With Guy Smith’s Fi­esta fal­ter­ing, Bell pounced for first Pro­ton win

Motor Sport News - - Rally Reports - By Larry Carter Pho­tos: Kevin Money

After a podium fin­ish on the re­cent Christ­mas Stages Rally, lo­cal aces Graeme Bell and Russ Rad­ford went a cou­ple of places bet­ter to take a de­but win in their MEM Pro­ton Sa­tria S2500 Millington on the Jack Frost Stages Rally.

Heavy rain greeted com­peti­tors at Croft Cir­cuit for Dar­ling­ton and Dis­trict Mo­tor Club’s an­nual ex­trav­a­ganza. Quick­est out of the blocks were Mark Jasper/don Why­att, who stopped the clocks a sec­ond ahead of the MG Metro 6R4 of Peter Smith/gra­ham Wild with Ge­off Wright/chris San­der­son in third in their Ford Fi­esta.

Al­ready in trou­ble, how­ever, were last year’s win­ners, Guy Smith and Pa­trick Walsh, who strug­gled with boost prob­lems on their Ford Fi­esta R5 and dropped half a minute, which set the prece­dent for the day. The pair did set a cou­ple of fastest stage times fol­low­ing a steer­ing rack fail­ure later in the day, but ef­fec­tively it was a test day for the M-sport Bent­ley GT driver. He was in an R5 for the first time after win­ning the last two events at Croft in a Ford Fo­cus WRC.

Rob Snow­den, part­nered by Tommy Rogers, pow­ered their Ford Es­cort into con­tention with stage wins on the next two tests to open up a 22 sec­ond gap over Jasper with Wright and Bell dis­put­ing third. But as the track dried, SS4 proved pivotal to the re­sults. Smith won the stage ahead of Bell, but an in­cor­rect tyre choice cost Snow­den nearly half a minute, mean­ing he was left to rue the de­ci­sion de­spite hang­ing on to a slen­der three-sec­ond lead at the in­ter­val. It was to prove a very costly mis­take.

By now the track was rapidly dry­ing and it was the Subaru of Liam Hark­ness that went fastest on SS5, while Bell pulled two sec­onds back on Snow­den mean­ing they went into SS6 just one sec­ond apart with Jasper hold­ing third.

Peter Smith – fa­ther of Guy – com­pounded a mis­er­able day for the family when he put the 6R4 off mean­ing he re­tired too, hav­ing al­ready had a punc­ture ear­lier in the day.

Bell rammed home his ad­van­tage on SS6 ahead of Smith and Chris Wise/ Tracey Tay­lor-west, who were now get­ting to grips with their newly­ac­quired Ford Fi­esta in third. Bell’s lead was up to 14 sec­onds as dusk started to fall on the North York­shire race­track.

Smith, now merely test­ing tyres, was quick­est on SS7 ahead of Bell as Snow­den dropped more time to his ri­val. Just to stamp his author­ity on the event, Bell won the fi­nal stage out­right ahead of Wright and Snow­den to even­tu­ally take the vic­tory by 30 sec­onds.

Snow­den was sec­ond, and took Class 4 honours, with Jasper a cred­itable third, 21 sec­onds fur­ther down.

Wright, in only his sec­ond out­ing in the car, took fourth ahead of Wise with Ste­vie Ir­win/dy­lan Thomas over­com­ing a bro­ken en­gine mount­ing to take a su­perb sixth over­all and Class 2 win in their 1600cc Vaux­hall Nova.

Class 3 went the way of Alis­tair Hutchin­son/tom Bruce (Re­nault Clio) on their way to sev­enth over­all while Class 1 spoils were taken by the Citroen AX GT of Ben Wil­son/ Sam Green in 19th.

Bell bettered Christ­mas podium at Croft Carter­sport Jack Frost Stages Rally

Guy Smith’s R5 de­but didn’t go to plan with boost and steer­ing is­sues

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