Nick Elliott and Dave Price got their season off to a flying start by taking maximum points in the opening round of the FUCHS LUBRICANTS Motorsport UK British Historic Rally Championship, Rally North Wales (Saturday March 30th).
The forests of Wales were in prime condition and there was even dust as a bumper historic entry gathered in Dolgellau. Elliott and Price always headed the BHRC contenders, although Joe Price/Chris Brooks were never far adrift as a fine performance from Stanley Orr/Grahame Henderson netted third overall and Category 2 victory. Category 1 went to Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson (Lotus Cortina).
As well as being the first of seven BHRC rounds, Rally North Wales was also the first round of BHRC2 supported by Sherwood Engines, which puts the emphasis on the Category 1 (pre-1968) and up to 1600cc cars in the championship, and the first round of the BHRC Forest Challenge, supported by Rally and Competition Equipment. Elliott and Price also bagged the early lead in the BHRC Forest Challenge.
The unexpected dust, in Wales in March, detracted nothing from the success of the Wolverhampton and South Staffs Car Club event. The stages in Dyfi and Gartheiniog were in perfect order and the reverse seeded 2WD pack ran first. The dry stages held up well and a low retirement rate completed a great day’s rallying.
Elliott, on his first gravel rally in an Escort for 10 months, kept to his plan of going quickly from the start and focusing on maximum points rather than taking big risks trying to chase the non-registered Osian Pryce. In fact, it was another Price that held Elliott’s attention for much of the day as Joe Price and Chris Brooks mounted a decent challenge and rounded out the top three overall, just 24s down on the Cheltenham crew.
One of the most notable drives of the rally netted third overall BHRC points and Category 2 victory for Stanley Orr and Grahame Henderson. Competing on Welsh gravel for the first time in two years, the Northern Irishman pedaled his Escort Mk1 in style to open his title challenge with a very strong result.
Next up in the BHRC ranks was impressive BDG-debutant Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons, having their first rally since stepping up from Pinto power. Rob Smith/Alun Cook and Steve Bennett/Osian Owen were also in a top 10 packed with quality and Alan Walker/Will Rogers would have been among but for an ignition problem that cost close to two minutes in the second Cwm Celli stage.
Notable in the Category 3 classes were Josh Browne and Jane Edgington in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk2. They set a cracking pace on the way to a commanding class D3 victory and an overdue first finish together. Brothers Malcolm and Ron Mounsey (Talbot Sunbeam) ran first on the road and also bagged the class D2 win.
Orr and Henderson stormed to Category 2 victory but could never relax too much as John Perrott and Andrew Sankey took second in their Escort Mk1 and fended off Chris Skill/Tom Murphy by 20s while Warren Philliskirk and Max Freeman in turn kept Skill on his toes.
Simon Pickering/Colin Jenkins (Escort Mk1) claimed class C3 but the other star of Category 2 was young Rory McCann from the Isle of Man who, partnered by car owner Tim Tugwell, won class C2 and finished 28th overall in their Hillman Avenger. On his first experience of both gravel rallying and a rear-wheel-drive car, McCann was very impressive and topped the Sherwood Engines BHRC2. Finally, in Category 1 Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson dropped two minutes in a Gartheiniog ditch in Bob’s Lotus Cortina, but recovered to claim the BHRC category.