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Nick Elliott grabbed a hard-fought win at the opening round of the 2021 Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship, steering his Ford Escort Mk2 to victory at the Hills Ford Three Shires Stages [5 September]*.

Battling over 14 stages in the narrow closed-road lanes of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Elliott and co-driver Dave Price kept their potent Mk2 on the straight and narrow to take a maximum points haul on the first of three qualifying rounds in 2021.

Elliott would not have it all his own way over the gruelling day in the driver’s seat however, battling all rally long with Ben Friend in his similar machine and entering a thrilling duel over the final throws of the event.

However, it would be Elliott that emerged from the final test with an eight-second buffer and taking a well-earned win after 18 months away from active competition.

“I’m very glad to be here I have to admit,” says a relieved Elliott.

“At the start of the day, I would have taken any position at all and would have been thankful to get here in one piece. I`m over the moon to have won. It’s been a long, tough, hot, fast, and tricky day so anyone that gets to the finish has done really well, it’s been extremely challenging conditions.

“Normally its gravel to start [the BHRC season] and asphalt is not my preferred surface so for it to go our way means, all in all, we are lucky, over the moon”.

His nearest challenge came from Friend and co-drover Cliff Simmons who sat just seven seconds in arrears after the opening loop thanks to a stage four fastest time. That become the theme of the day, with Elliott and Friend swapping times across the impressive stages. An overshoot in the afternoon hampered Friend’s fightback, but he was an elated second spot on the season opener.

Rounding out the overall BHRC podium spots, Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance also enjoyed an encouraging day in their Ford Escort Mk2. After a slow start, the pairing picked up the pace as they gathered confidence behind the wheel to secure all-important points to start the season.

Andrew Stokes and Jonny Evans battled through the searing heat and gruelling stages to bring their delightful Ford Escort MK1 to a Category 2 [cars between 1968-1975] victory. Fresh from contesting a non-championship gravel event the day before, Stokes stayed largely out of trouble to take a maximum score.

The legendary Bob Bean endured a difficult return on his first event since November 2019. Bean and co-driver Colin Thompson suffered from prop shaft issues early in the day in their Ford Lotus Cortina and with a car more set up for gravel, struggled with the narrow lanes. They did enough however, to scoop the Category 1 [cars up to 1968] honours.

In only his second ever rally, Chris Squires was delighted to reach the finish of his maiden outing on asphalt. Driving a freshly built Ford Escort 1600 MK2, Squires and co-driver Shaun Hughes started the event with 130 on the doors but finished a creditable 60th overall and took the BHRC class C3 win in the process.

Round two marks the shift onto gravel as Trackrod Rally Yorkshire provides a now-traditional challenge of the super-fast and flowing stages in northeast England, coupled with a test under the cover of darkness on 24-25 September.

In a bumper BHRC entry, it’s a familiar name leading the championship fight in Nick Elliott. However, the move to the forests heralds an outing in a Fiat 131 Abarth, his second in the car in Yorkshire. Interspersed by non-championship contenders aiming for seat time for the forthcoming Roger Albert Clark Rally, Friend and Simmons will be aiming to go one better than second spot on the Trackrod.

2019 BHRC champions Simon Webster and Jez Rogers will enjoy their maiden championship outing of the season after a strong run on the non-championship Woodpecker Stages earlier this month. Being forced to skip the Three Shires, Webster has focused on the RAC in November but would nonetheless be eager to return to the top step of the podium once again.

Over 56 miles of competitive action lies in wait for crews during the weekend, with the first car set to leave the Filey start at 19:00 on Friday (24 September) evening.

*Due to technical difficulties, the organisers of the Three Shires Stages were forced to delay the posting of results, meaning they were declared final at 19:10 on Wednesday 15th September.

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