TOM CAVE WINS BTRDA PLAINS RALLY
Cave wins but Payne still leads the championship.
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