01 Nov 2019 Neil Howard Stages in a/w G. Coffey Solicitors Preview
The 2019-20 Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship roars into life this November, as new and old faces take to the Neil Howard Stages at Oulton Park looking for the best possible start.
Last season’s winner Kevin Procter will be replaced by last-minute super-sub Andy Scott, as the top-seeded car defends its Neil Howard crown in Cheshire. Scott will share the number 1 Ford Fiesta with co-driver Derek Fawcett who navigated Procter to a hard-fought triumph 12 months ago under the lights.
Expect another David v Goliath scrap between different faces this time around, as the rapid Matt Edwards and Formula Renault Eurocup racer Frank Bird take up the challenge.
Bird, son of rallying star Paul Bird, returns for more after a strong showing in the second half of last season, winning a maiden rally at Anglesey and narrowly missing out on another in the season finale.
Graham Coffey adds another R5 Fiesta into the mix, sharing with our own TV presenter, Sam Colman.
Former Class A star David McMullan swaps a wheel-hopping Vauxhall Nova for class D2 Mitsubishi Evo power, while Joe Cunningham trades a rapid Corsa for a Subaru Impreza this year.
Absent from the battle will be the reigning champion. Chris West and Keith Hounslow will not participate in the Oulton Park opener in their Peugeot 306 Maxi, but are expected to return in time for Cadwell.
In could step Joshua Davey to the mix instead. Fighting for class C honours, Josh and co-driver Tamsyn Davey will want to fight for that elusive victory in their proven race-winning Darrian T90 – a crowd favourite at the circuit rallies – after a year-long rebuild.
Their class C rivals will be familiar faces. Ryan Connolly took the class title last season in his Ford Puma and returns for more, chased hard by the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus of an improving Cathy Sewart and the Ford Escort Mk2 brigade of Rob Cox, Gary Mason and the Cetus Solutions-backed Mike English.
Class B earns celebrity status at Oulton Park thanks to BTCC race winner Paul O’Neill, who returns for another crack at the win that got away from the ex-Vauxhall man and co-driver, journalist Jack Benyon.
Both put a Paul Sheard-run Mazda MX-5 through its paces in place of last season’s class champion, leaving the exciting pairing of Ashleigh Morris and Jamie Mactavish to give chase in their rejuvenated Ford Fiesta.
Class A is as unpredictable as you could imagine. Craig Aston and Adam Ripper emerged last year as threats, the former arguably an early favourite in his Toyota Yaris although consistency is on his radar. Champions Dale and Andrew Lawson return at Cadwell, while fans should look out for the beautiful Morris Mini Cooper of Sir Andrew McAlpine.
There is only one major change to the calendar this year, with the Donington Park swapping places with the second trip to Cadwell Park to become the new finale in March. After this weekend’s trip to Oulton Park, the championship will then travel to Cadwell Park, and Knockhill before Christmas. Brands Hatch kicks off the second-half of the season, before trips to Snetterton, a second trip to Cadwell Park and a foray in Wales at Anglesey before finishing at Donington.
Fans can enjoy Torque-produced coverage of the Championship through Amazon Prime, Frontrunner, Facebook and YouTube throughout the year.