Title tussle goes down to the wire at the Carlisle Stages Rally

The final round of the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship will see a nail-biting battle for the 2023 crown in the Kielder Forest, as the Carlisle Stages Rally [20/21 October] hosts the race for the title between Roger Chilman and Nick Elliott.

After six action-packed rounds of the championship, the seventh and deciding encounter will see the champion crowned outside Kielder Castle on Saturday afternoon, and it will all come down to the final eight stages of the season.

In the pound seat is the Ford Escort MKII pairing of Chilman and co-driver Patrick Walsh after a blistering start to their season saw them take back-to-back victories on rounds one and two. However, it’s been a shaky mid-season and a Woodpecker rally win saw them remain in contention thanks to three maximum scores.

In contrast, Elliot and Dave Price have thumped in consistent top-line scores all season long in their FIAT 131 Abarth. But a win has eluded them so far in 2023, only their three runners-up results have kept them in the title fight heading into the decider.

However, that elusive win will be key to their chances of lifting the crown, as the connotations are clear. Elliott must take a maximum BHRC score to have a chance of taking the title and even if he does, if Chilman finishes fourth or higher, it swings the way of the Escort driver. If Elliott doesn’t win, regardless of Chilman's finishing position, the championship goes back to Hereford with Chilman and Walsh, plus they will also seal the Category Three [cars registered between 1975 -1981] honours.

A small consolation for the FIAT crew; they have already sealed the FIA Category K title this season.

But outside of the title tussle, a myriad of drivers are capable of winning and upsetting Elliott's chances. Former World Rally Championship driver Kris Meeke has entered, although not registering for points, will be a perfect benchmark for the BHRC regulars. He will drive a Ford Escort MKII ahead of his Roger Albert Clark outing in November.

Plains Rally winner Richard Tuthill returns in the Porsche 911 with Stephane Prevot alongside. The rear-engined machine is the perfect accompaniment to the rapid English and Scottish border forests. Fresh from victory at Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, Jason Pritchard, and Phil Clarke head to the event with their Escort MKII, as do 2019 champions Simon Webster and Jez Rogers. Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell also make a comeback, having been out of the series since May.

Gareth James has been going from strength to strength this season in his BHRC return and has champion co-driver Dan Petrie alongside once again for the final round in their Escort MKII.

The race for the title is not only confined to the overall challengers, with Category Two [cars registered between 1968-1975] and Rally2 [non-historic] up for grabs.

Josh Carr heads up Category Two in his Ford Escort MK1 and with Osian Owen guiding him through the tests, will only need a finish to seal the crown. A final stage retirement in Yorkshire meant the wait for the title was elongated to Carlisle, with Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds waiting in the wings should misfortune come Carr’s way.

The return of both Craig Jones and Mike Stuart may well add some spice to the Category, but neither driver will get in the way of the title race.

Paul Thompson and Josh Davison [Escort MK1] will be locked in a duel with Steve Magson and Steve Bielby [Astra RWD] for the Rally2 category.

The Carlisle Stages Rally kicks off with two stages under the cover of darkness on Friday night, before a further six tests the following day, totaling 56 miles of competitive action.

External Credits:

PRESS RELEASE - Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship - Image Russ Otway / 90Right


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