It was almost a repeat of last August’s Rainworth SKODA Dukeries Rally, with Guy Smith/Patrick Walsh’s Ford Fiesta R5 taking the victory spoils over father Peter Smith/John Millington Fiesta WRC by 16 seconds. The event attracted a very competitive entry of 80 cars with crews coming from all over the country.
A fairly damp and slippery opening stage, but fresh from his win on the Jack Frost Stages, Peter Smith took an immediate five second lead over son Guy. Joshua/Tamsyn Davey’s Darrian was third quickest, albeit 14 seconds off Guy Smith, but more importantly three up on defending Motorsport News MSVR Circuit Rally Champions Chris West/Keith Hounslow’s Peugeot 306 Maxi Kit Car. Stephen/Jack Tilburn’s Escort was next up with Formula Renault Eurocup racer Frank Bird sixth with Jack Morton, in father Paul’s Focus WRC, despite having hit a chicane hard on his first ever rally.
Guy Smith set the stage two pace and closed the deficit to only two seconds, while West flew to not only take third from Davey but pull out an 11 second cushion over his rival. “We were on wets on the first stage, changed to slicks and got some pace back,” said West.
West was quickest of all on stage three, but was still 21 seconds off Peter Smith’s lead still, which had increased after Guy spun. “Onto the old Melbourne loop I started to lose the rear, so booted it and spun,” Guy explained. Although Davey had consolidated third, he had to keep one eye on Bird, who had moved into fifth at Tilburn’s expense.
For a brief moment the drizzle stopped and there was a chance of it drying up as the lunch break approached, but it was short-lived. Guy was fastest again though on the fourth stage to reach the break tied for the lead with Peter, but West, although a clear third, couldn’t match the Smith duo. “I just can’t compete with a well driven four-wheel drive car today,” said West.
Davey had managed to take a little more time out of Bird on SS4 to retain a clear fourth, but Tilburn had lost time which handed sixth to Paul and Jessica Swift’s Escort. John Griffiths/Nigel Wetton’s Impreza had also made a good comeback after the throttle stuck on the opening stage and he had a spin on stage two. He managed to oust Craig & Alex Fleming’s similar car from eighth on stage four, leaving Fleming only three seconds clear of Philip Hopkins/David Jenkins’ Impreza.
Although West topped the times on stage five, he was only two seconds quicker than Guy Smith, but seven up on Peter, which brought a change of leader as Guy went five seconds clear. Fastest time on the final two stages put victory beyond doubt for Guy, a repeat of the father and son one two in last August’s Dukeries Rally. Third placed West held the gap to second to 20 seconds, while Davey retained fourth but managed to spin spectacularly through the finish of the final stage. Bird and Swift held station to complete the top six, from Tilburn and Griffiths, while Hopkins took ninth from Fleming. “I was too cautious in the wet,” Fleming admitted. “Craig and I got very close on the last stage and I was tempted to go down his inside. A great day out though,” Hopkins added on his first outing at Donington since the 2001 British GT Championship.
Mark Jones/Anthony Windle’s MG ZR was never headed in class one, taking victory by 57 secs over Tom Bishop/Isobel Mansell’s Nova. Third place had been somewhat closer with Matthew and Adrian Walk’s Fiesta duelling with Dale and Andrew Lawson’s MG ZR. After four stages they were still only a second apart, before Lawson went ahead on the next run and consolidated the place.
In class two no one had got near Bob Vardy/Caron Tomlinson’s Fiesta R2. They started the last stage 43 seconds clear only to go off and remain “stuck.” In a gravel trap. Mark/Nic Clayton’s Mini had been a clear second all day and were deserving victors, while Ken Sturdy/Andrew Funnell’s Suzuki Maxi managed to reclaim second after retaking Paul Sheard/Bruce Lindsay’s Mazda MX5 on the penultimate stage. Chris Ruck/Steve Harris’ Corsa was fourth.
Class three remained unchanged all day, with Davey holding sway from the Escort’s of Robin Adams/Ray Keith and Mike English/Andy Robinson and Cathy Sewart/Colin Stephens’ Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. West headed class four, with Swift in second from stage four at Tilburn’s expense, while Ciro Carannante/Simon Coates’ Porsche Cayman came home fourth. Behind the Smith’s in class five Bird claimed third place, from Griffiths, Hopkins and Fleming.
There were a number of ‘racing’ drivers out on their first stage rally and notable amongst these was Porsche Club Championship driver Nathalie McGloin. The Donington event was the first stage rally to incorporate a GT class following its recent approval by Motorsport UK. Nathalie, and co-driver Andrew Bayliss, were using her ‘converted’ racing 3.4 litre Porsche Cayman S. Whilst it is obviously a very powerful car it is still in standard spec and so has less power than the leading Ford Escorts whilst weighing half as much again. Nathalie, who is President of the FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission, became the first female tetraplegic in the world to be racing cars and is now the first to compete on a stage rally. They finished 33rd overall. https://nathaliemcgloinracing.com
Most of the Dukeries MC crews had a successful event with John Griffiths / Nigel Wetton (Subaru Impreza) 8th overall and the highest placed East Midlands team. Steve and Cathy Booth ( Mk1 Escort) made a great start but struggled a little more as the stages got wetter and wetter to finish 24th overall. Andy Wright/ Nigel Powell (Honda Civic) were slower on the first stage but they seemed to get quicker as the rain came to finish 40th
Alasdair Stables/ Neil Jones in the beautiful Vauxhall Chevette HRS finished 45th whilst Kevin Hutchinson/ Damien Welbourn in the class 1 Astra finished 5th in class and 48th overall. Adam Moss/ Duncan Moss in the BMW Compact finished 56th whilst Ian Bass/ Harry Walshaw, (Toyota Yaris) and Matt Lister/ Maz Miller (Micra) had a close battle in Class 1 eventually finishing just 14 sec apart in 65th and 66th respectively.
Unfortunately, Ian and John Dove (Nova) retired after SS4 with driveshaft problems after a promising start, but definitely the most disappointed crew were Chris Langthorne / Rebecca Marshall (Escort Mk2) who were forced to withdraw their entry on Saturday after discovering an engine issue on Friday evening that just could not be fixed in time.
Thanks to all the DMC members who are registered for the EMAMC Stage Rally Championship the club took a good haul of points in the East Midlands Club Championship. If you have not already done so, do please register; it only costs £2 and the club are still keen to win the EMAMC Club Trophy again in 2019, for the 23rd time.
(Initial report by Peter Scherer with additions. Photos by Malcolm Almond / Kevin Money)