A policy of full-commitment driving over constantly changing road conditions gave Ryan Barrett and co-driver Barry Ferris a thoroughly deserved second win of the 2013 Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship at the Ulster Historic Rally on August 23rd / 24th. Using their local knowledge of the lanes in Co. Fermanagh to full effect, the pairing first fought a flat-out battle with Gareth James / Steffan Evans throughout the opening loop of stages on Friday evening. Then, when James retired his Escort Mk2 early on Saturday, the Irish crew continued to set a stunning pace to fend off Richard Hill / Sam Collis (Escort Mk1) in the overall standings and Category Three rivals Ernie / Will Graham (Escort Mk2).
In the championship-counting Category Three (1975-81 cars), anyone who thought that Omagh-based Barrett might have a home roads advantage reckoned without James and Evans’s determination to take the fight for BHRC points and places onto Irish soil. A sudden downpour of rain as competitors crossed the Enniskillen start ramp on Friday evening made the opening miles treacherously slippery, but Barrett / Ferris remained unperturbed, powering into a 14-second lead on stage one, Mallabeny Hill. However, James / Evans soon picked up their own pace and took a slender lead after stage three, Topped Mountain. This stirred Barrett into action; he hit back straightaway, regaining the lead only for James to return the compliment and finish the Friday evening loop in first place. Further back, a close all-Escort Mk2 battle raged for third in Category between season-long rivals Ernie / Will Graham and Shawn Rayner / Declan Dear, along with asphalt specialist Adrian Seabridge, co-driven by Ryland James.
Saturday morning revealed drier conditions but with mud lying on many corners, drivers needed to be constantly vigilant on-stage. Unfortunately, there was to be no repeat of Friday’s battle as James’s Escort suffered an engine bay fire on the first stage and he retired immediately. This handed the lead to Barrett and with the pressure relieved slightly he went on to claim fastest time in Category on every test, winning by 3m 47.8s from Graham. Seabridge took a solid third after Rayner dropped out due to oil pressure problems.
In Category Two, for 1968-75 machines, Richard Hill’s decision to cut short his holiday and compete in Ulster was vindicated with his fourth maximum points haul of the 2013 campaign. Teamed with the experienced Sam Collis in place of regular co-driver Pat Cooper, Hill opened a small lead over David Stokes / Guy Weaver (Escort Mk1) on Mallabeny Hill before pushing his Escort Mk1 as hard as he dared in the wet conditions, stretching his advantage further. Despite feeling unwell throughout the rally, Stokes pressed on bravely, and once his mechanics had fixed a starter motor problem his car ran faultlessly. He took time out of Hill on the St. Angelo stage and, as befits a three-time British Historic Rally Champion, was able to keep up the pressure while mindful of claiming a points scoring finish. “We’ve come away with 39 points towards the championship, and we’re very pleased with that,” said Stokes later.
Peter McDowell and co-driver Peter Moss brought their Porsche 911 RS home in third, starting steadily on what was, for them, completely unknown territory. “Trying to concentrate on the information in the pacenotes as well as drive is a full-on operation at the moment,” said McDowell on Friday. As the roads dried out they were able to make increasing use of their Porsche’s prodigious power and, despite an as-yet undiagnosed problem that caused them to use nine litres of engine oil in the closing miles they finished strongly.
Rikki Proffitt / Phill Harrison and Dessie Nutt / Geraldine McBride fought out another tight all-Porsche 911 battle for supremacy in Category One, for pre-1968 cars. Proffitt had the better of his rival on each of the Friday stages, eking out a 15.5 second lead by the end of the opening loop. But it all went wrong for the current BHRC overall leader early on Saturday when he lost first gear on the opening stage. Worse came at stage two Arrival control when debris from the broken gear wrecked the rest of the ‘box and Proffitt’s car was on the trailer home. This left Nutt with a comfortable lead over second-placed Geoff Taylor / Steve Greenhill. The Imp crew suffered a rally-long litany of problems, starting with a misfire caused by a faulty condenser that forced them to return to Service before the end of Friday evening’s final test. On Saturday, their car jammed in second gear through the long Sloughan Glen stage, costing significant time. Despite the problems, they battled bravely through the closing miles to finish over 28 minutes behind Nutt / McBride.
In the accompanying HRCR ‘old Stager’ Clubman’s Challenge, Clive King / Bob Ward’s efforts to get their Mini Cooper ‘S’ to Ireland were rewarded with a maximum points tally that has virtually clinched this year’s HRCR Mini Cup. Reporting their first-ever experience of Irish rallying as “absolutely fantastic” the West Midlands pairing battled hard with the local crews through both Friday and Saturday, taking second in Class B2 behind the vastly experienced (non-championship registered) Rory Tougher / Harry Armour in their Mini Cooper ‘S’. “Drivers like Rory know these roads far better than ourselves, but we’ve given it our best shot and most importantly we’ve enjoyed every minute of the rally,” said King at the finish.
Category Three: 1 Ryan Barrett/Barry Ferris (Ford Escort Mk2); 2 Ernie Graham/Will Graham (Escort Mk2); 3 Adrian Seabridge/Ryland James (Escort Mk2).
Category Two: 1 Richard Hill/Sam Collis (Escort Mk1); 2 David Stokes/Guy Weaver (Escort Mk1); 3 Peter McDowell/ Peter Moss (Porsche 911).
Category One: 1 Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride (Porsche 911); 2 Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill (Sunbeam Imp Sport).