08 Apr West bags Cadwell Finale Win as Champions are Crowned
Chris West capped off his title-winning season with a fourth victory in the final round of the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship, in association with MSVR, featuring the Michelin Cup and Protyre Challenge, held at Cadwell Park.
West battled hard to overturn the threat of his four-wheel drive rivals under misty skies, sealing a 17-second victory over Anglesey winners Frank Bird and Jack Morton.
Already crowned overall and Michelin Cup champion, West’s final task was to aid left-hand man Keith Hounslow to the co-driver’s title. Victory appeared a tough ask initially, as contact with circuit furniture required repairs to the Peugeot 306 Maxi’s steering rack for stage two.
Bird took advantage, but suffered two stalls on stage two and slipped to third. A sensor problem with the handbrake was the culprit, again catching out Bird later on at the slower sections on a day where he otherwise shone, with seven stage wins from the nine contested.
West was in a determined mood however, and extended his cushion over Peter Smith’s 4WD ex-WRC Ford Fiesta throughout the day.
Bird recovered to second spot with a final-stage burst, pipping Smith by just one second as West confirmed his fourth victory of a superlative title-defending season.
West commented: “It’s a battle of different machinery here today, and I’m really pleased to be where we are. The car is worn out to say the least, but I’m pleased and more than anything I’m pleased for ‘Billy’ (Hounslow). It’s what we came here to do, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Hounslow was confirmed champion co-driver, adding: “It’s brilliant. I’m really happy just to get to the finish because it’s been a tough day, and in those last few stages we didn’t know if we were going to make it. To beat all of this kit, it’s amazing.”
Second-placed Bird said: “It’s been really good overall for us. It’s just that we stalled I think five times in total, but it was a little issue with a sensor on the handbrake. Other than that, I think we won all the stages around that, so really good.”
Third-placed Smith added: “It was a good rally. We had a bit of a problem on the first stage that dropped us back, and obviously you can’t lose that kind of time. Other than that it was good, and then on the last two stages they were so quick. I was flat-out on that last one and couldn’t do any better. It makes it interesting though, and I think I’ll have another go next season. Hopefully, I’ll get [Guy Smith] to do some more with me!”
John Griffiths climbed the order in his Subaru to finish fourth overall, while championship runner-up Stephen Tilburn put in a late charge at Cadwell to rise three places to fifth on the final two stages.
He shared the spot with Ciro Carannante, who was rewarded with third in the overall championship thanks to a fine rally in his Porsche Cayman. He pipped Mike Taylor to sixth, the latter having to settle for fourth in the championship after a strong season in his Talbot Sunbeam Lotus.
Peter Stephenson and Tony Jones sealed eighth in their Subaru P2000, ahead of the flying BMW Compact M3 of Mike Bayliss and Nigel Mummery’s ex-WRC Ford Focus.
A sterling drive from the Vauxhall Nova pairing of Andrew Egger and Alan Jackson meant they were in a league of their own in class A, the pair enjoying their first rally together since 2003.
Dale and Andrew Lawson may have been powerless to stop the duo, but their job was completed with a solid drive to confirm them with maximum MN points, and with it, the class A championship.
“A relief”, said Dale Lawson, “as it’s been an expensive year! It all makes it worthwhile though and proves that those extra late nights have paid off.”
Dropped scores ultimately moved the pair back ahead of Craig Aston, who fought to the bitter end in his Toyota Yaris.
Paul Sheard survived a scare when a diversion on stage seven arguably cost him the class B win, but he did all he needed to take the class title.
Chris Ruck was victorious in the class in his Vauxhall Corsa, while Ashleigh Morris failed to finish as she chased Sheard for the crown.
“It’s been getting better”, said Sheard of his Mazda MX-5. “We might be ready to move up to class C next season. It’s been a five-year project already.”
A feisty class C battle covered six cars, with Mike English narrowly grabbing the MN points and class victory in his Ford Escort Mk2 after a tussle with Royston Carey’s nippy Renault Clio.
An outside bet for the title, English could not quite topple fourth place finisher Ryan Connolly, who escaped gearbox niggles to win the class C title ahead of Cathy Sewart, who brought her Talbot Sunbeam Lotus home sixth.
Rally winner and overall champion Chris West again grabbed the class D honours at Cadwell, ensuring Keith Hounslow beat Jack Tilburn to the co-driver championship title.
John Griffiths pushed hard to overturn the D2 deficit to Nigel Mummery, with four drivers in contention for the class title, but narrowly missed out.
The Subaru driver finished fourth overall while Mummery came home 10th, but it was enough for the latter the hang on and claim the title. All were entered as class E at Cadwell, Frank Bird claiming honours while maximum MN points went to Peter Smith.