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It was back to Down Ampney for the third round of this years Heart of England Championship, with another healthy 20 contenders.

Aled Morgans/Mark Rodway’s Escort was quick out of the blocks and led the HOE runners from second overall. They were never out of the top three overall all day and sealed the HOE win after reclaiming second from stage seven.

We had a softer set up than the previous rally here, it worked but the tyres weren’t good until about six corners in. So from stage three we had some new ones, it gave me more confidence and we just flew,” Morgans explained.

Nigel Mee/John Fellowes did their best to keep up but from an early fourth on the first three stages, they lost ground with braking issues, before reclaiming fourth overall and second HOE contender.

The brakes went to the floor so we bled them, tried to add air cooling ducts and just anything to get some airflow. We had one overshoot but the brakes were boiling, so could have done with some rain,” said Mee.

Joe Piggott/Rhys William Edwards dominated Class B in their Citroen Saxo, as well as holding third in the HOE runners. Having started the day in sixth on the opening two stages, they went into penultimate stage fourth, but lost out to Mee in the end by just two seconds.

After a problematic start to the day Matt Turner/Tom Bishop’s Escort looked to be heading for a top 10 overall and fourth HOE, having ended SS1 23rd. “We had oil on the exhaust on stage one, so a bit smoky, then an off on stage two, before the alternator failed on stage three,” Turner explained.

Then on stage nine we were eighth overall and leading our class, but lost fifth gear. We went to change from fourth to sixth and it stuck with no drive and we were out,” he added.

Their retirement promoted Anthony/Kirun Deignan’s Skoda Fabia VTS, who had Michael Bowle/Izzie Lawrence’s Renault Clio edging closer in the final stages.

We picked up damage on the opening stage when someone reversed into me, the bumper, front wing, tyre and lights, but managed to finish the stage,” said Bowle after completing the stage in in 49th.

Bowle had been setting top four times, but had to settle for 10th overall and fifth in the HOE order. “We had to bleed the brakes after SS3, 4 and 5, then had no working alternator for the last four stages, so had to charge up before each stage, but our service crew were magnificent,” he added.

James Davies/Fiona Crump had started the day cautiously, “a bit slippery and our first time here,” he said. But from 10th overall on stage two, they were holding ninth for fifth HOE, despite a bit of brake fade. “We only did one lap though on stage six, so we were out,” he explained.

It was also a difficult day for Mark/Claire Lennox, climbing from 18th overall and seventh HOE to fifth overall, second in class and second HOE runner behind Morgans. But a stage maximum dropped them to 29th .

They persevered to take 21st overall and it was enough for seventh of the HOE runners, just over a minute behind John Petrie/Heather Phelps’ Peugeot 106.

Petrie completed the top six HOE contenders after starting the day in a remarkable eighth overall.

Graham Davies/Gary Powell’s Darrian T9 had been in sixth in the HOE until problems on stage five. “Halfway through the car stuttered, the fuel pump relay had failed and we lost pressure. Once we changed the relay it was fine again,” he said after dropping from 12th overall to finish 26th and ninth HOE behind Ryan Lloyd/James Wardle’s Citroen Saxo.

Completing the HOE top 10 were Toby/Mark Burton’s Nissan Micra, with Kevin/Andrew Davies’ Peugeot 206 making the finish after a maximum on SS4, Harry Pinchin/Colin Jenkins’ Citroen C2 and Lucy Pitch/Pete Bowles’ Rover 200.

Dean Davies/Cameron Wheatley’s Escort finally retired after SS3 with a loose bonnet after taking maximums for the first two stages, but first stage casualties were Matt/Adrian Walk’s when their Fiesta broke a driveshaft and Lacey Brown/Sophie Landen’s Mini Cooper with mechanical issues.

Simon Millington/Sam Kelter’s Escort was out after two stages and Stephen Prichard/Jemma Taylor’s Nova joined the casualties with a broken rear axle after three stages.

Published by Peter Scherer for the Hear of England Rally Championship, May 30th 2022.


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