ason Pritchard and Phil Clarke carried on where they left off last season with victory on the Red Kite Historic Stages, the opening round of the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship. Pritchard and Clarke led from the start as rain, fog and mud made it a tough day in the forests around Llandovery. Their Ford Escort Mk2 never faltered and they won by 13s after a big fight with the similar car of Nick Elliott and Dave Price.
The other categories were just as hard fought. A lack of reverse gear on the final stage for John Perrott and Keaton Williams (Ford Escort Mk1) cost them two minutes at a hairpin and left the way open for Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver to win Category 2 after a day-long battle. Meanwhile, Category 1 was also settled on the final stage as Bob and Dale Gibbons (Ford Cortina Mk2) took victory when the hard-chasing Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson had an electrical failure stop their Lotus Cortina in Caio.
“That’s an ideal start to the season; no dramas at all, just neat and tidy,” said Pritchard, who went five seconds up on Elliott through Crychan and Route 60. But Elliott pared the gap back to just two seconds in Caio and it was all to play for as they headed back to Crychan to start the second loop. Unfortunately, a stall and an engine that was slow to fire cost Elliott around 15s and Pritchard added seven more in Route 60.
POS DRIVER /CO-DRIVER
Donnie Macdonald/andrew Falconer Dale Robertson/stuart Loudon Quintin Milne/sean Donnelly Mark Mcculloch/ Michael Hendry Garry Pearson/ Robbie Mitchell Jimmy Christie/ David Macfadyen Reay Mackay/ Robert Macdonald Steven Ronaldson/gordon Chalmers Bruce Mccombie/ Michael Coutts Scott Mccombie/ Mark Fisher
But all that was to come. The first stage at Meall Mor south of Inverness is always an unknown quantity. There are parts of the forest that rarely see the sun, and depending on who you spoke to, it was ice all the way or 50-50 between ice and gravel. This wasn’t a competition, it was a battle for survival.
Using the same tyres he used to win a snowbound Border Counties Rally three years ago, Quintin Milne set the pace in his Mitsubishi Lancer E9 but by only a second from Bruce Mccombie, with Mark Mcculloch a further two seconds adrift. As for the top seeds, running first car on the road, Jock Armstrong was 25th fastest, over a minute down on Milne. It was the same for the number two seed: Mike Faulkner was 35th and John Maccrone 41st. Conditions were no respecter of skill or bravery here.
The next stage at Millbuie had less