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Organiser: Southsea Motor Club and Bognor Regis Motor Club. When: February 13. Where: Goodwood Circuit, Sussex. Championships: Hamilton Classic ACSMC, Jelf Motorsport ASEMC/ AEMC. Starters: 55. Stages: 9.
Extra traction from four-wheel drive proved the key to success for Subaru Impreza driver Johnnie Ellis, as he and co-driver Marc Fowler overcame constantly changing conditions to take a 29s victory over Paul King/alicia Miles’ Ford Escort Mk2.
King led the field away, wheelspinning into the morning murk as his Escort fought for grip on the wet track. Stuart and Simon Larbey (Impreza) took the early lead but slowed on subsequent stages, dropping out of the top 10. This left new leader Ellis challenged by King for top spot, with a separate scrap for third between Steven Toney, Tim Mewett and Liz Jordan (Escort Mk2) and Christopher and Anthony Newton (Vauxhall Nova). Slightly behind, a three-way tussle for fifth raged between Ian Hucklebridge/ Sam Cox, Stuart Cogger/ade Summers (both Escorts) and Alex Cannon/ Ray Keith (Impreza).
After four tests, the track dried in patches, making correct tyre choice critical. Ellis clung tenaciously to the lead, reporting no mechanical problems but “several wild moments” on patches of aircraft fuel, seeping onto the track from the adjacent airfield.
King’s Escort exuded a powerful smell of hot brakes, testament to his efforts to chase down his rival. “We’re on wet tyres, and they’ve worked well so far. But the track’s drying so I think we will change to intermediates,” he said.
Toney held third, promoted after Mewett retired with a blown engine. But he was pressured by Newton who, despite reporting numerous sideways moments on the slippery surface was looking to equal or better his 2015 third place.
Due to time constraints stage five was cancelled but on the next run, Ellis came close to disaster. He collided heavily with a baled chicane, damaging the Impreza’s front end. Fortunately he lost minimal time and his mechanics repaired the Subaru with tape and plastic straps. They painted ‘Ouch’ on the repair, while Ellis and Fowler jokingly blamed each other for the near-miss. This was the duo’s last drama and, when the rain returned for the final, dark, stages they set a brace of fastest times to consolidate victory.
King’s mid-rally tyre change reaped rewards as he took runner-up spot, and living locally allowed him to send his service crew home to fetch spotlights for the late stages. “I simply forgot the rally finishes in the dark,” he said.
Toney’s all-day high pace was rewarded with third, while fellow Isle of Wight duo, Richard Weaver/james Pink (Escort Mk1) overhauled Newton for fourth by one second thanks to storming runs on stages seven and eight. A three-way battle for sixth place was resolved in favour of Hucklebridge and first-time co-driver Cox, ahead of Cogger and Kevin/lee Jones, whose misfiring Ferrari 308 also won the Historic class.
Jerome Fack won his first BTRDA Sporting Trial in the opening round of the British championship on Sunday at the Geoff Taylor Trial. He took the prestigious Clee Hills trophy with his daughter Jess passengering.
Hagley and District Light Car Club had found a new venue at Buildwas Leisure 4x4 Outdoor Centre near Ironbridge to test the 29 crews. Jerome Fack’s identical twin brother and multiple ex-british champion John took the early lead in his MSR to lead at lunch by two points from Jerome.
Alastair Moffatt had purchased Richard Robarts’ RB7 last week and revelled in it to hold third place at lunch. However, a couple of tough start hills soon dented his challenge to slide back to ninth in the car he used alongsied historic rallying co-driving ace Phil Clarke.
Jerome Fack’s tidy final round helped him take a very popular win after 15 years of trying. Fellow Cornishman Alan Ede had a good morning but put in a stunning afternoon to climb up to second overall. He also won the novice class in his live axle Kincraft. Josh Veale tied with Ede and completed the podium.
Bryan Walker had a steady drive to fourth and fourth different car ahead of John Fack, who tied with Andy Wilks. Steve Courts finished in seventh and second in the intermediate class after Jerome Fack’s win. Fresh from his Gold Star win last month, Ian Veale could only manage 15th.
Guy Foster led the Monaghan Autotest for most of the 12 tests, taking a 17-second win over Steven Ferguson. However, on a dramapacked day, second place was enough for the Stewartstown driver to clinch his sixth Hewison title in a row, equalling the record of Eddie Peterson. Ferguson’s only championship rival, Robin Lyons, retired with a broken output shaft, leaving Ferguson to chase Foster until he too suffered a transmission breakage on the 10th of 12 tests. His service crew carried out a complete engine/gearbox unit transplant, allowing him to complete the remaining two tests and take the title again.
BTRDA Feb 14 Buildwas Leisure 4x4 Outdoor Centre, Ironbridge 1 Jerome Fack (MSR) 18 marks; 2 Alan Ede (Kincraft) 23 marks; 3 Josh Veale (Sherpa); 4 Bryan Walker (Jedi); 5 John Fack (MSR); 6 Andy Wilks (RCAP); 7 Steve Courts (Facksimile); 8 Peter Fensom (Hamilton); 9 Alastair Moffatt (RB7); 10 Boyd Webster (Crossle).