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With 30 plus Heart of England Rally Championship contenders in action at Abingdon, it wasn’t only the temperature that was at boiling point.
Peter/James Hedges’ Escort grabbed a two second lead on stage one, from Ian/Oliver Hucklebridge’s similar car, with AJ Khalid/Dave Cottam a further one second back, in an all Escort top three, with Tim Baker/Emma Clarke’s Talbot Sunbeam just behind.

The Class C battle headed the pursuers, with Neil Matthews/Kevin Wills’ Proton Satria a second up on Matt Turner/Tom Bishop’s Escort, closely followed by Dean Davies/Cameron Wheatley’s Escort.
Hucklebridge managed to turn his two second deficit into a one second lead after stage two, but a lack of brakes soon put him out action and handed the lead back to Hedges on stage three.
Stage three also saw the end of Khalid’s challenge after a crank sensor failed, which moved Baker into second place.

Matthews had pulled out too, which moved Morris, Turner and Davies up to complete the top five, with Andy Brinkley/Helena Mayall’s BMW M3, third in Class D and rounding off the top six.
Hedges continued to ease himself clear and was 10th overall in the main rally, as well as taking the Heart of England win, 22 seconds up on Baker. “Second time in the car and my son’s first time back for nine months after illness, so brilliant. The only real problem was ending stage six with the brakes stuck on, the disc temperature was 470 degrees. The crew changed the pads, I tried using just the handbrake on the last stage, but then just went for it,” he said.

“I had changed from a soft to medium compound tyres for stage three, I had plenty of power, but lost time when I spun and stalled at the start of stage six,” Baker added.
Morris had spun on stage two, which left him tied for the Class C lead with Turner. Their duel then became the fight for the third HOE contender too. “It got better through the day, as I got held up on the first two stages. Stefan has a quick car and he’s a quick driver, so it was touch and go. “I had cooked my brakes on SS2, no pedal at all and on the last stage the rear tyres were shot,” Turner explained.
Morris had spun however on the last stage after they started tied. It cost him nine seconds, as he had to settle for second in class.

Brinkley managed to consolidate his hold on fifth, to retain third in class D. “It was just too hot for the crew, the car and particularly the brakes. We were doing 135mph on the long straight in sixth approaching a tight corner, so it wasn’t very good,” he said.

It had been close for Class B honours too with David Burden/Peter Williams’ Citroen C2 holding an early advantage over Richard Fletcher/Cassy Romeo’s similar car. “It had been nip and tuck, my first time out this year too and my girlfriends second ever event. We had clutch issues all day though,” said Fletcher.

They were three seconds apart into the penultimate stage, when Burden lost drive and Fletcher secured his class win and sixth best HOE.

In Class A Owain/Glyn Thomas’s Peugeot 106 Rallye had built a 1min 13secs lead over David/James Palmer-Smith’s Corsa, only to be thwarted by a front puncture a stage from home, losing over four minutes. Palmer-Smith had overcome early brake issues, while Jonathan Turnbull/Neil Rostern’s made it home too, despite a stage three maximum with a gear selection problem.

Harry Pinchin/Colin Jenkins’ Citroen C2 followed Fletcher home for second in Class B. They had an early gear selection, but managed to see off any threat from Connor/Gary Powell’s Saxo and Tim Taylor/Ashley Francis-Adams’ Peugeot 106. Powell retained third, despite a second stage puncture, but Taylor was a last stage casualty.
Ryan Lloyd/James Wardle’s Saxo had also started, but failed to complete the first stage.

For four stages Dean Davies had been a solid third in Class C, despite having virtually no brakes. “It felt awesome at the start, but on SS1 and 2 we had no brakes after about four miles and got a penalty too. We thought we had solved it, but then the front brakes were binding and we did well to stay on. We finally pulled out for our own safety,” he said.

Scott/Darren Stuchbury’s Clio sealed third, after they had earlier brake problems too, while in fourth Mark/Claire Lennox’s Escort spent the day playing catch after the car cut out on the opening stage.
The Peugeot 206 Gti’s of Eifion/Ioan Thomas and Jonathan/Dylan Davies completed the class finishers, after Dave Martin/Jordine Crooks’ 205 GTI’s engine blew on SS4 and Tony Davies/Pete Phennah’s Darrian had a first stage driveshaft failure.

George Clarke/Stephen Moyses beat Mark Norwood/Thomas Marriott in the Mini Cooper S duel for Class T, while Anthony North/Richard Mason’s Impreza ran solo in Class E and Lee Sellars/Michelle O’Connor in their Historic Triumph Mk2 2 Pi.

There was an early finish for Jamie McBain/Ryan Stutchbury’s Escort, Stuart Cameron/Gary Whittington’s Clio, David Boden/Dave Tearl’s Mitsubishi and Andy Yeomans/Jon Shepherd’s Classic Escort.

Published by Peter Scherer for the AWMMC Heart of England Rally Championship


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