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Here we go into 2017 with Matt and Andy leading the way.

Can the dominating duo of 2016 pull it off again on the first round of the 2017 HRCR Hagerty Insurance Clubmans Road Rally Championship, the Tour of Cheshire this weekend? Just looking at the event website over the last seven “Tours of Cheshire” four have been won by Mk 1 Ford Escorts and three by Porsche 911s so I wonder if another marque can make its mark this year! Although I see John Abel and Martyn Taylor, a potential winning crew, have forsaken the trusty Tiger for a mk1 RS2000 so perhaps the writing is on the wall.

The top ten seeds are

1, Matt Warren and Andy Pullan, Ford Escort

2, Howard Warren and Iain Tullie, Porsche 911

3, John Abel and Martyn Taylor, Ford Escort RS 2000

4, Dave Leadbetter and Cath Woodman, BMW 2002

5, Simon Mellings and Ryan Pickering, Vauxhall Astra GTE

6, Charles Colton and Richard Bestwick, Porsche 356

7, John Ruddock and Roger Burkill, Ford Escort Mexico

8, Ian Crammond and Matthew Vokes, Mercedes-Benz 280SL

9, Peter Welch and Andy Marchbank, VW Golf GTi

10, John Haygarth and David Taylor, Opel Kadett Rallye

At the other end of the performance scale we have Seren and Elise Whyte in their ubiquitous Standard 10 and Brian and Janette Dwelly in their Morris Minor. Let’s hope the organisers have some tight little tests to give them the edge they will no doubt need! In my efforts to try to equalise the various vehicle category points I’ve done Brian and Janette a disservice by changing the 4 point bonus to pre-1959 cars. This was my attempt at trying to make sure an early Mini did not get too many more points than a later one, but it was pointless exercise really as Minis stretch over at least three categories- eejit!

Talking to the 2016 winning Novice crews at the Dinner Dance recently it seems there is going to be a lot of fierce competition this year as they appear to be a really competitive bunch and I’m looking forward to see who lays down the marker on the first event of the year. With Clive and Anji Martin not being able to compete due to work commitments and Harvey Steele concentrating on his studies and Formula Student it leaves the door wide open for the rest of the class.

Similarly, the Experts resume competition with Ken Jones & Charles Hughes having to defend their title against Paul Davis and Roger Bricknell and a whole host of very competitive crews hot on their heels. Unfortunately, Simon and Niall Frost have pulled their entry as the Clan Crusader build has taken a little longer than hoped.

As for the Masters and overall honours then surely Matt and Andy must be the favourites, but while Andy has been busy keeping his hand in on lots of other rallies I think Matt has been relaxing, but perhaps he can jump straight into the groove like Roger Clark and turn it on as soon as the marshal says “Go!” There is certainly plenty of very stiff competition especially from Simon Mellings and Ryan Pickering in Simon’s Astra GTE, a new car to these events, as well as the usual crews of Howard Warren & Iain Tullie, John Abel & Martyn Taylor, Guy and Claire Woodcock or Dave Leadbetter and Cath Woodman now the BMW is handling better, who knows what will happen? Another crew making a welcome return are James Griffiths and James Howell in their rapid and sometimes temperamental Mini but with sights on the championship this year.

The HRCR Amazon Cars CHALLENGE CUP  has made a steady start with 10 of the 14 registered challengers entered on the rally comprising two masters, two experts and six novice crews.

As a reminder for the less experienced Experts and Novices, Andy Pullan and Iain Tullie have agreed to make themselves available at the finish to answer any questions you may have on the navigation, route or timing, so don’t be shy or embarrassed just ask them if you’ve struggled to understand where you went wrong during the day. Mike Harrison and his team will have a full route of the event on display somewhere at the finish as a focal point.

Finally, this week’s edition of “Motor Sport News” will have a full page feature on historic rallying so I urge you to buy or borrow a copy, if you can find one. I’m not sure what it will contain but I had a half hour telephone interview with Paul Lawrence, the historic rally editor, a few weeks ago. I must admit to not being a regular reader and stopped taking “Motoring News” as it was then many years ago, but if I can persuade them to find space to mention each of our championship events this year then it may find another customer or two?

See you in Cheshire

Cheers

Ian & Gill