BR C: FAIRY TALE TI­TLE FOR ED­WARDS, BOG I ES TAR S

Scot­tish cham­pion dom­i­nates changed event. by Matt kew

Motor Sport News - - News -

When Tom Pre­ston won last year’s Wales Rally GB Na­tional Rally, it felt like a turn­ing point. The Skoda Fabia driver’s vic­tory marked the first for an R5 car on the UK club­man’s event and put an end to three years of Mit­subishi Lancer E9 monopoly. The new breed of car had come to the fore and would stay there. Or at least it should have done, but this year An­drew Gallacher and co-driver Jane Ni­col were read­ing a dif­fer­ent script.

This year’s Scot­tish Rally cham­pi­ons were al­most flaw­less across the 10 stages as they took their 2001 Ford Fo­cus WRC – pre­vi­ously driven on the event by Mark Hig­gins – to vic­tory. What’s more, it was the very fact that they weren’t in an R5 car that turned the ta­bles in their favour.

Un­like 2017, the Na­tional rally re­verted to a Fri­day and Satur­day sched­ule this year. From the off, it looked as though his­tory would re­peat it­self as Pre­ston and nav­i­ga­tor Carl Wil­liamson were fastest out of the blocks – hold­ing a slen­der 2s lead over Gallacher/ni­col at the end of the open­ing Clo­caenog stage.

But Pre­ston’s week­end would come to a rapid end. Too much speed through a left-han­der on the sec­ond stage, Brenig, ended with the Fabia rolling out of the rally. Gallacher, next on the road, rounded the bend and found the wreck un­sighted. He had a brief scare when he lost the car into the un­der­growth as he took avoid­ing ac­tion. Af­ter a stall, he even­tu­ally got go­ing back in the right di­rec­tion. The 45s he lost were given back to him by the or­gan­is­ers and so he re­sumed with a half-minute ad­van­tage over Scot­tish Cham­pi­onship ri­vals John Wink/ John For­rest’s Hyundai i20 R5.

Fri­day con­cluded with a run on the much-ma­ligned Slate Moun­tain, the road pep­pered with huge stones ca­pa­ble of dam­ag­ing the cars when hit at speed. Through the pre­dom­i­nantly first and sec­ond gear route the Fo­cus fell back in the stage times, but Gallacher main­tained his lead into Satur­day. It was here that the Fo­cus was able to stretch its legs on the faster and flow­ing My­herin, Sweet Lamb Hafren and Dyfi stages mak­ing the most of the higher top speed of the Fo­cus com­pared to Wink’s R5, lim­ited by a re­stric­tor as per FIA class rules.

Other than a bro­ken rear shaft sus­tained on the third stage, Gallacher and Ni­col’s tri­umph looked com­fort­able. But the route proved for­mi­da­ble, none­the­less.

“I’m tired, thank f**k I wasn’t do­ing the [World Rally Cham­pi­onship]!” Gallacher said. “We had a com­fort­able lead com­ing into [Satur­day] so we pushed on in the first cou­ple of stages to see what the pace was go­ing to be like. We were still tak­ing time out of ev­ery­body so af­ter that we didn’t re­ally need to push, we could af­ford to slow back a bit.”

De­spite wind­ing up 1m05s be­hind, Wink and For­rest’s sec­ond place marked a stel­lar run of form that’s capped off their sea­son.

The ex-juha Kankkunen Subaru Im­preza WRC S6 of Roger Duck­worth and Mark Broom­field may have been a lit­tle too close for com­fort – only 8s be­hind to claim the fi­nal place on the podium – but Wink could take so­lace in stay­ing ahead de­spite myr­iad is­sues.

“We were held up on the road sec­tion [to the first stage] with a lorry de­liv­er­ing a par­cel to a house so we’re steam­ing into the stage and were com­pletely flus­tered,” Wink said of driv­ing blind on the open­ing stage for three miles af­ter For­rest lost his place in the pacenotes.

Duck­worth also found his rally sig­nif­i­cantly hand­i­capped. Af­ter blow­ing a ’diff on last year’s event, me­chan­i­cal mal­adies would ham­per his progress again. This time he lost gears, los­ing sixth on day one and then fifth on Satur­day, leav­ing him shack­led.

Bob Ceen and co-driver Andy Bull may have been some three min­utes be­hind in their Subaru Im­preza S9 WRC, but by con­trast they en­joyed a smooth run. Their de­ci­sion to en­ter was last minute, although a rush to re­build the en­gine for the 2015 Welsh Cham­pi­onship-win­ning car paid off. They hit their tar­get of fourth ahead of Wug Ut­ting and Bob Stokoe’s Im­preza N12b and the Lancer E6 of Si­mon Hay and Calum Jaf­fray – the lat­ter run­ning with­out anti-lag for much of the du­ra­tion af­ter they burst the ex­haust.

That said, Adrian Hether­ing­ton and Ro­nan O’neill would have split Ut­ting and Hay, had it not been for a 10m penalty for re­ceiv­ing ‘out of bounds’ as­sis­tance. Nev­er­the­less, it was an im­pres­sive show­ing that earned the class win for rear-wheeldrive cars over 2000cc. Hether­ing­ton hadn’t driven the Ford Es­cort Mk2 for three years and was play­ing “Guinea pig” with a brand new 2.5-litre Honda en­gine.

Pho­tos: Chi­cane Me­dia, Jakob Ebrey

Ford Fo­cus driver was un­stop­pable

Af­ter los­ing gears Roger Duck­worth had to set­tle for third over­all Bob Bean drove with the ex­pe­ri­ence of 60 years in ral­ly­ing in H1

Ni­chol and Gallacher with rally heroes

Wink is ever-im­prov­ing in his R5

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