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There was little to split Peter Hedges and Jack Bowen’s Escort from Tony and Martin Davies’ Darrian on the opening stages at Abingdon.

Hedges set the pace on the opening nine miler, finishing seven seconds up on Davies, with Andrew Turner/Ross Green’s Escort a further four seconds down in third.

Jamie McBain/Jordine Crooks’ Peugeot 205 Gti, Joe Piggott/John Fellowes’ Citroen Saxo and Ben/Alice Williams’ Escort completed the initial top six.

On stage two Davies managed to haul back his deficit in one go, as he and Hedges ended the stage tied for the lead.

“It started well, but the tyres felt much better on the second stage and we were a lot quicker,” said Davies.

“We were happy with our tyres from the start, we seemed to have a good balance on both stages,” Hedges added.

Although Turner was still in third, McBain was just two seconds behind. “We went for the wrong tyres on SS1, as they gave us too much grip and we were locking up the front,” McBain explained.

“We were quicker, but I could feel our tyres going off towards the end of SS2,” Turner added.

Tyres seemed to be the main issue, with fast straights and long stages and Piggott lost out on SS2. “We went harder and it gave me more confidence,” he said, despite dropping to seventh behind Lucy Wilding, who was navigating Tony Palfrey’s Peugeot 205, and the Williams’ Escort. “We had spin on the first stage, but OK after that,” Williams admitted.

Davies managed to nose ahead by two seconds on stage three, but Hedges was consolidating second too. McBain had turned his two second deficit to Turner into a three second advantage, while Palfrey/Wilding consolidated fifth over Williams.

Davies had increased his lead to eight seconds on SS4, but an indiscretion at the chicane on the next run, brought Hedges back to within three seconds of the lead.”I had almost dosed off in the queue for the start, then overshot the chicane, so that woke me up,” Davies admitted.

Hedges had scary moment too when he spun at the flying finish. “I had got past the finish and ran wide, put a wheel on the grass and managed to correct it at first,” then it spun,” he said.

The Davies Darrian was soon back on pace, but they had a spin at the finish of the penultimate stage too, before taking victory by 15 seconds.

Davies had topped Class C, with Hedges celebrating his birthday with a solid second and Class D victory.

Turner managed to take time out of McBain again on the last two stages, but was still five seconds down on his Class C rival, as they came home third and fourth of the HOE runners. “Just not enough grunt,” Turner admitted.

The Williams’ held onto fifth from stage five, after Palfrey/Wilding had retired, giving them second in Class A.

Roger Taylor/Charlie Mason’s Escort were ninth on the opener, but after steady progress they ousted Piggott for sixth, giving them third in Class A. “I had cone blindness on stage one, but managed to get over it,” he said.

Piggott topped Class B but had class rival Harry Pinchin/Colin Jenkins’ Citroen C2 much closer in the afternoon. They were still 20 secs apart at the finish. “I had changed tyres for SS2 and destroyed them, so went for new on the next and they were great,” said Pinchin.

Andy Brinkley/Helena Mayall’s BMW M3 was next home, eighth and fourth in Class A. “The car’s just too heavy to keep up with the Escort’s,” he said.

Scott/Darren Stutchbury’s Renault Clio had a brake issue in the early stages, “we were boiling up,” they said. With the problem sorted, they rounded off the HOE top ten with fourth in Class C.

The Impreza’s of Tony North/James Hood and Yvonne Walton co-driving for Hendrik Minderman went head to head in Class E. “We looked after the car, it was fine and we had a great day,” said North.

But Walton got maximum points, taking the finish 1m46secs up on their rivals.

Matt/Adrian Walk’s Fiesta led the way in Class A, despite an intercom issue on the opening stages. “Gaffer tape solved it,” said Adrian.

Jason Evans co-drove Michael Bowle’s Class c Clio, hey were fifth in Class after losing ground on SS4.

Ian/John Dove’s Class B Nova spit the rest of the Class A runners, but they had brake issues too, “They were locking on, we couldn’t solve it so we just had to drive around it,” said Ian.

Class A’s Owain/Glyn Thomas’ Peugeot 106 Rallye and Jams/David Palmer-Smith’s Corsa completed the finishers. “We had to sort the tyre pressures after SS1, then it gave me confidence and felt much better,” said Owain.

Palmer-Smith had early brake issues too, while Chris Gravestock/Mark Harmer’s Citroen C2R2 was a stage two casualty.

David Burden/Peter Williams’ Citroen C2 retired from third in Class B after four stages, and Massie Piggott/Julian Monkley’s had gearbox issues and pulled out after SS5.

Liam Farr/Kyle Makin’s Saxo had gone out after three stages, while Graham/Jen Bartl’s Peugeot 206 and John/Sharon Mills were both late retirements, after Mills took a string of maximums.


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