Cave wins but Payne still leads the cham­pi­onship.

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By Si­mon Gronow Pho­tos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic, Jm­spho­to­, Rallysport­


Aday’s test­ing, putting into prac­tice lessons learnt on the re­cent Pirelli Carlisle Rally, proved worth­while for Tom Cave and James Mor­gan as they set fastest time on six of the seven stages to win the Plains Rally in their Ford Fi­esta R5.

At the and, they were 27s ahead of Ju­lian Reynolds/pa­trick Walsh, the driver de­lighted with sec­ond place on only his sec­ond out­ing in his Ford Fo­cus WRC. Luke Fran­cis/john Roberts con­tin­ued their re­cent good run with third place in their Mit­subishi Lancer E9.

Cave was in the rally for seat time both in the car and with new co-driver Mor­gan on the notes for the first time this year. How­ever, the Welsh pair­ing showed no sign of tak­ing it easy to be­gin with as they were nine sec­onds faster than the op­po­si­tion on the first test through Garthein­iog.

Af­ter drop­ping a cou­ple of sec­onds to Reynolds in the first Dyfi test, where they strug­gled with the dust, they ex­tended their lead by four sec­onds with fastest on the sec­ond Dyfi test. “The stages are good and we are stick­ing to our plan,” said Cave as they ar­rived at the Dol­gel­lau ser­vice area. He added: “We are happy to be lead­ing. The tyres are hold­ing up well in the warm weather.”

In sec­ond place at Dol­gel­lau were Reynolds/walsh, the Nar­berth driver con­tent with sec­ond place in his Fo­cus WRC. “It’s all fine, we backed off in some of the fast bits in the dust, but the car’s fan­tas­tic to drive,” said Reynolds af­ter be­ing Cave’s near­est chal­lenger on stages one and three and top­ping the timesheets im­pres­sively on SS2.

“The tyres are okay, I just need some more mileage in the car,” he said.

“Things aren’t too bad,” ad­mit­ted Som­er­set Stages win­ner Luke Fran­cis, af­ter set­ting three third fastest times. “I’m very pleased with our times af­ter a rub­bish choice of tyres,” he said as he and John Roberts held third in their Mit­subishi Lancer E9. “It’s so loose ev­ery­where. We will take new tyres and keep push­ing this af­ter­noon,” he added.

Cham­pi­onship ri­val Char­lie Payne, wasn’t so happy with his morn­ing’s run. “I’m just not on it. I can’t get into the groove, though there’s noth­ing wrong. I’ve only had one mo­ment, I’m ob­vi­ously not go­ing quick enough,” he said. Nonethe­less, he and Carl Wil­liamson held fourth place, ahead of fel­low Ford Fi­esta crew Stephen Petch/michael Wilkin­son, who were pleased to reach ser­vice for once.

They had taken a cou­ple of fifth fastest times on the open­ing two tests, be­fore drop­ping a lit­tle time on SS3 with shred­ded front tyres. A change to harder rubber was planned for the af­ter­noon as Petch’s aim was “to get to the end of the event,” af­ter a 2016 filled with at­tri­tion.

Too soft a choice ham­pered Steve Simp­son/mark Glen­ner­ster as the tyres on their Ford Fi­esta S2000 went off half­way through Garthein­iog, but they were still well in­side the top 10 on each stage to hold sixth ahead of Andy Davies/max Free­man (Subaru Im­preza). They were lead­ing NR4.

Mean­while, a mis­fire com­ing out of tight bends held back David Wright/ Steve Pugh who had to be con­tent with eighth in their Ford Fo­cus WRC at this point de­spite dom­i­nat­ing the Mal­colm Wil­son ear­lier this year be­fore trou­ble struck them late on.

Fol­low­ing their third placed fin­ish on the Som­er­set Stages, Karl and Guy

Sim­mons weren’t too keen on the dusty con­di­tions and were un­able to get into a rhythm. They were also flus­tered by the short no­ti­fi­ca­tion to start SS3, although they felt the car was fine and noth­ing needed chang­ing. They were just ahead of Wayne Sis­son/neil Shanks who felt they had made a slow start in their Mit­subishi Lancer E10. Un­for­tu­nately for Jamie Jukes/dave Wil­liams, their good start was negated when they put their Mit­subishi Mi­rage on it’s side on ‘Ku­bica’s bend’ – made fa­mous by the Pole on Rally GB – on SS2.

In the Pro­duc­tion Cup, Davies/ Free­man held the lead, hav­ing set the quick­est cat­e­gory time on stages one and three, though they had to give sec­ond best to Sacha Kakad/james Aldridge on the sec­ond test, the Mit­subishi crew were prob­lem free on the morn­ings stages. Cham­pi­onship lead­ers Russ Thomp­son and Andy Mur­phy felt they were go­ing OK, but the times didn’t seem to agree. A change to harder tyres and a push in the af­ter­noon was planned as they lay fourth in class be­hind the Im­preza of Wug Ut­ting/bob Stokoe.

Fol­low­ing ser­vice, there was a re­peat of the morn­ing stages, with a run through Pant­perthog to round things off. On Garthein­iog 2, Cave/mor­gan upped their pace, tak­ing eight sec­onds out of Reynolds, with Fran­cis/roberts a fur­ther 14 sec­onds in ar­rears.

There was a tie on stage five when Reynolds equalled Cave, the pair set­ting a time six sec­onds quicker than Fran­cis, with Wright jut one sec­ond fur­ther be­hind. Cave fought back on stage six, tak­ing seven sec­onds out of Reynolds, be­fore the pair tied again on the fi­nal test.

As a re­sult, Cave/mor­gan re­turned to Welsh­pool with a 27-sec­ond ad­van­tage to take a first BTRDA win. “The af­ter­noon has been good and the changes have def­i­nitely worked, and we’ve shown ex­tra pace,” said Cave af­ter cross­ing the fin­ish­ing line.

Sec­ond placed Reynolds/walsh were pleased with their day as they took max­i­mum BTRDA points. “We’ve had no real prob­lems, just some rear tyre wear so we backed off a bit,” he said.

Luke Fran­cis was “over the moon”, as a string of third fastest times ce­mented the fi­nal podium po­si­tion, even though he found the af­ter­noon stages rougher.

Things didn’t get any bet­ter for Payne. “We just got slower,” he said. How­ever, the York­shire­man en­gaged in dam­age lim­i­ta­tion fin­ish­ing two spots be­hind fel­low BTRDA pace­set­ter Fran­cis.

Payne dropped be­hind Petch on the fi­nal stage. Petch was de­lighted to have taken fourth: “We haven’t been check­ing times, just do­ing our own thing. A change of tyres worked well this af­ter­noon.”

Steve Simp­son thought that a stage-six punc­ture had cost him sixth, but he re­tained the po­si­tion as David Wright un­for­tu­nately dropped out of the top 10 fol­low­ing road penal­ties.

A happy Andy Davies main­tained his Group NR4 lead to the end and sev­enth over­all, while Karl and Guy Sim­mons took eighth in their Im­preza beat­ing Rory Young/dai Roberts on a tiebreak.

Round­ing off the top 10 were Wayne Sis­son/neil Shanks af­ter a prob­lem­free day.

At the half-way point of the sea­son, the stand­ings re­flect well on Payne but a blown en­gine for Luke Fran­cis skews the stand­ings. He trails Payne by 22 points but will drop the MW Stages re­sult, mean­ing the fight is on. ■

Dust proved no prob­lem for lo­cal

Reynolds was top BTRDA fin­isher af­ter only one gravel rally in the ex-mar­cus Gron­holm Rally Gb-win­ning Fo­cus

Fran­cis couldn’t match R5 and WRC pace in his B13 Lancer but scored more points in chase of leader Payne

Sis­son/shanks con­tinue to im­press with new MRF tyres and Lancer

Last year’s ti­tle win­ner Ker­shaw is get­ting up to speed with new Ford Es­cort with ever reli­able Bryan Hull

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