SHEL­S­LEY CLASSIC NOS­TAL­GIA VSCC TRI­ALS

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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. ■

CHAM­PI­ONS

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)

Amaz­ing 1903 Merc was a great sight

Group B fea­tured

Thom­son won first Subaru Cup Chal­lenger: Scott Mc­com­bie Chalmers: late Class 5 vic­tor

Pear­son took ti­tle down to the wire Maccrone im­pressed in Fi­esta R5

Gray took three R2 class wins

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