The 2017 Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship will head into Kielder forest for round three, the Pirelli International Rally tomorrow (Saturday 29th April) with Nick Elliott and Dave Price bidding for a hat-trick of 2017 victories.
The season started in mid-February on a damp and foggy Red Kite Stages when three crews marked themselves as the early season pace-setters in Ford Escort Mk2s. Elliott and Price emerged victorious that day over reigning champions Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke while Joe Price and Chris Brooks showed typically strong pace before being sidelined with a failed diff.
The story was similar a month ago on Rally North Wales when Elliott and Price again set the seal on victory with a storming opening salvo through wet and slippery stages. Pritchard struggled to find his rhythm and was running third until Price went out after an off left his car parked on its side. Pritchard moved up to second but was nearly caught on the final stage by the increasingly rapid Escort Mk2 of Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver.
The Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club promotes the MSA BHRC under a five-year contract and 2017 will be the third year of that agreement. The calendar covers five gravel and three asphalt rallies, with a double-header on the Isle of Man in September to make nine rounds. The team at Special Stage will film all eight events to give the BHRC some of the best TV exposure in British rallying.
Elliott and Price head north with a clear early points’ lead after two perfect scores and Pritchard and Clarke know that they need to stop that becoming a hat-trick this weekend. The fast and flowing Kielder stages, with notorious ditches, should be the setting for another mighty contest. Added to the mix is the very welcome BHRC return of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis in the fabulous Fiat 131.
Elliott/Price also head Category 3 where more strong Escort Mk2s in Class D5 include those of Simon Webster/Jez Rogers, Steve Bennett/Osian Owen and Tim Freeman/Paul Williams. The other class winners in Category 3 have been Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons (Ford Escort Mk2) in D3 and David Hopkins/Tony Vart (Sunbeam Talbot) in D2. However, Hopkins will not be in action on this event as he prepares for a trip to the Midnight Sun Rally in Sweden in June. Chasing the flying Friend in class D3 has been the Escort Mk2 Pinto of Rex Ireland/Adrian Scadding.
Stanley Orr and Stephen McAuley have set the early pace in the Capital Construction Category 2 as Orr steps up to BDA power in his Escort Mk1. Rear suspension problems that dogged their progress on the Red Kite finally put them out of the opening event but they came back strongly to win on Rally North Wales. The opposition to Orr is topped by local ace Phil Jobson and his Welsh co-driver Arwel Jenkins in their Escort Mk1 and veteran Bob Bean with Malcolm Smithson alongside is his Escort Mk1. Simon Pickering and Paul Barbet (Ford Escort Mk1) have taken a double win in class C3 for Pinto-powered Escorts.
Class C2, for the 1600cc cars, has become a battle of the Hillman Avengers as Elliot Retallick/Tim Tugwell and Andrew Stokes/Adrian McNally compete: to date Retallick has taken the class on both events while the class could also feature a three-way contest among the Escort Mk1s of Aziz Tejpar/Steve Davey, husband and wife Stuart and Linda Cariss and Welsh crew Mal Bayliss/Siobhan Pugh.
In the Vintage Car Radiator Company Category 1, the Mini Cooper of Phil Harris and Richard Suter has taken two wins from two starts in 2017.