BIG GUNS HEAD FOR SWANSEA BAY
Round six of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship heads for Wales for the second time in less than two months next weekend when the Pro-Art Signs Swansea Bay Rally takes place on Saturday July 18th.
And with most of the leading crews in action in the classic Welsh forests once again, the finish ramp on Saturday evening should perhaps start to give one or two pointers towards the destiny of the various crowns in the ANCRO-organised series.
Series leaders Daniel Barry (Enniskerry) and fellow Irishman Martin Brady (Nevan) lead the series in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 by a slender two points and they will have to go some to fend off quadruple ANCRO Champion Marcus Dodd (Poole) and his co-driver Andrew Bargery (Hove), who have won three out of the last four rounds in their Hyundai Accent WRC.
But with a competitor's best five scores now coming into play, there are a few permutations that will need to be worked out come Saturday evening!
Dodd and Bargery were runners up last year having won the event in 2007 and 2006 so certainly know their way around the forests of South Wales, which also uses many of the stages on Wales Rally GB.
So far, third placed Simon Hughes (Abergele) and co driver Craig Parry (Oswestry) have yet to appear on the official entry list but after the Welsh crew entered the last round just hours before, there's plenty of time yet but most certainly on their way to the SA1 start will be Coleford Mitsubishi driver Nik Elsmore and his co driver Craig Drew (Bream) in a rather depleted Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge turn out.
There will be another half a dozen ANCRO-registered crews in action on the Port Talbot Motor Club event which also incorporates the Pro-Art Signs Swansea Bay Clubmans Rally & the Pro-Art Signs Swansea Bay Yokohama Challenge.
Another former champion in the shape of Steve Perez (Clay Cross) will be looking to claim a maiden victory on the event having never finished outside the top five in the past five years. Perez had a best result of second place to Dodd in 2007 so will be hoping he and his Welsh co driver Paul Spooner (Raglan) can go one better in their 2007-specification Ford Focus WRC.
Alan Cookson (Saltash) and Julian Wilkinson (Wandsworth) return to action after missing the last round in their Subaru WRC, Wug Utting (Smallfield) and co driver Bob Stokoe (Tatsfield) will also be in action in their similar car. Other ANCRO crews include Trevor Martin/Ray Cleghorn (Subaru), Trevor Baynham/Anthony Bailey (Ford Escort) and Nathan O Connor/Jessica Rogan (Citroen C2).
One notable absentee are 2005 champions Paul Bird (Penrith) and co driver Ian Windress (Northallerton) who have recently sold the Ford Focus WRC and who will miss the event due to their recently purchased new car not being available in time.
The Pro-Art Signs Swansea Bay Rally gets underway at 10.00 from Swansea whereafter crews tackle nearly sixty miles of stages in the classic tests of South Wales including Rheola, Walters, Resolven and Rhondda before returning to the finish back at Swansea around 16.25.