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WWRS Trackrod13bMatt Edwards and Elliott Edmondson ended the West Wales Rally Spares R.A.C Rally Championship season in style with a hard fought win on the Trackrod Pre-87 and Historic Cup (Friday/Saturday 27/28 September), beating Ford Escort Mk2 legend Steve Bannister on his home Yorkshire stages.

The rally covered five stages on the North York moors and forests, with two tests on Friday evening and three more on Saturday. Escort Mk2 driver Edwards did all the hard work on Friday night’s two stages in Staindale and Dalby, opening a 30.7s overnight lead over Bannister in the Rob Smith Rallying Series 3.

“I did my homework,” said Edwards. “I spent ages watching the route DVD, studying the notes and triple-checking the light pods. We changed tyres between the two stages too. I knew I could make a different in the dark, but I said I’d have been happy to end the night 30 seconds behind Banner – not 30 seconds ahead.”

Bannister lost time with a stall, but admitted that he just couldn’t get into the rhythm, and was at a loss to understand why. He finished the night just 4.6s ahead of Escort Mk1 crew Richard Hill and Pat Cooper, who were heading the Capital Construction Series 2.

It was clear and surprisingly warm on Saturday, and with his handling now sorted Bannister went on a charge in his favourite forests. He set fastest time on SS3, Cropton, aided when Edwards dropped ten seconds with a half-spin. Bannister reduced the gap again in SS4, Gale Rigg. But Edwards wasn’t to be denied, pushing hard in Langdale. While Bannister was fastest again, Edwards returned to Pickering Showground the winner by 11.9s. For Edwards it marked a fine turnaround from his last visit to Yorkshire, when his Escort Mk2’s engine blew on the opening stage of last year’s Roger Albert Clark Rally.

“I nearly didn’t come, to be honest,” said Edwards. “Yorkshire hasn’t been kind to me in the past, but I knew I needed to confront my demons at some point. Geoff Jones kindly gave me some tyres and helped me out, which is a big reason why I could go, and it paid off. It’s a rally man’s ultimate ambition to beat Banner in Yorkshire, and to be in that position is something I never thought would be possible. I was mentally exhausted by the end of the final stage. It’s a unique experience and the highlight of my rallying career so far.”

For his part, Bannister was gracious after a rare defeat: “It was much better today,” he said. “We had the odd scare here and there, but we struggled to catch Matt. It was a really good fight for the whole event.” Unfortunately, Hill’s fine efforts on Friday came to nothing when a mechanical failure put him out of the third place he had held all event on the final stage in Langdale.

The beneficiaries of Hill’s misfortune were local driver Tim Pearcey and his Scottish co-driver Neil Shanks. They had ended Friday’s leg in fifth behind Tomas and Eurig Davies, having lost time with a fuel tank problem. “The foam that sits at the bottom of the tank worked loose on stage one and was causing the engine to misfire,” explains Shanks. While the issue cleared for stage two, Pearcey’s team elected to change the tank overnight. They borrowed a replacement unit, and worked until 1am to fit it. Their hard work was repaid when Pearcey overtook Davies on SS4 to claim third. “Friday was a disaster, but we recovered due to hard work by the team,” said Pearcey. “The tank we borrowed didn’t really fit, so we had to bodge it in place a bit.”

Warren Philliskirk and Nigel Hutchinson finished fifth in their Escort Mk2, with Hutchinson admitting that Friday’s night stages were a challenge. “We got caught in Tim Pearcey’s dust on the first test, which made it even harder to see,” he said. “We could do with a pair of 20-year younger eyes between us.” James Potter and Bob Duck, who were sixth of the WWRS R.A.C. Rally Championship to finish, also had visibility problems in their Escort Mk2, although these were caused by Potter forgetting to switch his spotlights on for the second stage. “It’s a shame, because we had a brand new set of spotlights and they seemed very good,” said Potter.

There was bad luck for rising star Ben Mellors and Alex Lee, who crashed heavily on the fourth stage, Gale Rigg, in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk2. The stage was stopped so that medical crews could attend, and Mellors was taken to hospital with a broken ankle. He had been released from hospital by Saturday evening. Maximum D3 points went to the Escort Mk2 of Paul Fry and Mike Steele.

With Hill’s retirement, Porsche 911 crew Tim Mason and Graham Wild claimed honours in Series 2 for cars built between 1968 and ’74, finishing just over a minute ahead of Vince Bristow and Tim Sayer’s C2 winning Ford Escort Mexico. Mason had his own mechanical dramas on the final stage. “We lost second gear on the final stage, but we were able to nurse it home,” said Mason. Close behind Bristow were C3 winners David Kirby and Chris Rixon (Escort Mk1) after Terry Cree and Richard Shores crashed out in their BMW 2002.

Steve Perez and John Millington had made a steady start in their Lancia Stratos, but jumped up to third in class on Saturday’s opening stage before a mechanical problem sidelined him on the final test. Meanwhile, in C5 it was Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith who won narrowly from Chris Browne and Ali Cornwell-Browne.

John Everard/Mark Sharpley were the top WWRS R.A.C. Rally Championship registered crew to finish in the Walker Diecastings Series 1 in their beautiful Alfa Romeo Junior GT. “We lost the starter motor early in on Saturday, so we had to push start it a few times,” said Everard. “We had no service crew so we didn’t bother fixing it. The stages were superb.”

Manx driver Stephen Higgins and Richard Simpson were second registered Series 1 finishers, and won Class B1 in their Saab 96 2 Stroke. They’d had a terrible start when the only gear they could select on the start line of stage one was reverse. They eventually found third and limped through the stage before the problem fixed itself near the end of the test. “It was a bad start, but a fantastic finish,” said Higgins.

Peter Egerton and Alun Cook topped the Martin Jones Transmissions Series 4 for FIA Appendix K cars in their Escort Mk2. Tom Coughtrie and Calvin Cooledge were second in their similar machine after another of their increasingly impressive runs.

The Trackrod Pre 87 and Historic Cup, organised by Trackrod Motor Club, ended the inaugural WWRS R.A.C. Rally Championship in style with a compact and well-run event. The slick organisation won praise from competitors, who also appreciated the lack of road mileage. The event also gave crews an early chance to sample some of the Yorkshire stages that will form a key part of the Roger Albert Clark Rally.

More details about the R.A.C. Rally Championship can be found at http://www.racrallychamp.org Follow the championship on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RACrallychamp and on Twitter: @RACRallyChamp.

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