12 Mar Donington Rally Preview
It’s heating up at the pointy end of the 2021/22 Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship with just two rallies still to be run, the first of those being a return to Donington Park for this weekend’s Northside Truck & Van Donington Rally.
The sights of sounds of rally cars tackling famous sections of tarmac such as the sweeping Craner Curves promises to thrill once again, a favourite on the calendar for drivers and fans alike. The previous visit to Leicester was dominated by circuit racer-turned-MNCRC dynamo Frank Bird but he will be absent from the latest rally, which leaves all eyes focused on the title fight at hand.
Number one seed Neil Roskell’s ultra-consistent performances have made him increasingly the favourite to be crowned champion this season, but he knows that he and Andrew Roughead still have to get the job done the hard way by beating the Darrian of Barry Morris to extend their cushion, Roskell heading the previous MNCRC title winner by 46 points without dropped scores put in motion.
Morris himself hit a second consecutive snag in his push for title number two at Snetterton, but fought back into the top 10 from a master switch turnoff that cost him more vital points after a mechanical gremlin-strewn Brands Hatch visit prior to that. What’s assured is that Morris will chase the Ford Fiesta brigade as hard as possible.
Sitting between the top two in the Donington seeding will be Snetterton star, David Henderson. The former circuit racer’s fine start to life as a Fiesta driver was compounded by a strong week that included a dominant win in the previous round in Norfolk, beating Roskell to the prize which will be on his agenda once again this weekend.
John Griffiths meanwhile has eyes on a third podium in a row, after also enjoying the switch to Fiesta R5 machinery this season. He will keep the title contenders honest in his quest to climb the table, with non-championship entries once again likely to be troubling the frontrunners throughout.
Among those include Andy Scott who grabbed third overall at Snetterton most recently, while Ollie O’Donovan and Ashleigh Morris return for a fourth stab after strong showings were unrewarded at Brands Hatch and Snetterton – a Hyundai R5 their weapon of choice once more.
Alistair Inglis and Darrell Taylor return in their Fords, both strong in the previous visit to Donington prior to Christmas, and don’t count out the in-form Paul Murro who narrowly missed out on a championship podium in the storm-hit Snetterton round on arguably his best event yet in the Fiesta. Mike English is back in his latest adaptation of the ‘turquoise terror’ with experience still growing.
Elsewhere, the title fight is not just between the faster cars overall. Any slip-ups at the head of the field could open the door for the older equipment, most notably the flying Ford Escort Mk2s of Martin Hodgson, Phil House and Josh Payton, which are primed to pounce. Hodgson dominated his class last time out to snatch the class D championship lead, beating Steve Tilburn who will again threaten his efforts for class supremacy.
Payton returned to winning ways at Snetterton to keep the pressure on class C rival House, who holds an 18-point lead. Class A has recently been all about the individual title fight between the Nissan Micras of Kay Thompson and James Hardy, while Alex Cannon (Fiesta) will defend his class B points lead which has seen him charge up to fourth in the overall championship as a possible outsider.
The event is expected to be greeted with a huge field of almost 100 entries taking part across the afternoon into the evening, held across around 50 stage miles of one of the most famous race circuits in the country. Tickets can be bought at Donington Park’s website.