Returning to Down Ampney for 2019, 14 of our Mini crews were entered to take on the EMCOS Dragon IT Stages. 10 slippy & rough airfield Stages awaited our competitors, with the conditions being particularly brutal on the Minis due to the weather actually being nice… Not something you would usually complain about, however the hot, dry day caused issues for many of our Minis with overheating. Opting to run without grilles, in a desperate attempt to keep the temperatures down in the Engine Bay, the EMCOS still claimed many victims, with 5 crews having to retire.
A notable absence from the EMCOS entry was Clive King (who couldn’t compete due to a second Honeymoon in Mexico!), freeing up Anton Bird to team up with Peter Ellerby for the event, as Peter’s Mini is in the same Cat as Clive’s, meaning Anton could still gain those navi Championship points! Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, spending the 1st Stage sorting out the calls, as Peter operates a different system to Clive. On to the 2nd Stage, with calls sorted the crew were absolutely flying through the course, however… The engine had other ideas! Forced to retire with holed Pistons, it was a disappointing end to the rally for Peter & Anton, who without the Engine issues would have likely bagged themselves a solid result. Anton is now looking forward to the Brawdy Stages where he will be reunited with Clive, “we’ve never been to that event before, but I don’t suppose for a minute that will slow us down…”
Claiming another victim to overheating, Andy Jarman & Paul Davis ended their campaign early – Stage 5.
Afflicted with a broken Driveshaft half way through Stage 1, Stuart Hart & Catherine Farrell luckily managed to get recovered at the end of Stage 2, with a new Driveshaft & CV Joint fit in service, the crew advanced back out for Stage 3. It was smooth sailing for the next couple of Stages, where the team found their footing again, however a 2nd recovery was required after the Steering Arm snapped in Stage 5! Succeeding in finding a replacement Steering Arm, Stuart & Catherine made it back out again, only for a bolt to snap off the top of their Hub, which was the final straw and the duo retired Stage 7! Stuart went on to add that, “it just wasn’t meant to be for us this time! We’ve never had any luck running number 66!”
A last minute change of Gamble’s, meant we swapped Shane for his son Mark, who is now the 30th registered driver in the 2019 Championship! Teaming up with Bob Ward, in Shane’s Mini, Mark & Bob were setting some very speedy Stage time before disaster struck. Splitting the Oil Cooler & loosing all their Oil, culminated in Engine failure in Stage 7, beginning with a rattle – Mark & Bob decided it was best to retire before causing any further damage to the Engine.
Contact with a Chicane caused a puncture for Nigel Hart & Shaun Lovegrove on the opening loop of Stages, the pair decided to carry on with the flat, rather than stop to change to a spare! Setting sound times throughout the morning, regrettably an incident in Stage 8, where a previous competitor had kicked out a lot of loose gravel on to the Stage, consequently meant that Nigel & Shaun couldn’t get enough traction to turn, which resulted in them hitting the front end of their Mini in to a bank. The front the Mini has taken the majority of the impact, the Engine & Gearbox appear to be fine. Thankfully, Nigel & Shaun escaped relatively unscathed – being seen to by Paramedics at the event, however both are now very sore from the accident! We wish them both a speedy recovery.
It was an early lead of the Minis for Ryan Taylor & Hollie Churchill, with Ryan noting that the Mini was running “absolutely spot on”. An unfortunate collision with another competitor in Stage 4 almost ended the rally for the crew there & then, however they persevered, at this point lying 2nd Mini about 40 seconds behind John & Martin Cressey. Despite holding a strong position in the rally, Ryan & Hollie ultimately had to retire Stage 9, when their Bottom Pulley fell apart & the Fan Belt snapped, resulting in the Mini over heating. On a more positive note, Ryan was heaping praise on navigator Hollie, “Hollie was spot on with the stage diagrams, her experience is growing massively & she did a fantastic job all weekend!”
John Brooks & Phil Harvey lost the Rubber Bushes supporting the Gear Linkage, resulting in the crew being forced to complete a Stage with only 2nd Gear, spare Bushes were sourced from another competitor, meaning the duo finished 4th Cat 2 & 8th Mini o/a
Current Championship leaders, Jack Hartley & Gary Dawes started as they meant to go on! Setting the 3rd quickest Stage time in Stage 1, they continued to set consistent times for the day, with the exception of Stage 2 – where an unfortunate mistake cost the crew about 4 minutes, resulting in a Stage maximum. The only issue with the Mini that Jack & Gary experienced, was the same as many… The heat! Struggling to keep the rising temperatures at bay, something hit the Fan & smashed up some of the blades, which consequently had to be removed. Deciding to combat this by removing the grille, Jack & Gary finished EMCOS, 1st Cat 3 & 7th Mini o/a, adding that, “if it hadn’t been for that mistake in Stage 2, then we would’ve been on track to finish 3rd Mini by the end of the day – but I enjoyed the rest of the Stages, even though I found the venue was a bit rough on the car. We finished the event and still gained valuable points for the Championship!”
Father & Daughter crew, Paul & Jemma Taylor had great run, despite the venue being particularly hard on the Mini, especially with the potholes! The driving conditions certainly weren’t ideal for our Mini crews, with Jemma noting that, “the Mini didn’t miss a beat throughout the day & neither did the driver! We had a great run & a laugh along the way, despite the driving conditions.”. Paul & Jemma finished 2nd Open Class & 6th Mini o/a.
David Evans & Adam Evans suffered with a front Shock Absorber pulling out on the penultimate Stage, costing the team valuable seconds, it was then removed it for the final Stage so David & Adam could complete the rally, 3rd Cat 2 & 5th Mini o/a.
Getting used to the additional power in their Engine, Ken Pryce & Don James had another strong run, finishing 1st Cat 1 & 4th Mini o/a.
Teaming up for the final time this season, Andrew O’Hanlon & Bill Douglas got off to a cautious start, Andrew explaining that Down Ampney is not one of his favourite events – as “there are too many splits, laps and merges”, plus the last time Andrew competed here he was hit by a Subaru Impreza! Picking up the pace throughout the day, Andrew & Bill had no issues, with the Mini only requiring fuel all day. Andrew’s cautious start clearly didn’t affect the crew for too long, as they finished 2nd in Cat 2 & 3rd Mini o/a.
A dodgy landing on Stage 5 left Eric Davis & Russell Joseph with an oil & fuel leak, the crew were also hindered by a couple of other competitors on Stage 6 – teamed with a Eric having a bad cramp… Luckily the issues & cramp subsided enough not to thwart Eric & Russell’s rally, “we lifted the suspension a bit after a couple of moments on straights where it jumped across the track flat in 4th! We just kept going as fast as possible without being right on the limit… Big thanks to service crew Spud, Nigel, Andrew, and security Frank!”. Eric & Russell placed 1st Cat 2 & 2nd Mini o/a!
John Cressey & Martin Cressey were back on top form after a broken Throttle Cable had forced their retirement at Dixies. Despite a rocky start during the 1st Stage where the Mini & the intercom were cutting out on the crew, a broken wire was to blame, which was swiftly put right in Service. Seizing the opportunity to trial a few pieces & change around various parts to find out what did & didn’t work, John ended up out-breaking himself several times, causing a couple of spins & overshoots – however, their lead on the Minis was so strong that this luckily had no impact on the overall results! Adding that it was a “fantastic day, especially winning the Cup by 3 minutes & 59 seconds!” This tremendous lead resulted in the uncatchable John & Martin finishing 1st Open Class & 1st Mini overall.
Well done John & Martin!
The Yokohama prize of two regulation tyres, used throughout the Championship, was awarded to Peter Ellerby, Stuart Hart won the 5L of Penrite Classic Mini Oil, Mark Gamble won the Socket Wrench from Snap-On & the Questmead prize for best improvement on seeding was awarded to Paul Taylor – who was seeded 67th & finished 39th! With the draw being made by 6 year old Oscar Gamble.
Peter Ellerby / Anton Bird – Stage 2
Andy Jarman / Paul Davis – Stage 5
Mark Gamble / Bob Ward – Stage 7
Stuart Hart / Catherine Farrell – Stage 7
Nigel Hart / Shaun Lovegrove – Stage 8
Ryan Taylor / Hollie Churchill – Stage 9
1st Category 1 Ken Pryce / Don James
1st Category 2 Eric Davis / Russell Joseph
1st Category 3 Jack Hartley / Gary Dawes
1st Open Class John Cressey / Martin Cressey
The full provisional results table for all of our Mini crews can be found below.
Full results from the 2019 EMCOS Stages Rally can be found on the here.
To catch up with all the action from the Mini Sport Cup, please see here.
For more information on the Mini Sport Cup, please see our Facebook page here.
(Photos – Michael Anderson, Stuart Hart & Anton Bird)
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