Skip navigation

After a dramatic day’s action, Tom Cave and co-driver Craig Parry emerged winners of the Bulldog International Rally of North Wales and in doing so, recorded their first MSA British Rally Championship victory.

They finished just three seconds ahead of Keith Cronin/Marshall Clarke, who were in-turn 11.7 seconds ahead of Jarkko Nikara/Petri Nikara – all three crews in Citroën DS3s and proving once again that the BRC’s two-wheel-drive formula provides ultra-close competition.

Starting and finishing in Welshpool, the rally initially featured 11 classic Welsh stages in forests to the west of the town, until two days before the event, when its organisers were forced to cancel the two runs through Dyfnant. This left nine stages, which all took place on Saturday.

The first of these saw Nikara/Nikara set the fastest time by a slender 3.2 seconds ahead of Rallye Sunseeker winners Mark Donnelly/Dai Roberts in a Renault Clio R3, the two crews continuing where they left off from round one. But for Donnelly/Roberts the battle was to be short-lived: as they crossed the flying finish at the end of the following stage, the car slid wide, clipped a telegraph pole and spun into a tree, the impact forcing him and co-driver Dai Roberts to retire on the spot.

Also exiting the event following an accident was BRC returnee Molly Taylor/Phil Clarke, who rolled their Ford Fiesta on the opening stage. Thankfully, all crew members involved with these two incidents were unharmed, but the same could not be said for their cars.

Others to retire were Arron Newby/Julian Wilkinson, who got no further than a mile before beaching their Škoda Fabia on a tree stump and, although willing helpers tried to return the car to the road, it was well and truly stuck. Coincidentally, Ruary McCloud/Paul Beaton’s Ford Fiesta also came to a halt at exactly the same spot.

Following a steering problem that had caused them to crash on Tuesday, another Citroën DS3 was hastily prepared for Cave/Parry who had acclimatised themselves to the new car so well on the opening stage, they set the fastest time by over four seconds on the next – a performance that launched them into the lead by 1.7 seconds. They then proceeded to extend their advantage to three seconds ahead of Nikara/Nikara before the first service halt in Welshpool.

For Alastair Fisher/Daniel Barritt, SS5 was to be their last, when a fuel leak in the Ford Fiesta turned into a fire. After pulling up at the side of the road, some of the following competitors stopped to help extinguish the flames, which meant that the crews involved were given notional times. This included double British Rally Champion Keith Cronin who, with co-driver Marshall Clarke, was now up to third and happy with his progress having hardly driven his Citroën DS3 before the event and not competed in a front-wheel-drive car since 2006.

The time sheets showed Elfyn Evans/Andrew Edwards in fourth place at the service halt in their Ford Fiesta R2, an impressive performance amongst the more powerful R3 machinery, whilst another local crew Osian Pryce/Iestyn Williams were fourth in their Citroën DS3. Similarly to Cronin, Jonny Greer returned to the BRC and was getting used to driving a two-wheel-drive car again, he and co-driver Damien Connelly lying sixth in another brand new Citroën DS3.

Behind them was the second of the Finnish crews Jukka Korhonen/Mikael Korhonen, who had a good first stage in the Pirelli Star Driver Škoda Fabia, but had been distracted by the oil temperature warning light on the following two stages, even though there was nothing wrong with the car. Experiencing more significant problems during the morning was yet another Citroën DS3 crew: Desi Henry/Niall Burns, who collected a puncture on SS5 that spoilt their chances of repeating the podium result they achieved in round one.

Jack Rowe/James Aldridge lost second gear in their Ford Fiesta not far from the start and therefore, had spent the rest of the day changing from first to third – and vice-versa. Christian South/Tomas Whittle also had issues that slowed them during the morning’s stages, when they slid wide, clipped a bank and momentarily put their Citroën C2R2 Max on its side during SS5.

The next leg of the rally in the afternoon was a re-run of the first and, whilst Cronin/Clarke were fastest by 2.7 seconds on SS6, Cave/Parry went nearly ten seconds faster than anyone else on the next stage. Nikara/Nikara fought back with a 1.9 second stage win on SS8 and, even though the leading trio has all won a stage in what turned out to be the final loop, it was Cave/Parry that held the lead by just three seconds.

As cars exited the second run through Garthieniog, news came in that a BRC Challenge car had caught fire on the non-competitive section that led from the end of SS8 to the Dolgellau service halt and consequently, the police closed the road. This led to competitors being re-routed and, with the event running around 90-minutes later than anticipated; organisers decided that with darkness falling the last loop of three stages would not be run on safety grounds.

Once in Dolgellau, crews were instructed to return to Welshpool and the times following SS8 would stand as the final results. Therefore a delighted Cave and Parry were declared the winners, with Cronin/Clarke second – even though a last-minute fuel pump problem delayed them getting back to the service area. Nikara/Nikara were third – the Finns having to nurse their car back to the finish due to a broken driveshaft – and Pryce/Williams a frustrated fourth in light of the issues that transpired in the closing stages.

“I’ve been waiting to win an international rally for a while, so to finally do it is fantastic – especially on my home event”, said Cave at the finish. “I really concentrated on making as few mistakes as possible today and it’s paid off. After the problems I had on Tuesday when the steering broke and I went off the road testing my own car, I have to thank everyone who helped get another DS3 organised in time for me to compete this weekend. Needless to say, I am very, very happy with the result.”

Evans/Edwards continued their near-perfect performance to finish a hard-earned fifth and win Class 6, with Greer/Connelly pleased to make it home in sixth after a spin and with their car’s dashboard display becoming invisible towards the end. Korhonen/Korhonen had an excellent run through the final three stages and finished seventh, but were bemused not to have closed on their Welsh Class 6 rivals, whilst Henry/Burns had fought back to eighth after their earlier puncture.

Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead started the event slower than they would have liked, but got quicker as the day went on and claimed ninth place in their Renault Clio R3. Rounding off the top-ten was James Grint/Craig Drew, who were another crew to be debuting a Citroën DS3 and were very pleased to make it through the day without experiencing any problems at all.

MSA BRITISH MANUFACTURERS RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
The three-way battle of the brands between Citroën  Renault and Ford perhaps unsurprisingly – with eight DS3 cars taking part – went the way of Citroën on this occasion. With points being scored by the two leading cars from each manufacturer Tom Cave and Keith Cronin claimed the maximum possible with their first and second places.

Elfyn Evans and fellow Fiesta driver Matthew Cathcart achieved the second highest score for Ford and, for Renault, Peter Taylor was the first home in his Clio in ninth place, with Nick Allen the second scorer in his Twingo R2 in 17th.

MSA BRITISH JUNIOR RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Underpinning the BRC’s commitment to reward its rising stars, a new-look Junior Championship has been introduced for this season. Open to drivers of 23 and under in Class 10 (R1) cars, this initiative sees the winner recognised with the prestigious title of MSA British Junior Champion.

Repeating his round one victory in this category was 20-year old Garry Pearson, who survived clipping a log-pile in the afternoon and a subsequent bent rear beam on his Renault Twingo. Second was Norway’s Steve Røkland in a Fiesta, who spun in the first stage and then proceeded to make up ground on Pearson, right up until the final stage, when the 19-year old collected two punctures and dropped three-minutes nursing his car to the finish.

PIRELLI STAR DRIVER
This year’s Pirelli Star Driver competition again selects a winner from each round. Each of the six winners then go forward to an end-of-season shootout where they can win a Pirelli funded prize designed to boost their progression in the sport.

And, for his outstanding performance this weekend there could only be one winner: Tom Cave, who joins Rallye Sunseeker winner Mark Donnelly on the list for the end of season shootout.

BRC TEAMS CUP
The new-format BRC Teams Cup is aimed at professional motorsport teams running two cars and this year six teams have registered. Drivers are pre-nominated, but can change from event-to-event. All six rounds count towards the final championship classification, with the first of the team’s two cars scoring points.

Highest scorer was Tom Cave for the Davies Motorsport Services Team, who had the foresight to register the eventual winner and Osian Pryce in advance of this weekend. Next to score Teams’ points was Elfyn Evans, who claimed the second-highest tally for M-Sport Ford and, in doing so, puts them first in the standings.

Third classified Teams’ competitor was Jukka Korhonen, who scored for Pirelli TEG Sport in his Škoda Fabia, whilst fellow Finn Niko Nieminen’s fourth enabled Ford Junior Team Finland to move into second place.

The AVS Motorsport pairing of Gethin Jones and Matt Cotton battled for supremacy throughout the event, with Welshman Gethin Jones finally ending the day ahead of his team-mate and claimed fifth-place Teams’ points in the process.

BRC ONE-MAKES SERIES
The MSA British Rally Championship also features three, one-make series: The Fiesta SportTrophy, the Twingo Renaultsport R1 & R2 Trophies UK and the Citroën Racing Trophy UK.

First of the Fiestas this time round was Elfyn Evans, with Nick Allen and Gary Pearson claiming the honours for the Twingo R2 and R1 Trophies respectively and, collecting yet another accolade for his weekend’s efforts was Tom Cave, who was clearly the best of the Citroëns.

TELEVISION COVERAGE
The one hour Greenlight Television-produced programme, hosted by Mike Brewer and Robbie Head, will go out on Sky Sports 2 & 2HD on Monday 2nd April at 17:30, repeated at 22:30, then again the following day.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS FOLLOWING ROUND TWO (PROVISIONAL)

Drivers
1 Tom Cave 32
2= Elfyn Evans 30
2= Osian Pryce 30
4 Desi Henry 29
5 Peter Taylor 24
6 Mark Donnelly 20
7 Matthew Cathcart 19
8 Keith Cronin 18
9 Jarkko Nikara
10 Gethin Jones 14

Manufacturers
1 Citroën UK 71
2 Renault UK 61
3 Ford Motor Co. 60

Teams
1 M-Sport Ford 38
2 Ford Junior Team Finland 33
3 Pirelli TEG Sport 31
4 AVS Motorsport 30
5 Davies Motorsport Services 20
6 Millers Oils 586 Team 0

For more information on the MSA British Rally Championship visit http://www.rallybrc.co.uk

%d bloggers like this: