02 Mar Morris Wins Anglesey Thriller As Bird’s Wings Are Clipped
Barry Morris took one almighty step towards the MN Circuit Rally Championship crown by grabbing a dramatic Lee Holland Memorial Stages victory at Anglesey.
The Irishman finally snatched a hard-fought maiden win to move 10 points clear at the head of championship with just one round remaining at Donington Park later this month.
Pushing the Darrian T90 GTR all the way were Rob Hughes and local lad Sion Cunniff in their Ford Fiesta R5, the pair never separated by more than two second for six of the eight stages.
Morris held the advantage on SS6 and extended it to five with one stage remaining, before a washing of sleet arrived to make the final stage a tense affair. Cunniff’s rain dance did not quite help Hughes, who was unlucky enough to clip a loose chicane marker on the final run as he finished seven seconds adrift of winner Morris.
It was a good day for the winner, who grabbed the advantage at the expense of recent runaway winner, Frank Bird. The latter’s Ford Focus WRC07 surged into a 30-second lead after two stages in Wales looking for win number five, but succumbed to a heavy landing at the jump which damaged the gearbox, putting he and Jack Morton out of the rally they won last year.
Morris bolted wet tyres onto his Darrian for the final run, and snatched his first win on a day where another title rival, Mike Taylor, was unlucky enough to retire with water pipe dramas on the opening stage.
Morris said: “It was very greasy out there towards the end, so it was definitely the right decision to go for wets. It’s also down to the hard work of my co-driver (Tom Hutchings) this season as it has really helped having him know a lot of the circuits. It’s been a good day for the championship but it’s not done yet! It means a lot to get a good finish in this car, and it’s been solid all season.”
Second went to Hughes who finished seven seconds adrift, making up for the disappointment of an incident-affected visit to Anglesey last year.
Hughes said: “It was just unfortunate at the end there with the chicane. Somebody had to hit it in the place it was, and I had no choice but to go for it. The steering started packing up towards the end too, and I suppose with traffic earlier in the day it could have made it closer, but I’ve really enjoyed coming back and it’s been a great rally. It is what it is, and well done to Barry.”
Third went the way of Mark Kelly in his Ford Escort, the experienced rally hand keeping himself in contention all afternoon against the odds.
Kelly added: “I’m very happy with how today went in the end. It was really good in the wet there, which is strange because I still can’t quite get it dialed in when it’s dry. I’ve spent a lot of today struggling a bit with a soft setup; the rear wheel was lifting off the ground during the faster corners, so we’ve been tweaking it as we go. The car is great though, and it’s been a good day.”
Simon Bowen’s Fiesta got the better of Richard Wells for fourth place, the latter “learning more” about his new Fiesta R5 over the day as he switched from Mitsubishi machinery for the first time. Roger Moran’s Skoda R5 pipped experienced Peter Smith for sixth, Chris Ford’s Fiesta grabbing eighth ahead of Neil Roskell’s Subaru. Martin Hodgson’s Escort rounded out the top 10.
Dion Rowlands started strongly in class A, but engine problems for his Vauxhall Corse before the interval put MN contender Ron Walker back in the prime seat in his Ford Puma. Walker stopped the rot and was victorious to extend his class A points lead to 20 points over rival Adam Ripper, who finished 39s adrift in the Nissan Micra to keep up the pressure.
After a bright start, a gearbox issue on the fourth stage looked like it had derailed the chances of class B success for Ashleigh Morris. Chris Ruck inherited the lead in his Opel Corsa after a learning period over the opening two stages, but suffered last-stage heartache when a broken manifold left him crawling through the final stage.
Morris brought her Ford Fiesta home for a second class victory of the season alongside Knockhill spoils in December. “We weren’t sure at the end who had won it, but that’s a great end to the day”, she said, beating Mark Peterson’s Citroen C2 by seven seconds, Peterson leading a tight class with 18 points covering the top four.
Chris Berry was unstoppable in class C with his Ford Escort MK2, comfortably besting the similar Escort of a flamboyant Rhisiard Gareth Hughes for overall class spoils. Neither were registered for championship points, meaning the maximum score instead went to third place finisher Cathy Sewart in her Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, after erstwhile leader Mike English was forced to retire his Escort with differential problems on SS6.
In D1, it was overall rally winner Barry Morris who clinched the class spoils to put himself in the hot seat ahead of the Donington title decider.
Second place was enough for Hughes to be victorious on his only rally of the season in D2, but he and nearest class rival Bowen were not registered for championship points, meaning Wells took MN spoils to effectively secure the D2 class title with one round remaining after Bird’s retirement.
We now head to the season finale which takes place at Donington Park on Sunday 15 March, where our champions will be crowned at the historic Leicester circuit.