The fifth event of the seven round MSA British Rally Championship saw the DMACK British Rally Team driver make it three wins from five and his second ‘home’ victory in Wales this season.
Fellow Welshman Tom Cave equalled his season best with a fine second while Desi Henry completed the podium after a tough two-day encounter.
Based in Builth Wells, the Nicky Grist Stages is a unique event on the BRC calendar with the two days split into two surfaces. Biblical weather greeted the competitors on the opening day with crews slipping and sliding through 45 miles of forestry gravel stages before tackling the famous Tarmac on the Epynt Ranges on the second day.
It wasn’t just the crews inside the car who were tested this weekend as the service teams had just two-and-a-half-hours on Saturday evening to convert the cars from mud-slinging monsters into Tarmac-hugging weapons.
Series leader Evans had a difficult start to the event, as the Ford Fiesta R5 driver was not to have it all his own way, with a spin on the opening stage and pop-off valve problems on the second. Undeterred by these early issues, the Welshman swiftly got back into his dominating stride, topping the time sheets on 12 of the event’s 15 stages to finish with a healthy 1 minute 11.4 second margin as the cars returned to Builth Wells for the Ceremonial Finish.
It was to be fellow countryman Cave in his Michelin-shod Ford Fiesta R5 who drew first blood, however, setting fastest time on the opening stage of the rally. Cave (right) would lead the event until an inspired Evans snatched the advantage on the third stage.
Thereafter Cave couldn’t live with Evans’ pace but showed his own improvement in speed by recording another second place and his third podium of the year – a result that has helped him to leap-frog Fredrik Ahlin into second place in the championship points standings with two rounds remaining on the calendar.
Ahlin missed out on a points haul after retiring on the opening day with a spectacular crash.
Henry picked-up from where he left off in Scotland with another fine third position in his Skoda Fabia R5. The Northern Ireland driver started off cautiously but gathered pace as he flew through the gravel stages. It wasn’t to be plain sailing for the likeable Irishman, though, as he took a big cut on the opening day nearly sending the Skoda onto its roof. With the Fabia safely back on all four wheels, Desi pressed on – more so when the competition switched to his preferred sealed-surface. Eager to hold station, Henry chalked up a fastest time on stage 12, showing his asphalt form which, in turn, elevated him up the championship points table at the end of the mid Wales event.
Scottish star David Bogie in his Pirelli-backed Skoda Fabia R5 has had a disappointing run of bad luck with two retirements since his podium on the Circuit of Ireland. The Dumfries-based driver suffered turbo issues on the final day but was pleased to score points once again with fourth overall. Circuit of Ireland winner Josh Moffett moved through the order on the Epynt Ranges to place his Fiesta R5 in fifth while rounding out the top six in his Citroen DS3 R5 was Ulsterman Jonathan Greer who also claimed a fastest section time on the Nicky Grist Stages. Greer will be looking for a strong result when the series returns to Ireland for the penultimate round of Britain’s premier rallying series.
Young-gun Rhys Yates took one of his best performances to date in his striking Fiesta R5 with seventh while Jamie Anderson was sadly the biggest loser on the second and final day.
Nestled in fourth at the overnight halt, the Englishman struggled with his limited Tarmac experience on the demanding, flowing stages – settling for eighth at the end of the multi-surface event.
Ollie Mellors was the top S2000 runner in his Proton Satria while Thomas Preston rounds out the top ten in his Skoda Fabia R5.
In the DMACK Junior British Rally Championship, Vauxhall ADAM R2 driver Robert Duggan made it a hat-trick of victories this season. The Irishman drove a faultless event leading from start to finish, heading a Vauxhall Motorsport one-two as the cars returned to the Royal Welsh Showground.
Teammate Mattias Adielsson struggled on his preferred gravel surface on the opening day, but woke up in inspired form with newfound Tarmac speed as he reeled in and overhauled Sindre Furuseth to take second. The Swede was playing his ‘Joker’ this weekend, thus doubling his points and putting him well into the title hunt.
Scotland winner Furuseth in his Renault Twingo R2 held a solid second overnight but his first event on Tarmac was to be his downfall as he slipped back into the final podium position.
|The Norwegian can take a lot of credit as he now has a day of asphalt experience under his belt as he heads into the final two Tarmac events.
Local driver Meirion Evans (Ford Fiesta R2T) made it four fourth placed finishes in a row while Josh Cornwell rounded out the top five among the Juniors in his Fiesta R2.
Matt Edwards took the spoils in BRC2, the Welshman produced another stunning performance to get himself into the top 12 overall as well as the class win.
The Mitsubishi Evo 9 driver now has an unassailable lead in the BRC2 category and will be crowned champion at the season finale.
BRC3 competitors Chris Wheeler and Yan Griffiths in their Citroen DS3 R3T were looking for another strong finish to consolidate their class lead before a heavy impact on Epynt forced them into retirement.
The pair had to be extracted from the car and taken to hospital but no serious injuries where incurred.
In BRC4 Tony Simpson was another driver to take his third win of the season in his Kumho-supported Ford Fiesta ST.
Marty Gallagher who was competing in his first event outside of Ireland had a commanding lead at the end of the first day before a retirement early Sunday morning put paid to his event.
National Rally Cup winner Robert Blomberg made it back-to-back victories as championship leader Donnie Macdonald retired with head-gasket failure and with it went his place on the summit of the table.
The winner of the SORT Oil Spirit of the Rally Award on the Nicky Grist Stages was DMACK Junior BRC competitor Blair Brown.
Every team was under pressure during the two-and-a-half-hour change over from gravel to Tarmac specification. Blair and his small team only had three people including himself and it would be a race-against-time for them to get his R2T Fiesta into Parc Ferme – a feat which they achieved with time to spare.
Brown also won the award for assisting a spectator who got stuck on the road section.
The Scottish driver jumped out of his own car to help get the grateful spectator off a rock and on his way again.
Cameron’s close call
|Rising Llandovery rally star Cameron Davies overcame a succession of problems to take a big step towards another Championship title.
The issues for Cameron and co-driver Lee Taylor began when a mid-week test session revealed a problem with one of the competition suspension struts on their Ford Fiesta.
A last minute cross country dash by Cameron’s father secured a replacement part but when the team fitted it they discovered that they were unable to adjust the ride height to give the optimum set-up.
Nevertheless, with four wins out of four in the previous rounds of the Fiesta ST Trophy, the pair headed out from the Builth Wells start to the event feeling confident about the eight special stages ahead of them. However, they quickly discovered a new problem, electrical this time, as Cameron explained. “Every time I touched the throttle it would cut out for five seconds. If I touched the brakes it would cut out for two.”
That issue plus a wrong tyre choice which saw them running on medium rather than soft tyres slowed them throughout the morning but they were hopeful of being able to fight back in the afternoon. This wasn’t to be, however, Cameron subsequently commenting, “Unfortunately the ruts determined our line through most of the stages so we struggled with that.”
Irrespective of those trials and tribulations, however, when the pairing returned to the Royal Welsh Showground for the event finish they had put in a strong enough performance to make it five successive victories in the Fiesta ST Trophy as well as claiming Class honours on the event.
The result also means that, despite missing the opening round of the series, the pair take the lead in the Trophy with two rounds remaining.
The next round is the Woodpecker Rally, based in Ludlow on 3 September, but Cameron will be back in competitive action at Castle Combe race circuit in Wiltshire next weekend racing the SVG Racing Sports 2000 car that he drove with considerable success last season.
You can follow Cameron’s motorsport activities on the team’s web site, www.camerondavies.com, on Facebook page or Twitter @cameron_davies
The next round of the BRC is the Ulster Rally on the 19/20 August.
Afterwards, Tom Cave said, “I am very pleased with second as it is good for the team and for the championship. Things have progressed even more this weekend, more than we had hoped. Our pace on both surfaces was encouraging especially on Tarmac on the second day.
“We knew it would be difficult to beat Elfyn this weekend but I have learnt a lot from chasing him and want to be even closer on the Ulster next time out. Second in the championship is good but we will keep working hard and keep making progress forward.”
Results MSA British Rally Championship
Round 5 – Nicky Grist Stages
- Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Craig Parry (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 – 25 points
- Tom Cave (GBR)/James Morgan (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +1:11.4 seconds – 15 points
- Desi Henry (IRL)/Liam Moynihan (IRL) Skoda Fabia R5 +2:01.8 seconds – 10 points
- David Bogie (GBR)/ James O’Reilly (IRL) Skoda Fabia R5 +2:48.5 seconds – 8 points
- Josh Moffett (IRL)/John Rowan (IRL) Ford Fiesta R5 +3:05.9 seconds – 6 points
- Jonathan Greer (GBR)/Kirsty Riddick (GBR) Citroen DS3 R5 +3:08.0 seconds – 5 points
- Rhys Yates (GBR)/ Tom Woodburn (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +3:30.0 – 4 points
- Jamie Anderson (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +5:38.2 seconds – 3 points
- Ollie Mellors (GBR)/Ian Windress (GBR) Proton Satria S2000 +5:48.7 seconds – 2 points
- Thomas Preston (GBR)/Jack Morton (GBR) Skoda Fabia R5 +5:58.7 seconds – 1 point
|It was a round of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship as well.
A fifth maximum points haul in as many rallies entered has taken Rhuddlan’s Luke Francis a step closer to Wales’s premier rallying title while team mate John H Roberts from Colwyn Bay has clinched overall co-driver honours.
Their latest success means that, despite there being two rounds still to go, John cannot now be caught in the chase for the 2016 Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship while Surrey’s Wug Utting retains a mathematical chance of overhauling Luke.
Third quickest on the opening stage of eight, Luke moved the Mitsubishi Evo 9 to the head of the field on the following stage and coped superbly with difficult, wet conditions in the classic Mid-Wales forests to go on to outright victory.
On the victory podium at the Royal Welsh Showground, Francis said his Mitsubishi had performed “faultlessly”, adding, “we had a little bit of an off on stage six but we didn’t lose too much time.”
The North Wales driver’s task was aided slightly by problems for some of his closest Championship rivals. Llanon’s Dylan Davies and co-driver Llion Williams, from Caernarfon were forced to retire their Subaru Impreza with fuel problems on the opening stage while Andy Davies and Max Freeman retired their Impreza on stage 6 with a broken ball joint. Despite that, Max, from Tywyn, continues to lead the co-driver category in the Vital Equipment Welsh Junior Championship, although by just four points from Simon Jones and Chris Davies.
Second place went to Martyn and Dawn England as they continue to get to grips with their new for this season Ford Fiesta R5+.
At the finish the Ilminster driver said of their rally, “It started off well this morning and we’ve made progress throughout the day so we’re really pleased both with the car and ourselves as a couple. As a partnership we’ve worked really well today and it’s paid off with a good result.”
Caernarfon pairing Gavin Edwards and Caron Tomlinson claimed the final podium place in their Mark II Ford Escort after starting at car 51 prompting Gavin to comment, “It was unexpected at the end and we’re really, really happy.”
Wug Utting’s fourth place gave him a win in the Group N category for less modified cars and takes him to the top of the Group N Championship standings.
The Vital Equipment Welsh Junior series has a new champion driver with Pwllheli’s Andrew Jones clinching the title in his Mark II Ford Escort. Andrew also lies second in the overall Championship and leads the two wheel drive standings ahead of Flying Kiwi Boyd Kershaw.
Two class titles were settled on the event with John H Roberts securing top honours among the Class 8 co-drivers while Worcester’s Martin Griffiths takes the equivalent honour in Class 7. There remain plenty more class battles to be resolved, however, in the final two rounds of the Championship.
Luke Francis also leads the Ravenol Welsh Challenge. The Challenge runs in conjunction with the championship and is based on a driver’s performance within his or her class. Luke has a seven point advantage over Andrew Jones while there is a four way tie for third place.
Competitors have a break now before the penultimate event of the year. The Ludlow based Woodpecker Rally takes place on 3 September. You can find out more about that event on the rally website www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk and about the Championship, including full Championship and Ravenol Welsh Challenge points, on www.wnrc.wamc.org.uk. You can also keep up to date with the Championship on the Facebook page and on Twitter @WnRC.
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