The weekend of the 31st August/1st September saw 9 of our Mini crews make the journey overseas to Belgium to compete in the Conxion Omloop van vlaanderen Tour of Flanders for the 5th and 6th Rounds of the HRCR Mini Sport Cup.

Competing over the course of 2 days and 17 exhilarating stages, our crews were truly tested and Belgium certainly did not go easy on them! Chosen this year as an alternative to the now cancelled Manx Rally, the Tour of Flanders was well received by all of the crews that entered

Mini Sport sponsored Clive King/Anton Bird enjoyed a rather revealing recce where some unfortunate road book mistakes were brought to light – thankfully having corrected these issues in their notes, the team set off with a confident start for the beginning of the rally Friday evening. It was a tight start for crews who had to compete with rush hour traffic on the road sections – Clive & Anton noted that Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill had set off 1 minute before them, yet were missing back at control! Arriving 2 minutes late, Ray & Jared ultimately dropped 20 seconds and then had to run behind Clive/Anton – not the start the Irish crew wanted when defending their current lead on the Championship! The drama didn’t stop there… Clive & Anton were at the start of Stage when the intercom system stopped working! With no way to hear each other over the vociferous Mini the crew resorted to acting out the Pacenotes with hand signals right up to Stage 3! A change of battery in service solved the issue, Clive & Anton got back out and stuck in to the rest of day 1 even competing in total darkness with full Mini lights shining the way. Finishing 4th Mini at the end of the day, Clive added that, “we were pushing about 8/10ths as this is a very long rally, the last thing you want is an early exit for pushing too hard! It was close though, there was only seconds between us and Jim in 3rd”.

Day 2 rolled round and Clive & Anton were pushing hard setting great times, taking 2 minutes out of their main rivals Ray & Jared – a heavy braking startled the pair with a deafening bang and the pedal went, assuming they’d broken the pedal pipe Clive & Anton continued in to the next bend to be met with another raucous clatter… Fearing the wheel had fallen off and reversing out of the way the duo were greeted with a puncture and the caliper had broken away from the hub and totally smashed up the wheel. Having to drive out of the Stage and the 30 miles back to service on the handbrake, Clive & Anton managed to fix the Mini – however Flanders was over for the team.

Clive & Anton were not the only crew to have issues from the start, as Peter Ellerby/Brian Cammack were about to set off on Stage when they realised their notes were back in service! Meaning Peter & Brian had to just ‘wing it’ for the first 3 stages… Unfortunately Peter & Brian were struck down with yet more bad luck when they blew a head gasket out on Stage 6, the upset being only 3kms from the end of the 26 km stage!

Craig King/Clare Bird were off to a strong start on Friday night, the crew were shocked themselves at just how quick they were going – only a mere 6 seconds behind Peter and under a minute behind Clive & Anton! Deciding to push harder and put the pressure on Peter & Brian on Day 2, Craig & Clare overdid it a little and boiled the brakes half way round a 27km stage. Craig & Clare had moved up to 4th Mini, aiming for a finish they were taking it steady away when during Stage 12, just a mere 200 meters from the finish line disaster struck… The crew lost all drive due to the differential breaking and then snapping a drive shaft. It was an unfortunate result for Craig & Clare who up to that point had been setting great times.

Shane Gamble/Bob Ward got off to a truly disastrous start when on the 1st loop of the entire rally they broke a driveshaft, ending Round 5 for them before it had even begun. However, a little hard work in the service area meant the pair were back out on the Saturday for Round 6. A broken wheel bearing resulted in a new hub being fit and Shane & Bob continuing on to finish 3rd MC2 & 4th o/a Round 6.

Martin Melling/Catrin Jones had a good run, the Mini ran well both days with only major hiccup being getting a little lost in the cones of the car park section and having to flag down Shane & Bob for directions! Finishing 2nd MC2 & 5th o/a Martin added that, “we ended up with a couple of time penalties, but all in all a good rally and pleased to get a finish.

Jim Brindle/Sam Bould had another fantastic run – despite an additional challenge on Stages 12, 13 & 14 after snapping the gear leaver in half at the start of the 12th stage! In true Jim & Sam style there was a comedic exchange between the pair instead of panic, “I’ve snapped my knob off” – “That’ll sting!”… It certainly didn’t ‘sting’ them in the results though as Jim & Sam finished 2nd MC2 & 3rd o/a! With Jim adding that, “It is an event i would happily do again and pleased it was chosen over the Manx Rally – especially now that the Manx has been cancelled. Great support once again from the R.A.C.E team, James Squires on the Spanners, Sonia the feeder, Jackie’s organisation skills and all round support from Suzanna and Matthew. Thank you to Bowker Transport for their support on this event, much appreciated. Really liked the event and great stages which I enjoyed!”

Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill had an exceptional run once again, including a great cut in the dark during Friday’s evening Stages. Unfortunately Saturday didn’t get off to a great start, where a small mistake cost the pair valuable seconds – but that didn’t stop Ray & Jared. Ray adds that they were running with , “sting in the tail heading for the penultimate Stage when a condenser let go on the road section, it always pays to have a few essential spares on board! Then we were hit with a noisy diff heading for the last Stage…  Good job it was canceled! All in all a great rally, even if it was a long trek to get to!”

No malfunctions could keep Ray & Jared from the podium though as they finished 1st MC2 & 1st o/a for both Rounds 5 & 6!

Congratulations Ray & Jared! 

Also a massive well done to each of the crews that poured a lot of time, energy and money in to making the trip over to Belgium  – it’s a shame that there were a few DNF however we’re happy that you all thoroughly enjoyed the event!

The generous Yokohama prize of two regulation tyres, used throughout the Championship, was won by Craig King.

Round 5

Retirements:
Shane Gamble/Bob Ward – 1st Stage

MC2
1st – Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill
2nd – Jim Brindle/Sam Bould
3rd – Clive King/Anton Bird

MC4
1st – Stephen Brown/Arwel Jenkins
2nd – Martin Melling/Catrin Jones
3rd – Rick Ford/Neil MacDonald

O/a
1st – Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill
2nd – Stephen Brown/Arwel Jones
3rd – Jim Brindle/Sam Bould

Round 6

Retirements:

Peter Ellerby/Brian Cammack – Stage 6

Clive King/Anton Bird – Stage 7

Rick Ford/Neil MacDonald – Stage 7

Craig King/Clare Bird – Stage 12

MC2

1st – Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill
2nd – Jim Brindle/Sam Bould
3rd – Shane Gamble/Bob Ward

MC4
1st – Stephen Brown/Arwel Jenkins
2nd – Martin Melling/Catrin Jones

O/a
1st – Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill
2nd – Stephen Brown/Arwel Jones
3rd – Jim Brindle/Sam Bould

It’s just 6 weeks to go until the 7th round of the HRCR Mini Sport Cup for the Cheviot Stages Rally on 28th October, we hope to see lots of the Minis out to compete on the challenging roads of the Otterburn Ranges!

Full results from the Tour of Flanders can be found on the here.
To catch up with the 2018 Mini Sport Cup so far, please see 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.

Photos courtesy of Rallylovers.