05 Nov “Remember Remember the 6th of November” – Neil Howard Stages Preview
The winter season is looming large – and cold – which means that rally season is back in full flow, with the Neil Howard Stages in assoc. with Graham Coffey & Co. Solicitors at Oulton Park kicking off a new season of the MSNCRC.
Entering its seventh season, the Championship returns for a full eight-round battle after a Covid-19 hit 2020-21 calendar, and top of the billing is the Oulton Park curtain-raiser. Returning to its usual Bonfire spot, the 2021-22 field will head to the popular Cheshire circuit to take on a mixture of tarmac and dirt sections once again. While the stages remain pretty much the same, including the ever-famous Darcy Dip, and the slippery rally school stage, the crews will encounter a different type of challenge from the sun-soaked Bank Holiday extravaganza back in May.
Despite the event not featuring the same breadth of entry as last time out in May, the ninety plus entry features a smattering of the new and the old from the MSN, all eager to open their account in fine style.
Leading the MSN field away will be European GT Open Championship driver Frank Bird in his impressive Ford Fiesta Rally2. Co-driven by Jack Morton, the pairing have impressed in previous seasons in the Championship, taking an impressive five wins from seven rounds in 2019-20; and will be looking to put the disappointment of May’s event behind them.
They will be looking to put the disappointment of May’s event behind them. Having lead the event for the opening five stages, beating some serious BRC contenders along the way, a spin on stage six saw him lose 19 seconds to eventually finish third on the road at the end of the final stage before a technical infringement saw them excluded.
Gripped by his father’s rallying bug, consistency across the season would make him an early championship favourite, but he won’t have it all his own way though, with a swathe of rapid drivers looking to spoil his championship attempt.
Fresh from an assault on the Protyre Asphalt Championship, Neil Roskell should already be seen as a contender despite having only started rallying two years ago. Having swapped his Subaru Impreza for a Ford Fiesta R5, a third place finish in the Asphalt Championship shows he has potential on a circuit.
Barry Morris returns for a third straight season in his rear-WD Darrian. Having previously won the 2019-20 incarnation, a season where he pipped Bird to the title and he returns in with a brand new co-driver. Fresh from winning the Northern Ireland 2WD Rally Championship they are very much looking forward to dusting off the Darrian once again.
Joshua and Tamsyn Davey brings their own Darrian T90 back to the fray looking for a new, much more positive chapter after gearbox and fire gremlins made last year a real battle for the proven rally winner. If he can get consistency, starting here at Oulton, he’ll be a contender come April.
Further down the entry list, Josh Payton and Jamie Vaughan, ended up on the overall podium last time around, taking third place in the Championship, in only their second full season in their car. With upgrades to the car and a good knowledge of all the circuits they will be a handful in their Ford Escort MKII.
In a championship structured around classes, close class battles are guaranteed throughout.
Class D will be tight and intriguing thanks to the mix of cars on show. Mike Taylor and Cathy Sewart continue to run Lotus Talbot Sunbeam machines which flourished with engine developments last year, and they’ll be looking to make an impression in Class D1 and in the overall rankings. They will, as ever, face competition from Martin Hodgson’s Escort though.
Ryan Connolly – having sat out a couple of seasons due to personal and business commitments, in his Pooma which has been entirely rebuild since his triumph in 18/19 Class C championship. Looking to pick up more than style points, he will be taking the battle to Josh Payton and John Carroll – last year’s top two in Class C.
Chris Ruck was last year’s class B winner, pipping Alex Cannon by just 14 points, and he is back to defend the crown in his Opel Corsa.
Class A meanwhile contains a real tough cookie in Christopher Newton, who has famously been a giant-killer in the past with his rapid Vauxhall Nova. Having upgraded to a Quaife F20 gearbox in the off-season, they will once again be upholding the banner for less powerful machinery in selected rallies.
Eight stages and over 56 miles lies ahead for MSN crews in a full-capacity Oulton Park as spectators make a welcome return. Live coverage online and extensive social media updates on the Championship’s pages will bring all the news and gossip from the rally. Just make sure you stay around for the fireworks afterwards. They promise to be just as spectacular as the motorsport action.