THE Rainworth Skoda Dukeries Rally, which is based at Southwell Racecourse this Saturday, will have a new winner this year.
Neither Andy Burton nor Steve Perez, who have monopolised top spot for the past three years, will be present and it falls to Hugh Hunter and co-driver Andy Marchbank to assume the mantle of running with No.1 on the doors of their Ford Focus WRC.
The Dukeries is the fifth round of the REIS – Get Connected BTRDA Rally Series and, at the halfway stage, the coveted Gold Star Championship title is anyone’s.
Hunter/Marchbank have won two of the preceding rounds, but retired from the other two.
Roger Chilman/Bryan Thomas, who start behind Hunter, arrive in the East Midlands as winners of the previous round of the series, the Plains Rally, in their Subaru Impreza WRC. However, they too have been absent from the finish ramp of a couple of events and need a repeat of their recent form in order to press home their claim to the title.
Meanwhile, series leaders Shaun Gardener/Ben Innes have thus far,maintained a 100 per cent finishing record in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO5.9, but could also do with a win to further their cause as, with six out of eight scores to count, nothing trumps a maximum.
Although at the wheel of a less powerful Group N specification Lancer, Jamie Anderson/Ella Flynn cannot be discounted. They finished seventh overall and took a class win on the 2011 Dukeries and certainly have the potential to improve on that.
Starting ahead of the turbo-charged machinery, the event boasts a very strong two-wheel drive contingent.
Numbered to over 50, this category, although dominated by Ford Escorts of various shapes and sizes, encompasses a wide range of vehicles that, as their drivers attempt to wring every ounce of power out of them, will give spectators on the special stages a treat.
First on the road will be Yorkshire crew Matthew Robinson/Nigel Hutchinson (Ford Escort MkII), who will be keeping an eye on the progress of the Opel Kadett of Allan McDowall/Gavin Heseltine as they set about repeating their 2011 class win.
As has become the norm in recent years, the initial batch of cars to leave Southwell Racecourse from 8.30am on Saturday are those in the up to 1400cc category.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that they only have small engines. Many of these are real ‘flyers’ and, given the right conditions, are capable of putting some considerably more powerful cars to shame.
Taunton driver Julian Wilkes and co-driver Will Rutherford-Child in their Vauxhall Nova VXR190 have dominated this particular section so far this season, although they were beaten into second place last time out by Justin Lawson’s own Nova.
And starting right behind them this time is Justin Lawson, co-driven by Paul Hargreaves.
Brian McGuinness, whose Corsa was the top 1400 car in the 2011 Dukeries results, returns with Pam Hilton to guide him to what he hopes will be a repeat performance.
But, in all, there will be nearly 4 others all jockeying for position as the event unfolds.
Following the completion of 38 miles of special stages, the first car is due to return to the finish at Southwell shortly after 4pm on Saturday afternoon.