4:53pm Friday 21st February 2014
THIRSK driver Mat Smith produced one of the performances of his career to win the opening round of the BTRDA 1400Scc Championship in a wet and windy Forest of Dean last Saturday to get his title bid under way in style.
Along with Barnard Castle co-driver Giles Dykes, the F&D Cornforth-sponsored Ford Ka pairing are hoping to contest the full series, depending on budget, and knew a good performance on the Weir Engineering Wyedean Rally was a must.
Despite the inclement weather, the organisers did a wonderful job of getting the rally staged and another strong field assembled for the Chepstow-based event.
Smith was on the pace from the start and opened up a nine-second lead on the opening stage.
He lost two seconds on SS2 but stretched his advantage to 22 seconds a stage later, before dropping ten seconds when he spun on SS4, so at the service halt his class lead was a slender 12 seconds.
Smith lost two further seconds on the fifth stage so he knew a big push was needed on the final two afternoon stages and, throwing caution to the wind, he escaped a brush with a tree and some logs to extend his lead to 15 seconds in the long Speech House test.
Although he dropped a second on the final stage, he held on to secure a deserved victory, meaning he leads the 1400S series going into next month’s Malcolm Wilson Rally.
Smith finished 11th overall out of the 93 finishers and 150 cars that started the event and backed up his fantastic result on the previous weekend’s Riponian Rally, when he claimed third overall.
Also returning home victorious were Ripon’s Matthew Robinson and co-driver Sam Collis, who got their quest for a third successive BTRDA Silver Star Championship under way in fine style by claiming a comprehensive victory in the Historic Class in their Robinson Road Planing Ford Escort Mk2.
Runner-up in the Riponian Rally, Robinson was never headed as he gradually increased his lead throughout the event to return to the Chepstow finish over a minute and a half ahead of his nearest rival in the H4 class, claiming a brilliant seventh overall in the process and taking the accolade of being first twowheel- drive car home.
One of the main hopes for overall victory was Hamsterley driver Stephen Petch and Northallerton co-driver Ian Windress, who were hoping for a good start after just missing out on the title last year.
But driving the SGP Motorsport Ford Focus WRC08, the pair slid into a ditch on the opening stage and despite their best efforts, they were unable to extract themselves, meaning a no-points score at the very first round.
Riding his Motoconnection sponsored Yamaha YZ125 in a series of three heats to qualify for the final, Wallace made a good start by coming fourth in the first heat.
In the second heat, he was overhauled into the first corner by five other riders, but after some aggressive riding on the first lap took the lead.
After holding back the pack for four of the five laps of the race, he was pipped at the finish into second place.
In the last heat he knew he needed only third place to secure a place in the final, and a smooth run saw him through.
With the final being a fourlap sprint, a good start was required but unfortunately he got snarled up in a first-lap crash, meaning the best he could do was sixth.
Despite the disappointment, it was a good start to the year, with the rebuilt bike running faultlessly.
Wallace is planning to contest two championships this year, the British Enduro Sprint Championships, which is a 12- round series, and the Ride off Road UK Championship, a nine-round series run in the North-East and West of England.
Ian Dixon, the ANECCC secretary, has kindly agreed to make the presentation immediately following the event’s awards ceremony.
Competitors who wish to register for the 2014 championship should download the entry forms and regulations from the championship website, which is in the process of being updated.
Regulations and entry details for the Malcolm Wilson Rally are available at www.malcolmwilson.co.uk.
Regulations for the Brick & Steel Border Counties on March 22 can be found at www.bordercountiesrally.co.uk, and the SG Petch Tour of Hamsterley on April 26 will be available shortly at www.tourofhamsterley.co.uk.
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