Historic Motorsport: Smith joins Escort party

Top historic rally competitor Rob Smith has been tempted to join the line-up of this weekend's unique 130-strong all-Escort rally taking place in Belgium

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Leading historic rally contender Rob Smith will be among the British entries for this weekend’s unique Escort Rally Special in Belgium.

The all-Escort rally will comprise four runs through a 20-mile stage based in the town of Couvin in the south of Belgium and has been organised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Ford Escort Mk1. The final entry list includes an incredible 130 Escorts from across Europe.

'I liked the sound of the event and we’re just going to go and have some fun,' said Smith, who has only tackled one rally since Rally Isle of Man a year ago.

'The car has been sitting there prepped and ready to go. It’s been so busy at work and it’s hard to find an event that floats your boat. I can’t get enthusiastic about 45-mile events. Four runs over the same stage and service in the main square after each stage with a town full of people with a field full of Escorts. What could be better than that? For Escort fans and spectators it will be absolutely fantastic.'

Other notable entries include Osian Pryce, the ever-spectacular Frank Kelly, and period Escort driver Tim Brise in a car supplied by Pascal Regnier. Brise has recently returned to racing in Historic Formula Ford, but this will be his first rally for many years.

Following the cancellation of Rally Isle of Man, several British crews have switched their plans to go to Belgium, including Ben Friend, Simon Webster and Barry Stevenson-Wheeler.

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Webster loses out

Historic rally contender Simon Webster says that the cancellation of Rally Isle of Man cost him the chance of a sporting fight with Paul Barrett for the MSA British Historic Rally Championship.

Webster and co-driver Jez Roger had resolved to attack over the final three events in a bid to take the title, but the loss of the Isle of Man double-header means that fellow Ford Escort Mk2 driver Barrett is uncatchable.

'It was very disappointing as we had set ourselves up to go all out on the last three rounds to try to beat Paul and given our recent pace we felt we had a chance. It was going to be a real challenge because he is so quick but we would have had a lot of fun trying,' said Webster. 'All of that has been taken away from us, which is very frustrating.'

GT40s head Spa pack

A titanic battle of the Ford GT40s is in prospect for Saturday’s Spa Classic Six Hour race when a remarkable entry of 114 cars includes 17 Ford GT40s.

Last year, GT40s took the top five places headed by Chris Ward and Andrew Smith, while in 2016 the GT40 of Jason Wright/Andy Wolfe and Michael Gans triumphed. The Wright team will bid to repeat its win this year.

However, they face huge opposition in a star-studded GT40 entry featuring Gordon Shedden, Eric van de Poele, Rob Huff, Darren Turner, Nick Padmore, Martin O’Connell and Martin Stretton.

Fresh from second place in the Kinrara Trophy at Goodwood, Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen will rival the GT40s in their Jaguar E-type.

Kankkunen heads back to Chester

Juha Kankkunen will be one of the stars at the Rally Forum at Chester Racecourse on Wednesday October 3 during the final build-up to Wales Rally GB.

The four-time World Rally Champion will take to the stage along with his former co-driver Nicky Grist for the sixth edition of the annual charity forum from Broughton-Bretton Motor Club. To date, the event has raised more than £30,000 for Air Ambulance.

Kankkunen won Rally GB three times and Chester was the scene of his first win with Lancia in 1987. It is also 25 years since Kankkunen and Grist won the snow-bound 1993 event. Tickets, at £14 each, are available via 07777 659186.

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Hogarth takes the M3

Former Porsche and GT racer Paul Hogarth has made a successful transition to historic racing at the wheel of an ex-Tim Harvey BMW M3.

Cheshire-based Hogarth has raced extensively in Porsches, but has taken to the Group A M3 with panache and, partnered by former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, took an overall win in the recent Historic Touring Car Challenge race at the Oulton Park Gold Cup.

'I was very, very pleased with that result,' said Hogarth. 'We pitted too early but it all came together and Chris was really quick for his first time in the car.'

Formula Juniors at Knockhill

The Formula Junior category will feature at Knockhill this weekend with the non-championship Northern Lights Formula Junior double-header. The organisers are hoping for up to 15 cars for the races on the reverse lay-out of the Scottish track and last minute entries are still available.

CMMC at Snetterton

The Classic and Modern Motorsport Club is taking entries for its race meeting at Snetterton on Saturday September 22. Races on the 200 circuit include a Pre ’66 Sports Car Challenge, FISCAR 1950s sports and GTs, the Archie Scott Brown Memorial for 1950s sports-racing cars and the Revett Straight Cup for closed fastback/GT cars up to 1965.

Motorcyclist killed

Investigations are underway after a motorcyclist was killed in a collision with a Ford Escort that was competing on the Vale of Clwyd Classic Rally on Saturday September 1. The accident occurred on a ‘B’ road in Clocaenog forest during the day-time clubmans rally and the driver of the Escort was taken to hospital with serious injuries. The event was halted following the accident.

Gardner wins championship

Forest of Dean-based Jason Gardner has won this year’s Welsh Historic Rally Championship after completing a perfect score of five maximums on the recent Woodpecker Rally. The Ford Escort Mk2 driver cannot now be caught by main rival Ken Davies (Volvo Amazon) on the final round, the Wyedean Stages on November 10.

Austin Healeys at Spa

The Denis Welch Motorsport team will field three Austin Healey 3000s in this weekend’s Spa Classic Six Hours. Regular team members Nils-Fredrick Nyblaeus and Tony Worthington will be joined the Japanese-owned car of Masakazu Totsuka, which was shipped to the UK earlier this year for a rebuild by the Welch team.

Toivonen-liveried 6R4 on Wales Rally GB

There will be an MG Metro 6R4 in action on the National section of Wales Rally GB next month after John Saunders entered his Harri Toivonen-liveried car. Saunders also owns the original ex-Toivonen 6R4 but prefers to rally his other example due to the value of the car rallied in Unipart colours by the Finn in 1986.

Baxter's brace

James Baxter claimed a brace of fastest times of the day during the VSCC’s double-header hillclimb at Loton Park over the weekend. In the Riley-ERA of David Hawkins, Baxter won in the rain on Saturday and again in the dry on Sunday, breaking his own six-year-old class record in the process with a best of 60.89 seconds.

Chateau Impney hillclimb date

The date for the Chateau Impney hillclimb in 2019 has been announced and the popular event in the grounds of the Droitwich hotel will run over the weekend of July 13/14. It will be the fifth running of the event, which is only open to pre ’68 cars, in keeping with the Chateau’s first life as a motorsport venue.

Pictures courtesy of Paul Lawrence

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