Bulletin 14 - 1st June 2017

Rob Snowden and Andy Brown, Ford Escort MkII
Rob Snowden and Andy Brown, Ford Escort MkII
Keith Robathan and Phil Sandham, Ford Escort Mk2Stephen and Louise Hope in their Ford EscortAlistair Hutchinson / St John Dykes, Renault ClioJohn Nicholson and Kari Bates, Ford Escort RS2000Colin Butler / Andrew Hutchinson, Renault Clio

Keith Robathan and Phil Sandham, Ford Escort Mk2Stephen and Louise Hope in their Ford EscortAlistair Hutchinson / St John Dykes, Renault ClioJohn Nicholson and Kari Bates, Ford Escort RS2000Colin Butler / Andrew Hutchinson, Renault Clio


Escorts Extravaganza.  It was an excellent weekend for fans of the famous Ford Escort MkII as North Humberside Motor Club ran their inaugural event on Cumbria’s Warcop Ranges.  Eight of the top eleven finishers were variants of this iconic rally car with three versions being driven by championship crews taking our top three points scores.


The recent Spring Bank Holiday weekend saw this new rally finally happen despite a date change from Easter and one or two hiccups that the organisers came across on the way.  Following the recent hot spell of weather and then heavy rain at scrutineering, Sunday morning started overcast and fresh but the clouds cleared by lunchtime for a warm and sunny afternoon session.  The event also took a safe and trusted format used often by the organisers of the Pendragon to come up with 8 stages and 65 competitive miles.


With Rob Snowden’s ‘regular’ co-driver having emigrated Down Under, Rob invited Andy Brown to take the hot seat of his rapid Ford Escort for this rally.  The new pairing quickly gelled and at first service they were lying in 4th overall after two good runs.  During the afternoon stages, they were slowed when the steering rack came loose in the sixth one and then a misfire developed on the penultimate test as they dropped 6 seconds and a place in the overall standings.  Some frantic investigations under the bonnet on the road section to the final stage revealed nothing obvious so they headed into the last stage with everything crossed.  They lost 21 seconds to the crew behind but just held on by 2 seconds to take 5th overall and maximum championship points.


Keith Robathan returned to the series and recalled Philip Samuel Sandham to be his co-driver for his first attempt at the Warcop Ranges.  Their Ford started the day well with a 10th fastest over the opening test and although all but one of the remaining 7 stages were the same or quicker, their progress up the top ten was hampered by losing water (head gasket on the way out), bending 4 wheel rims and catching a few slower cars on stages.  However, they weren’t unhappy to be 7th overall at the end of the day and having played their Jokers, they picked up a good bagful of points as well.


Our third placed crew were Mr. and Mrs. Hope in their Ford Escort MkII.  Stephen was not a happy man at first service having lost time behind cars on the Pincent stages, particularly following a Mitsubishi for a whole lap before being able to get back up to speed.  No suspension issues to report on this event and both husband and wife were still smiling after the final stage.  They made steady progress all day to move up from 16th after SS1 to end the day as 10th overall.


Our leading driver in the championship going into the rally was Stevie Irwin and that’s how he ended the event too.  A pretty uneventful day by his standards as his wee yellow Nova was still fitted with one door mirror at the finish and just a small amount of tyre rubbing marks displayed down the side of his car.  He did enjoy a good class battle with a Honda Civic all day although he didn’t help his cause by dropping 15 seconds to the Japanese car on the first test.  It was nip and tuck stage by stage thereafter until the seventh run when Stevie and co-driver Ian Middleton got the gap down to 1 second.  Over the final 8.64 miles of Haybergill, our men stopped the clocks 3 seconds quicker than the Civic to take 2 seconds win.  As you can imagine Stevie was ever graceful and suggested that his rival had ‘simply overdriven’ the stage and lost time; mmm well those of you who know Stevie might not agree with that view.  


The West Cumbria crew of Stephen Bethwaite and Ann Forster enjoyed another good rally.  The results show that their Vauxhall Nova took yet another class victory in the smallest class and 17th overall after a pretty quiet rally.  This was a good thing as there was enough drama very early on the Sunday morning.  A failed crank sensor when taking the car off the trailer made them sweat a little and then a broken alternator bracket that was fixed at first service.  The latter issue nearly caused their retirement but the Whitehaven man appreciated that Lady Luck was with him on this occasion.


Our current champion driver Alistair Hutchinson will look back one day and realise how very similar this year’s script played out to his last visit to the Warcop Ranges.  A quick summary confirms he had another major time loss on an early stage then a great fight back for the rest of the day.  This time out he was second quickest on the opening stage before a snapping a driveshaft on the next run to drop him down to 55th overall.  Top ten times on all the remaining six stages pushed the Renault Clio into a more respectable 19th position, and a class win too, at the finish.  It was a shame as he and St John Dykes were going well at a venue they know and enjoy; who knows what might have been.


John Nicholson called up Kari Bates to sit alongside him in his historic specification Ford Escort RS2000 for the day.  John was his usual bubbly self at the final control having enjoyed the rally despite suffering from a vibration on his brakes and a gearbox that sometimes tested his skills moving the stick around.  They were classified as 23rd overall.


The lovely Hillman Avenger of Kenny Moore and Richard Wardle were next up.  The Coltness driver was having another steady run until Toddygill 2 when he stopped in the stage.  After a lot of fiddling and checking of connections for about 6 minutes, the culprit appeared to be a loose plug lead.  Normal service resumed after the lunch halt with regular top twenty stage times but a lowly 27th place finish doesn’t truly reflect what might have been possible.


Colin Butler was making one of his rare appearances of the year at his local venue.  Running with Andrew Hutchinson once again in the silly seat of the ‘Tango’ Clio, they were part of the Mickleton Service Station team looked after by our champion driver.  Not much to report from Colin in this pretty standard specification car apart from going off at a tightening left-hander on the opening stage.  He nearly made it round the corner but just drifted onto the grassy marsh on the outside and kept his foot in to quickly regain the road.  He thought his event was over in a flash but minimal time was lost as he was quickly on his way.


Jeff and Owen Malthouse were our final finishers in 35th place.  The lads from Berwick had another reliable run with their Peugeot 205 and enjoyed their first visit to the Warcop Ranges.  Owen struggling a bit with the old  ‘mal de nav’ stuff, along with a few other co-drivers on the day, but he preserved to the make it to the final control despite the very high temperatures inside his rally office.


We only had 4 retirements to report starting with the Subaru Impreza B13 of Ian Paterson and Heather Grisedale.  They got off to a great start and held 3rd overall all morning until they slipped over the edge of the road at a tricky junction in the eastern part of the stage on the first afternoon test.  Like many of the roads on these ranges, it was quite a steep drop off into the ditch and there was just no way back out for them.  Neil Prior and Peter Littlefield didn’t make it that far as intermittent electrical problems on their Subaru eventually stopped them in stage 4.  Des Campbell was back out with another ‘new’ co-driver and this time it was Kevin Mathers.  Unfortunately, Kevin’s not a good luck charm as they were retrieved from the second Bale Hill stage and returned to service on the end of a tow rope, that’s the rope attached to the car rather than the crew !  And our final retirees were Stuart McBride and Shona Hale as they closed the doors on a weekend to forget.  They retired from the Granite Stages on the Saturday in a borrowed car and then tried again the next day at Warcop.  No better result for day 2 either as they retired again, this time when the engine seized on stage 4.  They were another crew last seen with the car on the end of a towrope, this time heading west along the A66.


As we move into the second half of the season, a look at the top of our overall tables shows Stevie Irwin with a small lead over Rob Snowden before a 10 points gap to Kenny Moore, Neil Prior and Stevie Hope with these last three drivers covered by just four points.  Across in the co-drivers section it’s a lot closer with the top seven places covered by a mere eight points.  Peter Littlefield still heads Richard Wardle, Ian Middleton, Phil Sandham, Louise Hope, Andy ‘Scratman’ Brown and Andrew Constantine.  There’s still plenty to play for but consistency becomes more important in our final four rallies.


Thanks go to David James and all his team at North Humberside Motor Club for all their efforts in making their first rally on Warcop actually happen and then be a success as well.  I’m sure that they’ll agree there were a few rough edges to be smoothed over for the next time the rally is run but there were lots of happy crews at the final control.  Keeping the paying customers happy is always a good investment for the future.


Our next rally is just over a fortnight away as we return to Scotlandshire for the Kingdom Stages on the 17th June.  It may be a new name for our championship but it’s still Glenrothes Motor Sport Club running the Summer Stages with an added venue of RAF Leuchars.  The name change and format is the organiser’s way of recognising and celebrating 40 years since a stage rally with this name was first run.  The Regulations for the rally were published earlier this month outlining the plan to run 10 stages at both Crail and Leuchars Airfields for the competition and this year they are offering 80 competitive miles.  The organisers have received over 80 entries but there are still more available until Saturday 3rd June when entries officially close.  For more information, go to the event website at http://www.glenrothes-msc.com/



All images courtesy of Pro-Rally.co.uk ©