PROCTER TAKES NH STAGES WIN
Neil Howard Stages
Organiser: Bolton-le-moors Car Club When: November 5 Where: Oulton Park, Cheshire Championship: Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship Stages: 9 Starters: 85
Kevin Procter and Derrick Fawcett took class D2 honours and overall victory in the first round of the Motorsport News Rally Championship.
Having narrowly missed out on victory at last year’s event to Steve Simpson’s Subaru Impreza S12B WRC, Procter’s winning margin was a comfortable 45 seconds, despite him destroying a wheel at the end of stage three after clipping the barriers in the pitlane after the flying finish.
After driving an Impreza S9 last year, Procter was in the third event in his Mountune-engined Ford Fiesta S2000. Simpson – running the same S12B as in 2015 – was Procter’s closest rival until midway through stage six when the engine started losing power and he pulled in to retire the car.
Despite taking out the first chicane on SS5 as a result of low grip from fresh Michelin tyres, James ‘JJ’ Yates, replacing his brother and British Rally Championship competitor Rhys in the family Ford Fiesta R5, took up the chase but the chicane incident proved costly. Despite three stage wins, he and co-driver Tom Woodburn couldn’t overturn the bigger capacity Fiesta of Procter.
Event sponsor Graham Coffey rounded out the top three in his Subaru, having wished he brought his more nimble Ford Fiesta RS WRC, which would have suited the tricky course better.
The man who led the early running, John Stone, retired his Ford Fiesta S2500 after complications from the event’s watersplash. It drowned the car out on the third stage and the car choked to a halt on the fourth. He had been leading before the SS3 problem.
Paul Swift took fourth overall and victory in the D1 class and was another driver, among others, that sustained significant damage early on in the day in the slippery conditions. Such was the robust nature of his Ford Escort Mk2, Swift continued to push eventually extending his lead to over 80s seconds over Ian Woodhouse by the end of the final stage.
Adrian ‘Adge’ Spencer rounded out the top five in his Subaru Impreza.
Rain on Friday night and the usage of Oulton Park’s drift track for SS1 and SS2 meant that there was the possibility of a shock result as everyone adapted to the changing conditions. Joe Cunningham and Marc Fowler provided that shock.
After SS2 they were running as high as sixth overall, mixing with more powerful and advanced machinery, mainly thanks to Cunningham’s driving skill but also the benefits of the front-wheel-drive Vauxhall Corsa over rear-wheel drive in the conditions.
It was not to be a position they would keep however; with the sun shining for the remainder of the day, alongside their power deficit to the D2 and D1 cars, they eventually fell back to 17th. Although, with a three and a half minute margin to their nearest class rival, it was a still a successful day for the pair.
Chris Phillips and Sarah Hughes steered their beautifully turned out Peugeot 106 to a strong class win, finishing 44s up on a similar 106 of Barry Grant/emyr Hall, despite driver Chris suffering from the flu.
As well as temporarily drowning Stone’s Fiesta, the Oulton watersplash also caused damage to others as the loss of water revealed rocks causing havoc to those with lower ride heights. It most notably took out the front bumper from the Class C leading Clio Cup 172 driven by Steven Quigley and rookie co-driver Peter Littlefield, while the car fell to three cylinders on the same stage.
In spite of the damage the car was still competitive, pushing a four-wheel-drive Subaru hard to the stage’s conclusion. Buzzing through the chicanes, and with the fourth cylinder restored, they continued pressing on to claim class honours and 10th overall by day’s end.
Coming behind them second in class, and 15th overall, was Rob Hughes in his rear-wheel-drive Ford Focus.