ELLIOTT FLIES HIGH
Escort Mk2 man rules the Red Kite Historic Stages. By Paul Lawrence
Nick Elliott and Dave Price were the toast of historic rallying on Sunday after scoring a stylish victory on the Red Kite Historic Stages, the opening round of the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship.
In a head-to-head with defending champions Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, Elliott and Price took a 35s lead to the finish after six wet and slippery stages, five on the gravel of the Epynt ranges and one in the super-fast Caeo. “That was a measured win and a good start to the season,” said Elliott.
Pritchard, Elliott and Joe Price/ Chris Brooks were not only the first three historics, they were also the first three cars on the road overall. Their fearsome commitment and pace was evident from the first junction of the season in Halfway as they all battled to put down an early marker. However, running first on the road was a disadvantage for Pritchard, who admitted that a lack of lines to follow was making life tricky on the slippery stages.
“We had an overshoot on the first corner of SS1 and a spin and a stall on Route 60,” reported Pritchard, who dropped 43s to Elliott over the first four stages. The damage was done and, though Pritchard pulled back eight seconds on the second runs through Crychan and Halfway, Elliott was not about to be caught. Price split them on the opening stage but a broken ’diff in Crychan brought his rally to an early finish.
Despite a handy margin after his big morning attack, Elliott was edgy as he left service for the final two stages. “I’ve thrown it away on this event before,” he said, but it all held together this time.
“It felt awful driving slowly through those last two,” he said on only his second competitive outing in the car that was badly damaged on the Pirelli Rally last April.
Pritchard took a big points haul and was philosophical about the challenge of running first on the road. “There was much more grip on the second run through Crychan, but the fog was worse this afternoon over Route 60,” he said of some very poor visibility on the high ground.
At 1m18s down on Elliott, Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver can be pleased with their work as the gap to Lancaster’s fellow former Peugeot Challenge rival continues to narrow. “We had a half-spin on Route 60 and a problem with the wipers, but it’s been a great rally,” said the Devonian.
Little more than a minute covered the next six Escort Mk2 crews as quality in depth packed out the top 10. Fourth was another leading result for Simon Webster and Jez Rogers as Webster settled back in after having some changes made to the car over the winter. “The car is so much better now,” said the East Anglian driver, who had to keep pushing to fend off team-mates Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons. On his first rally with a fresh car, still with Pinto power, Friend was as mighty as ever and won Class D3 at a canter as he pushed the car right up among the BDG pack. Only a sticking throttle on the way out of service caused any concern.
One of the drives of the rally came from Jonathan Brace/tim Samuel in sixth although it nearly came to a spectacular end on the final Route 60 stage. “We had the biggest moment we’ve ever had,” said Brace after a very high-speed spin. The only damage was reported as being to the co-driver’s laundry bill.
Elder statesmen Terry Brown and Den Golding found the Route 60 fog a challenge for a crew with a combined age of over 140 years, but they fought off Tim Freeman/paul Williams by just two seconds for seventh. Losing the better part of a minute with a slow opening stage cost Freeman dear, but he made amends by matching Lancaster with a push on the last stage. James Potter/bob Duck were only 11s further back as Paul Street/ian Jones made a strong BHRC debut to wrap up the top 10.