The 2009 Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship got off to a fantastic start on the Bulldog Historic Rally as a fabulous field of cars made a fine spectacle in the Welsh forests.
The big winners of the day were category victors Jonathan Gale/Graham Gale (Sunbeam Tiger), David Higgins/Ieuan Thomas (Ford Escort Mk1) and Nick Elliott/Dave Price (Ford Escort Mk2).
The response to the historic event from the fans out in the forests was overwhelming and the Bulldog has set the scene for a great season of historic rallying. The event received widespread acclaim from the BHRC contenders, with the only negative comments relating to a section of re-graded stage in Dyfi.
It was tricky to predict how Jonathan Gale would get on during his first event in the ex-Patrick Watts Sunbeam Tiger, but that question was emphatically answered at the end of the opening eight-mile stage in Aberhirnant. The Messagelabs-backed Tiger was a massive 27s faster than the rest of category one and that set the seal on victory, adding to the celebrations for Graham Gale's 69th birthday.
However, this was never an easy victory for the Gales as Stuart Rolt/Richard Pomfret (Porsche 911) gave valiant chase. But an error on the opening stage cost Rolt a chance of victory on one of his rare forays into the BHRC.
"I knocked the ignition switch off on the first stage," admitted Rolt after dropping 25s. "After that we went very well."
However, even a stall on a hairpin in Dyfi didn't unsettle Gale on his way to a fine victory.
Graham Waite/Gill Cotton (Volvo Amazon) clinched class B4 victory as well as third in the category with a mighty performance, finishing half a minute up on Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride (Porsche 911). "A few hairy moments, but a really good day," said Waite.
Only father and son crew Phil and Stuart Smith made it to the finish from the class B2 field, with Phil driving his Mini Cooper for the first time in four years. A broken wishbone sidelined the MG Midget of James Stait/Fin Mackintosh.
One of the battles of the rally came in B1 as Gary and Jane Edgington scored a mighty last stage victory in their Singer Chamois. Over the first three stages Geoff Taylor and Steve Greenhill set a cracking pace in their Sunbeam Imp, and going into the final eight miles in Dyfnant they were 14s ahead. But Edgington drove an amazing stage to be 26s faster and take the class. Their stage time was third fastest in category one.
"I drove better than I ever have in my life," said Edgington. "He took his brain out," added Taylor as he congratulated his rival.