Dust, Drama and Ditches
The MSA British Rally Championship got off to a frantic start with the opening day of the Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally producing it’s fair share of thrills and spills as the fast tracks and deep ditches of the Kielder Forest claimed their usual quota of victims.
After a sedate send off from Carlisle city centre, it was straight into the Kielder complex where the star of the day was undoubtedly the young Welsh driver, Osian Pryce, quickest on 5 of the days 6 stages, he set the pace right from the opening stage and ended the day almost half a minute in front of Irishman Dan McKenna who admitted to being nervous of the marbley gravel tracks. The opening stage saw an early exit for Chris Wheeler/ Charlotte Banner, their Fiesta ending on it’s roof,
The opening loop of 3 stages saw all the drivers surprised at the speeds possible on the recently regraded forest tracks, although the surface was described variously as, “Loose”, Very Loose” and “Very, Very Loose”, which caused some problems, Callum Black overshot a chicane, Gavin Beattie hit one of the giant bales, James Ford spun off but got going again, Gary Pearson suffered a broken alternator bracket and Aaron McClure lost time with a puncture.
Meanwhile it was similar story amongst the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge, the opening stage saw Graeme Sherry ( Renault Clio ) and Neil Moroney ( Peugeot 106) sidelined while Richard Archer’s Opel Corsa slid into a ditch on stage 2 and Ross Hunter’s Peugeot lost a wheel. The pacesetter was very definitely Richard Sykes Citroen C2 which simply left the rest in it’s wake, ending the day with over a minute advantage on Neil Mathews Vauxhall Nova, a puncture on the opening stage ruining Mark Gamble ( Suzuki Swift ).
The Historic section of the rally, the 2nd round of the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship saw some fantastic duels, with the result going right down to the wire. As expected, it was a battle of the Ford Escorts which saw the evergreen Steve Bannister put in a last stage surge to overhaul long-time leader Matthew Robinson, a mere 2 seconds separating them at the finish. It was even tighter in Category Two where David Stokes held off a determined challenge from Stanley Orr but only by 1.6 seconds. By comparison, series regular, Dessie Nutt was a runaway leader in Category One, his Porsche finishing almost 10 minutes ahead of the SAAB 96 of Nick Pinkett.
It was a case of what might have been for young Welshman Merion Evans, second quickest on the opening stage but on the next one fell victim to one of the infamous Kielder ditches, a similar fate befell Stephen Richards ( Escort ) while Marcus Noble ( Escort ) had a halfshaft problem and Ian Watson ( Escort ) suffered clutch failure. Clutch problems also accounted for Lawrence Tysoe ( Escort ) on stage Four where Andy Kelly ( Escort ) went out with gearbox problems.
The clubman’s National B event was won by the Mitsubishi Lancer of Stephen Clark / Jim Goodman who finished a minute up on the Focus of Peter Stephenson / Ian Windress. Peter Taylor’s Focus WRC was the pacesetter but a 2 minute off on the Yarrowmoor stage ruined his day. Gavin Chisholm ( SAAB 99 ) had an extremely brief rally, sucked into a Kielder ditch a mile into the first stage, .
The action starts early tomorrow, the cars leaving Carlisle and heading up to the far North of Cumbria for 4 stages in the Kershope Forest complex with the cars returning to Carlisle for a city centre podium finish round about 12:30pm.