The opening round of the West Wales Rally Spares R.A.C. Rally Championship has drawn what is being described as the best quality field ever assembled for a historic stage rally in Britain on the Rally Marketing Mid-Wales Stages (Sunday 3 March).
With an incredibly strong entry, we decided to ask some expert pundits to stick their necks out and predict the winner when the crews return to Newtown on Sunday afternoon after 55 flat out miles in classic Welsh forest stages. When the votes were counted, it was Nick Elliott who emerged as the tipsters favourite, heading Marty McCormack by seven votes to three from our 15-strong panel.
This entirely unofficial poll was conducted using votes from a mix of drivers, championship officials, sponsors, members of the media and all-out enthusiasts. Rob Smith, who will start as car number seven, sat on the fence and said it would be either Elliott or McCormack.
Elliott certainly starts with better prior knowledge of the Pikes Peak, Myherin and Hafren stages, and that carried a lot of weight with our alleged experts. However, most agreed that McCormack, amongst many others, will make life very tough for the Cheltenham ace.
“I’ll go for Elliott, just, over McCormack because of his local knowledge,” said journalist Carl McKellar. “It will be interesting to see how much Marty can pressure Nick, though.” Fellow competitors Will Onions, Alan Walker and Peter Smith all tipped Elliott, as did championship sponsor Gareth Lloyd from West Wales Rally Spares and Escort guru Jonathan Pulleyn.
Championship website manager Steve Higgins reflected on McCormack’s win on last November’s Roger Albert Clark Rally. “Because of his RAC win I’d love to see Marty take a win here but, although difficult to call, I’ll plump for Nick Elliott to take the spoils.”
Rally aficionado Ian Burnell also related the event back to the Roger Albert Clark Rally. “Overall I’m hoping for a battle of RAC 2012 proportions (Bannister versus McCormack) with Elliott taking over the Yorkshireman’s role and Marty nicking it by five seconds.” TV filmer David Winstanley is another to pick the Irish ace. “I think that McCormack will win, provided that he keeps it on the road.”
However, this is not seen as purely a two-horse race. BMW pilot Simon Wallis and photographer Russ Otway both tipped Geoff Jones, while Paul Dyas from Dunlop named Kevin Davies as the man to beat. Jones now looks to have become an ever stronger candidate, as his entry in Baz Jordan’s Vauxhall Chevette is reported to be changing to Jordan’s Escort Mk2.
Whatever happens, it is going to be a fabulous battle and a glorious start to a championship that is only going to grow in stature and popularity over the rest of 2013 and beyond.