For the second year in a row Jason Gardner headed home the West Wales Rally Spares HRCR Stage Master contenders, with more than a minute in hand on his closest rival Mike Simpson.
Only a handful of seconds separated this pair until stage 6 which is where that stage started on gravel and went into a hairpin left and steep uphill, Mike Simpson struggled to pull away – It seemed as though something had flooded, and the seconds started to eek away. In a little under 5-miles – 22 seconds had been lost.
In the afternoon loops Gardner had changed rims and tyres – they were bigger and better, so much so that Jason reported feeling a lot happier with the cars handling and he had also got rid of the understeer which had plagued him in the morning runs. He also admitted to being pushed in some places ‘where he wouldn’t’ by new navigator Will Rogers which resulted in two top ten times on the last two stages.
More that 40 miles of the best Epynt roads were on offer in ten stages organized by Forresters and the Forest of Dean motor clubs. Centered around J range near the German village, there was minimal road mileage, but some cars did suffer from arriving at the stage starts too early and overheating.
Contenders needed to scrape the frost off their windscreens for the early start, but temperatures started to rise both in and out if the cars. The weather stayed largely dry with some sunshine, but temperatures dipped in the afternoon as it clouded over on the ranges making tyre selection tricky and in many cases a bit of a lottery.
Unfortunately, the first stage would see one of the pre-event favourites strike trouble as only a few miles in to the event Stuart Anderson and Kenny Owen would be seen pulled over just after Four-ways bridge shrouded in smoke. It would transpire that an oil pipe had come loose but it was enough to see them out of contention.
Others to hit trouble and retire included the Ford Escort RS2000 of brothers Simon and Alister Cook they admitted to taking their time getting used to the car on the undulating roads but eventually a lack of spark would force them to call it a day, with just two stage remaining. Others to disappear of the leaderboard would be the minis of Paul Price (reason unknown) and Shane Gamble who broke a hub but managed to replace it but lost three stages but picked up points and was still classified as a finisher.
In category 4 we also lost the newly registered crew of Huw and Ellie Williams who retired after six stages, the father and daughter crew were not to be seen and we do not know the reason for their retirement.
The debut of the Talbot Sunbeam of Brian Watts and Mike Hewson was a welcome sight on the stages, it was their debut and all was going well until stage 3 when they broke down, they were towed back to service and missed the next stage working out the electrical problem that has occurred when the engine got hot waiting at the stage start. It was all fixed and they were back out albeit a little behind but still classified as a finisher.
Steve Powell and Jamie Hawkins had a good run in their Hillman Avenger until the last two stages where they had to nurse the car with a suspected head gasket failure – every turn and corner saw a bigger plume of white smoke emanating from the exhaust – They didn’t think they would make it losing 45 seconds when they needed to be pushed off the start line of ss9.
Topping out the podium places would be Wayne Bonser in the pinto powered Ford Escort Mk 2 he would finish just five seconds ahead of Paul Kendrick and Luke Green who had what can be described as the perfect rally. Uneventful with the car doing exactly what they wanted, with no overshoots. For Adrian Smekks and Chris Neale a finish is just reward as they compete in only their second rally since a 6-year lay-off. Lee Sellars and Michelle O’Connor finished 30 seconds behind Smekks in the Triumph Pi with Doug and Mike Harrison a further couple on minutes behind.
In the category one battle Clive King would finish nearly 45 seconds ahead of the Ford Lotus Cortina Gt of Bob Gibbons. Ken Davies would be a few minutes further back in a similar car,
Stage Master Crew Results
|12||11||Jason Gardner/ Will Rogers||43:43:00||2||12|
|17||10||Mike Simpson/ Dale Gibbons||45:10:00||1||18|
|24||10||Wayne Bonser/ Rich Aston||46:13:00||2||23|
|42||10||Paul Kendrick/ Luke Green||46:18:00||3||24|
|29||9||Clive King / Anton Bird||46:34:00||1||26|
|21||9||Robert Gibbons / Jon Harris||47:18:00||2||28|
|57||10||Andrew O’Hanlon/ Bill Douglas||48:37:00||4||33|
|36||9||Peter Ellerby/ Colin Tombs||49:37:00||4||36|
|44||10||Steven Powell/ Jamie Hawkins||49:51:00||6||37|
|49||11||Adrian Smekks/ Chris Neale||50:22:00||4||40|
|76||11||Lee Sellars/ Michelle O Connor||50:52:00||5||44|
|50||9||Ken Davies/ Alan Jones||51:28:00||5||47|
|58||11||Craig King/ Clare Bird||51:33:00||5||48|
|66||10||David Mark Evans/ Tom Aleksandrowicz||52:53:00||7||49|
|79||11||Doug Harrison/ Mike Harrison||53:45:00||6||52|
|45||11||Brian Watts/ Mike Hewson||01:14:01||7||56|
|73||9||Shane Gamble/ Steve Link||01:49:58||6||58|
|30||10||Simon Crook/ Alister Crook||Electrical||ss8|
|60||12||Huw Williams/ Ellie Williams||Unknown||ss6|
|65||9||Paul Price/ Owain Thomas||Unknown||ss5|
|20||11||Stuart Anderson / Kenny Owen||Oil Pipe||ss1|
Thanks to RallySport Media and Chris Huish for the photos