Retallick pairing hammer home title advantage in 205 RALLY FIRST
do set a
he and, pressure
Hopton’s by Radnor.
road in softer
11 Paul Benn/ Richard Cooke (Ford Focus WRC02); 12 Andy Davies/ Max Freeman (Impreza); 13 Martyn England/ Dawn England (Fiesta R5+); 14 Sacha Kakad/james Aldridge (Lancer E10); 15 Ian Joel/ Graeme Wood (Ford Escort RS Cosworth); 16 Gavin Edwards/ Caron Tomlinson (Escort Mk2); 17 Mark Griffiths/ Matt Rogers (Ford Escort Mk2); 18 Boyd Kershaw/ Bryan Hull (Escort Mk2); 19 Graham Coffey/andrew Roughead (Fiesta RS WRC); 20 Phil Burton/ Mal Capstick (Ford Escort Mk2).
Black was fourth, and holding at bay a challenge from former Gold Star champions Shaun Gardener/ben Innes (Mitsubishi Lancer) at bay. Their car had a centre ‘diff problem and Gardener reported they were in two-wheel drive only. Meanwhile, Payne sat in the queue for the service ‘in’ control, his face etched with concentration at the job in hand.
“We’ve had no problems in Radnor or Hopton, but I’ve been at this game too long to know that anything can happen before the end,” he said, before breaking the tension with a grin.
Former MSA British Historic champion Richard Hill was also smiling. Hill and co-driver Steffan Evans were in only their second BTRDA outing of the year. But, having returned to modern rallying at the Nicky Grist Stages in a Mitsubishi Lancer E9 they were showing prodigious pace and scrapping hard for Gp N Production Cup honours with Russ Thompson/andy Murphy, also E9 mounted. Thompson had set an astonishing second overall fastest in Hopton, only one second behind Petch. But Hill immediately hit back through Radnor’s open expanses and held the category lead by six seconds, along with eighth overall.
The third and final loop returned competitors to Bringewood and High Vinnalls, the stages now reversed and renamed Hazel Coppice and Haye Park respectively. The rain relented, leaving a drier line through many corners. Anderson’s tyre choice was clearly correct and he became the pacesetter. He and Petch matched one another to the second in Hazel Coppice but on the last stage, Anderson put pedal to metal. In just over eight miles he reduced Petch’s lead by more than half, leaving it at eight seconds as the leaders returned to Ludlow. At the finish, Anderson seemed disappointed but philosophical about taking second. “The steering rack cost us about 15 seconds but we pulled time back on the soft tyres. We could have done with a couple of extra stages as we nearly had him (Petch).”
For someone who had just won a major national rally championship, third-placed Payne looked as though it was an everyday occurrence. “That was a nice steady run,” he said. “Once Luke was out, we knew what we had to do and we’ve simply tried to not make any mistakes.”
Gardener and Innes finished fourth. As well as contending with the elements and their centre ‘diff woes, they incurred a the spare but discovered it was flat,” said Wells.
Behind them, the battle raged between Retallick, Hodge – looking to bounce back after a DNF at July’s Nicky Grist stages – and Matthew and Tim Tordoff (MG ZR).
With grip at a premium, Retallick took an early lead but lost time with a spin and stall at a hairpin in Radnor. Hodge admitted to “driving like a wally” in the opening loop. But when he tried to push on he came close to throwing it away with a massive moment in Hopton.
“We got very sideways and stayed there for a very long time,” he admitted, rather shame-facedly. mysterious one-minute penalty that was later cancelled. “Out of everything that’s happened today, the penalty really threw us as we didn’t know what it was for, and we still don’t,” said Gardener.
Black’s first outing in the Fiesta netted him fifth. The Northamptonshire driver reported a strange problem before the start of Haye Park, when the car unaccountably turned itself off and then straight back on again. Wayne Sisson/neil Shanks brought their Lancer E10 home sixth in the driver’s first outing for four months. Their only problem was a half spin in Haye Park. Dylan Davies/llion Williams (Subaru Impreza) set a consistent pace to finish seventh in a re-fettled Impreza from TEG Sport.
Hill took eighth and won Group N. He survived a scare at the start of Radnor when the Lancer refused to fire up. Also a touch lucky were ninth-placed Karl Simmons /Mark Glennerster, as their Subaru Impreza WRC’S gearbox failed on the stop line of the final stage and they had to crawl along on the final road section. Thompson rounded out the top 10, and was rewarded by increasing his lead in the Production Cup over season-long rival Andy Davies by one point. Tordoff determinedly set a steady pace, staying out of trouble to take third, nine seconds in arrears.
Tom Williams and Emma Morrison finished a distant second in RF1.6 behind Wells/ Houldsworth. The Ford Fiesta R1 pairing admitted to being tentative early on, but when the stages became drier they pushed on. Chris Hickman and Glyn Thomas had an eventful day on their way to fourth in RF 1.4. Their MG ZR’S heated windscreen failed on both opening stages and, once cured, improved visibility could not stop them colliding with the undergrowth on stage six, Haye Park.