FRANCIS OPENS BTRDA ACCOUNT
LAST-GASP DRAMA ON THE CAMBRIAN RALLY
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