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Rain had been forecast, but it was dry and sunny when crews set out on the opening stage of eight. But most crews went for wet tyres still.

Both Tim Baker/Neil Halworth and Matt/Adrian Walk failed to make it out of stage one. Championship leader Baker’s Talbot Sunbeam had an off into the trees and Walk’s Fiesta had crank sensor issues again.

Winners last time out, Justin/Lee Wilson set the pace again in their Darrian T90 GTR, seven seconds up on Stefan Morris/Chris Ridge’s Escort, with Mark/Claire Lennox’s Escort, Dan Petrie’s Peugeot 106 Gti, Ash Furlong/Pete Phenah’s Renault Clio and Neil Burgess/Jim Holder’s Mini Cooper S completing the early top six.

I was a bit too cautious,” said Morris. “We started with slicks and it was the wrong choice, hit a bale and changed to wets,” Furlong added.

Wilson added another three seconds to his lead on SS2, but Furlong was up to fourth, taking Petrie and Richard Fletcher/Cassy Romeo’s Citroen C2 VTS, had moved up too at Burgess’ expense.

The concrete part of the stage was dry but the gravel was slippery, so we stayed on wets. But it seemed wrong to be on wets with the sun out,” said Wilson, after upping his lead over Morris to 28 seconds on stage three.

The lead was 39 seconds by half distance, but Morris was consolidating second too. “We had some play in a balljoint on stage two so changed it, then had to change the same one after stage four when we had been on the grass,” he explained.

In third Furlong and Lennox were tied. “We had stayed on wets too, but the intercom failed at the start of stage one, but we managed,” sais Mark. Petrie and Fletcher were next up. “We got caught out a bit on the first stage, then had concerns over a possible fuel leak after SS4, but it was overfull,” said Fletcher.

Fiona Crump was in Cliff Richards’ Escort seeking points in the Ladies Championship. They were seventh best HOE contenders, with Burgess losing pace in eighth, as Connor/Gary Powell’s Citroen Saxo and Harry Pinchin/Colin Jenkins’ Citroen C2 were the rest of the top 10.

During the second half of the rally Wilson continued to ease clear, taking maximum points with a 1m14s victory, having changed to slicks for the final push.

But the drama wasn’t in short supply behind however. Furlong had managed to edge two seconds clear of Lennox in third after SS5, but it was all change after he then came in from the folowing stage with a broken manifold.

Furlong was still up to second, as Morris was out with a broken throttle cable , but had his own concerns over noise and actualy starting the final stage.

We were losing power too, which proved to be decisive”, losing out to Lennox by six seconds as he had to settle for third.

Petrie took his maximum class points from fourth place, with class rival Fletcher 12 seconds behind, as Richards/Crump completed the top six.

Powell and Pinchin had close second half duel and swapped places on stage six. But Pinchin’s two seconds margin was over a minute deficit when he came in after the penulitmate stage.

So Powell was third in Class B behind Petrie and Fletcher, with Pinchin fourth. “We had a new air intake, it kept the car cooler and gave us more power,” Powell explained.

Simon Tuckman/Denzil Heeks’ Escort was next home, from Historic winner Lee Sellars/Michelle O’Connor’s Triumph Mk2 Pi.

Morris was still classified 11th, with Bill Douglas/Dave Tearl’s Volvo 244 GLT, Mark Norwood/Thomas Marriott’s Mini Cooper S and Graham/Jennifer Bartl’s Peugeot 206 completing the finishers.

I need a heavier right foot,” said Douglas. “We lost a front brake pad on stage four,” Bartl added.

George Clarke/Adam Burkill’s Mini Cooper S started the day with a 30 seconds penalty for hitting a bale, but had battled up to 10th before the transmission failed on the final stage,

Neil Dodd/Val Thompson’s MG ZR went out with headgasket problems, Raj/Arjun Kainth’s Peugeot 205 Rallye had a terminal misfire and Burgess was forced out with electrical problems.

Published by Peter Scherer for the Heart of England Rally Championship (AWMMC) August 7th 2023


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