02 Jul Round 4/5 Preview – Anglesey Finale
It comes down to this. A Lee Holland Stages/Altratech SMC Stages double-header at Anglesey to decide the fate of the 2020/21 MN Circuit Rally Championship…
After such a tough year against the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems fitting that rally fans not only get to see a completed MNCRC season, but also see it unfold in an intense championship decider this weekend across two days of stage action in Wales, with another healthy entry list of cars.
It is also fitting that a loyal friend of the championship is in the prime spot to potentially celebrate the overall title in Wales. Mark Kelly tops the table by 23 points after a sensational victory in the recent Neil Howard Stages – his first win of the season – as he hopes to grab the title on his maiden campaign with a new Ford Fiesta R5.
The switch, coupled with coaching from BRS star Matt Edwards, has sparked a fire in the ever-improving multiple MNCRC rally winner’s belly this year, and two strong results for the tarmac specialists at Anglesey will be enough for he and co-driver Neil Colman to fend off their rivals after a number of high quality showings.
His main rival Frank Bird will not be present to threaten him due to over commitments, leaving the door open for the experienced Kevin Procter to take up the mantle of chaser in his Fiesta. Other contenders lining up for the blue oval include Andy Scott and last year’s Anglesey runner-up Rob Hughes, 50 points adrift but always a threat in Wales, and a number of drivers who are excelling in their own classes behind.
Attention shifts to Kevin Procter to give chase in the Fiesta freight train, sitting 33 points adrift but with two rallies and 120 points to play for. Reliability is key for the title fighters, while the unpredictable weather also plays its role whenever the series visits the Welsh coast.
Procter’s best result of fourth this season could arguably have been improved to second in the Neil Howard Stages most recently if not for a late delay, meaning he will want to apply pressure and hope the cards to fall in his direction. Hughes will keep hope, as will the similar car of Charles Payne who has been highly consistent all season to climb to fourth in the points.
The man who denied Hughes a famous win last year at the same venue is also among the entry list for the second time this season; last year’s overall MNCRC champion Barry Morris cannot be counted out of causing an upset in the season finale, and made his long-awaited return to the championship at Oulton Park, but used it to bed himself back into the fray in the Darrian GTR.
Chris West is seeded strongly as you would expect, focusing on further development of his rally-spec Porsche 997 GT3 beast.
Class favourites in overall title contention?
Two podium visits for Kelly will ensure title glory, however he will keep one eye on other class leaders to be sure of it.
Heading the charge – and looking to ironically undo Kelly’s hard work in his previous choice of machinery – is the lead class C contingent, Josh Payton. The Escort Mk2 driver has been a giant killer in older machinery and dominant in the class, so will hope to take advantage of any slip-ups for those at the helm of the order.
The leaders of class D, B and A have also carved their way into contention, albeit as outsiders looking to leap on any misfortune for the Fiestas over the two days. Chris Ruck (Opel Corsa) and the flying David Henderson (Ford Escort Mk2) are in-form class favourites, Henderson having missed a round but dominated since, while a full season for Christpher Newton puts his Vauxhall Nova right in the fight should he complete a clean sweep.
The series also welcomes back a favourite in Ashleigh Morris, who pushed Ruck all the way last year and will hope to rekindle that class rivalry once more.
Darren Spann, Championship co-ordinator: “It’s been quite a year on all fronts, not least of all those that have been directly affected by the pandemic. Planning a championship seems insignificant in comparison, but the determination of all our team to get rallying running and fulfil a championship is nothing short of extraordinary. Mot only did our partners MSV pull a rabbit out of the hat, but we as a rallying community are truly indebted to the many volunteer organisers who have made this happenn – now let’s celebrate in style.”
It will be an intense fight to the final time check over two days in Wales, and you can keep up with all the action through our social media channels which includes live action and stage updates.
- 1)Mark Kelly – Ford Fiesta R5 – 172
- 2)Kevin Procter – Fiesta R5 – 149
- 3)Josh Payton – Ford Escort Mk2 – 139
- 4)Charles Payne – Fiesta – 130
- 5)Frank Bird – Fiesta R5 – 124
- 6)Rob Hughes – Fiesta R5 – 122
- 7)David Henderson – Escort Mk2 – 109
- 8)Chris Ruck – Opel Corsa – 106
- 9)Nick Whale – Escort Mk2 – 106
- 10)Christopher Newton – Vauxhall Nova – 106