Who says Kielder is tough? In only their second forest outing, Gareth James and Steffan Evans made a mockery of its fearsome reputation.
Words Ian Harden/HRCR
Richard Hill and Pat Cooper stormed to Category Two victory, but three-time BHRC champ David Stokes pushed them all the way.
Photo Mark Writtle Photographic
Round 3: Pirelli Historic Rally — May 4, 2013
Gareth James and Steffan Evans proved that they are the new, young stars of this year’s Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship by winning outright the series’ second round, the Pirelli Historic Rally. In only their second-ever forest event, and their first in Kielder, the Mk2 Escort crew set a cracking pace throughout the six-stage, 50-mile course to win by 38.5 seconds from Richard Hill/Pat Cooper’s Mk1 Escort, with David Stokes/Guy Weaver, also Mk1-mounted, third. More importantly, the Welshmen took their second consecutive Category Three (1975-81 cars) win and now jointly lead the race to be 2013 British Historic Rally Champion with Rikki Proffitt and Phill Harrison.
With plenty early-season Mintex MSA series points at stake, the fight for Category Three proved to be as competitive as expected. Despite the drama of a last-minute gearbox change, James found his decision to try Kumho tyres suited him well. Consequently, he stormed into the lead, chased by Ernie and Will Graham, and Shawn Rayner/Declan Dear, both in Mk2 Escorts. Rayner also got into his stride early on, setting third and then second-overall fastest times in his less powerful Pinto engined machine. This consolidated second place and belied his lack of Kielder experience. Graham and Rayner’s good-natured personal battle, so close at the Mid Wales Stages in March, looked to be hotting up again when Graham’s rear brakes started leaking on Stage 2. With sportsmanship so typical of BHRC contenders, Rayner gave Graham his spare bottle of brake fluid to help him continue.
Following service at Carlisle Racecourse, the field returned to Kielder for a second loop of the same stages. Here, a mature display of fast, controlled driving on a surface that he is still learning gave James victory and maximum BHRC points. Runner-up spot went to Graham, whose brake problems persisted despite his service crew tracing the basic fault to a broken banjo union. Third-placed Stephen Richards/Keegan Rees survived an early scare — Richards describing a high-speed visit to a ditch as a “massive excursion” — and gelled quickly thereafter, setting a series of competitive stage times. Unfortunately, Rayner’s tremendous run halted when his Ultra Home-backed Escort slid into a ditch on Stage 5. “It was only a small ditch, but we had to jack the car up and put brushwood underneath to drive out,” he explained later. The resultant time loss dropped him to fourth.
Category Two (1968-75 cars) saw a fight for supremacy between the Mk1s of Richard Hill/Pat Cooper and David Stokes/Guy Weaver. Stokes drew first blood, powering into a 15-second lead after the opening stage, Pundershaw 1. The two drivers then ran neck and neck until Hill overhauled Stokes on Stage 5, Archy’s Rigg 2. With all to play for in the final 6.3 miles, Stokes showed just why he is a three-time British Historic Rally Champion, setting fastest overall time in the whole rally. Even with his monumental effort, Hill won, but only just.
Nick Danks/Martin Corbett (Mk1 Mexico) picked up their first points of 2013 with fifth in category and first in the 1600cc class. Scott Smith, in almost his first rally since 2006, enlisted the last-minute help of Andrew Richards — the son of Category Three runner Stephen — to co-drive his BDA-powered Mk1 when his regular co-driver had to pull out.
Callum Barney and Ron Channon were back in their Cortina GT. Barney was driving his first rally in Kielder since 1973 and, while the car ran faultlessly all day, the crew picked up a 2-minute penalty due to early arrival at a time control. Even so they came home fourth in Category One.
Stage 1, Pundershaw, proved to be several crews’ nemesis. Paul Mankin/Desmond Bell’s Lotus Cortina misfired through the latter part of the stage before expiring at the finish with broken contact breaker points. Class C3 (2-litre) leaders Wayne Bonser/Richard Aston’s rally lasted only two miles (the distance to the first chicane) before their Mk1 Escort retired with the clutch thrust bearing having welded itself to the clutch plate. C3 rivals Mark Holmes/Craig Simkiss led the class until Stage 3, when they put their Escort onto its roof.