault on the BRC. For Mccloskey it was mis­sion ac­com­plished as he and Duffy held onto fourth, ac­knowl­edg­ing tak­ing his foot off the gas slightly with the rest of the sea­son in mind.

With the lead bat­tle throw­ing up sparks of drama, there was more fur­ther back as the R5s of Hunter and Yates bat­tled down to the wire. Hunter’s ex­pe­ri­ence of the Orme as­phalt al­lowed him to tie with Yates. On an­other count­back, a faster SS1 time for Hunter gave him the spot. But as Yates’ father John had said in ser­vice af­ter SS3: “We could pack up and go home now. We’re re­ally pleased with the pace.”

Stephen Petch had a day to for­get in his Fi­esta R5 with me­chan­i­cal is­sues and er­rors leav­ing him sev­enth, one place in front of Stephen Simp­son in his un­der­pow­ered Fi­esta S2000. Wayne Sisson, de­but­ing his Lancer E10 B13, was ninth ahead of Peter Stephen­son. ■ founder John Pritchard’s car.

Se­cond was Tom Eas­son – nephew of John Eas­son who is re­mem­bered through the an­nual John Eas­son Award – al­beit four min­utes be­hind Row­lands. Eas­son re­ported a rel­a­tively straight­for­ward day on his first gravel rally, hav­ing only com­peted in sin­gle-venue events up un­til now.

The fi­nal finisher was Sam Bilham, a John Eas­son Award fi­nal­ist in the past and for­mer Next Big Step Award win­ner who spent five min­utes in a ditch in Clo­caenog East. How­ever he didn’t al­low that to stop him and re­cov­ered to 67th over­all in his first event in the car hav­ing pre­vi­ously ral­lied a Mi­cra.

There were two en­tries in the class who didn’t fin­ish. Ja­son Le­p­ley looked likely to fight for the class win be­fore his gear­box went on stage three, rul­ing the for­mer Ju­nior F1000 cham­pion out of ac­tion. He needed a scratch score as he is likely to miss mul­ti­ple rounds due to school ex­ams.

The other en­try miss­ing at the fin­ish was Jon Am­bler/doug Chivers af­ter a wheel bear­ing went on their ST on SS4.

Row­lands did a bril­liant job fin­ish­ing the rally with only two gears, as lead bat­tle with Le­p­ley never ma­te­ri­alised

Theo Ben­gry re­turned to the BTRDA to take H3 and His­toric vic­tory

FE­BRU­ARY 17 2016

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