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BHRC pre-Pirelli16Two crews stand out at the head of the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship as the championship focus moves north for round three of the season, Saturday’s Pirelli Carlisle Rally (30 April).

After the Red Kite Stages in February and Rally North Wales at the start of April, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke (Ford Escort Mk2) have a perfect score after winning both of the Welsh events. However, Nick Elliott and Dave Price have run them very close on both events and will head to Kielder even more determined to stop Pritchard taking an early season hat-trick.

There were a lot of similarities between the first two Welsh gravel rallies; Pritchard drove two canny rallies to win as Elliott twice fought to regain time lost after his engine stalled, Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts killed some giants in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk2 and Categories 1 and 2 twice fell to Bob and Dale Gibbons (Ford Cortina Mk2) and Stanley Orr and Guy Weaver (Ford Escort Mk1).

Last year Elliott and Price won this round while Pritchard and Clarke were sidelined by clutch failure. Now, after the opening two rallies of the season, defending champion Pritchard has a slender championship lead of just 10 points, but knows that it could all change very rapidly.

However, this is not just a two-way contest and leading the chase of Pritchard and Elliott are Joe Price and Chris Brooks in their Escort Mk2 from the RSR Historic Engineering Category 3. They lost third place on Rally North Wales with a minor off at the very end of the rally, which cost them two minutes. They don’t have much prior experience of the Kielder stages, but Price has bags of natural ability.

Now lying third overall in the points and leading class D3 for the less powerful Escorts Mk2s is the Northern Ireland/Wales combo of Paul Barrett and Dai Roberts. Their pace has been mighty and they were third here a year ago. Chasing Barrett in class D3 will be Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons.

Others sure to be in the battle for the podium are Rudi Lancaster/George Gwynn and Steve Bennett/Iain Tullie who retired in North Wales with a failed coil. Then, of course, there is the fabulous Fiat 131 of Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis which remains a work in progress but is showing big potential.

In the Capital Construction Category 2 for pre-1975 cars, Orr and Weaver is the pairing to beat and they also head class C3 for the Pinto-powered Escort Mk1s. However, the flying Simon Tysoe/Paul Morris ran them very close last time out and another fine battle is likely. Carlisle-based Phil Jobson and Welsh co-driver Arwel Jenkins are another strong Category 2 crew and have stepped up to BDA power this season.

The driver making all the headlines in class C2 for the 1600cc cars is former motorbike trials rider Adam Milner with Roy Jarvis co-driving in their 1600cc Escort Mk1. Their speed on the opening two Welsh rallies has been remarkable and they set joint second fastest of the historics on the first stage of Rally North Wales. That ended in a light roll and so the car, built by Jarvis, should be ready for the Yorkshire driver to make his Kielder debut. His pace could be one of the talking points of the rally.

Father and son Bob and Dale Gibbons took the Vintage Car Radiator Company Category 1 (pre-1968) on both Welsh events but will not make the trip north in their Ford Cortina Mk2 and so veteran Bob Bean and co-driver Malcolm Smithson (Lotus Cortina) should set the pace in a Category 1 entry that has been badly affected by changes to the running order on rallies following the MSA safety review. Also in Category 1, Phil Harris and Graham Wild will chase yet another class win in their Mini Cooper S.

The rally will be based in Carlisle at H&H Auctions. The first car will start at 8am on Saturday and return to the finish at around 1pm.

The Pirelli Carlisle Rally is organised by the Cumberland Sporting Car Club Ltd. For more details about the event please visit http://www.pirellicarlislerally.co.uk.

More details about the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship can be found at http://www.historicrallying.org
Follow the championship on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MSABHRC and on Twitter: @MSABHRC2015

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