Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship debutants Nick Elliott and Dave Price took maximum points on the second round of the year, the North Wales Rally Services Rally North Wales on Saturday, writes Peter Hughes.
However, it was another Historic spec Mark 2 Escort mounted crew, Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss, who retained the series lead after finishing in third place.
This year’s Championship has attracted a record number of registered drivers already this season and looks destined to set a new high for registered co-drivers. So, it was a strong Championship field that headed out from the Dolgellau start.
The early lead was claimed by Ieaun Rowlands and Emyr Hall, but they were forced out of the event on the second stage with distributor failure on their Hillman Avenger. That promoted Elliott and Price to a lead that they would not concede for the remainder of the day. They faced stiff opposition, however, from Pryce and Furniss who had switched from the modern Mitsubishi Mirage R5 that they took to victory on the opening round the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally. They might even have repeated their victory on this event last year were it not for a puncture late on in the event.
Second place overall went to Dylan Davies and Llion Williams. The Subaru Impreza crew (above) headed the four-wheel drive field throughout the day to also claim second overall in the Championship standings, their cause being assisted when the Impreza of Andy Davies and Max Freeman suffered turbo failure on the third stage. Second place among the four-wheel drive contenders went to Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. Despite his relative inexperience, Hirst leads the under 23 drivers’ category and the crew head the standings in the RAVENOL Welsh Challenge.
Third place in the Championship is held by John Rowlands and Glenn Latham who finished top of the modern specification two-wheel drive cars in their Mark 2 Escort. They finished ahead of the Historic specification Escort of Alan Walker who was nonetheless pleased with his performance in such a competitive field. Another very happy driver was Alun Roberts, he and co-driver Aled Edwards claiming a big points haul in their Ford Ka. The finished just ahead of the Fiesta of Max Utting. The Surrey driver saw his stage times improve throughout the day and believes there is more to come.
Meanwhile, Max’s dad, Wug, and co-driver Bob Stokoe took top points in Group N, for less modified cars. Paul Davy and Roger Allen continue to top the Championship standings in Group N in their similar Impreza. That is despite the fact that they discovered during the course of the day that there was nothing connecting their near side from wheel to the differential and so they were effectively competing in a three-wheel drive car on the closing stages. An impressive third place in Group N and class win went to the Fiesta ST of late entrants Kalvin Green and Tom Wood who now lie second in the Group N standings.
The battle of the BMWs in the two-wheel drive category went to the Compact of Colin Griffiths, reigning champions Andrew and Jamie-Lee Fox reporting a lack of grip for their 325i which meant they spent much of the day looking through their side windows to see where they were going. Meanwhile long time Welsh Clubman’s Championship competitors David Jones and Glyn Price finished third in class in their BMW.
Among other contenders to put in strong performances were David Lloyd Roberts who claimed maximum class points in his Ford Escort, as did Perry Gardener in his Nova. 2017 Junior Champion Rhydian Price in his Fiesta was particularly pleased with the start to his 2018 campaign.
Steve Deeley receives a RAVENOL voucher the Peugeot 205GTi driver picking up the award for the biggest improvement on seeding while a second RAVENOL voucher goes to Graham Palmer, the Escort driver competing on his very first event.
The next round of the Championship is the Rallynuts Stages Rally. The Builth Wells based event, organised by Midland Manor Motor Club, takes place on 14 April.
Osian Pryce made an impressive historic rally debut on the 2WD Rally North Wales, holding a strong second position mid-way through the six stage event in his first rally in a 1978 Escort Mk2, says Paul Evans.
A rear puncture on SS4 then cost him a minute, but he still managed to finish fourth overall on his first ever MSA British Historic Rally Championship outing. He also finished third overall (second 2WD) in the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship standings to maintain his overall lead in the series.
Co-driven by Dale Furniss, Osian had won Rally North Wales last year and was keen to tackle his local rally again – but this time by fulfilling a boyhood dream of contesting a rally in an iconic Escort Mk2, which he’d hired from Suffolk-based specialists RallyXtreme.
A brief test at the Sweet Lamb Rally Complex the day before was all Osian had before starting the 45 stage mile event, which was played out over the fast, smooth and slippery Dyfi, Big Ray and Gartheiniog gravel tests.
The 25-year old Machynlleth-born driver was quickly into his stride, setting fourth fastest time on SS1, equalling event favourite Nick Elliott’s time on SS2 and completing SS3 in second position – just 13 seconds behind the experienced Elliott.
The 106 cars that had started the Dolgellau-based event had polished the gravel roads and made them even more slippery for the afternoon’s repeat run of three stages, and in almost perfect Spring-like weather conditions Osian was getting faster and faster with every mile he completed.
Unfortunately, a rear left puncture early in SS4 cost him a minute, and the time lost dropped him from second to fifth. Undeterred, and now with three narrow front tyres and one wider rear tyre on the car, he set fifth fastest time on SS5 and started the final stage 17 seconds behind the similar Escort of Steve Bennett – and ended it 10 seconds in front, to record an excellent fourth place finish on his first ever event in a rear-wheel drive car.
Having already scored maximum points on the opening round of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship, the Cambrian Rally, in a Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage R5, third place on Rally North Wales in an Escort Mk2 sees Osian maintain his lead in the series.
“I’ve had a great day,” said Osian. “We had a rear left puncture on stage four, which we drove on for most of the stage and dropped a full minute, because as we were crossing the flying finish Nick Elliott was right behind us.
“We were only carrying one front tyre as a spare, and the front tyres are narrower than the rear tyres are, so we had to do the final two stages with three narrow tyres and a wider tyre on. It didn’t affect us too much, but we did lose a little bit of traction and it might well have contributed to a few small mistakes that reflected in the final two stage times.
He’s now thinking of a return to the Escort for future events because he enjoyed RNW so much.