SHARROCK IS FIRST MN RALLY CHAMPION
Escort man takes first MN Circuit Rally crown. By Jack Benyon
Ashley Field continued to show the dominance of his Darrian T90+ to take MSVR Bolton Midnight honours, as James Sharrock and Stuart Faulds became the first Motorsport News Circuit Rally champions after a strong fourth-placed finish.
With the Bolton-le-moors Car Club running the Snetterton event for the first time, the cars were greeted by a fast, flowing and dry circuit to start the day. That played into the hands of Field – with Janice Moore back on the notes – taking 20s out of their nearest rival on the first stage.
That rival was Martin Hodgson, who was in the top two for the first time this year after benefiting from a new engine – a Smith and Jones-prepared 2.5-litre as opposed to the Millington Diamond usually featured in Escorts.
Despite struggling to keep the car cool at times, he still managed to finish second to Field on every stage of the rally. But there was no stopping the Darrian, which won by an eventual margin of 1m35s after a strong performance on the Manx earlier this month. It was a calculated and well-measured drive to get the car to the end after two successive retirements with a driveshaft (Cadwell Park) and oil sensor (Manx). If it wasn’t for the Cadwell result, the title would have been his.
While the top two were untouchable, third and fourth were closer together come the end. After winning two rounds of this year’s championship, David Tinn was back with daughter Alice in their Mellors Elliot Motorsport-built Proton Satria Neo S2500. The duo were out at Cadwell Park last time, but their differential trouble meant they only had two-wheel drive. At Snetterton and around 70 miles from home, they had four-wheel propulsion and it was plain to see.
Battling with Tinn was title contender Sharrock, who had the most unnerving start to the day with brake issues. Sharrock doesn’t start well in the mornings (which he admits himself) but after the brake issue was sorted and a brief shutdown inside the car was credited to a trip switch, the duo could relax for at least the middle section of the day.
Apart from stage four, the duo weren’t separated by more than five seconds on any test. Sharrock’s Ford Escort Mk2 set about the short ninth stage knowing simply reaching the end of it would be enough. They forced a smile at the stage start but the tension was clear. But they made it.
Rounding out the top five was the ever- impressive Steve Quigley, who managed second in the championship with that result. The front-wheel-drive Renault Clio has been ably steered all year by Quigley, and reined in excellently by Tom Hutchings on the notes.
Quigley was also the Class C event winner and championship winner with that result, while the other classes featured plenty of drama.
Class A went the way of Anthony and Christopher Newton on only their second event after Brands Hatch. But behind, the title went down to the last stage. After heading into stage eight on the same time, Joe Cunningham/ Marc Fowler (Vauxhall Corsa) and the Vauxhall Nova of Justin Lawson then tied on SS8 to set up a final stage decider after seven events. Cunningham came out on top to take the title ( see news).
Class B went to Ben and Andrew Wilkinson while David Mairs/martin Young took the title. Mairs had been out of the rally scene for around 40 years but his return this year has been well and truly rewarded.
Consistency has been key in the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship, and no one shows that better than Sharrock, who also wins the Michelin Cup.
The Wigan driver is hoping to be back for select events next year, but the series has been an astounding success.
Field was lightyears ahead of the Snett competition Faulds, Field Left to right: Quigley, Sharrock,