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Record breaking Stage Masters season starts

Mike Simpson and Dale Gibbons started their campaign with a start to finish victory on the extremely slippy roads on the grounds of Weston Park near Telford. Owen Motor Club had organised a 10-stage rally, all ran in pairs with four running through the notorious ford which saw the demise of most of the Opel works team crews in the 1987 RAC Rally.

 

 

Bob Gibbons and Jon Harris got the event underway running at car one in the Ford Lotus Cortina Gt, but it would not last long after they went off on a slippy right hand bend gaining momentum as they went over the sodden grass and into a fence. There was hardly any damage, but it took a few minutes to regain the road, once enough manpower was found. They took a stage maximum, but a fine recovery drive saw them finish in 25th place and second in class.

 

A welcome return to Stuart Anderson in the Geoff Jones Motorsport run Vauxhall Chevette reunited with navigator Kenny Owens saw him involved in a titanic battle with newcomers Simon and Alister Crook in the ex-Mike Simpson Ford Escort RS2000. The Crook brothers held the early advantage but as conditions started to dry Anderson started to take some time back, but it wasn’t enough, the Crook’s taking second place in the Stage Masters with a 13 second advantage over Anderson who was the class D winner. The Crooks were lucky to start the event as the car picked up a misfire on the way to the venue but luckily it got fixed before stage one.

 

A total of 21 registered contenders started the event with the only non-finisher being Paul Price after he broke a driveshaft on stage seven. Others to have problems which needed resolving during the day

Included Less Sellars/Michelle O’Connor Triumph 2000 Mk 2 Pi who dropped a cylinder on a couple of stages before gearbox problems on the last stage, they finished 28th. Doug and Mike Harrison debuted their new Vauxhall Chevette but took a maximum on stage one after a lead worked itself lose and they had to spend time finding the problem. Paul Kendrick and Luke Green Ford Escort Mk 1 were setting competitive times that would have seen them in the top ten overall, but on stage six they suffered an overshoot and then got beached trying to turn themselves around in the escape road – the resulting penalty saw them drop to the bottom of the rankings but they were still smiling and scoring points.

 

Clive King and Anton Bird dominated the Minis and were as high as fourth overall before a slight scare when the fan belt broke as they were lining up for stage four. They managed to get it changed and secured the spot ahead of the hard charging Andrew O’Hanlon with new navigator Bill Douglas. Andrew was showing he had lost nothing on his return to the challenge after an 18-month absence and will be a force to be reckoned with among the young guns.

 

Seasoned campaigners Eric Davies and Russell Joseph had a good run getting faster with each stage while Dave Evans and Tom Alexandrowicz put their stamp down as a crew to look out for in the remaining rounds as despite taking it easy on the last couple of stages with a clutch problem, they finished in 16th overall.

 

If there had been a concours-de’elegance competition, then the winners would have been Rob Williams and Iestyn Williams in their Ford Escort Mk1. For them it was a bedding in day getting used to the car and the conditions. Rob admitted they would not ‘break any records’, but they would post consistent times to finish just outside the top ten.

 

Adrian Smekks and Chris Neale were another returning to rallying after a six-year sabbatical. In the Eaton Vale livered Ford Escort Mk 2 the got better and better as the day progressed. A good day for them getting used to rear wheel drive and without a dogbox. From a start number of 40 they made their way up to 17th overall.

 

Nigel and Jenny Brain brought out their beautiful 1800 MGB under the strict proviso not to do any damage as the car has to be at Silverstone in a few weeks’ time. Used to racing tracks the crew acquitted themselves well during the day on cross-ply tyres and with no sump guard, and as every stage passed the smiles got broader, despite getting wheelspin in every gear.

 

Mike Simpson and Dale Gibbons would bring home the champagne just missing out on the overall rally win, in the ex-Bob Gibbons Ford Escort Mk1 with a step up in power and handling.

 

The four second deficit to the top crew of brothers Leigh and Chris Armstrong happened on the last stage with both crews fighting throughout the day. Mike managed to four fastest stage times in a dominant display and was one of only two crews – the other being the eventual winners – to top the time sheets.

 

OVERALL RESULTS – Jasper Bakeries AGBO Stages Rally 2019

 

Stage Masters runners only

 

  DRIVER NAVIGATOR CAR TIME
1, Mike Simpson Dale Gibbons Ford Escort Mk 1 32 mins 35 secs
2, Simon Crook Alister Crook Ford Escort RS2000 34 mins 07 secs
3, Stuart Anderson Kenny Owens Vauxhall Chevette 34 mins 22 secs
4, Clive King Anton Bird Mini Austin Cooper S 35 mins 32 secs
5, Rob Williams Iestyn Williams Ford Escort Mk 1 35 mins 59 secs
6, Andrew O’Hanlon Bill Douglas Austin Mini Cooper S 36 mins 20 secs
7, Eric Davies Russell Joseph Mini Clubman 36 mins 40 secs
8, Dave Evans Tom Alexandrowicz Mini 1275 Gt 36 mins 49 secs
9, Adrian Smekks Chris Neale Ford Escort Mk 2 36 mins 53 secs
10, Craig King Adrian Lloyd Morris Mini 37 mins 06 secs