BARRETT SCORES PINTO VICTORY
Underpowered car steered expertly to rally glory.
Paul Barrett scored a landmark victory on the Severn Valley Historic Stages, round four of the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship.
Over seven dry and dusty Welsh tests, Northern Irishman Barrett and his Welsh co-driver Dai Roberts were mighty as Barrett wrung the neck of his Pinto-powered Ford Escort Mk2. On a day when Joe Price and Chris Brooks made the running until a clutch problem, Barrett swept ahead of Nick Elliott and Dave Price on the final stage to take his first overall BHRC win.
It is very rare for a Pinto engine to win overall in such a competitive championship and Barrett was full of emotion at the finish in Builth Wells as he drank in the scale of his achievement. “There was no way I could have gone any quicker on those last two stages; that’s very special,” said Barrett. “I can’t quite believe it!”
The Severn Valley was an all-action rally from the very start and with the dust hanging beneath the trees it was as challenging as it was competitive.
Ironically, as Natural Resource Wales tries to raise forest charges to recoup its costs for damage caused to the roads by rallying, a major talking point was some truly appalling regrading in Radnor where a normally epic stage was blighted by big rocks dumped on the road in the week before the rally.
Countless crews punctured on the affected sections in an event which was allowed to go ahead under special dispensation from NRW. The master agreement to rally in the forests expired on June 1.
Pirelli Rally winner Price signalled his intentions on the opening leg of three stages in the Crychan area and arrived back at Builth with 11 seconds in hand over Barrett. Elliott, playing himself back in with his old car after the hefty Kielder accident, was content in third, marginally ahead of Adam Milner/roy Jarvis and Jason Pritchard/phil Clarke.
Milner was completely epic in his 1600cc cross-flow Escort Mk1 and set overall fastest time on the Gwibedog opener. Sadly, a probable top five finish went awry when the Escort slid off the road on the final stage when they were unsighted in dust. Pritchard, meanwhile, only got to the end of the Radnor stage where a notorious downhill right threw him off and the Escort rolled out of the rally. Already out was the Fiat 131 of Matt Robinson/ Sam Collis, which dropped off the road in the dust of Crychan.
Heading out of Builth for the final leg of three Crychan stages, Price was nicely in command with just under half a minute on Elliott. Then, in the penultimate stage the gearbox jammed in first and Price lost nearly four minutes. It was a crushing blow after an exemplary performance.
Instead, Elliott took the lead but he punctured towards the end of Cefn and lost a few seconds. At the same time, Barrett mounted a monster attack and grabbed enough margin to beat Elliott by five seconds. “I don’t feel I’ve driven fast enough to win and we’re happy with P2,” said Elliott. “Paul’s driven very well all day.”
Despite aggravating a hand injury when the steering wheel kicked back, Rudi Lancaster had one of his best BHRC performances to date with third place. Rudi and George Gwynn were only 23s adrift of Elliott.
Fourth overall also showed that Steve Bennett and Iain Tullie are on the cusp of joining the very top historic crews even though they battled brake problems all day and struggled through Radnor with only front brakes.
The battle for Category 2 was every bit as compelling as the overall contest and the final outcome was a very welldeserved win for Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris (Ford Escort Mk1). However, Ernie Graham and Robin Kellard got to within three seconds at the finish after clawing back six seconds in the final stage. “It was hard work, but we got there,” said Tysoe.
Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver should have been in that battle in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk1 but suffered three punctures through the day and drove around 12 miles on flat tyres in total.
The late retirement of Milner left the way open for Chris Skill and Tom Jordan to finish best of the 1600 crews. Bob Bean and Captain Thompson headed Category 1 in their Lotus Cortina as father and son Bob and Dale Gibbons had a catalogue of dramas, notably over a very poorly gearbox. ■
Barrett topped BDA runners with Dai Roberts