ES­CORT MAN TAKES HIS FIRST HIS­TORIC RALLY VIC­TORY

‘Killer’ Kielder wreaks havoc with BHRC crews.

Motor Sport News - - Racing Reports - By Paul Lawrence

The chal­lenge of Kielder on Satur­day’s Pirelli His­toric Rally turned the Min­tex MSA Bri­tish His­toric Rally Cham­pi­onship on its head as key ti­tle con­tenders Ja­son Pritchard and Nick El­liott both slid off the road and Joe Price swept through for a de­but vic­tory at this level.

Four long stages in the main Kielder for­est block on Satur­day morn­ing de­liv­ered a short, sharp test for the his­toric crews, with the odd patch of ice and loose gravel ly­ing in wait to fire cars into the no­to­ri­ous ditches.

But Price and Chris Brooks did ev­ery­thing right to score a vic­tory that has been on the cards ever since the Lud­low ace made the switch to his­torics. “We came here want­ing a podium, so a win is a mas­sive bonus,” said Price af­ter an event that drew uni­ver­sal ac­claim from the crews. Other stars in­cluded Paul Bar­rett and Max Free­man, who pushed their Pinto-pow­ered Es­cort Mk2 into sec­ond, and Matthew Robin­son/sam Col­lis, who had a strong rally to wrap up the podium with the ever-im­prov­ing Fiat 131.

Head­ing north af­ter the open­ing two events in Wales, the early ti­tle race was all about Pritchard/phil Clarke and El­liott/dave Price and El­liott knew he needed to beat Pritchard to re­dress the points’ bal­ance. Af­ter frus­trat­ing time loss on each of the open­ing ral­lies, El­liott had fi­nally traced the car’s re­fusal to restart to noth­ing more com­plex than the ig­ni­tion switch and headed out of Carlisle on Satur­day morn­ing aim­ing for a re­peat of his 2015 vic­tory.

The 2015 Pirelli had been Pritchard’s only me­chan­i­cal non-fin­ish in his ti­tle sea­son and this year’s event was even more short­lived for the de­fend­ing cham­pion. On the open­ing stage, run­ning first on the road, he found a patch of ice and a Kielder ditch swal­lowed the car with­out hes­i­ta­tion. They later drove the un­dam­aged car out of the stage af­ter be­ing re­cov­ered, but their rally was over. “The joys of be­ing first on the road,” said Pritchard.

El­liott knew this could now be a big pay day and he took a half-minute lead into the sec­ond pair of stages, de­ter­mined to find a safe pace over the sec­ond half of the rally. But Kielder is never straight­for­ward and early in the Rough­side stage the Es­cort was off heav­ily into a stream and out of the rally. It was a dev­as­tat­ing re­sult and a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity missed.

In­stead, Price slot­ted read­ily into the lead and kept his nerve through the fi­nal 13-miler in Pun­der­shaw, where he was 23s up on the rest of the field. His win­ning mar­gin was 35 sec­onds af­ter a ma­ture and nicely mea­sured per­for­mance. “We weren’t on Nick’s pace this morn­ing but the sec­ond leg suited us bet­ter,” said Price as the stages dried steadily through the day.

As im­pres­sive as Price’s BDG-pow­ered vic­tory was, Bar­rett’s Pinto-pow­ered sec­ond over­all, one of the lead­ing BHRC re­sults for the less pow­er­ful en­gine, was stun­ning. De­spite claim­ing he strug­gled to find the pace in the first pair of stages, the North­ern Ir­ish­man was on it for Rough­side and Pun­der­shaw and al­most matched Price on the seven-miler in Rough­side.

There were more smiles from Robin­son/col­lis af­ter third over­all and Cat­e­gory K vic­tory for the work-in­progress that is the 131. “That was a lot bet­ter,” said Robin­son. “We’ve halved the gap to them and af­ter an­other three or four ral­lies we’ll be even closer,” he promised. Steve Ban­nis­ter, on his first event with Cal­lum Atkin­son co-driv­ing, was a rather low-key but con­sis­tent fourth. “We’ve gone a bit bet­ter on the sec­ond loop, but these guys are fly­ing,” said Ban­nis­ter of the lead­ing BHRC crews.

For Stan­ley Orr and Guy Weaver there was an im­pres­sive third Cat­e­gory 2 vic­tory on the bounce in their Es­cort Mk1, with their only is­sue be­ing the loss of 10 sec­onds af­ter an out­brak­ing mo­ment into a chi­cane in Pun­der­shaw. Once again lead­ing the chase of the fly­ing Ir­ish­man were Si­mon Tysoe and Paul Mor­ris in their Es­cort Mk1.

The lower reaches of the over­all top 10 in­cluded some heroic per­for­mances on a day when the con­di­tions caught out the two fastest driv­ers of the mo­ment in his­torics. Guy An­der­son and Steven Davey forged their Tal­bot Sun­beam Lo­tus into a class-win­ning sixth, while gi­ant-killing was the or­der of the day for the 1600cc Es­cort Mk2 of Chris Skill/tom Jor­dan. Round­ing out the top 10 his­toric run­ners was a great re­sult for the Pinto-pow­ered Mk2 of Rex Ire­land and Adrian Scadding. ■

Photos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic

Robin­son: tam­ing new Fiat 131

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