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Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis enjoyed a perfect start to their 2022 Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship campaign, dominating the Riponian Stages Rally timesheets to a secure provisional victory at the opening round of the series on Sunday (6 February) *.

Robinson hustled his Ford Escort MK2 to fastest time on each of the event’s six stages, taking victory by 47 seconds from nearest rivals Nick Elliott and Dave Price in their similar machine whilst Roger Chilman and Gwynfor Jones grabbed the final podium spot on the last stage of the event.

The Thirsk based rally would prove to be a challenging one for all crews thanks to snow showers adding to the already treacherous conditions in the Yorkshire forests. A bumper list of registrations would tackle the opening round of the season and six stages, spread over 43 miles would test even the most experienced competitors throughout the day.

Very much on `home soil`, Robinson would always be a hard man to beat on the season opener and even a new look to the stages wouldn’t phase the Yorkshireman. The innovative rally organisers elected to close stretches of public road to link forest sections together, offering a dynamic feel to the format and potentially levelling the playing field.

But no-one told Robinson that, and the Escort driver would go two seconds faster than Elliott over the opening Wass Moor test. Cropton provided the longest stage of the rally, and a further opportunity for Robinson to extend his lead, doing so by a further seven seconds.

That theme continued for the remainder of the day, and Robinson returned to the Thirsk finish with a clean sheet of stage wins and maximum points for his BHRC campaign.

“Sounds alright on the first one doesn’t it” smirked Robinson at the finish.

“Everything has gone to plan [today] so we are pretty happy with that to be honest. After coming off the RAC [Roger Albert Clark Rally] where we were useless in the dark and struggled to get into a rhythm and went of into a ditch, to come back on the very next rally and give the boys a race round; I`m pretty pleased with that”.

Elliott would try his best to catch the on-form Robinson throughout the day and after settling into second spot on the first test, elected to consolidate his position over the second loop to ensure a healthy points haul to start his season.

The fight for third was less clear cut however. The 2021 BHRC champions Ben Friend and Cliff Simmons stopped the clocks four seconds shy of Elliott on the opener but Adrian Hetherington and Ronan O’Neil assumed that slot on the longer Cropton stage. Sadly a puncture on Gale Rigg put them out of contention, leaving Friend to sit comfortably on the podium with one stage remaining.

However, like Hetherington before him, Friend suffered a cruel blow on the very last test with a puncture robbing him of third, sending him tumbling down the order to fifth.

Step forward Chilman and Jones who were in a prime position to take the podium slot, firmly banishing the memory of an RAC Rally to forget last November.

Henri Grehan and Dan Petrie enjoyed a maiden BHRC result with fourth, whilst Robert Gough and Jack Bowen rounded out the top six. Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver had a trouble-free event to take the FIA Appendix K honours and ninth BHRC crew home.

The fight for the Category 2 [cars between 1968-1975] spoils was looking like it would go the way of Warren Philliskirk and Garry Green, who had a healthy lead at the mid-point of the rally in their Ford Escort MKI. But the loss of reverse gear would mean Philliskirk elected to take a cautious approach to the afternoon loop.

That was enough for youngster and BHRC debutant Ben Smith to take the initiative and storm into the lead after the fourth test, holding on to take the category win alongside co-driving Dad Steven in their Ford Escort MKI. They finished just eight seconds ahead of Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds in the thundering Datsun 240Z with Philliskirk eventually taking third.

New pairing Bob Bean and Mike Curry scooped the Category 1 [cars up to 1968] victory in their Lotus Cortina whilst Mark Tugwell and Steve Pugh took maximum points in the the BHRC2 championship for Class B and up to 1600cc machinery.

The second round of the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship takes contenders into some classic Welsh forest tests for the WKD Trained Dogs Rally North Wales on 26 March.

*The results of the Riponian Stages Rally remain provisional due to timing issues. Organisers have stated that they will go final within seven days as per Motorsport UK D26.1.3.

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

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