It was drama all the way and into the final stage of the Red Dragon rally, writes Roger Gale.
The Ford Escort pairing of Nick Elliott and Dave Price took a final stage victory on the Nick Bradbury Motorsports and Racing Photography Red Dragon Rally last Saturday, sixth round of the 2016 Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship.
On a day of heavy rain and incredibly slippery conditions in Walters Arena, Elliott fought back from a puncture on stage three, diving ahead as leaders Joe Price and Chris Brooks Ford Escort RS slid out of the rally on the final stage of the Port Talbot MC event.
It remained very close for Elliott as North Road Garage crew Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke finished with their Escort just three seconds behind.
The event ran over a 35-stage mile route due to the on-going issues over the cost of access to the forests managed by Natural Resource Wales, and heavy rain on the weekend ensured crews faced the toughest conditions many of them had ever seen.
Elliott set a fierce pace over stage 1, taking an instant nine-second lead over Price, his lead doubled on the shorter stage two. When the opening stage was repeated as SS3, Elliott hit trouble with a front puncture early on and they battled through the stage, losing over a minute.
They clawed a little time back on SS4, but were still 28s down on Price heading into the last stage, which linked the two stages together to make a 12-mile decider. It was far from over and a particularly tricky corner caught out Price and he slid off the road and out of the rally.
Damage was limited to one corner of the Escort, but they were out and a surprised Elliott took an unexpected victory as well as maximum points in the RSR Historic Engineering Category. Builth driver Pritchard pulled back six seconds on the last stage to get close to the lead, saying “The first two stages were awful, and a finish was our main target , a result that keeps our title hopes alive.”
Third overall were Steve Bennett and Paul Spooner after a trouble-free run in the Dave Jenkins-prepared Escort. “I certainly found out how to drive an Escort sideways,” said Bennett.
Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris in a Ford Escort Mk1 took another Capital Construction Category victory – “One of the most challenging events I’ve ever done,” said Tysoe.
Bob and Dale Gibbons won the Vintage Car Radiator Company award and ‘Best Prepared Car’ after a strong run in the Ford Cortina Mk2, and notable class winners on a challenging day included Peter Smith/Alun Cook in a rare Opel Ascona and Guy Anderson/Steven Davey, whose Sunbeam Lotus had a spark plug damage a piston, finishing with the oil light on.
In the modern section Martyn and Dawn England upheld Taunton MC honour , their Ford Fiesta R5 fastest on all five of the slippery Walters Arena stages provided by PTMC, the club making full use of almost every available mile, the Englands were never headed.
Dylan Davies / Dale Bowen got their Subaru Impreza to just a second’s deficit over the seven and a half miles of SS1, form that brought them second overall and a class win despite starting seventy-sixth, an outstanding performance.
The rain was almost incessant day long, brief bright spells false hope for competitors and Marshals alike, the five miles of SS2 seeing Andy Davies / Max Freeman best of the rest from the flying Fiesta, their Impreza three seconds ahead of the Davies/Bowen Subaru, finally third and class winners, after a mid event fight back to just a two second deficit, but nothing would displace Dylan daylong.
Shaun Gardners Lancer was an early casualty to the treacherous conditions, crashing out on stage two, as were a further dozen cars by the end, the Mitsubishi Evo9 of Moss/ Allen holding off Wug / Max Utting for fourth despite a last stage attack by the Southern County Impreza duo.
PTMC was well represented by local duo TC Lloyd and Sherryn Roberts, coming home 10th overall and class winners in the Glyncorrwg MOT/Tyre Centre Peugeot 205 Gti, the drivers first event since last year’s Wales Rally GB.
Darren James/Keegan Rees further upheld club honour with fourteenth, their first event together since WRGB in the Mcwhirter prepared Mitsubishi Evo 9.
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