After four first-class forest stages in Yorkshire, Nick Elliott and Dave Price scored an impressive debut victory as they contested the Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally Championship for the first time.

The Cheltenham crew went quickest on the opener in Housedale and extended their lead to score a classy victory in category three.

In category one, Patrick Watts/Elgan Davies bagged another win despite a spirited challenge from Bob Bean/Malcolm Smithson, while Steven Smith/John Nichols won category two in the face of a real challenge from Tim Mason/Graham Wild.

Smith and Watts will now await the deliberations of the championship stewards to know the destiny of the BHRC title, which remains undecided pending the outcome of eligibility issues with the C4 Porsches on the Tour of Flanders.

Category 1

Watts/Davies went into the rally knowing that another category one victory would keep their title hopes running, and duly took victory despite running on a range of used tyres.

"It was tricky in Langdale," said Watts of the 15-mile stage that wrapped up the short, sharp event. "We had some big tank-slappers, so eased off a bit," he added.

But victory was secure, although the margin to the flying Lotus Cortina of Bean/Smithson was only 20s. With one of the drives of the rally, Bean bagged class B4 and stunned his rivals with his speed over his native Yorkshire forests. "Well pleased," said Bob of his day's work.

Pushed back into third in the category were Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride (Porsche 911), after a couple of spins and several overshoots in an unusually untidy run. They were just 5s up on the Lotus Cortina in Neil Calvert/Arlene Cookson, who were quick to acknowledge Bean's pace. "Bob's been on a mission and we couldn't keep with him, although we have tried," said Calvert.

The fight for B2 fell to James Stait/Gill Cotton, who completed a 100 per cent finishing record in the MG Midget. However, Terry Cree/Richard Shores (Mini Cooper S) were only 12s behind despite picking up two punctures on the opening stage. It looked like their rally might be over, but the generous help of Mike Barratt loaned them the spare wheel from his Imp, albeit of a different size, but it got them running again.

Barratt and Jody Watson (Sunbeam Stiletto) were rewarded for their sporting act by winning B1 after the Imp of Geoff Taylor/Steve Greenhill was sidelined by diff problems.

Category 2

Despite a handling problem over the opening three stages followed by brake dramas in Langdale, Smith/Nichols (Porsche 911RS) bagged category two. "The pedal went to the floor and I had to give it a second pump," said Smith after a major overshoot at the downhill hairpin in Langdale. "For some reason it didn't get any worse and I did have some brakes," he said of the rest of the 15-miler.

Only 22s down on Smith at the finish was the 911 of Mason/Wild after a mighty performance. "We went off on the first stage and spun in Cropton," but I'm pleased with the result said Mason after his best ever BHRC result.

The Escort Mk1 pack in C5 lost Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard when they stopped in Langdale and Rikki Proffitt/John Roberts who rolled at Milner's Bend in Gale Rigg. Instead, Belgian commuters Stefaan Stouf/Joris Erard were delighted C5 winners after a fine run, with Simon Wallis/Ian Beveridge taking second in C5 after a good day in their Escort. "Excellent day," said Wallis at the finish.

However, the highest placed Escort Mk1 in the category was the C3 car of Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne, who marked the driver's birthday with a mighty run on Peter's first rally in his local forests for 30 years.

Despite a couple of moments in Langdale, Drew Wylie/Howard Pridmore (Escort Mk1) bagged second in C3 from Robin Shuttleworth/Mark Midgley as camshaft failure sidelined Russell Morgan/Martin Kenyon.

However, there was consolation for the Morgan/Kenyon team as the junior squad of Adam Morgan and Chris Kenyon took C2 in their Escort Mk1 despite losing time to an electrical gremlin.

Category 3

The battle between Elliott/Price and Darren Moon/John McNichol never really got started and came to a close when Moon punctured in Cropton and stopped to change the wheel. By then, Elliott had gone clear and, having caught Moon struggling through Cropton, knew that he could ease back his pace and score a hugely impressive victory on his first run in his historic spec car.

With Moon way down the order, through to a fine second place in the category came Dick Slaughter/Geoff Dearing, on their first rally since the Isle of Man with their ex-works Escort Mk2. They ended the rally just 4s up on Simon Tysoe/Rob Dyson, with Charlie Taylor/Steve Bielby not far adrift.

"Not bad for an old chap; we've had a super day," said Slaughter. "We backed it off a bit too much on the last stage," said Tysoe, who had been 8s up on Slaughter going into the Langdale stage.

Polly Patti/Chris Dewsnap (Escort Mk2) had a good run to fifth, while another good run came from Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks, who were sixth in the Vauxhall Chevette.

Making a welcome return to rallying after a six-month break was Steve Magson, and he took his Opel Ascona to D3 victory with Geoff Atkinson alongside. They saw off the challenge of Keith Stones and young Tom Hughes (Escort Mk2) as the Escorts of Chris Shooter/Bev LeGood and Mark Dickinson/Gavin Heseltine completed the top four in D3.

In D2, Pat Anderson and Tom Mansfield bagged the class in their Sunbeam Talbot, despite losing a lot of time.

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