Trackrod Rally Yorkshire 2 -- 3 October 2004 - After a nine week break in the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup, all the competitors were ready to rejoin battle as the series arrived in Malton for Trackrod Rally Yorkshire. The penultimate round of the...
Trackrod Rally Yorkshire 2 -- 3 October 2004 - After a nine week break in the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup, all the competitors were ready to rejoin battle as the series arrived in Malton for Trackrod Rally Yorkshire. The penultimate round of the one-make championship, Rally Yorkshire's famous fast gravel stages saw a dramatic change at the top of the points table.
Leading by just two points, Willie Bonniwell/Ian Fraser arrived having contested Wales Rally GB two weeks earlier. They had started the car for the first time on Tuesday only to discover the engine was running on three cylinders. Undaunted, they decided to make the trip from Oban and changed the engine computer before safety scrutiny, but the misfire developed into a rattle. Despite the best efforts of his team and fellow competitor Tom Metcalfe, the rattle proved to be terminal and the crew loaded the car on the trailer.
"I'm absolutely distraught," said the visibly upset Bonniwell, "After preparing the car after Rally GB, we had no idea the engine was damaged and with it has gone our chance of winning the championship. It's still mathematically possible but it would need other people to retire."
With Bonniwell's fate still on everybody's mind, the first day got under way with three loops of three stages returning to Pickering Showground for service. The Super Special stage around the showground was just over half a mile and Shaun Woffinden/Howard Pridmore laid down the gauntlet, pipping Paul Tod/Iestyn ap Dafydd by just 0.3 seconds. A further 1.5 seconds back was Chris Davies/Nathan Parry followed by Tom Metcalfe/Kirsty Riddick, a mere 0.4 seconds further back.
The 9.28 miles of Cropton saw Woffinden extend his lead, but the drama was from Metcalfe. Suffering from inconsistent braking, he couldn't stop at the end of a long straight and spent nearly ten minutes stuck in a firebreak. "Spectators helped us back out but it took ages," he shrugged, "There's no damage but I've blown it for any chance of a win."
At service Woffinden's lead had grown to 8.8 seconds from Davies with Tod just 2.5 seconds further back. Tod was delighted, "We've made our own notes and we're getting into them now." he enthused, "The car's going well and it's nice to be up with the front pair."
The next three stages totalled 28.41 miles and Davies took the first two stage wins with Woffinden taking the time back on the long Givendale stage. Metcalfe and Tod both had problems; Metcalfe having a recurrence of his Manx misfire and Tod's car refusing to change out of second. The pair crawled through the stages, making it back to service where the crews attempted repairs. Within minutes, Tod's car was restored to full health, but his painfully slow progress on such fast stages had cost him third place to Metcalfe. The young Scot's crew attempted to change the fuel pump but were thwarted by a stubborn seal that refused to open, so he went to the final loop of stages with fingers crossed.
The honours were once again shared between Davies and Woffinden with Davies sensibly accepting that second place would suffice for the sake of the championship. Woffinden extended his lead to over 23 seconds at the final service of the day despite clipping a small tree on the Super Special stage. "I couldn't believe it," he mused, "The car turned in more than I expected and I whacked a tree," he continued, "There's not a great deal of damage but it happened right in front of all the spectators. I'm more embarrassed than anything."
Metcalfe continued with an intermitted misfire until the crew diagnosed a loose wiring connection at the final service of the day. With Tod's gearbox fixed, his speed was encouraging until he caught a slower car, dropping time while unable to get past. "The guy just didn't see us," he said, "I can't really blame him since the back of all the cars are absolutely caked in mud. It's just one of those things."
Just under forty miles of competition awaited the crews on day two, with five stages split by one main service halt. Two runs on the Super Special stage and three blasts through the forests saw three different stage winners, Davies taking no chances in the run for home.
Metcalfe opened his account with an advantage of 0.5 seconds over Tod on the 0.51 mile Showground stage but the Scot stamped his mark on the longest stage of the day, beating nearest rival Woffinden by 4.5 seconds. At service the overall positions remained unchanged, Woffinden changing a wishbone as a precaution and Metcalfe frustrated that the off on day one and subsequent misfire probably denied him a chance at the win.
Tod took control of the next pair of stages and rued a minor indiscretion before service which left him in a ditch for fifteen seconds. "I've proved that I can set the times with these two stage wins, it's annoying that my early gearbox problems cost me a chance at the lead."
Davies was in a philosophical mood. "All I needed to do was put in solid finish on the rally." he said, "It has been difficult to maintain concentration especially on the long straights. But in rallying, it's not over until the final control, so we've pushed as hard as we dared without making mistakes.," He continued, It's really disappointing for Willie (Bonniwell), I was looking forward to a good scrap and I certainly wouldn't wish something like that on anybody."
Woffinden took the final stage win to seal his domination of the event, leading from start to finish. He echoed Davies' sentiments, "Willie would have made the battle more entertaining but we're delighted to take the second victory in a row and there's still the Tempest to go. We've moved up one place in the Championship and it's still possible to win if other crews have problems." Woffinden also took the victory in the British Rally Championship Formula 2000 category, although Davies heads the points table with one round remaining.
The final round of the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup is based in Aldershot on November 5/6 and the series will end its inaugural year with fireworks. Whether they are literal or metaphorical remains to be seen on the South of England Tempest Rally.
<pre> Trackrod Rally Yorkshire Final Results
1 Shaun Woffinden Howard Pridmore 1:51:42.2 2 Chris Davies Nathan Parry 1:52:30.8 3 Tom Metcalfe Kirsty Riddick 2:06:14.4 4 Paul Tod Iestyn ap Dafydd 2:08:39.2