Ather­ton and Wil­liams im­press with na­tional rally top 15 fin­ish over­all

Motor Sport News - - Rally Gb Report -

Rarely does a driver who fin­ishes 15th in a rally im­press so strongly. That sort of head-scratch­ing per­for­mance is usu­ally saved for Se­bastien Ogier in ral­ly­ing.

But this week­end, it hap­pened. Down­hill moun­tain bike cham­pion Gee Ather­ton steered his Ford Fi­esta R2 to that po­si­tion af­ter a week­end-long dice with, well, Jimmy Mcrae.

Yes, Jimmy cel­e­brated his 73rd birth­day on Fri­day. But he’s still a five-time Bri­tish cham­pion driv­ing a beastly Vaux­hall Mag­num. Ather­ton’s 1.6-litre R2 isn’t even the quick­est R2-spec Fi­esta any­more since the in­tro­duc­tion of the R2T.

One of the most dif­fi­cult things when tran­si­tion­ing to ral­ly­ing is lis­ten­ing to pa­cenotes, and never is that more im­por­tant than in fog and in quick, slip­pery stages. It was a bap­tism of fire for the Brit but it was a splen­did per­for­mance with Keaton Wil­liams on the notes. “I think this is what I needed: a lot of stages and a lot of miles,” he said. “And you have to trust the notes be­cause it’s so fast. It forces you to lis­ten and con­cen­trate. Ev­ery­day I’m get­ting faster and faster.”

Af­ter soft­en­ing the car set-up to work bet­ter in the con­di­tions, Ather­ton headed the B2 class to the end, aided by MG ZR S1600 driver Carl Tuer’s demise on Sun­day af­ter an off.

name re­turned to take a podium. Roger Duck­worth steered his Subaru Im­preza S6 WRC – sim­i­lar to the car Colin Mcrae drove in 2000, in pe­riod blue paint. Duck­worth did his first Rally GB in a Group A Im­preza in 1996, 20 years be­fore this year’s event. The podium was a re­ward he won’t for­get in a hurry.

Af­ter a host of prob­lems last year, Iain Wil­son scored an im­pres­sive fourth in only his sec­ond sea­son of four-wheel-drive ral­ly­ing, set­ting strong times while keep­ing the Im­preza planted on the road. Scott Mccombie, brother of rally win­ner Bruce, steered his sim­i­lar car to round out the top five.

De­spite be­ing de­posed from eighth on the last stage, Rudi Lan­caster topped the his­torics in a strong dis­play. The Ford Es­cort Mk2 driver made sure Bri­tain’s most iconic rally car was well rep­re­sented with steer-from-the-rear en­ter­tain­ment, and the spec­ta­tors loved him for it. Chris Skill took 10th be­hind Lan­caster and sec­ond his­toric, first in H2. Other class win­ners in­cluded Rally GB rookie Richard Wells, in his first ap­pear­ance in a new Ford Fi­esta ST with co-driver Calvin Houldsworth. Rob Evett took 40th and Class B1 spoils in his MG ZR, while Bob Beales gave his ever­green 1950s VW Oet­tinger a class win.

But top of the class spoils and top of the over­all or­der was Mccombie. Af­ter mak­ing the long trip down from Aberdeen­shire, the trek was worth its weight in gold.

Moun­tain biker Ather­ton im­pressed on Wales Rally GB Na­tional

Lan­caster was pow­er­s­lid­ing to his­toric win in his Es­cort Skill was im­pres­sive in chal­leng­ing Lan­caster Wells topped a de­but in the ST with a class win

Fran­cis couldn’t quite match Mccombie

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