A new location for the Championship calendar, Abingdon Airfield offers crews 70 miles of fast-paced tarmac set over 8 stages, attracting an entry of 20 Minis!
Military roads are notorious for their long stages taking a gruelling toll on cars competing, and Abingdon was no exception, combined with the almost exotic heat our Minis struggled. When you hear the term ‘extreme weather conditions’ the image that springs to mind is torrential rain, hail or even snow, but never glorious sunshine! However, this sunshine although a welcome change for the minus temperatures of the AGBO, left the majority of our crews with issues – some directly due to the heat and others just unfortunate luck.
The first retirement of the day was unfortunately newly engaged Ryan Taylor/Hollie Chuchill, who just half a mile from the end of Stage 1 blew a head gasket! With Ryan adding that. “it was over 160 degrees when we got it off, there’s no bodywork to be done just mechanical, we’ll get it fixed and be out for another round!”
Peter Ellerby/Ben Anderson were forced to retire Stage 3 for the third time this Championship, particularly upsetting this rally as the pair had played their ‘Joker Card’, with no points being won this round that will now not apply – it was a small piece of metal breaking off from the rocker cover that caused untold engine damage, including but not limited to a broken valve and piston resulting in the retirement. Marting Melling/Carmel Venables were also struck with the bad luck on Stage 3 when their gearbox went, forcing retirement.
The heat proved too much for Steve Robinson/Alan Jones who were suffering with cooling issues, running far too hot even when stationary, ending their rally Stage 4 – unfortunately the second retirement in a row for Steve on only his 3rd rally of the Championship. Hitting a chicane dragged out by a previous competitor resulted in Rick Ford/Paul Marshall retiring Stage 5 with steering issues.
Craig King/Clare Bird had a truly unlucky rally, loosing brakes on every single Stage! A spin and stall on Stage 1, forced the pair to miss the second Stage to remain in service and fix the issue – that turned out to be a loose HT lead at the coil. Further issues included a failing fuel pump and a fire on Stage 6! Craig explained that, “we arrived at the finish control when flames appeared from under the bonnet. I turned to tell Clare to get out only to find she was already running away from the car! I got out and put out the fire before it took hold or caused any damage. It had started due to an oil pipe coming loose and dropping on to the exhaust manifold which melted it, and then set fire to the oil.” Back in service this was fixed allowing Craig and Clare to get back out, another loss in brakes meant that Craig & Clare had to finish with just the handbrake – placing 13th o/a. It was hard work, but great news that Craig & Clare managed the finish as they had chosen Abingdon to play their ‘Joker Card’ for extra points!
It wasn’t bad luck for all of the crews, following on from their early retirement at Dixies and despite a concern over potentially burning out the tyres from pushing on the long stages and loosing brakes throughout due to the heat, Clive King/Anton Bird didn’t let that stop them and battled through the day to finish 1st MC3 & 2nd Mini o/a! Anton said of the result that, “It was hot and sticky, fast and furious! Pushing harder and harder all day to come out on top.”
Junior Mini Sport Cup competitor Jack Hartley/Gary Dawes had another successful round, leading his MC1 throughout the day, even shaving a whopping 19 seconds off one of their previous Stage times. Jack explain that “we passed 2 Micras straight off the bat on Stage 1, however we felt that the tyres were gripping to the tarmac too much and we weren’t cornering as we wanted to. Back in service, we made the tyres harder and we’ve been feeling improvement with the Mini since – it’s turning in to corners a lot better now.” A spin on the last Stage cost Jack & Gary valuable time, and ultimately losing them 1st in Class to Ken Pryce/Don James by just 4 seconds!
Abingdon saw the return of Rhodri Roberts who partnered with Chrystal Culkeen and having played their ‘Joker Card’ had a good solid run, despite a penalty for Stage 1, finishing 2nd MC3 and 12th o/a. Barry Stenhouse/Franke Hillman explained that they’d “had a few little problems throughout, but nothing that we can’t fix with tie wraps! We’re going for the finish!” the help of the trusty tie wraps saw Barry & Franke finish 10th o/a.
As the afternoon drew in, temperatures soared and our crews were removing wheels and tyres every service trying to cool the brakes, many resorting to pouring water over them. Many of the crews also started running the stages without their grilles – as Minis tend to hold heat under the bonnet, with nowhere to go, the grilles were removed in an attempt to push more cold air in.
Louise Thomas/Heidi Woodcock settled in to the Stages early on, beating their own times, although having a bit of a fright when they ended up on 2 wheels in Stage 3 and very nearly rolling, Heidi added that “it was very close!”, also catching something that knocked the tracking, but the swift work in the service area had them re-set, the girls Rover Cooper was also throwing out water each Stage, with service crew monitoring this issue and having to top up each Stage, despite these issues the girls pushed on and bagged their first award of the 2018 Championship as 2nd MC4 and 9th o/a.
Jim Brindle/Sam Bould were having a good run until disaster struck on Stage 3, going in to the Stage with an exhaust however finishing the Stage without! Once back in service a donor exhaust was fit from retired Peter Ellerby & Ben Anderson’s Mini, allowing Jim & Sam to complete the rally and finish 1st MC2 and 3rd o/a!
Shame Gamble/Bob Ward suffered a broken drive shaft on Stage 3, however the quick work of Ian Clare & Antony Elkes service crew got that change over in service, allowing Shane & Bob to push on and finish 3rd in MC2 and 5th o/a.
Current Championship leaders Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill were setting fantastic times, unfortunately an error on Stage 1 resulted in a penalty time of 22 minutes for the Stage, costing Ray & Jared the top spot – finishing 6th Mini o/a.
John Cressey/Martin Cressey were consistently topping the leader board throughout the day, however a broken drive shaft in Stage saw them towed back to the service area and a full 30 minute time being allotted, ultimately loosing the crew the top spot. However, the quick work of Mini Sport’s Michael Anderson in service saw John & Martin back out for the final stage, resulting in 3rd MC2 and 11th o/a.
Andy Walkingshaw/Laura Mulrooney were plagued with yet another exhaust problem dragging it round the Stage 1 (much like Dixies where Andy’s exhaust dropped off!) but thankfully with the help of Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill’s service crew member Kevin, this was reattached and Andy had no further issues until a crunching gearbox in Stage 4 “were hoping that it’ll hold out for the last 3 stages and then we can rebuild if after the event!” And hold out it did, as Andy & Laura had a fantastic result finishing 2nd MC2 and 4th o/a!
Ian Clare/Antony Elkes proved once again that they’re definitely the crew to watch in this year’s Championship with yet another sterling performance! Early brake issues being cured in service and other than loosing oil pressure there were no major issues for Ian & Antony whose consistently quick times resulted in them finishing 1st MC4 & 1st o/a – a well deserved result… Well done Ian & Antony!
The Yokohama prize of two A039‘s, the regulation tyres used throughout the Championship, was won by Steve Robinson for his white Mini Clubman GT!
With 7 weeks to go until the 4th round of the HRCR Mini Sport Cup at Solway Coast Historic on 5th August, the crews have plenty of time to out those niggles and prepare their Minis for the challenging roads of Dundrennan Solway Ranges!
Mini Sport Cup 3rd Round Overall Results:
1st – Ian Clare/Anthony Elkes
2nd – Clive King/Anton Bird
3rd – Jim Brindle/Sam Boulds
Mini Sport Cup 1st Round Class Results:
1st – Ken Pryce/Don James
2nd – Jack Hartley/Gary Dawes
1st – Jim Brindle/Sam Bould
2nd – Andy Walkingshaw/Laura Mulrooney
3rd – Shane Gamble/Bob Ward
1st – Clive King/Anton Bird
2nd – Rhodri Roberts/Chrystal Culkeen
1st – Ian Clare/Anthony Elkes
2nd – Louise Thomas/Heidi Woodcock
3rd – John Cressey/Martin Cressey
Full results from Abingdon CAR-nival can be found online here.
For more information on the Mini Sport Cup, please see our Facebook page here.
For more information on the ‘oldSTAGER’ please see the HRCR’s website here.