Steve Ward and Mike Crawford finally took maximum points after a dusty and summer like Rallynuts Stages rally in mid-Wales.
The Ford Escort pairing had a torrid 2018 with mechanical breakdown following mechanical breakdown, but a more relaxed Steve was quietly confident that the changes made to the car including a new gearbox would make a difference in their overall reliability.
He would be chased all the way by Jason Gardner and Graham Cox as these crews running close together on the road were able to maintain a significant gap that they would not be hampered too much by the heavy dust.
Gardner would be leading the West Wales Rally Spares HRCR Stage Masters contenders at the one and only 30 minute service by a mere 4 seconds – He would eventually hand over the lead to Ward on the final 13 mile stage through Hafren stealing 13 seconds and extending his winning margin by 24 seconds at the end.
In category 3 newcomers Pete Littler and Andy Marchbank enjoyed their run to complete the podium in their Ford Escort Mk 2, plenty of smiles at the end of their first competitive run, with plenty of areas Pete can find improvements.
Stuart Anderson and Kenny Owens were certainly on the pace they wanted for a return to the forests – their first foray for Anderson in 2-years and for Owens more than 4-years. Grip levels were difficult for the ex-works Group 4 Vauxhall Chevette with a few spins, minor-offs and a stall all hampering progress. But they did not disgrace themselves and despite two spins on the final stage they still managed to catch the car in front, a promising run with more to come.
Pre-event favourite Mike Simpson and Dale Gibbons had an event to forget just 5 seconds behind the leaders on SS1 he would drift wide on the next stage and go into a boggy ditch and the car would come to rest but there would be no way out and they day would end with only minor bodywork damage.
Category 2 would be won by Andrew Stokes and Adrian McNally returning to the series, but their day would be hampered by the reverse seeding and swallowing huge amounts of dust. The last stage saw their changes of getting on the podium disappear after catching a slower car just 2 miles into the 13-mile test. Minutes were lost as the effectively crept through the stage trying to keep out of danger and see where they were going.
Freddy Camp and Gareth Drayton had an enjoyable time in the class 4b Peugeot 205 and had a huge smile on his face when completing the final stage commenting on the fabulous smooth stages and how well they had held up during the day. His only downside is that at the moment know one else seems willing to come out an join him in the class or category.
Matt Fowle was making his return to the forests with Lee Bezuidenhout sat alongside him. They had a good run and would have been challenging for the category 2 lead but for a problem with the engine.
Luckily the problem started after stage 4 when they were returning to service. But they would go no further switching the car off before any more damage was caused. They did however pickup the prize draw for two Hankook tyres from Mr Tyre Motorsport.
The next round of the Stage Masters challenge is over the challenging asphalt roads on the Epynt military ranges on May 5th and week later we return to the forests for the Plains Rally on 11th May.
For more details of the WWRS Stage Masters Challenge contact championship secretary Andy Ballantyne on 07970226397 or email; firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Ian Francis for the photographs
OVERALL RESULTS – RallyNuts Stages Rally 2019
Stage Masters runners only
|1,||Steve Ward||Mike Crawford||Ford Escort Mk 2||51 mins 15 secs|
|2,||Jason Gardner||Graham Cox||Ford Escort Mk 2||51 mins 39 secs|
|3,||Pete Littler||Andy Marchbank||Ford Escort Mk 2||53 mins 17 secs|
|4,||Stuart Anderson||Kenny Owens||Vauxhall Chevette||55 mins 28 secs|
|5,||Andrew Stokes||Adrian McNally||Ford Escort RS2000||56 mins 00 secs|
|6,||Bob Gibbons||Jon Harris||Ford Cortina Gt||56 mins 19 secs|
|7,||Ken Davies||Alan Jones||Volvo Amazon||58 mins 43 secs|
|8,||Fred Camp||Gareth Drayton||Peugeot 205||101 mins 37 secs|
|RTD||Matthew Fowle||Lee Bezuidenhout||Ford Escort Mk 1||Sick engine SS4|
|RTD||Mike Simpson||Dale Gibbons||Ford Escort RS2000||Stuck in ditch SS2|