SHELSLEY CLASSIC NOSTALGIA VSCC TRIALS
Where better for a weekend to celebrate motor sport history than the oldest still-active venue in the world? Now the biggest event of the season at the 111-yearold Worcestershire venue, Classic Nostalgia focuses on pre-1980 machinery and the 2016 edition was made epic for the arrival of Hans Stuck and the superb Auto Union.
Add the spectacular Group B rally cars, period entertainment in Shelsley’s atmospheric paddock, classes covering hillclimbing history and a stunning array of classics in the car park and it all added up to a perfect weekend. The cars are more than 80 years old, the drivers and passengers are of all ages and they come together for the season of trials from the Vintage SportsCar Club.
The 2016 season was one of the best yet for the triallers, with bumper entries across a season of events that ranged from rural Herefordshire to the high summits of the Lake District.
The humble Austin 7 and the Ford Model A saloon were the most popular, but a wonderful diversity of pre-war cars were hurled at muddy hills too. Perhaps most impressive was the oldest of all, the amazing 1903 Mercedes of Roger Collings.
next round proved as much as they finished the Border Counties Rally in exactly the same time.
A countback promoted Armstrong to the win, but Pearson’s increasing pace was ominous. Nobody expected the youngster to step up in quite the manner he had against one of Scotland’s best.
The Dunns youngster took the next two events, eight seconds ahead of Armstrong on the Speyside Stages and then a stonking run on the RSAC Scottish, where his times weren’t far off the British Rally Championship runners despite losing half a minute with a spin early on.
It seemed the back-to-back wins was a sign of Pearson’s intent, but the Scottish wasn’t a perfectly clear comparison between the two. Armstrong had a huge cycling accident not long before the event, injuring his shoulder.
“If we had a puncture, I’d never be able to change it, I just don’t have the strength,” said a slightly under the weather Armstrong in the service park. To be only 9s down on Pearson after that clearly gave the reigning champion hope. The momentum wasn’t all in Pearson’s favour.
The next event, the Grampian, was reported as one of the best of the year by attendees. A new driver in the hunt mixed up the order, too, as 2015 BTRDA champion Dave Weston Jr returned to his home championship in a Subaru Impreza WRC S12B. He headed off one of the stories of the season in John Maccrone, who took maximum SRC points. Rebounding from the death of his co-driver Andy Mort on the Mull Rally at the end of 2015, Maccrone steadily built up his pace in a new Msl-run Ford Fiesta R5 and after flashes of pace, he was only six seconds behind Weston at the end proving his return to form. But Weston and Maccrone were out of the title hunt and another strong run under pressure from Pearson meant he finished one spot ahead of Armstrong, taking fourth as the latter buckled under the championship pressure. He had a small off at a junction costing him half a minute and the honour of leading the standings heading into the last round.
The series hadn’t boasted a title fight as exciting as this in a while. Pearson needed to win or to finish one spot behind Armstrong to be guaranteed of the title on the Galloway Hills Rally.
Pre-event favourite Maccrone went out on the third stage after clipping a rock. Both title protagonists hit trouble.
Pearson smiled: “A corner tightened up more than the notes suggested and we were off down a banking. Clear the debris and we’re good to go.”
As for Armstrong: “That second stage didn’t suit me. It was wet, tight and twisty in the middle and faster at start and finish. Arron [Newby, TEG Sport] told me I should just click the engine map up one in the tight bits and down two on the fast bits. What does he think I am, an airline pilot? I was busy at the time!”
But the drama would become more serious for one of the protagonists. On the penultimate stage, having led the stage before, Pearson had to retire. A split manifold caused a fire under the bonnet and their title hopes went up in flames. All Armstrong had to do was be sensible to take his eighth win on the Galloway Hills and his second successive SRC crown.
“I felt for Garry. I couldn’t believe it when I heard what happened,” said Armstrong, “You couldn’t make it up, could you? I remember being told at school that to finish first, first you had to finish. That’s what I did today.”
Pearson ended the year a point behind, with a gaggle of strong Mitsubishi Lancer E9s in Mike Faulkner, Mark Mcculloch and Bruce Mccombie rounding out the championship’s top five.
If next year is anywhere near as exciting, we’re in for a treat. ■
SRC Co-drivers champion: Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta R5) Challengers: Scott Mccombie/mark Fisher (Mitsubishi Lancer E9) Scottish 2WD: Grant Inglis/ Robert Gray (Ford Escort Mk2) SRC Junior champion: Grant Macrae (Peugeot 205 Rallye) SRC Ladies champion: Caroline Carslaw (Ford Fiesta ST) Subaru Cup: Matthew Thomson/ian Graham (Impreza) 205 Cup: Donald Peacock/scott Peacock (205) Class 13: John Maccrone (Fiesta R5)* Class 12: Mark Mcculloch/michael Hendry (Lancer E9) Class 11: Iain Wilson/ Keith Riddick (Impreza) Class 10: Alasdair Graham/laura Stuart (Lancer E9) Class 9: Donald Brooker/rachel Brooker (BMW 130i) Class 8: Grant Inglis/robert Gray (Escort Mk2) Class 7: Caroline Carslaw (Fiesta ST)* Class 6: Ian Milne (Escort Mk2)