Un­der­pow­ered car steered ex­pertly to rally glory.

Motor Sport News - - Rally Reports - By Paul Lawrence

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. ■

Photos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic

Bar­rett topped BDA run­ners with Dai Roberts

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