The CAR-nival stages at Abingdon saw a full entry of 100 cars plus reserves. With a few changes, all of the reserves were able to start, including ACSMC Championship contender Richard Weaver in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, running at number 4! He had only had his entry confirmed on the Thursday, so was very pleased to be there, if a little worried about the fast cars behind him. He was in the capable hands of co-driver Tim Sayer, as his usual partner, James Pink, was unable to join him.
He was one of five teams from the Isle of Wight. Altogether, from an ACSMC perspective, eight of this years Championship contenders were competing. The next highest seeded of these were fellow Islanders Dean Long and Jon Barrett in the Subaru Impreza and they seemed happy after the first stage.
Carrying number 23 on their Subaru Impreza S7 WRC ’01 were Stuart and Freddy Larbey.
Meanwhile, back to the Islanders and Wayne Hole and Chris Wilson were having difficulties from the off in the Ford Escort Mk I with a broken clutch cable and the loss of third gear. “I am going to carry on anyway” said Wayne.
Dave Hockaday and Steve Frost were also having tribulations with the VW Golf Mk II GTI, as they lost power towards the end of the first stage. They discovered that this was due to the brand new alternator, which had broken, resulting in the car very nearly overheating. Luckily, they managed to ‘borrow’ one from Steve’s road car which only left the problem of how he might get home………………
John and Sharon Mills were in a brand new car, this being their first outing in the MG ZR. “It is only a 1400cc, so this may not have been the best event to bring it to” said John and after the first stage, plus it seemed to be running a little oily.
Pete Wilkins and Beccy Stuart 58 were feeling confident, with a good result in the bag at the Red Dragon I.T Stages at Down Ampney, where they had finished 23rd overall, 6th in class. Pete smiled after the first stage, “it is going well. I like to get my foot down!”
First timer and another Islander, John Cooper thoroughly enjoyed the first stage in his Ford Escort MkII with Kevin Richardson alongside. This despite having to return to service before the start after the nearside door mirror fell off! “I did hit some cones though” John grinned.
After the second stage, Richard had clearly been for a bit of grass cutting on cold tyres. But Stuart was having far more trouble, with the both drive shaft bolts sheared off at the front. Luckily, his crew had called him back from start after finding them on the ground. They were trying to sort it out. Wayne was finding it hard without third gear. “I am having to brake hard as well as remember not to try and use it”. Dave was finding it “much better with a working alternator, plenty of power that time. Running out of tyres now, but have some new ones”.
Elsewhere, Abi Mahmood was having fun and no problems in his Renault Clio Maxi with Samantha Bartlett, whilst Ian and Oliver Hucklebridge, however, were having quite some drama, with the laptop connected and mechanics crawling all over it. They managed a respectable 7th overall in the end.
Also competing were Neil Cahill and Jon Leckenby in a rather interesting ex M-Sport gravel car, bought directly from them. Neil told me that it was “still in gravel specification, but we are having a lot of fun. This is our first event in it and it has lots of history, with numerous top drivers having their hands on the wheel in the past, including Elfyn Evans”.
The next stage saw Richard taking a few trips to the grass and telling me that he was “very conscious of kerbs in the twiddly bits. Going from very fast and wide to very tight, which is hard”. Tim added “in the tight bits, I cannot call the bends fast enough!”
Dean had suffered from a long brake pedal half way round, “I pumped it and it seemed OK. We will keep bleeding the system but it is not great for my confidence”.
Stuart had decided to retire. Although they had fixed it, having missed a stage, he did not think that it was worth risking the car, especially with some of the chicanes being so tight.
John Mills, still leaking oil, also looked like he was going to retire rather than take the chance. However, after an heroic effort from his crew, he and Sharon actually managed to get back out for the last two stages and finish the event!
John Cooper’s Escort was looking very smoky on the straights. It turned out that the dipstick had blown out!
Mark Kelly and Neil Colman were leading the rally at this point, by just four seconds in their Ford Escort Mk II. A couple of small issues were affecting Mark’s rhythm. “I was held up on SS1, lost a paddle early in SS2 and was slightly early off of the tarmac on to the grass at SS3, as I thought the junction was sooner. We lost a second or two. It is my first time here and I am really enjoying it”.
Chris West and Sam Cox were in second in the Peugeot 306 Maxi. “We have had a couple of issues including the rear wheel bearing and a flat battery. Nothing too serious though”.
In third, Wesley Simpson had “also had an issue on to the grass on that stage, it was really tight and we had a spin. Other than that, I am enjoying my first time here and have no mechanical issues”. He and Joe Ford were 23 seconds behind Chris and 22 seconds ahead of fourth place in their Proton Satria Neo Millington.
Josh Payton and Jamie Vaughan had climbed to that fourth overall position in their Ford Escort Mk II. It was all looking very relaxed in the Payton camp! “No problems and enjoying stages. They are quite hard on brakes”.
Just 11 seconds further back were Lyndon Barton and Simon Hunter in their Mk II. “All going well. Stages are fast and the chicanes are what they are. They all seem to have been in place when we got to them. Just worrying about tyres, especially if it rains later”.
Richard had a clean stage fourth time out and “praise from his grace!” (meaning Tim).
Dean was still suffering with brakes and also a misfire for fifteen seconds. “I backed off and then it seemed OK. We are changing the plug on cylinder number three as that is the one nearest to the turbo”. Wayne was holding together and “pleased to still be running”. Dave had hit the hole on the grass “quite hard!” Pete was grinning almost as much as Dave. “I was having fun in that stage with the Renault 5 Turbo and an Escort MkII. I left them on the straights, but they catch me on the ‘nadgery’ bits!” John Cooper was “still learning the car and probably braking too early, but having fun and gaining experience”.
The end of the fifth stage saw Richard with a mysterious oil issue which he was underneath the car trying to resolve. Unfortunately, this resulted in him missing SS6, although he was able to run the last stage. Dean “had to turn boost down a little bit but going OK. I am trying out some Michelin tyres”.
There was drama at the front of the field, as Mark and Neil had to push the car over the finish line after it lost all power almost at the end of the stage. There was lots of concerned looking under the bonnet and Chris West came to look too. Turned out that the fuel line had snapped off right by the fuel rail. Luckily, they had taken a time and were able to repair the car and continue. Losing over a minute, though, meant that Chris took the lead at this point, with Wesley in second. He said “all going well”, although he was kicking himself for that earlier spin. Amazingly, Mark only dropped to third. Back at the calmest part of the paddock, Josh’s crew were eating cake. They had suffered a bit of a mudflap incident, but luckily no knuckles had been lost in the repair process………………..
Dean’s misfire was back in the penultimate stage. “It is intermittent, but results in a really bad loss of power”. They were considering changing the coil pack but eventually decided to just change two of them in the time allowed. Wayne was now finding that his brakes were juddering, after the heavier than normal use due to his broken gearbox. He was pleased to be making up places despite this, gaining seven places over stages five and six. Dave continued to grin, “going really well and just a few miles to do now. We are going to swap the rear tyres from right to left as the one on the right is really hot”. Pete was continuing to have fun with the cars around him.
Chris told me that he had virtually “used up a new set of pads! Really hard braking and the chicanes are really tight for me in this very wide car”. Wesley was ready for the last stage and Mark was very pleased to have taken some time back. “I always wanted to be quick in the last stages”. He gained ten seconds in this one.
Unfortunately, Joe Piggott and Ben Williams hit some tyres at the end of the straight and rolled in their Citröen Saxo VTR, ending their day but luckily only with a damaged car.
At the end of the competition, Richard had managed to get back out for the last stage. The oil was apparently going from the gearbox to the transfer box, so he was glad to finish. He now just has to source and solve the problem! The maximum time on SS6 saw him and Tim at 69th overall, 10th in class.
Dean was happy to have finished it. “It went well on the last stage, after I turned the turbo down a little”. 20th overall and 4th in class meant that Dean and Jon could head back to the Island reasonably happy.
Wayne “stalled it on the hairpin after doing a great handbrake turn the lap before! Hard day at the office and glad to finish”. Despite all the difficulties, he and Chris had climbed to 38th overall, 13th in class.
Dave and Steve were delighted to finish for the “first time in six years! Really good fun and very different end to the day after difficulties at the start.” Furthermore, they found themselves 42nd overall, 14th in class.
John and Sharon were able to finish the rally thanks to some superglue………….. This meant that they were classified at 75th overall, 13th in class.
In Pete’s car, Beccy put their good day down to “finishing flamingos!” 44th overall meant that they had climbed fourteen places and were also 14th in class.
John Cooper was very happy. “My favourite part was not losing it on that last stage!!” An excellent result on their first rally, he and Kevin finished 60th overall, 22nd in class.
Chris West and Sam Cox held on for the overall win and, despite matching the final stage time to the very same second, Wesley Simpson and Joe Ford were very pleased with second. Especially as Mark Kelly and Neil Colman claimed another five seconds back on the last stage, to finish just 23 seconds behind in third.
Josh Payton and Jamie Vaughan were happy with 4th overall and looking forward to Smeatharpe next.
The Championship now moves on to Wethersfield for the penultimate round and with plenty to play for in the points!
Rally Championship Coordinator