04 Mar Guy Smith takes victory at Donington
Guy Smith got the better of father Peter Smith for Donington Rally spoils in a packed sixth round of the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship.
Weather was not kind to over 80 competitors as storms hit the Leicester circuit early in the morning, the father and son pairing immediately laying down a marker in their four-wheel-drive Ford Fiestas.
Despite a spin on stage three for Le Mans winner Guy, he fought back from six seconds adrift to grab the lead from Peter on the fifth stage after the interval when the conditions intensified.
Both improved their pace further, but it would be two final bursts from Guy Smith that extended his lead to 16s to seal a second victory of the season after his Cadwell Park heroics near the end of last year.
Chris West suffered a tentative opening stage as his wet tyres burned out slightly too quickly in semi-damp conditions, surviving another spin to claim two stage wins and complete the podium in third place with the Peugeot 306 Maxi.
Guy Smith said afterwards “It’s been a good day, especially to come away with a one-two. The weather was wild at times. It’s been particularly slippery around the Melbourne Loop and out the back; people have been saying fuel spray from passing planes is causing a bit of that. Peter has been amazing when you consider his age and he’s always really good on tarmac.”
Peter Smith added “I knew really that he would be able to pull it out in the end. He’s too good. It’s a great feeling to get a one-two for us and I gave it all I could. I gave away all my secrets I think! We’ll both be back out for Cadwell, so we hope to do it again. It’s been a good day all round.”
Chris West sealed third, and said “overall, I’m still really pleased to have only been beaten by two mega cars with very good drivers in them. We were the best 2WD car by miles today, and it amazes me every time we go out just how good this car is, and it’s getting quicker. You always want to win, but I’ll take that, and we’re getting better as a partnership.”
Fourth place went to the rapid Darrian T90 of Joshua and Tamsyn Davey, who survived several lurid moments in the treacherous conditions which others failed to save in another reliable showing.
Fifth went to rallying rookie Frank Bird, sharing a Ford Focus with Jack Morton. The son of rally ace and superbike team owner Paul Bird impressed despite an off on stage one, climbing the order with competitive times for the Formula Renault competitor.
Series returnee Paul Swift and wife Jessica took a day out of their busy schedule as parents to snatch sixth from Steve Tilburn’s Escort, while John Griffiths and Nigel Wetton’s Subaru Impreza grabbed eighth. Philip Hopkins and Craig Fleming rounded out the top 10.
West now holds a 90-point lead with just 120 to play for in the final two meetings of the season at Anglesey and Cadwell Park.
Dale Lawson moved to within four points of Craig Aston’s class A championship lead after sealing MN spoils for the second consecutive rally in his MG ZR.
Third place was the best he could muster in class overall, finishing 1m10s adrift of the similar car of overall class winners Mark Jones and Anthony Windle.
The latter’s winning margin was 57s thanks to six stages wins from the seven contested, Tom Bishop’s Vauxhalll Nova trailing in what was only the third rally for the car.
A furry of late drama in class B fell in favour of Mark Clayton and Nic Clayton in their spectacular Austin Mini. Their joy came at the expense of late heartbreak for Bob Vardy, who lead the class from the start until a final stage slip-up under braking for Coppice sent him skittering into the gravel.
His retirement promoted Sheard’s Mazda MX-5 to third in class to collect maximum MN points once again, despite an early misfire costing him second in his lengthy battle for the spot with Ken Sturdy’s Suzuki Swift.
Overall and MN success in class C went to Josh Davey for the second consecutive rally, backing up the Darrian T90’s triumphant return at Snetterton.
“It’s been a handful, but we haven’t spun”, he said of the conditions, reliability woes now finally appearing a thing of the past. “It feels much better than it did at Snetterton, and problems look to be going – touch wood.”
Robin Adams was second while Mike English battled the conditions in his spectacular (and sideways) Ford Escort Mk2, recovering from engine dramas at Snetterton.
Chris West and Keith Hounslow maintained an unbeaten record in class D, looking to wrap up the overall title at Anglesey after winning the battle to be best of the 2WD machines.
Overall winner Guy Smith also claimed class E. The top three finishers in class were all not registered for MN points, meaning that accolade instead went to the flying Subaru Impreza of John Griffiths and Nigel Wetton.
Nathalie McGloin made history not only as the first GT class winner, but also by becoming the first ever tetraplegic rally entrant in the world as she finished the rally with the assistance of Andrew Bayliss.