2020 British Rally Championship Review

So far, just one round of the 2020 British Rally Championship has taken place with reigning champion Matt Edwards claiming the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally victory by 38.4 seconds from Osian Pryce/Noel O'Sullivan in second and Rhys Yates/James Morgan in third. This was the best possible start for double champion Edwards and set him up nicely for a hat-trick season in his latest M-Sport Mk2 Ford Fiesta R5 sponsored by Swift Caravans and new for this season, Yuasa batteries.

Next round of the championship was supposed to be the Clonikilty Park West Cork Rally 14-15th March but this fell exactly the time at which the Coronavirus crisis clicked-up to Severe, and as a result, the event was cancelled at the eleventh hour even though many competitors and fans had already assembled in and around the rally's base in Clonikilty.

Following the formal declaration of Lockdown together with Motorsport UK's withdrawal of all event permits until 30th June, the Tendring & Clacton club's Corbeau Seats rally 25-26th April was also cancelled and at the time of writing, the decision has just been taken to postpone round 3, the Renties Ypres Rally 25-27th June, possibly to later in the year. In the meantime, organizers announced that the Today's Ulster Rally 21-22nd August is postponed until 2021 to protect the health of spectators, competitors, and officials. The final round of the series is the Armstrong Galway Hills Rally 19th September, but no decision has been made regarding the future the 2020 edition yet.

When this all shakes out it means that if the Ypres and Galway Hills rallies run later this year, the championship with have at best three rounds, but there is always the backstop of Wales Rally GB being included as the 2020 series finale. Some have already said that the depleted championship should now be cancelled, as it is devalued by anything less than a 6-round championship, but for many the burning question remains, when is a championship not a championship in order to make it worthwhile to win?

Throughout the years, rallying has overcome all manner of adversities including foot & mouth disease, fuel shortages, wars, and political conflicts but championships won in these circumstances have been valued against the difficulties prevailing. COVID-19 is just the latest of these challenges from which rallying will recover, so as long as there are at least 3 events, why not just run the championship?

2020 BRC Championship Standings after one round
1st - Matt Edwards / Darren Garrod - 25
2nd - Osian Pryce / Noel O'Sullivan - 18
3rd - Rhys Yates / James Morgan - 15
4th - Ollie Mellors / Ian Windress - 14
5th - James Williams / Dai Roberts - 10
6th - Tom Cave / Dale Furniss - 8
7th - Tom Williams / Jamie Edwards - 6
8th - William Creighton / Liam Regan - 4
9th - Finlay Retson / Rhys Stoneman - 2
10th - David Kelly / Darragh Kelly - 1

29th May, 2020

Adventure & Mystery on the Monte Carlo Rally

During the 1983 Monte Carlo Rally, John and Hywel Thomas crashed their Renault 5 Turbo at night while speeding across the flying finish of an alpine stage. The car then left the road and dropped down a bank, destroying the suspension and some lower panel work. After the accident, a helpful but over-enthusiastic French spectator kindly offered to drive John back down the mountain but after a few frantic corners, the hapless driver rolled his Renault 5 road car spectacularly, completely destroying it but fortunately injuring only his no-claims bonus!

John's close friend Alun Morgan, who was driving a Rover SD1 Chase Car, was miles from the crash scene and when they did not arrive at the agreed service rendezvous - pre cell phone days and their two-way radios had proved ineffective in the mountains - he set off briskly and drove through the preceding three stages until he found them. It was daylight by this time, the roads were open as most marshals had left.

Alun then effected temporary repairs to the damaged rally car so it could be driven off the mountain stage to the nearest village and stored with a helpful garage owner. John and Hywel then got into the chase car, which was fitted with studded tyres, but later on the dry motorway, a front tyre blew at speed and the Rover careered wildly over the carriageway until Alun managed to bring it to a safe halt. John had escaped from three major incidents within a few hours physically unscathed!

On the last night of the rally, John and his disappointed team walked up the Col du Turini stage with its low walls, big drops, drunk spectators and few safe spectator points to watch the final 100 cars pass through. The following day Hywel Thomas and John flew back to the UK as Hywel had injured his back in the accident. John's brother Denzil, Alun and Bob Jones went to the rally's black-tie prize giving ceremony before driving the SD1 home later that weekend.

On Friday, the damaged Renault Turbo was collected by the service van and trailer but to this day, they simply do not know how they ever found that small, obscure country garage again. Bob Fowden, Derrick Davies and Steve Lloyd then drove non-stop to Hereford and dropped the car at John's Wormbridge garage and from there to Swansea. Between the south of France and Swansea they had stopped only for fuel, ferry and at Maidstone to buy 2 new trailer tyres. They athletically changed drivers whilst on the move with just two of the three passengers driving and the third watching the map and keeping the drivers awake. They were physically wrecked and slept for days!

Mysteriously, after the accident there was a spent bullet found amongst the damaged parts stripped from the wrecked rally car and John had always wondered if someone had shot-out his tyre, causing them to crash. This has still never been explained thirty-seven years later, but the bullet was genuine, and it always made a good story - perhaps even a worthy plot for a new Agatha Christie type who-done-it?

4th May, 2020

John Price 1944 -2020

For 28 years, 1980-2008, John Price was a prolific rally driver and winner on an almost industrial scale, to the extent that the statistics would warrant his entry in the Guinness Book of Records. This remarkable route to success started on the family farm at Howey near Llandrindod Wells on 23rd October 1944 and elder brother Denzil, aka 'The Bishop', was an active rally competitor himself with two 1960s Monte Carlo Rally starts on his CV and also a well-known RAC Scrutineer.

First in 1965, John started circuit racing, successfully using a self-prepared 999cc Cooper S in saloon car racing at all the southern UK circuits before changing tack in 1968 and entered his first rally in a 1300 Escort. This change of discipline suited John and he quickly moved on to compete in premier road events, including the prestigious Motoring News Road rally championship.

A time-served mechanic by profession, in 1975 John opened a garage business in Wormbridge near Hereford initially doing general servicing but it soon became a renowned rally preparation and rally hire company. He had previously run a garage in Swansea with Denzil and in 1970, helped build Bill Bengry's famous World Cup Rolls Royce which competed in the Daily Mail supported marathon.

John?s choice of rally cars was truly European. Two Porsche 911s, including 2.8 RS Carrera and SC variants, Simca 1000 Rallye, BMW M3, Renault 17 Gordini and 21 Turbo models, Renault Alpine A110, before acquiring the cars in which he thrived and made his name. In 1981, his first R5 Turbo 1, later upgrading to a couple of Turbo 2s' and in 1986, the first of four 6R4 MG Metros'.

Whilst best known for tarmac rallying, John also competed on a couple of RAC and Welsh International forest rallies. He contested the 1983 Monte Carlo rally and Barum in Czechoslovakia and Haspengoew in Belgium twice each. He was an extremely popular regular on Irish events and must have been on the Pembroke to Cork Ferry in excess of 150 occasions.

He won the British National championship an unprecedented 12 times and became a well-known Epynt Meister, winning 22 events outright and scoring many more podium positions on the daunting ranges. Amazingly, it is estimated that in his successful career, John started almost 800 rallies, often two or more on the same weekend but sometimes different parts of the country.

The perfect example of this was Epynt August Bank holiday weekend 25-27 August 1990, with Mike Bowen on the notes. Day 1 yielded 2nd overall on the Virgo Galaxy. Day 2 and a step higher with 1st overall on the Harry Flatters. Then, back to his Hereford workshop for a quick Metro 6R4 engine change before Day 3, second overall on the Mewla Rally. In addition, on two of these three events the John Price Rally Team ran a second car for a customer!

Throughout his career, John's fast, neat, and safe driving style was complimented by the immaculate presentation and reliability of his cars and he always claimed that an event was won in the workshop prior to the start. Indeed, to watch JP drive at a winning pace over the narrow and uncompromising roads of Ireland or the Isle of Mann was to watch a master-craftsman plying his trade. Over his career, more than 30 top-line co-drivers accompanied him, and his faithful sponsors included Duckhams and Zenith Motorsport Swansea, with Zenith's Mike Bowen winning many rallies and championships as one of his regular co-drivers.

John had been ill for about 5 years and passed away peacefully at home on 21st April. We extend our condolences to his wife Caroline, who was also one of his regular co-drivers and his children, Stephen - who continues the John Price Rallying legacy at Wormbridge - Cathi, Kevin and Stephanie, who is employed by Mercedes F1.

4th May, 2020

Sir Stirling Moss OBE

Whatever your motorsport persuasion, everyone knew and admired Sir Stirling Moss OBE, who died peacefully at his home in Mayfair early Easter Sunday at the age of 90. He was universally acknowledged to be the best driver never to win the Formula One world drivers' championship, a prize that was compromised by his personal preference to race British cars whenever possible. Ironically, it was fifty-eight years ago on Easter Monday 1962 that a high-speed accident during the Glover Trophy at St Mary's corner Goodwood inflicted serious head injuries that ended his driving career at the early age of thirty-two.

Born in London September 1929 to Alfred Moss, a dentist and businessman and Aileen Craufurd, Stirling was brought up at 'Long White Cloud' house on the banks of the River Thames in Bray Berkshire. Alfred had been an enthusiastic amateur racing driver who'd finished 16th in the 1924 Indianapolis 500 and Aileen Moss had driven in prewar hill climbs at the wheel of a Singer Nine. As a youngster, Moss was a gifted horse rider as was his younger sister Pat, who went on to become a successful international rally driver and married Swedish rally legend Eric Carlsson. Stirling was educated at several eminent home-counties preparatory and independent secondary schools.

Starting competition in Alfred's BMW 328, Stirling then used his equine prize money to become one of the Cooper Car Company's first customers for an innovative 500cc F3 cars and soon demonstrated his ability with numerous wins at national and international levels which continued in F3 with Coopers and Kiefts before he progressed into senior categories. Significantly, he'd competed in the first ever race at Silverstone which preceded the memorable Grand Prix in October 1948, just two weeks after his 19th birthday. His Cooper Jap T5 led a quality F3 field until being forced to retire with transmission trouble, but he'd already won 500 cc races at Brough, Goodwood and Dunholme Lodge.

By 1950 Stirling had turned professional, racing for the HWM Formula 2 team at various European road circuits while continuing to race his Cooper-JAP whenever possible, including his first Monaco victory in the 500 cc Prix de Monte Carlo. Unable to secure a drive in the RAC Tourist Trophy in September 1950, the journalist and racing driver Tommy Wisdom offered his Jaguar XK120 to Stirling, who drove through appalling weather to dominate the race and finish a long way ahead of the works Jaguars and the rest of the field. This superb achievement ensured Stirling was lead-driver in the 1951 Jaguar team.

However, Stirling's progression into world championship Grand Prix racing took a little longer, impeded by his disagreement with Enzo Ferrari whose off-hand treatment in 1951 resulted in him resolving never to drive for the Scuderia. This Ferrari episode aside, Stirling raced British Grand Prix cars if possible, but such cars were simply no match for the Ferraris and Maseratis' in 1952/3. For the new 2.5 litre Formula 1 season in 1954 he finally had a car worthy of his ability, in a private Maserati 250F and before the year was out, he'd been asked to lead the factory Maserati team. For 1955, he joined Mercedes-Benz and establish himself, joining Maserati again in 1956, Vanwall in 1957/58 and driving Rob Walker's Coopers and Lotus contenders until the untimely end of his driving career. His first World Championship race victory came at Aintree in the 1955 British Grand Prix, in a W196 for the Mercedes-Benz team, just fending off his team-leader Fangio. Two years later also at Aintree Moss, taking over the unwell Tony Brooks' Vanwall, delivered Tony Vandervell his first Grand Prix victory for a British car in a World Championship Formula 1 race. But he also took Cooper and Lotus's first wins at World Championship level, on both occasions in cars run by Rob Walker's privateer racing team. In 1961 Stirling produced two of his most dazzling drives in the Monaco and German Grands Prix to defeat the vastly more powerful Ferraris, again in RRC Walker's giant-killing Lotus 18.

But Stirling's success was not just confined to single seaters, he was unrivalled in sports cars, with his 1955 Mille Miglia victory in the Mercedes 300SLR regarded as one of the greatest endurance racing victories of all time by a British driver. In 1955 he also won the RAC Tourist Trophy at Dundrod with John Fitch, then the Targa Florio with Peter Collins to secure the World Sports Car Championship for Mercedes. Four years later, he played a major role in securing the WSC for Aston Martin, with his performances in the DBR1/300 at the Nurburgring and the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood standing out among the finest of his career. He made 10 starts at Le Mans and finished 2nd twice; in 1953 in a C-Type Jaguar with Peter Walker and in 1956, with Peter Collins in an Aston Martin DB 3S. He raced in the 12-Hours of Sebring 11 times, winning on his first visit in 1954 driving an Osca MT4 1450 with Bill Lloyd and became the first non-American driver to win this iconic race. He came second in 1957 driving a works Maserati 300S with Harry Schell.

Demonstrating his versatility, Stirling was a competitive rally driver and one of only three people to have won a Coupe d'Or - Coupe des Alpes gold cup, awarded for three consecutive penalty free runs on the gruelling Alpine Rally on the gravel alpine roads the 1950s. He competed in three Monte Carlo rallies, 3-up with BRDC secretary Desmond Scannell and Autocar magazine editor John Cooper as co-drivers each time, in a Rootes Sunbeam-Talbot 90, finishing second in 1952 to Sydney Allard. In 1974 Stirling took part in the London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally in a Mercedes, retiring in the Algerian Sahara and in 1990, he finished in a fine third place on the Pirelli Marathon with American journalist Charles Shields in an MGB. But he went record-breaking successfully too, at Bonneville Salt Flats, Montlhéry, Monza and the Jabbeke, driving for Austin-Healey, MG, Jaguar, Lotus and Sunbeam.

During his remarkable career Stirling took part in 585 events, finishing 387 and winning 216. His major international victories began at the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix in Bern. He started 66 F1 Driver's World Championship races, winning 16 times and was runner up in the Driver's Championship 4 times 1955-58. In 1958 Stirling displayed the sportsmanship that characterised his career by persuading the Portuguese Grand Prix stewards to reinstate Hawthorn's second place and by doing so, lost the Driver's F1 championship by one point, despite winning 4 races to Mike's single victory that season.

Reflecting his popularity, how often did an irate traffic policeman say to a speeding motorist: "who'd you think you are - Stirling Moss?" After retiring from racing in 1963, Stirling remained a global personality and he worked as commentator for ABC's Wide World of Sports for F1 and NASCAR races 1962 ? 1980. He narrated the official 1988 Formula One season review with Tony Jardine and, also narrated for the popular children's TV series Roary the Racing Car.

In 1963 he set up the Stirling Moss Automobile Racing Team, 'SMART', to run GT and Sports Cars for other drivers and eventually resumed racing himself, mainly in historic events but was tempted out of retirement to race an Audi 80 in the 1980/81 British Saloon Car Championship, but found the 15-lap contact-racing environment in a slick tyre, front wheel drive saloon car a tad alien to someone who'd cut his teeth in 1950s 3-hour F1 races. At the peak of his career Stirling had been in a racing car almost every weekend, Europe in summer and the Tasman series down-under in winter.
With his considerable achievements recognised by a knighthood in 2000, Sir Stirling always remained an enthusiastic, down to earth and a well-informed pundit of the F1 scene. In 2008 the newly crowned World Champion Lewis Hamilton, on behalf of the BRDC, presented Sir Stirling with the unique honour of a life Vice-Presidency. He was the oldest living Grand Prix winner and longest-serving BRDC Member, with 10 BRDC Gold Stars between 1950-61, a record only surpassed in 2017 by Lewis Hamilton MBE.

Sir Stirling was a Goodwood and Silverstone Classic regular, owning several historic sports cars including a Porsche RS60 Spyder, of the type he and Graham Hill almost won the 1961 Targa Florio, but during practice for the 2011 Le Mans Legends race, he suddenly decided it was finally time to hang up his helmet at the age of 81. A year earlier he'd sustained severe injuries to his feet from falling down the lift shaft in his beloved Mayfair home, but made a good recovery, only to contract a serious chest infection whilst in Singapore December 2016, from which his recovery had been slow and tiring. This resulted in his decision to withdraw from public life in January 2018.

During his driving career and indeed thereafter, Sir Stirling Moss remained one of the most recognised global celebrities, synonymous for wisdom, good manners and eloquent soundbites. He raised the bar of professionalism among top-flight drivers and was one of the first to employ a dedicated business manager, Ken Gregory, whose perspicacity assisted Stirling's on and off-track career successes.

We offer our sincere condolences to Lady Suzie Moss, their son Elliot and to Allison, Sir Stirling's daughter by his earlier marriage to Elaine, and to his many friends on their loss of a much-loved national hero. Rest in Peace Sir Stirling - a supreme British motor racing legend and ambassador, to whom sportsmanship meant far more than victory garlands!

13th April, 2020

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