Round five of the 2008 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship heads for Wales for the second time in two months this forthcoming weekend when the Swansea Bay Rally takes place on Saturday, July 19.

And with most of the leading crews in action in the classic Welsh forests once again, the finish ramp on Saturday evening should perhaps start to give one or two pointers towards the destiny of the various crowns in the ANCRO-organised series.

Quite surprisingly, the leading two drivers in the series, Jon Ingram and Andy Burton, have yet to appear on the official entry list but rumour has it that Burton in his radical Peugeot Cosworth will make it in time to the Swansea start ramp. Also missing is Irishman Stephen Moore meaning a couple of drivers will be dropping this round as part of the two worst scores as per the championship regulations.

Assuming Burton competes, he'll face stiff opposition from defending ANCRO champion and last year's rally winner Marcus Dodd in his Hyundai Accent WRC and they, along with respective co-drivers Shelley Rogerson and Andrew Bargery, will be looking to close the points gap between themselves and the Ingram/Ian Allsop combination.

Already this year, both drivers have a no-score to their names, Burton choosing to miss the asphalt of the RBS International Manx Rally and Dodd retiring from the Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, so a win for either of them this weekend would go a long way to bolstering their chances with just two rounds remaining afterwards.

However, a few other crews in WRC machinery will be hunting them down and although not playing a major part in the series themselves, they could have an effect on the championship outcome as most are registered for ANCRO points.

Fresh from taking victory last weekend on the Quinton Stages, former ANCRO champion Steve Perez and co-driver Stephen McAuley will be looking for another win in their Ford Focus WRC whereas another ex-champion who also missed the opening two rounds was Roger Duckworth, who along with Mark Broomfield, racked up a win in the Isle of Man and always goes well in Wales in his Subaru.

Welshman Julian Reynolds will be looking for a good run on home territory whereas Scotsman Dave Weston can't be ruled out and with the likes of Charlie Payne and Alan Cookson, there is plenty of strength in depth in the field.

The Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge and Cup is at a crucial stage with only one point separating the top four drivers in the championship standings. Daniel Barry, David Bogie, Richard Cathcart and Nik Elsmore will all be battling for supremacy and with cars strictly controlled to comply with Group N regulations, all are similar in performance and with so many drivers of equal pace registered for this year's series, 2008 has so far produced the closest competition yet. In fact, with four rounds already run and three to go, only five points separates the top six.

Veteran Harry Dodd leads the Prima Motorsports 'Old Stagers' class with Brummies Nathan Crewe and John Connor leading the Two Wheel Drive Challenge in their MG and who will be up against the usual protagonists including Rod Bennett/Henry Richardson in their S1600 Fiat Punto and Tim/Kit Leigh in their Ford Fiesta.

The event also incorporates round three of the 2008 Pirelli ANCRO Rally Challenge which sees Ford Fiesta Sporting Trophy runner Kris Hall lead the standings. Whilst local driver Damian Cole along with James Belton will be at the cutting edge, the 'one-make' Fiestas will add spice to the competition including James Everard, Liam Regan and Elfyn Evans as the lure of an end-of-season first prize of a Fiesta ST road car will serve to concentrate a considerable number of minds during the day.

Making a welcome addition to the ANCRO ranks will also be a 37 car entry in the Yokohama Challenge with Ciro Carannante heading the BMW 325 field away and Dan Corner the first of the Peugeot 205s.

The action begins as the first car in the Swansea Bay Clubmans Rally leaves the SA1 start at 8.00am, with the first National Rally competitor away at 9.15am. The survivors from each of the three events will start arriving back at 13.30 (Clubmans) with the first National crews scheduled back at the finish at 16.50 [all time local].

 

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