January 19th, 2017
Snowden takes runner’s up spot. Driving his lovely looking and sounding Ford Escort Mark II, Rob Snowden took top points on the recent Jack Frost Stages.
The Jack Frost Stages has often produced some variable weather down the years and quite literally and regularly lived up to it’s name. Those who attended the pre event formalities on the Saturday afternoon of the 2017 event, were met with a glorious sunny day coupled with a bitter cold wind that kept air temperature down to 0oC . The warm front that drifted in from the North West after midnight not only raised the temperatures but also brought lots of rain. And so at 09:00 on a dark and wet miserable winter’s morning, car 1 roared into action.
Malton’s Rob Snowden and Tommy Rogers were the first championship contenders to make their mark but not on the stages. Rob believed that the weather forecast of rain all day would suit his style and decided to play his Joker card. He might have only been 4th fastest on the opening stage but pushed into the lead on the next test and held it until the lunch halt. By now the rain had gone and some patches of blue appeared in the sky. Rob wasn’t sure he could hold onto the rally lead in the dry and so he proved to be correct as the more powerful cars upped their pace in the afternoon. He had a real dice with the crew in third place, more to follow about them in the next paragraph, with only one second splitting them over the four afternoon stages. However, the vivid orange Ford Escort crew managed to hold onto second overall and so by taking a maximum score both Rob and Tommy move to be top of their respective tables.
Finishing just 21 seconds adrift was another Ford, this one being the black Escort Mk II of Mark Jasper and Don Whyatt. The baker from Stafford made the best possible start with quickest time on the first test. He dropped a little time of the next 2 stages and so with the rain stopped he decided to try slick tyres on the last run before lunch. It was the wrong choice and a 17th fastest time confirmed his thoughts that his brave move didn’t pay off this time. Settled conditions and a good dice with the similar car of Snowden and Rogers made life interesting in the afternoon but the Glenrothes MSC crew were happy to finish in 3rd overall.
Taking 6th overall and the 1600cc class win was Stevie Irwin. His wee yellow Vauxhall Nova was 7th and 6th fastest over the opening pair of stages to get him into 6th overall. Although the timesheets will show that five out of the next six stage times were between 13th and 16th, the man from Berwick would maintain his overall position. Yes he lost both door mirrors, nudged a few bales and had a gearbox strapped in place for the last two stages but he still made it to the end in 6th place for a cracking result.
A mere 4 seconds further back was our current champion driver Alistair Hutchinson with Tom Bruce strapped into the silly seat this time. Alistair was trying some different tyres and they just didn’t work for him in the early runs. He came out of SS1 in a lowly 25th place and although things did improve, he was still down in 17th at the lunch halt. The afternoon stages were much better and he took 3 top 6 times out of 4 stages, despite out braking himself while overtaking the Lindsays on the final test, to claw his way back up to 7th overall and also take another class win.
Another 4 seconds, but 2 places behind, were Kenny Moore and Richard Wardle. Once again they wheeled out their lovely Hillman Avenger, this time having done a little work to lower the suspension by 30 mm. This little tweak certainly helped as they were setting times just outside the top ten all day with only stage 3 slowing them a little after the car they were chasing blew it’s turbo and sprayed oil all over the Hillman’s windscreen.
Finishing in 11th overall were Neil Prior and Peter Littlefield in the Subaru Impreza. The morning tests went well and they were happily sitting in 8th at the halfway. A change to different tyres in the first pair of drying afternoon stages didn’t work and they slipped down the order before reverting onto known working tyres pulled them back up to 11th at the end.
Next up were the father and son pairing from Rotherham, David and Mathew White. They’ve found some success with a Subaru Impreza in recent times but decided to move to a Ford Fiesta. This is an ex M Sport R2 car and David was beaming about the little car which ran perfectly all day; 12th overall and 2nd in class 2 being their result.
Next up was Durham’s Andy Brown sitting alongside the non-registered Ben Cree. This was their prize drive of a free run out in a Mitsubishi Evo9 and they finished in 13th. Just 3 seconds behind was another father and son pairing, this one being Chris and Peter McCallum although Peter’s not registered for the championship. Once again Peter was driving his immaculate Ford Escort MkII and set off into the opening test with a set of brand new wet tyres all round. His reward was 6th fastest but unfortunately it was a standard he couldn’t maintain for the rest of the day. He slipped to 11th after 4 runs and his cause wasn’t helped when he had to complete the last pair of stages without power steering. He would be classified as 14th at the end and 3rd in class.
Next up in a rather lowly, well by their standards, 15th place were our ex champions, Barry and Michael Lindsay. The Spadeadam crew felt frustrated as the stage layouts didn’t suit so well in the morning having to follow but not being able to get past some ‘faster cars’; however but he did look a bit happier in the afternoon. He had to change the alternator after SS2 and the replacement gave up the ghost on the last stage too so he was a bit lucky to make it to the end. The timesheets showed us that Barry’s getting back to some of his old form despite these issues so maybe his bad luck during 2016 was restricted to that year.
From a rather low seeding of 60, our son and father from Alnwick, Graham and David Malthouse, made some great improvements to finish in 17th position. Graham was happy with his tyre choice and took 12th fastest on the opening stage. He couldn’t quite keep that pace up all day and lost some more time on stage 7 when he damaged his light pod attacking one of the many straw bale chicanes.
Finishing in 19th position was Ben Wilson in his Citroen AX. The youngster didn’t have his Dad sitting in with him this time yet he was leading his class all day and comfortably inside the top 20. However, it all when wrong on the final stage as he had a big, time consuming spin that cost about a minute. This dropped him 6 places down the order but he still managed to take the class victory. Perhaps he missed his Dad keeping him right …
And rounding off the rally’s top twenty were John Stone with Shona Hale sitting in with him on this occasion. John’s two rally cars weren’t available for this event so he managed to persuade Martin Wilkinson at CA1 Sport to let him use what John described as the nicest MkII Escort that he’s ever seen. The tricky conditions weren’t an ideal way to learn such a new, powerful car and a couple of early spins onto the grass were the outcome. John almost managed his mission of not damaging this pristine version of Henry Ford’s creation until stage 6 when a bale moved into the nearside front wheel arch …
The West Cumbria crew of Stephen Bethwaite and Ann Forster were next in the 1400cc Vauxhall Nova. They enjoyed a good consistent run with only a little door damage from ‘bale kissing’ but most folk couldn’t see the damage. Their result was a fine 22nd overall and 2nd in class.
Next up was Kev Wilson who’s forsaken his son Ben to sit in with one of Ben’s friends. This young fella was just out on his second rally in a Ford Fiesta and managed the best improvement on seeding as he moved up 50 places from starting at 76. Bruce Lindsay was co-driving for Dave Johnstone again in his Peugeot 205 and with another clean run took them to 34th overall.
Kev Monaghan and Chris Purvis rolled out his Ford Escort Maxi after a 16-month layoff and it was good to see a nice, different car. Lack of match practice showed as ‘Auld Victor’ tried hard not to damage his shiny motor but the car was reliable all day and the Tynemouth crew enjoyed their day on the way to 38th.
A couple of places later came John Nicholson in his Ford Escort RS2000. John teamed up with Kari Bates for this event and struggled with the lack of power steering in his ‘historic spec’ car around the chicanes. Perhaps that’s why he relies on his service crew keeping him going with great pasta at each halt. Dave Boyes jumped into another Escort with an unregistered driver, Paul Lawrence, to pick up a couple more championship points.
Our father and son duo from Lauder, Nigel and Callum Atkinson were our next finishers. Their Mitsubishi Evo9 retired at last April’s rally in Ingliston with drivetrain issues and has been refettled at a famous workshop close to Jim Clark Rally stages. It was only collected on the day before this event so Nigel had no chance to check it out. He needn’t have worried as the car was working well to usher them up to 14th at halfway. Unfortunately on the next test a puncture cost them dearly and they suffered with a stage maximum. This dropped them down to 59th place and they only recovered 6 places by the finish.
Colin Butler / Andrew Hutchinson were next in the ex Hutchinson ‘Tango Clio”. As ever, Colin was enjoying himself without setting the world alight with stage times and happy to make it to the finish in 54th place.
Jimmy Knox was making his annual appearance driving his BMW E3. Jimmy can sometimes be seen sitting alongside his brother Kevin on the Otterburn events but this time he had his nephew Karl in the silly seat rather than his son Alastair – true family rallying ! A poor choice of tyres meant Jimmy kept the spectators alert all day but he had a fun time out.
Jeff and Owen Malthouse had a steady, clean run to 57th in their Peugeot 205. No dramas to report, just Jeff wishes he was 20 years younger and could attack corners without any fear like he once did. And our final points scorer was Harry Marchbank who was co-driving for the non registered Liam Harkness in his Subaru Impreza to 59th overall.
We did lose some of our registered contenders before MTC2 and the first to go was Ed Todd when the ‘wee beastie’, GTM Coupe to most of us, sheared it’s wheel studs on the nearside rear corner; Lee Hasting was next in line as he skipped the final stage to take his co-driver back to the airport for his flight back to Dublin and our final retiree was Des Campbell. The man from Coldstream was having a much better day after his tyre troubles on the Christmas Stages and was comfortably inside the top ten overall all day. Unfortunately on the last stage his Peugeot 206 stopped with a broken bolt in the gear linkage.
This year’s event didn’t perhaps live up to it’s name on the day of the but it still provided a challenge to the 75 starters. Steve Gibson and Craig Hope with all their team from Darlington and DMC are to be thanked for all their efforts in coming up with a testing rally.
And finally for this bulletin, an update on our next event. The Legend Fires North West Stages will this year take place on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th February; that’s 3 weeks later than usual. Motor Sport (North West) Limited are this year scheduling a more compact route using four venues and reducing road mileage. There will be 10 miles of competition on Friday night and another 60 plus competitive miles on the Saturday. As is customary now the Rally Headquarters will once again be the Norbreck Castle Hotel, with its unrivalled facilities enabling Scrutineering, indoor Parc Ferme and Champagne finish ceremony all within the hotels own Exhibition Hall. There will be a new layout to the adjacent ‘Rally Village’. The hotel has maintained the same very favourable accommodation rates so no doubt every one of the 450 hotel rooms will be fully booked. The entry list opened in mid December and quickly filled up with a list of reserves created too. Unfortunately some crews have already dropped out so that anyone considering contesting the rally should contact the entries secretary Ann McCormack as soon as possible. There’s more on the event at www.nwstages.co.uk/