Fantastic result for North Wales rallying
A new chapter was written in the history of North Wales Car Club (NWCC) last weekend when two of the club’s members finished first and second on the third round of the REIS – Get Connected British Trial and Rally Drivers Association’s (BTRDA) Championship Series at the Butlins Somerset Stages Rally.
The Burnham-on-Sea & Minehead Motor Clubs organised event attracted 150 crews and took in 9 stages totalling 43 competitive miles mostly on gravel tracks within the forests of Exmoor except for the 7.43 mile long tarmac surfaced Porlock Toll Road stage which included a classic hill climb and a series of very tight hairpin bends. It was to be a rally of attrition with 42 crews failing to complete the event, stage conditions having been described as muddy and rough at times.
Ruthin based driver Hugh Hunter accompanied by Co driver Andy Marchbank of Two Mills put in a faultless performance to take the overall rally win by a huge margin of 1 minutes and 17 seconds and the World Rally Car (WRC) class in his Hunter & Lewis and RS Hunter backed Ford Focus WRC03 car, this victory coming straight after the last round win at the Malcolm Wilson Rally.
Seeded at No.1 after winning the event last year, Hunter said “It was a great event for us and valuable Championship points in the bag, although we suffered all day with an intermittent long brake pedal which was a bit distracting.” Despite this problem and a puncture on stage 8, Hunter set the fastest time on all 9 stages to earn himself 30 Championship points and a huge jump up the Gold Star Championship table to 4th place overall and second place in the WR1 class. On his performance, Hunter said “We went for the win straight out of the starting blocks and had a good clean run through the first stage at Croydon which gave us a solid start and a decent margin on the others.” After a late morning service in Minehead, the crews headed for the tarmac hill climb at Porlock Toll Road where Hunter was surprised at the road conditions on arrival saying “It was hailing and raining heavily at service so tyre choice was important and we opted for wet weather tyres to tackle the tarmac stage, yet when we arrived at Porlock the road was almost dry.”
He added “Porlock Toll Road defines the Somerset Stages for me and I always look forward to that section of the rally; it makes the trip down worthwhile in itself. I wanted to have a crack at the record on the hill climb, but we were 4 seconds slower this year on the wet weather tyres compared to last year when we ran on slicks.”
Hunter’s delight and relief was plain to see with him saying “After a dropped score on the first round of the Championship, I wanted a good result here to get back into contention and it’s a massive relief to be back in the running.”
NWCC member Matt Edwards, 27 of Rhos on Sea had the drive of his life when accompanied by Chesterfield based co driver, Sam Collis, the pair charged through the field of some of Britain’s top drivers to take a convincing and hard earned second place overall in the Mitsubishi Evo IX.
The Swift Group, Holton Homes, Beech Developments, Egniol Environmental, EWP and North Wales Honda backed driver also stormed to a Class B13 victory ahead of Championship leader Shaun Gardener of Ludlow who struggled with boost problems throughout the day in his Mitsubishi Evo.
Edwards achieved his goal for the event of closing the gap in the BTRDA Gold Star Championship to just 4 points, maintaining his second place and also closing the Class B13 competition deficit on Gardener to just 3 points.
Edwards was trialing new tyres provided by emerging tyre manufacturer DMack and said “The tyres were a bit of an unknown quantity when we started the event as it was the first time I had used them, but we managed to get the most out of them and found grip where others struggled, especially at high speed with straight-line grip.” He added “Tyre choice today was critical and we made some major decisions that paid off.”
When asked about stage conditions, Edwards said “Conditions were quite slippery, but we managed to float the car around the corners, carrying a lot of speed and the car handled really well since we sorted out the centre diff problems we had previously.”
Another NWCC member, John Roberts of Colwyn Bay was heading for a class win co driving for Rhuddlan’s Luke Francis in the Bob Francis Crane Hire backed Group N Mitsubishi Evo having set three top 3 fastest stage times when disaster struck on the penultimate stage and the crew left the road after a mistake.
The crew finished sixth overall and third in class with Francis saying “It’s a bitter disappointment after working hard all day for us to then make a mistake on the 8th stage which cost us around 1 minute and dropped us from 4rd overall to 6th place in the end.”
Also out under the NWCC banner was Ian Jones of Abergele co driving for Rob Dennis in the Denwell Coaches backed Ford Escort MK2 BDG, the leading local in the historic category. The crew had a trouble free day to finish 27th overall and second in class H3.
Jones said “The recent major overhaul of the car paid off and we had a lot more power on this event than the opening rounds of the Championship.” Jones picked up a good haul of points in Somerset and achieved his goal of landing second place in the class H3 co-driver’s Championship.
On the results for NWCC, Hunter said “Matt and I have pushed really hard all day and encouraged each other to keep the pace going. It’s a fantastic result for North Wales rallying for all of us that travelled down to the event to have achieved so much.”
The next event in the BTRDA series is the Welshpool based Plains Rally which takes place on the 19th May. A full list of results from the Somerset Stages can be found at www.btrdarally.com.
Article by John Evans i2iPhotography