FRAN­CIS OPENS BTRDA AC­COUNT

LAST-GASP DRAMA ON THE CAM­BRIAN RALLY

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - Pho­tos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic

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s the cham­pagne flowed on the Llan­dudno prom­e­nade, Char­lie Payne thought he’d scored a fairy­tale vic­tory. He was vic­to­ri­ous on his re­turn to the se­ries af­ter win­ning the last BTRDA round he’d en­tered.

But by the time Wales had beaten Scot­land in the Six Na­tions rugby, Wales had also beaten York­shire as Payne’s win was over­turned and Luke Fran­cis handed vic­tory.

The ini­tial re­sult had been de­cided on a count back, with Payne and Fran­cis fin­ish­ing on the same time. But an up­dated stage time gave Fran­cis one se­cond back, and that’s all he needed to win his first BTRDA event over­all.

The rally started in some­what un­usual cir­cum­stances as the first round of the BTRDA, with the tra­di­tional cur­tain-raiser – the Wyedean Rally – miss­ing in 2016. The or­gan­is­ers of the Cam­brian had done an ex­cel­lent job to or­gan­ise the event twice in four months, with a lot of the team also ded­i­cat­ing time to Rally GB.

Payne made the best start to the rally in his Ford Fi­esta S2000 with Fo­cus WRC en­gine, top­ping the charts ahead of num­ber one seed Euan Thor­burn in stage one. The Scot was com­pet­ing for the first time in the Peu­geot 208 T16 R5 he will cam­paign in the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship. Third in the times was the in­trigu­ing Con­nor Mccloskey, 2013 BTRDA run­ner-up, us­ing a Mini WRC pre­pared by Derek Mcgeehan and re­paired from the Gal­way Rally where Tim Mcnulty had a dis­agree­ment with a field.

Fran­cis could only man­age fourth quick­est but was fastest on the next be­fore loose steer­ing on his light­weight B13 Mit­subishi Lancer E9 slowed him down on SS3.

Thor­burn and Payne fol­lowed in SS2 with Payne lead­ing Thor­burn and Fran­cis out­right. Mccloskey dropped away af­ter a bro­ken con­trol arm on his Mini. Al­though he ini­tially main­tained fourth, he slipped be­hind Rhys Yates af­ter SS3, Pen­machno.

Hav­ing started ral­ly­ing in a Fi­esta R2 just over a year be­fore, Yates, now armed with a Fi­esta R5, had gone fourth and se­cond on SS2 and SS3 re­spec­tively hav­ing lost time with an over­shoot on SS1. The Ch­ester­field driver’s rapid rise in na­tional ral­ly­ing was in full force as he trailed fu­ture BRC ri­val Thor­burn by just four sec­onds on SS3, to end the loop 22s down on Payne in what was his third gravel rally in a four­wheel-drive car.

With the con­trol arm fixed, Mccloskey was bang on form, tak­ing best time on SS4, Clo­caenog East. He had noted that he wouldn’t be push­ing too hard as he is play­ing a longer game, fight­ing for the cham­pi­onship. But hav­ing not ral­lied much in 2014, there was no sign of rusti­ness from driver or co-driver Damien Duf­fin.

Fran­cis fol­lowed to take the lead from Payne with two no­table driv­ers strug­gling. Steve Perez, the 2010 and 2014 BTRDA cham­pion, had some is­sues in the morn­ing and was off the pace, he’d be out by SS4 with a rear arm bear­ing bro­ken. Mean­while, Hugh Hunter, an­other driver warm­ing up for the BRC, had an off on SS2 af­ter the

A tim­ing re­jig gave Fran­cis the home win

Payne steered the newly-liv­er­ied Simp­son Ford Fi­esta to se­cond over­all

Spin cost Thor­burn chance at vic­tory but pace was en­cour­ag­ing in 208

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