XS Racing got its 2009 historic rallying season off to a victorious start on the opening round of the Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship, the Bulldog Historic Rally in Wales on Saturday.
With five cars entered as part of the superb 83-car field for the rally, XS was delighted to have a great day with four of the five cars finishing and a mighty category one victory for the Sunbeam Tiger of Jonathan and Graham Gale. Despite this being his first rally in the 4.7-litre Tiger, Gale adapted superbly well in tough conditions to take a resounding category victory and mark himself out as a strong contender for the overall BHRC crown.
Gale took on the challenge of Stuart Rolt and former BHRC champion Dessie Nutt in Porsches, but had a great run through the opening stage to take a commanding lead. He had only previously driven the Tiger on an XS Racing test day at Sweet Lamb, but was immediately quick.
"We made a conscious effort to get on it early," said Gale after his first overall rally victory. Under the care of XS Racing, the Tiger ran faultlessly all day and won by over 20 seconds after 50 challenging stage miles through the classic Mid-Wales forests.
Two more XS Racing crews claimed class podium finishes as Drew Wylie/Howard Pridmore and Andrew Siddall/Captain Thompson battled for glory in the supremely competitive class C3. Although local ace Tim Jones eventually clinched the class, Wylie took second and Siddall was third in the battle of the Mk1 Ford Escorts.
"That was grand and we had no problems at all," reported Wylie at the finish. Siddall was only 12 seconds behind his team mate at the finish.
Meanwhile, Philip Wylie - younger brother of Drew - finished eighth in class C3 in his Escort Mk1, co-driven by James Whitaker. Only a misfire on the opening stage troubled their progress and that was quickly solved at first service. This was Philip's first competitive outing in the car.
Completing the XS squad was the freshly prepared Porsche 911RS of Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne. This was Smith's first rally in the Porsche, following the Sweet Lamb test session, but they were immediately setting very representative stage times and trading top three positions in class C5 with established Porsche drivers Andrew Haddon and Tim Mason. Unfortunately, Smith/Langthorne slid off on the final stage of the rally and retired, but not before they had shown excellent front-running pace.
Now, XS Racing is looking ahead to round two of the championship, the Pirelli Historic Rally on 17/18 April. Only Philip Wylie will be missing from the line-up due to holiday commitments, so the team will head north to Carlisle looking for success in three classes from its four-car squad.