20 Nov Smith edges out West on final stage drama
The second round of the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship ended up with some last stage drama, a tactical tussle that went into the night, as Guy Smith took the Cadwell Park Stages after an intense scrap with reigning champion Chris West.
The Le Mans 24 Hours winner joined co-driver Patrick Walsh in a Ford Fiesta WRC along with Peter Smith and Sion Cunniff in a sister M-Sport prepared car and it was a late decision that made all the difference in their fight with West and Keith Hounslow.
While Guy Smith moved into the lead after four of the eight stages in slippery Autumn conditions, West retaliated by bolting on a new set of Michelin boots. The impact was immediate, snatching the lead with a seven-second fifth stage victory cushion and then moving six seconds clear with another win on the next run.
The Smiths needed to retaliate, and fought fire with fire.
Peter Smith, who retired early at Oulton Park, sat in a safe third place and decided to hand over his newest set of tyres to Guy Smith in a bid to overturn West on the final two stages. Pressure was added with a stall for West as darkness fell, and a superb dash through the final stage was enough for Smith to go 11 seconds quicker, sealing the win at Cadwell by nine.
“I didn’t know about the tyre game so much”, said winner Guy Smith. “It paid off though. I’ve never actually been to Cadwell Park in all my years of racing. I was watching clips of the layout on YouTube to gain a bit of knowledge, but it’s totally different when you go out there for the first time. It’s been seat-of-the-pants stuff! It’s quite therapeutic for me rallying in the night personally, so I think it helped me.
Second-placed West was gracious in defeat after sealing maximum Championship points saying “He drove really well and especially in those last stage. We’ve had a few teething troubles with the car and I just can’t wait to get it back to 100%. I’d say it was about 75% in that one, but I just drove the socks off it. We’ll keep upgrading it, but to take it to the WRC cars – I’m happy with that.”
Peter Smith rounded out the podium and claimed top D2 championship points in his ex-Ott Tank Fiesta, adding “It’s been a very enjoyable rally for us. The stages were good, and it was a lot of fun even though I ended it with no shock on the left-front. I was steady for most of it. I donated my newest tyres to help Guy in the final two stages and he drove very well.
It was another three-way fight in Class B, this time won by Chris Woodhouse in the Citroen C2 after a tight battle with returning champion Paul Sheard. Despite finishing stage two backwards, Woodhouse caught and overturned Sheard’s afternoon advantage in the final two stages. Sheard battled gearbox problems all day but salvaged second for crucial championship points. Chris Platt had lead early on in his repaired Vauxhall Tigra.
A shock was on the cards by half a distinct in Class C as the SEAT Ibiza of Stuart Popplewell held the advantage over more powerful Ford Escort MK2 opposition.
“I’ve dangled the carrot at them, so it’s down to them now” was the gauntlet he threw down, and better track conditions allowed the tides to turn. Mike English took control to win the class in his Cetus Solutions-backed Escort, while Rob Cox was unlucky not to be involved as he was sidelined by gearbox gremlins.
The A class was split up for the visit to Cadwell Park, and it was again a good day to be racing in Ford machinery. The blue oval claimed victories in both A1 and A2 thanks to Ian Barnes and Patrick Homan in their respective Ford KA and Ford Puma weapons of choice.
So, after a closely fought battle across all classes on Round 2, the series heads north next and to Fife in Scotland as Knockhill plays host to the third rally of the season on December 9th.