11 Oct: Rally GB – National report

… 2018 Dayinsure Wales Rally GB National, Fri/Sat 5/6 October …

Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol capped a memorable year with victory on the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB National rally at the weekend. A month after clinching the Scottish Rally Championship national crown, they topped the time sheets in Wales.

Although Gallacher won by over a minute, he was never able to relax. The Ford Focus WRC driver was fastest on 4 of the 10 Special Stages which made up this National event run over some of the same Special Stages that were being used by the ‘International’ competitors on Britain’s counter in the 2018 World Rally Championship.

Last year’s winner, Tom Preston set fastest time on the opening stage of the event on Friday then crashed out on the second test. As he said prior to the start: “I’ve only done two gravel events this year, the Pirelli Rally way back in May and the Trackrod in Yorkshire last weekend – and I was all over the place!” Running first on the road, Preston was caught out by the wet and treacherously slippy conditions, his Skoda Fabia R5 striking a trackside banking with the front o/s corner and rolling over on to its roof. Both he and co-driver Carl Williamson were unharmed but bitterly disappointed.

Gallacher assumed the lead of the National Rally at that point and was never headed although he was harried all the way by second placed John Wink and John Forrest in their Hyundai i20 R5 and the Subaru Impreza WRC of Rodger Duckworth and Mark Broomfield.

Never having finished higher than 3rd on a rally before and in only his second season with the Hyundai, Wink’s runner-up position was his best ever rally result: “I struggled for grip yesterday (Friday) in the wet and muddy stages,” said Wink, “but it was very fast today (Saturday) and it suited me and the car much better.” Like the rally winner he held on to second place all the way from the second stage to the final.

Third place for Duckworth was better than he hoped: “The last time I did a rally was this event last year,” he said, “I just enjoy doing this event and these stages and don’t really get the time to do other events.” He was just 6th fastest on the opening stage on Friday, but once he had “settled back into the old routine” he consistently set top three fastest times including 3 fastest stage times on his way to third place. After Stage 2 he had been 15 seconds behind Wink, but by the end he had narrowed the gap to just 8 seconds. “That wasn’t too bad considering I had lost 5th and 6th gears,” said Duckworth, “I lost 6th gear on Friday and then lost 5th today and did the last 3 stages with just four gears. Top speed was only 88 mph so I was flat out most of the way. Who needs all these gears anyway, they’re just extra weight! The stages were beautiful today – that’s why we do this!”

Like Duckworth, Bob Ceen and Andy Bull were slow out of the blocks. Ceen was 10th quickest on the first stage and 9th quickest on the second, thereafter getting amongst the top six times all the way apart from the fifth test when he punctured a tyre on his Subaru on Slate Mountain.

Wales Rally GB veteran Wug Utting, with Bob Stokoe, finished 5th in his GrpN spec Subaru: “That was superb,” he said at the finish, “I ‘endured’ yesterday but thoroughly enjoyed today – this is what we come to Wales for. Good sport and a nice to battle with the others.”

Rounding off the top six were Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray in their Mitsubishi Lancer. Hay had to run all day on Saturday with reduced power as he had to shut off the anti-lag function when the exhaust pipe fractured close to the fuel tank and he didn’t want any additional heat build-up in that area! “That’s better than I could have hoped,” said Simon, “we had a puncture on the first stage this morning so I’m really pleased with 6th.” Immediately after the rally, Hay left his team to pack up and head home north to Aberdeen while he headed south with his wife Hollie – on honeymoon.

They had got married in Drumtochty Castle the previous weekend, and earlier in the year Hollie had mentioned that she always wanted to visit Wales so that’s where she thought she was headed for their honeymoon. It was only some weeks later that she realised that the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB was scheduled to run two weeks earlier than it did last year – coinciding with their honeymoon dates. Despite that, the marriage went ahead and honeymoon plans were changed – they are off to Las Vegas today (Sunday) for a ‘surprise’ honeymoon.

Young Sam Bilham from Bingley in Yorkshire and our own Cameron Fair scored a sensational result with 9th place overall, 1st two wheel drive car home and first in class with his Ford Fiesta R2. It was only his second time in the R2: “This was way beyond my expectations,” said Bilham, “Friday was rough, I had a puncture and the windscreen kept misting up in the rain and I couldn’t see, but the first three stages today (Saturday) were mega. We had another puncture today but this was a great birthday present.”

Celebrating his 22nd birthday on Friday, Bilham and Fair arrived in the service park to find the car festooned with balloons and under strict orders from his team not to remove them until after he had left the start ramp!

Ellya Gold and Jean Hay finished a delighted 10th overall in their Mitsubishi, but on Friday evening commented: “Friday was rough as hell and Slate Mountain was a s rough as anything I’ve ever seen but it’s still challenging and I’m still enjoying it. In fact Slate was so bad I tiptoed through and had my eyes shut at times!” After last year’s non-finish and early departure with clutch failure, 10th place felt like a win.

You could see his face beaming from across the Final Control when James Gibb and Charley Sayer-Payne clocked the Mitsubishi into the Deeside Finish. “That was fantastic. Absolutely brilliant,” said James, “no problems today. Some of those stages were like motorways, I was taking racing lines through them to keep it planted.”

Just outside the top 20 were ‘adopted Scots’ Carl and Rob Tuer who had been hoping for better things with the 2 litre Suzuki Swift Max: “We nearly had a clean sweep of the 2 litre 2WD fastest times today,” said Rob, “if it hadn’t been for our problems yesterday – who knows?” As we all know only too well, ‘if’ and ‘but’ are the two biggest words in rallying. “On Friday we came across a rock the size of a helmet in the middle of the road. Big enough to cause damage,” said Rob, “there was no room to brake in time and I spun trying to avoid it, but the rear end of the car just slid over the edge of the road and beached us. It took ages to get out and that was the bend of our high hopes. We still enjoyed it though and this was the first proper run out in the car, I can’t wait till the Jim Clark gets back on the roads – that’s why we bought this car in the first place!”

It was easy to spot Ernie Lee and Ian Shiells in the packed Arrival Control, just look for the fag smoke curling up into the air. They finished an excellent 28th o/a in the BMW: “That was great today,” said Ernie, “I was conscious I had to get it home, but I did start showing off a bit – until Ian calmed me down!”

In 30th place o/a were Gordon Alexander and Ian Clark who were just one of a number of crews who were given a Notional time in S6 when the stage was blocked by another car going off. Added to their earlier time losing incident on the long 3rd stage when they had to stop and change a puncture, they were re-seeded overnight and started further down the running order on Saturday. “We spent the final day catching cars,” said a disappointed Gordon, but added, “otherwise it was brilliant.”

In 44th place overall, on his first ever forest rally was Tom Urquhart (not one of use despite the name, but still a lovely bloke!), co-driven by Keith Morris’s regular Note shouter, Terry Mallin. Apparently Tom was stuck for a co-driver and somehow got Tom’s phone number an called him up. “It’s just a standard engine and gearbox,” said Tom, “I bought the Suzuki Ignis stage-prepped so there wasn’t much to do to it. The rally was fantastic and the car was perfect.” Terry fair enjoyed himself too: “It was great to see the young lad come on from first stage to last. There was a big difference, and he was really pushing on by the finish.”

And those were the lucky ones. Alan Dickson and Martin Forrest failed to come out Stage 13 the way they went in – shiny side up. They were actually holding 6th place at the overnight halt on Friday: “The plan was to see how we were placed at the end of the first day,” said Alan, “and then push on, on Saturday. The stages were much better on the 2nd day.” Sadly it all came to an abrupt end when they cowped the Lancer.

The departure of Niall Cowan Jnr and Thomas Bruce was equally abrupt but less violent. After much overnight oil burning welding up gearbox mounting brackets (requiring the removal of the gearbox) the team set off on Saturday and got as far as Sweet Lamb when both driveshafts broke. They might have managed to get out with one broken but with both failed the MG was stranded mid stage.

Ludlow Castle’s Gary Smith finished 11th overall and won the H1 Historic class in his Ford Escort Mk1 while the Ford Escort Mk2 of Steve Ward finished 12th and won the H2 class. The relaxed rules allowing Historic cars to compete on World Championship events have delighted spectators who can watch world rallying’s superstars compete in the latest automotive technology while later in the same Stage wallow in more nostalgic memories of times past and the evocative sound of non-turbocharged engines.

Another car which delighted the tens of thousands of fans who flocked into the forests was the MG Metro 6R4 of John Saunders. The Hong Kong domiciled businessman normally flies ‘home’ to compete on tarmac rallies, but this was his first forest gravel rally and he finished 17th after an eventful debut: “I contested the Goodwood Special Stage last month,” said Saunders, “and it was my co-driver Tony Hart who suggested we do the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB National, so here I am. We clipped a log pile yesterday which damaged the rear o/s corner and broke the tailgate catch and every so often the tailgate would fly open and act like an air brake! We lost the Notes three times yesterday (Friday) but it all came together today. I’m a bit of a convert now, so I’d like to do more gravel rallies.”

Meanwhile at the other end of the field there was another very private battle going on between the 60 year old Volkswagen Beetle of Robert Beales and the similar 1953 car of Mark Fereday. Initially Beales had the upper hand over the first stage, but thereafter Fereday was leading until his Beetle snapped its chassis on the Sweet Lamb stage. He felt the handling “go funny” but was unable to check out the problem on the tight road section to the next stage. He was rather surprised to see the extent of the damage when he did look underneath but still managed to complete the final three stages albeit at a reduced pace.

On his fourth outing on the Wales GB national event, Beales had his own problems damaging the suspension on what “looked and felt like crater” on one stage: “I could have done with some more clearance,” said Beales at the finish, “but the stages were great today although very slippy running at the back.”

Fereday lost 3 minutes in Sweet Lamb and Dyfi with his problems but had little doubt the car would finish: “This has been a racing car all its life,” he said, “it did the Tulip Rally in 1953 and 1954 – although I wasn’t driving it then!” Beales finished 55th o/a and Fereday 56th and not last!

At the finish, Gallacher was a little subdued: “My late father, Drew Gallacher, won the Scottish Rally Championship 4 times in the 1960s and 70s,” he said, “and to win it for the first time myself last month was rather special. I hadn’t planned on doing the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB National but the prize for winning the Scottish title was a free entry, and naturally being a Scot, I couldn’t turn it down.”

Gallacher actually competed on this event in 2014 and finished 2nd overall behind another Scot, Mike Faulkner, so there was a feeling of “job done” when he pulled into the finish at Deeside on Saturday evening: “It was a great event, it ran on time and there were no delays, we just kept going. The stages were a lot better today (Saturday) than yesterday but we were a bit lucky. We broke a driveshaft on Friday, but had a spare sent down from Paul Benn’s workshops in Cockermouth on Friday night and fitted it overnight ready for today. The car has run well but we were beginning to lose oil pressure over the last stage. It wasn’t easy, fellow Scot John Wink kept me honest. I was never able to relax with him on my tail.”

On the podium at the rally finish In Deeside Service Park Andrew added: “What a way to finish the season. Winning the Scottish title last month, getting a free entry and wining this here today. Things don’t get much better than that.”

Final Results:
1 Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nicol (Ford Focus WRC) 1hr 29min 46.9secs
2 John Wink/John Forrest (Hyundai R5 i20) +01m 05.1s
3 Roger Duckworth/Mark Broomfield (Subaru Impreza WRC S6) +01:m 3.8s
4 Bob Ceen/Andy Bull (Subaru Impreza S9 WRC) +04m 18.0s
5 Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe (Subaru Impreza N12b) +04m 58.4s
6 Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI) +06m 07.3s
7 Mark Worley/Hamish Campbell (Subaru Impreza) +10m 15.5s
8 Richard Barrow/Andrew Richards (Subaru Impreza) +10m 40.9s
9 Sam Bilham/Cameron Fair (Ford Fiesta R2) +11m 49.6s
10 Ellya Alec Gold/Jean Hay (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI) +12m 18.0s