Local crews rallying success

By Ross Gazette sports reporter   |   Sport reporter   |
Thursday 25th August 2016 9:00 am
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Steve Bennett in action ()

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A host of local crews ventured to South Wales for the Red Dragon Rally, held entirely in the Walters Arena complex, last weekend.

In the Historic event it was Ross-on-Wye’s Steve Bennett who took his best result of the year with a superb third overall and first in class, in the Dave Jenkins Motorsport Escort RS1800, Bennett had the experienced Paul Spooner, who lives in Raglan, in the hot seat.

He told the Ross Gazette that he was delighted with the result as the conditions were horrendous. He said the rain was relentess, it was very muddy and slippy which made driving very tricky, but he added, “it was the same for everyone”.

The event was round six of the RAC Historic championship, but only 30 crews entered the historic section, joining the 55 others in the modern event for the 36 competitive miles, held in very heavy rain and blustery winds.

Just behind Steve and Paul, in fourth, were Ben Friend and Cliff Simmons in the Allglass Escort RS. It’s been a fraught year for the talented youngster but this result will give him some confidence.

Hot on their heels, and putting themselves in the driving seat for the overall Historic title, was Simon Tysoe with Ross-on-Wye’s Paul Morris on the notes, who took fifth and first in class in the Jondell Race Engines Escort RS1600, despite a gearbox change after stage two.

The duo have really flown this year and are now strong contenders for the overall crown.

Cinderford’s Jason Gardner took his best finish in a while in the Brecon View Plumbing Escort RS with Graham Cox alongside, with 12th overall fifth in class, despite some tyre choice issues.

In the modern event it was Ross businessman, Paul Gunter, who took top honours in the BG Landrovers Escort RS, together with Jack Walby. They took Gunter’s best result to date with 12th overall and first in class after a trouble free day, despite the deteriorating road conditions.

“We are well pleased with the result, Paul drove really well in difficult conditions,” said Jack.

Not far behind them were Nigel and Karen Jenkins in their 16v Nova. It was Nigel’s first gravel rally in two years, and despite catching cars on the opening two loops, they settled into the event. On the final 12 mile test they caught and passed two cars, but then had a small issue with the throttle, but it didn’t stop them taking 17th overall and second in class.

Overall it had been a tough day for competitors in awful conditions, but credit must be given to the event organisers and marshalls who kept the event moving.

The Historic event was won by Escort duo Nick Elliott and Dave Price with husband and wife team, Martyn and Dawn England taking victory on the modern event in their Fiesta R5 Evo.

While the Ross drivers were doing so well in Wales, Matt Edwards and Will Rogers were chasing points in Ireland. They made a solid, if not spectacular, start in the new Swift Group/DMACK backed Ford Fiesta R5 at last weekend’s Ulster Rally.

Their debut event was the penultimate round of the British Rally Championship and they were joined by crews chasing points in the Irish Tarmac series as well. A high quality entry of 88 cars left the Londonderry start.

The notoriously slippery event, held on the classic lanes, lived up to its expectations, with heavy showers over the two duration of the event.

Day one comprosed two loops of three tests after the mid-afternoon start on Friday.

The opening loop was fraught with issues, with a cautious start given, the car had only been driven for 11 miles prior to stage one, SS2 the duo suffered a front puncture costing 45 seconds, and SS3 were caught out on slick tyres in heavy rain, so dropped to 35th overall after three tests.

The day’s second loop was much better as confidence grew and a few top ten times saw them climb back to 15th overnight.

Saturday offered eight tests, and once again conditions were changeable, with the duo struggling to find the correct settings, but a string of top five stage times saw them climb the leaderboard. Although a wrong tyre choice on the final stage cost them a top ten finish, with 11th overall and 9th BRC car home.

"All in all it was a solid debut, conditions were difficult, and getting all the settings and dampers right was a big learning curve for us." said Rogers.

"But we now move on to Rally Isle of Man in a few weeks with renewed confidence, so we’ll push a bit harder."

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