Davies Takes Victory in Dumfries The Fiat Stilo Rally Cup RSAC Scottish Rally June 11/12 2004 History will show that Chris Davies and Nathan Parry led the third round of the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup from start to finish. However, the ...
Davies Takes Victory in Dumfries
The Fiat Stilo Rally Cup
RSAC Scottish Rally June 11/12 2004
History will show that Chris Davies and Nathan Parry led the third round of the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup from start to finish. However, the eventual result was far from guaranteed, and the stage chart shows that four of the six regulars took stage wins on the 85 mile event.
Competitors were greeted by an uncertain weather prospect on Friday morning. But following a tiring reconnoitre of the ten stages and successful safety scrutiny, the high clouds meant perfect rallying conditions for the three Friday evening stages.
A familiar village name to rally drivers, Ae, to the north east of Dumfries, held new challenges for the drivers and co-drivers alike. Re-configured for the 2004 event, the sandy 8.98 mile opening stage saw Davies emerge leading by 10.3 seconds from a surprised Willie Bonniwell/Ian Fraser. The Scots admitted to being out of practice with no time for pre-event testing, while the Welsh pair had pushed hard on the high speed sections to eek out the early lead.
Englishmen Shaun Woffinden and Howard Pridmore were not too far behind, wanting to put their retirement on round two behind them. Woffinden eased off on the muddy sections, the cool conditions not suiting the comparatively hard compound Pirelli tyres, and finished just 2.6 seconds adrift of Davies.
It was not a comfortable position to be in since a scant 0.7 seconds further back were Spanish duo Joan Roca and co-driver Jordi Barrabes. The experienced Catalan driver recognised some of the sections, having competed on the event in 2003, and set a competitive time despite his mechanics having only fitted the gearbox that morning.
With all the Stilos being the same specification, the times were all close, and fifth placed Paul Tod/Iestyn ap Dafydd were only 17 seconds behind the leader. Tod's confidence was a little shaken after suffering brain fade on a fast right over a crest, but he was happy to be within seven seconds of Bonniwell.
Dumfries youngster Tom Metcalfe was joined by his regular co-driver Kirsty Riddick for his home event. The pair were reunited for round three in an effort to rebuild Tom's confidence after crashing out of the first two events. They were pleased with their performance, but planned to ignore the time sheets until they were settled together again.
The second stage was a short blast through a section of forest adjacent to the service area north of Dumfries, and Roca set the pace. The spectators in the purpose-made quarry amphitheatre section were kept entertained, as the top five Stilos were separated by just 2.8 seconds, all pushing hard through the bowl. Paul Tod was the only one off the pace, the Stilo digging into a rut on the approach to the water splash, pitching his car to the outside of the corner. The time loss was minimal but it elicited a cheer from the crowd which was loud enough for the crew to hear from inside the car! Roca's pace and the closeness of the competition was enough to move him from fourth to third at the first service, at the expense of Woffinden, the pair separated by just half a second in the Spaniard's favour.
The final stage of the day was a repeat of Ae, and Bonniwell woke up to the threat from Davies. He was 5.5 seconds quicker, closing the gap at the end of leg one to just 2.1 seconds. Davies explained the dropped time, "I braked too late for a fast downhill left and right and went sideways off the road. By the time I had gathered it back up, I had the steering wheel pointing in the wrong direction and went off again on the other side of the road!"
The darkening stage claimed the rally's first Stilo victim. Like the other crews, Woffinden was using his lamp pod but had it set quite high. Over a fast crest the road in front was unlit and by the time the car had settled, the next corner was too close. He went off on the outside, and although undamaged and able to move the car, it steadfastly refused to regain the road, bellying out on the sump guard and ending his rally.
Roca was another with problems in the dark. His car had refused to start with the key since the new gearbox was fitted, but this was compounded by a recurrence of his round two gear selector problems. This dropped him to 4th behind a delighted Paul Tod. The Welshman was elevated from 5th to 3rd in one stage, despite struggling with a bent rear axle.
Metcalfe was also pleased; daring to look at the time sheets, his confidence was building, taking fourth fastest time on the final stage of the leg. "I wouldn't wish ill fate on any of the other guys, but my game plan is to have a trouble-free run and hope it nets me decent championship points at the end."
The first two stages of leg two saw the battle between Davies and Bonniwell intensify, Davies taking first blood by 1.5 seconds after spending some time on two wheels over a fifth gear bump. Bonniwell returned on stage five, this time 1.8 seconds in front, leaving him trailing the Welshman by the same 1.8 second margin going into stage six. He managed this with a slight misfire which was diagnosed as a faulty throttle pedal sensor.
Behind the leading battle, Metcalfe set a pair of third quickest times, consolidating his third place, while Roca suffered power steering failure mid way through the stage. He commented, "I prefer to work out in the gym, I am not happy to exercise in the stages."
Tod was spotted with the bonnet open at the arrival of stage 5, having dropped time on SS4. The problem was explained at service, "It stuck in either 2nd or 3rd gear and I have driven a stage and a half and all the road sections like that. We dropped loads of time trying to fix it and we've picked up over two minutes road penalties, but we're still here."
Bonniwell's fight for the lead ended on SS6 when a damaged front strut caused the car to bottom-out on a badly rutted corner. The car pitched sideways and was dragged into the inside where it stuck fast. With no assistance on hand, Bonniwell and Fraser were sidelined as spectators for the remainder of the test, dashing their hopes for a second win. Davies took the stage victory with Metcalfe a surprised second on the stage and now second in the points, despite catching the ailing Roca on SS6 and SS7. Tod also continued with his car jammed in gear, the service crew unable to rectify the problem at service.
Leader Davies backed off on the remaining loop of three stages, but Roca pushed hard and took SS8 by 5.5 seconds before suffering power steering failure again. With all gears operational Tod took third fastest from Metcalfe, all four holding station overall.
Tod was fastest on the final pair of stages with Davies second, but Roca and Metcalfe were close on SS9, Roca just 0.5 seconds in front. The strain showed on his face at the end of the rally, losing nearly 17 seconds on the final stage to the local pair.
Tod's push was not enough, he and ap Dafydd never recovering from their slow times whilst stuck in gear, and finishing fourth. Roca and Barrabes were disappointed with third, confident that their problems cost them the chance of a win, while Metcalfe and Riddick were delighted that the game plan worked, taking their first finish of the season in second.
But the honours went to Chris Davies and Nathan Parry who proved that their win on home soil in Wales was no fluke. "We had a bit of a scare on the last stage with a slow rear puncture," said Davies, "and although we would have liked to have beaten Willie on time, the win is no less special for us. It will be nice to go onto the asphalt of the Jim Clark with a clear lead in both Junior and overall championships."
The fourth round of the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup is the Jim Clark Memorial Rally based in Duns in Berwickshire on July 2/3. The lanes around the birthplace of one of Scotland's finest race and rally drivers will be a fitting venue for the championship fight to continue.
<pre> RSAC Scottish Rally Results
No Driver Co-Driver Penalty Time 27 Chris Davies Nathan Parry 1:28:32.5 32 Tom Metcalfe Kirsty Riddick 1:32:32.0 34 Joan Roca Jordi Barrabes 1:35:38.5 29 Paul Tod Iestyn Ap Dafydd 2:20.0 1:38:11.6