Island Challenge For BHRC Contenders

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email100915The 2015 Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship heads to the Rally Isle of Man (17-19 September) at a critical point in the season-long title contest, with Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke currently at the head of the points. In its first year under the management of the Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club, the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship has featured a tremendous season of competition and the massive asphalt challenge on the island roads will be a pivotal event as a double dose of points are on offer. Legs one and two of the rally, through to Friday afternoon, will count for one set of points and legs three and four will count for a second full set of points. With so many points on offer, nearly 150 for any crew being top BHRC finisher on both elements of the rally, the title race is still very open although two crews stand out as the favourites. After this event, the action moves back into the forests for the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire and it is quite possible that the title will not be decided on the island. The combination of Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke has generally been the one to beat this season as they have competed in the Holton Homes Category K for cars running to Appendix K. Their Ford Escort Mk2 took another win over the Epynt ranges last time out and they go to the Isle of Man as overall championship leaders. Really taking the title fight to Pritchard are Richard Hill and Iwan Jones in their Escort Mk2 from the RSR Historic Engineering Category 3. Two early season non-finishes have left them with work to do and they’ll need strong scores over the two deciding weekends to be in a position to beat Pritchard and Clarke to the title. Sadly missing from the final entry list is another crew who could have been in the running for the title. David Stokes and Guy Weaver (Ford Escort Mk1) had to withdraw their entry due to ill health for David and they will be very much missed on an event where they have always gone extremely well. Should Pritchard and Hill suffer nightmare weekends and go home empty handed, two other crews still have an outside shot at the title. John Perrott and Keaton Williams (Ford Escort Mk1) are having a great first season in historics and this will be John’s first time on the island as a competitor. Meanwhile, Rallying returnee Rudi Lancaster and co-driver George Gwynn (Ford Escort Mk2) have been getting quicker and quicker as the season develops and will be prime challengers to Hill and Jones in Category 3. However, Pritchard has potentially even tougher category rivals as Rob Smith/Alun Cook, Meirion Evans/Steffan Evans and Will Onions/Dave Williams run their Escort Mk2s in Category K and all three crews have proven pace on this event. Of course, Pritchard and Clarke have already won on the island this year having taken victory there in May in their Ford Focus WRC. In Category 3, a typically strong entry includes a gaggle of quick Escort Mk2s for Guy Woodcock/Graham Dance, Tim Freeman/Paul Williams and Phil Squires/Mick Squires, while the Pinto-engined Escort of Ian Jones/Iestyn Williams tops class D3 with Category 3. For Woodcock, it will be his first rally with BDG power in his newly-acquired car. Class D2 in Category 3 is for the 1600cc cars and is topped by the Escort Mk2 of Chris Skill, who has enlisted the co-driving talents of former Isle of Man resident Graham Wild. Lining up against Perrott at the head of the Capital Construction Category 2, will be father and son Ernie and Will Graham and they have always had excellent pace on asphalt events so it should be a big battle. Championship newcomers Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear are another strong Category 2 pairing, while Mark Holmes/Craig Simkiss should go well in their Escort Mk1 despite a rather lowly seeding. Set to join the Category 2 ranks on the island are Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride in their 3-litre Porsche 911. The Northern Ireland crew is usually seen in the older 2-litre 911 in Category 1, but Dessie is expected to switch to the more powerful and newer car for his favourite rally. Class C3 within Category 2 is always hotly contested and is topped by the BMW 2002Ti of Terry Cree/Richard Shores and the Escort Mk1s of Nick Danks/Martin Corbett and Phil Jobson/Arwel Jenkins. Class C2, for the 1600cc cars in Category 2, will surely deliver another great battle with Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith heading the field away on Thursday evening in their Hillman Avenger. Heading the chase of the Jordan Surfacing car will be the Escort Mk1s of Robin Shuttleworth/Ronnie Roughead and Dave Watkins, who has Barry Jordan’s son Tom on the pace notes. It has been a difficult year for Category 1 in historic rallying as changes to event running orders have cost them their traditional place at the front of the field on gravel rallies. However, there is still great support for the pre-1968 cars and the Walker Diecastings Category 1 has a really good entry. Heading the Category 1 cars away is the Porsche 911 of Rikki Proffitt and James Whitaker and they deserve a strong run after dreadful luck put them out of the Harry Flatters on the start line of the first stage. Three crews stand out as the ones likely to take the fight to the Porsche and at the head of the Category 1 points is the Ford Anglia of Malcolm Rich and Jonathan Hawkins. Back after more than 20 years out of rallying, Rich has been awesome this season and will attack the island roads in style. Meanwhile, fellow South Wales crew Bob and Dale Gibbons (Ford Cortina Mk2) will also be strong contenders and Paul Mankin/Desmond Bell (Lotus Cortina) are well in the title hunt. Finally, not to be discounted in the final Category 1 reckoning is the rapid Mini Cooper of Phil Harris and Jez Rogers, which has had a fine debut season as Harris also makes a return to rallying after a very long gap. So, there is much to play for in the championship as well as glory on the toughest event in the BHRC calendar. It promises to be a tremendous rally on these famous asphalt roads. The rally will be based at the TT grandstands in Douglas. The first car will start at 6.30pm on Thursday (17 September) and arrive at the finish at around 2.45pm on Saturday after more than 170 miles of competitive action. For more details about the Rally Isle of Man please visit, ,