Bulletin 2 - 30th December 2015

Barry Renwick / Steve Dargan - Proton Millington
Barry Renwick / Steve Dargan - Proton Millington
Paul and Jessica Swift in their Ford Escort Mk2Joe Cunningham and Marc Fowler, Vauxhall CorsaMat Smith in his Proton SatriaBarry and Michael Lindsay in their Peugeot 106Stuart Walker / Jack Morton in the Skoda FabiaThe Subaru Impreza of David and Mathew White

Paul and Jessica Swift in their Ford Escort Mk2Joe Cunningham and Marc Fowler, Vauxhall CorsaMat Smith in his Proton SatriaBarry and Michael Lindsay in their Peugeot 106Stuart Walker / Jack Morton in the Skoda FabiaThe Subaru Impreza of David and Mathew White


Runners up spot for Renwick and Dargan.  Although that may sound a little disappointing, it was no shame for Barry Renwick and Steve Dargan, our current champion co-driver, to get within a minute of the recognised Croft expert of the last decade – Kevin Proctor.


Once again our championship kicked off around the smooth, polished tarmac strips made for the circuit racers at Croft near Darlington.  And as ever, it gives the rally community an opportunity to leave the Christmas festivities behind and watch a quality entry have a good day’s sport.  This year the heavy rain of recent days gave way on rally morning to a clear blue sky and plenty of warm, December sunshine.  Although the intended route would still be slippy in places, any over exuberance onto the grass would be heavily punished as the quagmire offered next to no grip for any tyres trying to make some sort of forward motion.


Our stars of the show turned out to be Barry and Steve who presented their latest rally car, a Proton Millington to the crowds at Croft.  Their only issues to talk about were a cracked front brake disc and being baulked in the darkness on SS7.  This very quick bit of kit certainly did the business and was only 57 seconds behind the man who’s won the event for 7 out of the last 8 years to finish second in the overall standings.  Having played their Jokers on this rally, they start off the year with a good points advantage and already those with any title aspirations are having to play catch up from the off.


The 2012 champion driver Paul Swift was our next points scorer in 4th overall.  Paul was the first of many ‘family crews’ out on the rally as his wife Jessica was on the maps keeping him to the right route.  No real complaints from Paul as usual, just a little frustrated with tyre choice mainly due to needing 13” rubber.


Taking the 3rd and 4th placed championship points were a couple of crews squabbling over the class 1 honours - Joe Cunningham and Marc Fowler in a Vauxhall Corsa and Mat Smith, and his non registered wife Amanda, in his Proton Satria.  Joe took a 20 seconds advantage after a good opening stage and although Mat pulled back 13 seconds over the remaining 7 stages it just wasn’t enough while Joe admitted at the finish that it had been a vary hard day’s sport.  These guys were the real giant killers of the day ending up 11th and 13th overall and way ahead of many quicker cars.


The little red GTM Coupe of Ed Todd and Andy Brown had a few slight offs onto the grass on stage 1 and were down in 30th after SS1 but with some committed driving managed to climb back up the leaderboard to 14th at the end.  And 22 seconds further back in 17th overall was Alistair Hutchinson driving his ‘other Clio”.  He was another who admitted to some offs onto the green stuff and the one on stage 4 in particular saw him losing over a minute and any chance of a top ten finish.


There was yet another close battle taking place out on the track for the up to 1600cc class.  It would be our Lad and Dad pairing of Barry and Michael Lindsay who came out victorious against the Constantine brothers Mark and Andrew.  They cars were never more than a handful of seconds apart on all the stages with the little red Corsa just 1 second up at halfway.  It took a big push through the darkness of the final 12 miles for the Peugeot 106 to make the difference by 6 seconds.  It might have not helped that the Corsa’s gearbox was giving some problem at the finish but Barry was driving flat out as ever.


The Clitheroe crew of Tim Finch and Terry Martin were just behind this dicing duo at the finish rounding off the top twenty.  A sluggish start over the first pair of stages meant their Mitsubishi Evo was hunting down Barry and Mark all day but never quite getting close enough.  Rob Snowden had a trouble free day in his lovely orange Ford Escort Mk2 to claim 21st position just ahead of Stuart Walker and Jack Morton.  Their Skoda Fabia had been lying in 10th place from the start until the final split of stage 6 when Stuart decided, as he was enjoying himself so much, that he’d do one more lap !  Even though Jack was screaming for him to turn right, Stuart took the left option and dropped over two and a half minutes.


Steven Irwin was next up in his Vauxhall Nova and delighted that his clean run netted him 3rd in class 2.  The Peugeot 106 of Liam Walling and John Askew might have ended the day a lot closer to the little Nova but clutch issues on the final test found them stuck in 3rd gear at the stop line.  Mick Thomas enlisted the services of Ken Bills for the silly seat and a clear run brought their Ford Escort Mk2 home in 30th spot.  The Spadeadam crew of Geoffrey Harkness and Caroline Lodge brought their little Corsa home 2 places further down the list.  It was a good reliable day at Croft this time out after the double diff trouble that blighted both of the rallies run there earlier this ‘year’.


The son and father Malthouse were next as Graham was adjusting to the move from a Peugeot 205 to the Evolution 6 of Mitsubishi’s very successful rally car.  Dad agreed they’d lost more than a few seconds while spinning on the grass but they both had a great day.  Right behind and way out of place were the father and son, David and Mathew White.  The Barnsley crew made a good start completing the opening pair of stages 7th fastest before it went wrong on SS3 when the rear nearside shaft let go and they were forced to take a maximum time.  A steady run in the afternoon moved them up from 78th to 38th overall and they would be another crew cursing the ‘if only’ and ‘what ifs’.


The Whickham MC crew of Terry Clarke and Ronnie Roughead were next in another pretty Ford Escort Mk2, this one being a nice shiny red one.  The boys had a good run all day and managed to keep the car still shiny at the finish too.  Mark Casey was sitting alongside the non-registered driver Gordon Watson and their Peugeot 205 had a reliable run once they got over their slow start on the opening test.  Next along were the husband and wife pairing from Spadeadam, Nigel and Helen Harkness in their Corsa.  Their only problem was some banging noise distracting them on the last stage before lunch.  Nothing seemed amiss and after a quick spanner check they were on their way to 43rd overall.  And a further 10 seconds behind the Vauxhall was yet another one of these ‘family crews’, Jimmy and Alastair Knox.  The lads from Chester-Le-Street wheeled out their BMW again for another reliable run around.  They’d be pleased if they had a different gearbox with closer ratios to get down the straights a bit quicker, especially as Jimmy eyes weren’t working as well as they used to in the darkness.


John Nicholson and Peter Littlefield brought out their ‘historic’ version of Ford’s Escort Mk2 and had a little coming together with another Ford that left a big V in his rear panel.  Apart from that his only other time loss was with a loose steering column !  Gary Laverick and Phil Kenny were delighted to finish in 53rd position – in fact they were delighted just to finish.  It was a confidence-building day for the driver as he comes to terms with his Ford Puma and his times were improved as the day went on as well.  Ann Forster was sitting alongside the non-registered Neil Raven and after a trouble free day, they would bring the little 1400 Peugeot 106 home in 55th place.


They were followed by a couple of Peugeot 205s.  First it was the Hawick pairing of Kevin Mathers / Craig Forsyth and then our last father and son crew of Jeff and Owen Malthouse.  No problems to report but Jeff certainly had his heater going full blast at the end of the final test – perhaps these lads from Wooler feel the cold a bit more or the engine was running a tad on the warm side …  And our final classified finisher were the Dad and Daughter combination of Bill and Katy Bates.  Their day got off to a bad start when they were forced to take a stage maximum after the gear linkage on their Lotus Exige failed.  They recovered from 85th after this disaster to finish in 67th place.


We only had 6 retirements and the first to go was the Mitsubishi Evo6 of Geoff Simpson and Bruce Lindsay.  They just managed 6 minutes in the opening test before the engine let go and they were forced to park up in stage; Lee Hastings / Julie McGuire made it into stage 3 before the gearbox of their Subaru failed; the Brother and Sister mixed crew of Andrew and Rachel Fawcett retired after SS5 with broken gear linkage;  Michael Farmer and Kari Bates were forced out with a very noisy gearbox on the fifth stage (despite taking a maximum the stage earlier when a tca was bent); Richard Wardle was co-driving for the non-registered Jonathan Mounsey until the gearbox on their Mitsubishi Evo6 cried enough after 1 stage in the afternoon; and our final retiree was St John Dykes sitting in with another non-registered driver, Martyn Tinker, and they were gutted when the engine of the Lotus Exige expired on the penultimate stage as they were lying in 9th position.


Thanks go to Ian Jackson and all his supporters from Northallerton AC for a slick run event that started and finished on time.  And as an added feast, the lovers of 1980s rallying were treated to one the rare sights and sounds of that era as British rallying legend Malcolm Wilson, with son Matthew sitting alongside him, gave an exhibition run in the lunchtime interval between stages.  His car was non other than the iconic flame spitting Group A Audi Quattro Coupe that was once seen on the British Rally Championship.


The AUTOGAS 2000 Jack Frost Stages Rally in association with Cartersport will run on Sunday January 17th and is the second round of our championship.  This is the 17th consecutive running of the event and once again it will also be based at Croft.  Entries have been coming in very well and are already classified as oversubscribed with a reserve list already set up.  The link for the rally is http://www.darlington-motor-club.org.uk/series_home.php?seriesid=53


A quick update about round 3 of the championship which is the 19th Legend Fires North West Stages which takes place on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th February.  As is customary these days, the Regulations are released and then the organisers receive well over a 100 entries within the first day.  A point of note is this rally’s reserve list contains more names than the previous one – all a good sign that our championship is in a healthy state.  There will be more about the rally next time and more information can be found on the event website, http://www.nwstages.co.uk/