daf salemandre

Gareth Bevan and Dafydd Evans on their way to another excellent result (Nicohistoricrally.be)

The weekend of the 23rd and 24th of April saw competition on the closed roads of Britain and further afield in Belgium with club members active on each. Starting on home soil the Chelmsford motor club organised Corbeau seats Tendring and Clacton stages took place as the opening round of the British rally championship. Held over two days and including fourteen stages totaling some 85 kilometres of competitive mileage for competitors.

Included in the 107 car entry was regular navigator Mark Glennerster, who for this event would be navigating for Michael O’Brien in a WRC specification Ford Focus ‘05. They were seeded at number 12. At 15 was Andy Davies, he would be teamed up with Robert Fagg for the British rally championship and they would be out in Andy’s recently acquired R5 specification Ford fiesta.

The rally began with two short stages on the Saturday afternoon, a 1.26km sprint stage, Weston Homes,  ran twice, followed by the real meat of the rally on the Sunday. On this opening stage Andy and Rob managed the eleventh quickest time of 54.4 seconds. Not far off them in twenty-first were Michael and Mark with a time of 56.3 seconds. The stage was then repeated, this time with Michael and Mark doing best with the twenty-third fastest time or 55.1 seconds. Andy and Rob set the twenty-eighth quickest time of 55.8 seconds. At the end of this short day Andy and Rob lay in seventeenth overall with a total time of 1 minute 50.2 seconds, Michael and Mark held twenty-second overall with a total time of 1 minute 51.4 seconds.

The second day of the event would be made up of four stages repeated three times, Cadman construction, Alcon Brakes, Weston business centres and MGJ engineering, with Cadman construction being first up. This was the longest stage of the day at just over 10.5 kilometres in length, and here Andy and Rob were tenth quickest overall with 5 minutes 47.8 seconds. Michael and Mark were thirteenth on 5 minutes and 52.4 seconds. Alcon brakes was next and here Andy and Rob went one better and recorded the ninth quickest time, where Michael and Mark were once again thirteenth. 

Stage 5 was Weston business centres and on this stage both club members broke into the top ten with Andy and Rob once again achieving the ninth quickest overall time at 5 minutes and 14.7 seconds, and right behind them in tenth were Michael and Mark on 5 minutes and 15 seconds. The final stage of the first loop was the relatively short MGJ Engineering stage, with a length of just over 3 and a half kilometres. Here our pairing once again swapped times with Michael and Mark setting the eleventh quickest time of 2 minutes and 17.2 seconds. Just a tenth separated them and Andy and Rob as they were thirteenth quickest on 2 minutes and 17.3 seconds. Thai meant that going into the first service halt Andy and Rob lay in ninth overall with a total time of 18 minutes and 22.3 seconds, and Michael and Mark were tenth on 18 minutes and 31.5 seconds. 

With service taken care of it was back into the stages for the next loop. Andy and Rob began to climb up the leaderboard as their confidence grew and they set some excellent times. Unfortunately disaster struck on stage 9, which was later cancelled, as on a left hand bend there was now a layer of dirt built up that had been pulled out from various cars passing, which led to Andy’s fiesta understeering, unfortunately enough to slide off the road where the car then rolled. Both Andy and Rob were taken to hospital but later released. Andy thanked the emergency staff at Colchester hospital as well as the event officials for their excellent response.

Michael and Mark were still going very well and again broke into the top ten with their stage times. Going into the final service halt of the day they were in fact holding sixth overall. With the final loop of stages left to run they continued to push hard. With the eleventh quickest time on stage eleven, Cadman Construction 3, and seventh quickest time over stage twelve, Alcon Brakes 3. With the two final stages to run they continued to push hard to secure a strong finish.

Weston Business centres 3 made up stage 13, and on this 7.95km test they set the tenth overall quickest time of 5 minutes and 9.6 seconds, this was followed by an excellent sixth quickest time of 2 minutes and 13.3 seconds on the rally’s final stage, MGJ Engineering 3. This meant that they finished the rally in an excellent ninth overall with a total time of 46 minutes and 13.4 seconds. An excellent for an older specification car that was surrounded by more modern machinery.

Also taking place over the weekend was the Rally Salamandre taking place in Belgium. Organised by Hainaut Motor club this event attracted entrants from all over Europe to tackle the 12 stage 120 kilometre event. Among the 89 car entry were Gareth Bevan and Dafydd Evans, who would again be in Gareth’s historic specification Mk2 Ford escort. They were seeded number 254 which put them fourth on the road.

Their day started positively with joint fifteenth quickest time on the opening stage which was also fifth in the historics. However there was to be drama on the second stage as they slid off the road, causing no damage but losing some time, they for a moment believed that they may have picked up a puncture but in reality it was simply the tyres struggling to work on the shiny road surface. This knocked their confidence somewhat and dropped them down the leaderboard.

Both crew members were aware that they had dropped some time, so they decided to push really hard on the next few stages. On the third stage they clawed back some time with the seventeenth quickest time over the 5.64 kilometre test. They were then twenty-sixth fastest on the following stage. After a brief service halt two more stages followed. Things began to really click for Gareth and Dafydd here as they were twenty first overall and sixth historic. They repeated this performance on stage six with another sixth fastest historic time. 

Over the next loop of stages they would once again set very consistent times, featuring in the top twenty overall on numerous occasions. On stage eight they managed to set an incredible third best historic time, showing their potential to all. 

This was something that they actually repeated on the final two stages of the rally, so it was of no surprise that they would end the rally in an excellent twenty second overall with a total time of 1 hour, 21 minutes and 8 seconds, they also finished 9th in the historics. Had they not had their misfortune on stage 2 there is no doubt that this pair would have comfortably finished in the top five historics.

Thanks must go to Nicohistoricrally.be for the use of their image in this report.