08 Dec Preview: Round 3 – The CobbleShop Knockhill Stages
Reigning champion Chris West looks to extend his points lead in this weekend’s Motorsport News Circuit Rally at Knockhill, sponsored by The Cobble Shop, a rally he was victorious in last season.
Last year’s Knockhill Stages went the way of West in a dramatic rally that slipped from the clutches of Joshua Davey, who retired late on from the lead in his Darrian.
While Davey is absent on this occasion, West will want his first overall win of the season after a narrow miss at Cadwell Park. The Peugeot 306 Maxi driver quickly got to grips with a new engine and remains the man to beat, having only dropped three championship points so far.
Fresh from their 1-2 finish at the GMSC Kingdom Stages Rally two weeks ago, Alan and Andrew Kirkaldy will look to be the spoilers at their home event. The former was victorious last season in the snow-hit Anglesey visit and returns in his Ford Fiesta R5, joined by brother and former British GT champion Andrew who enters an Escort Mk2.
John Stone will want to hit back after an early Cadwell Park retirement left him 18th in the points. Nigel Feeney’s Mini could also return, having finished second overall last year. Colin Gemmell has shown strong pace this season in his Escort Mk2, and look out for John Marshall making his return.
In Class B, Paul Sheard was handed back the reigns of his Mazda MX5 `at Cadwell Park after BTCC race winner Paul O’Neill gave it its first action in the season opener. Sheard duly returned to winning ways despite finishing second in class overall, sealing maximum MN points in Round Two.
Sheard had to battle gearbox gremlins throughout, something that Ashleigh Morris will hope to pounce on in Scotland to get her campaign up and running in her Ford Fiesta. Sheard was victorious in their battle at last year’s event, while Vauxhall Corsa interlopers Ross Pringle and Steven Hay look to spoil the party.
Class C has so far been hard to call. Ryan Connolly and Craig Scoffings have been the consistent pairing at the opening brace of rallies in their Ford Puma and, with many of their closest rivals absent, Knockhill is a chance to continue that form.
Blair Thompson will give chase, as will the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus of Cathy Sewart which will be joined by the rapid Mike Taylor in the sister car that competes for D1 honours.
The smaller competition of Class A includes a varied mix of machinery. Craig Aston is a regular in his Toyota Yaris, going up against the likes of Innes and Kirsty Mochrie’s Rover Metro GTI, the Nissan Micra of Johnnie Mackay, James Strachan’s Peugeot 106 and the Ford Ka of Ron Walker – a car victorious last year thanks to Aaron Rix.
The trip to Fife is always a welcome one in the run-up up to Christmas, and is once again expected to be littered with unpredictability.