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Ben Friend and co-driver Cliffy Simmons became 2021 Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Champions at the weekend with a stellar performance at the final round of the season, the Carlisle Stages Rally [23 October].

The duo performed faultlessly in their Ford Escort MK2 to tame the notorious stages in and around the Kielder Forest complex, to grab the lead from 2019 BHRC champions Simon Webster and Jez Rogers on the third test. They would never be headed over the remaining three stages to secure a maiden championship title in fine style.

“British Historic Rally Champion sounds rather good doesn’t it,” said an elated Friend at the Kielder Castle finish celebrations.

“Of course, it was a shame Nick [Elliott] wasn’t here to battle with but it’s been a great day and we have just pushed on and done our own thing. We couldn’t have asked for much more really. It’s been absolutely perfect. Our times have been there this season which is really encouraging for next season and hopefully, it will be the same fight again”.

And the newly crowned champion was right to name check Nick Elliott and Dave Price as the title was within touching distance thanks to a win at the Three Shires Stages and Trackrod Rally Yorkshire.

But a car swap from his Ford Escort to a Fiat 131 hit trouble ahead of the event and with insurmountable engine issues, Elliott was forced to withdraw in the lead-up. That left Friend in the box seat, although Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance were also in with a shout, as was Bob Bean and Colin Thompson.

However, Stevenson-Wheeler would spend around 3 minutes off the road on the opening stage of the event, leaving the title fight out of reach. Recovering to sixth BHRC crew home, he secured enough points to take second place in the championship, a small consolation for his efforts.

Webster confessed to a less than confident run to second spot despite initially leading after the opening two stages of the rally. With seat time ahead of the forthcoming non-championship Roger Albert Clark Rally the aim for the weekend, it was mission accomplished for the outgoing champion.

Josh Browne and Jane Edgington rounded out the top three in the top-flight category with a fine run in their Ford Escort MK2, albeit over a minute behind the winners.

Chris Skill and Simon Jones took their Ford Escort MK1 to their first Category 2 [cars between 1968-1975] win of the year after a non-finish at the Trackrod. However, their win could not stop Chris and Ali Cornwell-Browne from scooping the championship honours. Second place in their Escort MK2 would be enough to give them the title.

Bob Bean and co-driver Colin Thompson made it a hat-trick of Category 1 [cars up to 1968] victories in their Lotus Cortina to take the title in fine style, coping admirably with the tricky conditions throughout the day.

Despite a shortened three-round offering in 2021 due to the pandemic, the British Historic Rally Championship will return to a more traditional calendar next year, with more information on the forthcoming season due to be announced in the coming months.

For more information on any of the Championships promoted by the RACMRC, please visit:
http://www.racrmc.org

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