01 Feb Alan Healy Memorial Stages Preview
He’s flying high – pun intended – but can Frank Bird make it a hat-trick of Motorsport Sport Circuit Rally Championship wins by sealing this weekend’s TJS Self Drive Alan Healy Memorial Cadwell Park Stages Rally?
The teenage circuit racer has taken to rallying like a duck to water (or a bird to the skies?) since joining the series last year. Bird now has the opportunity to make it three wins in a row, coming off the back of dominant wins at Knockhill and Brands Hatch.
The Ford Focus WRC07 driver sits 87 points adrift after a scoreless opening two visits, but another win would significantly boost his championship challenge. It will not be as straightforward in the forest event, however.
Series leader Mike Taylor is benefitting from engine developments in his Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, and returns to the circuit he claimed a podium finish at last November. Similarly, wildcard Dan Corner returns with coaching from double champion Chris West, looking for another giant-killing showing in his Peugeot 205.
Paul Smith grew into his Ford Fiesta debut at Brands Hatch and will be looking to challenge Bird’s times, while reliability will be key to the challenge of the Darrian T90 trio.
Josh Davey’s gearbox troubles have kept him away from what could have been victories at Cadwell, Knockhill or Brands Hatch, while Barry Morris grabbed his first well-deserved rostrum visit of the season last time out in Kent.
Paul Murro’s consistency puts him on the tail of series leader Taylor, and he’ll want another strong showing in the class D Ford Escort Mk2 against tough opposition. The biggest to watch out for will also be in contention to spoil Bird’s party, as Mark Kelly returns for the first time this season in the Escort that won him this very rally two seasons ago.
In class C, Mike English (Escort Mk2) will hope to repeat his winning efforts of November. For company, the Cetus Solutions-backed series stalwart will have Cathy Sewart’s Lotus Sunbeam giving chase, as well as the rejuvenated class champion Ryan Connolly who returned at Brands.
Chris Ruck and Ashleigh Morris lock horns again in class B, with the rapid Ben Short potentially back to interlude the rivalry. Morris wants to add to her superb Knockhill win, Ruck victorious here last time out.
The class A duel had been going the way of Ron Walker in the early phase of the season, but the Puma driver was toppled by Adam Ripper after the latter’s Nissan Micra was triumphant at Brands Hatch.
Prepare yourself for another intriguing battle between new and old machinery into the night, around one of the UK’s top race circuits.