BR C: FAIRY TALE TITLE FOR EDWARDS, BOG I ES TAR S
Scottish champion dominates changed event. by Matt kew
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.
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