Atherton and Williams impress with national rally top 15 finish overall
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