Hugh Hunter and Andy Marchbank triumph at 53rd Rainworth Skoda Dukeries Rally

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THE Rainworth Skoda Dukeries Rally has been won by Hugh Hunter and co-driver Andy Marchbank who now add their names to those already appearing on the illustrious list of former victors built up during the event’s 53-year history!

The crew led from start to finish in their Ford Focus WRC but were pushed hard all day by the Subaru Impreza WRC of eventual runners-up Roger Chilman/Bryan Thomas from Herefordshire.

After 38 miles of special stages in the East Midlands forests, the winning margin was only 38 seconds, but was nevertheless a good result for both crews who are each chasing points in the REIS – Get Connected BTRDA Rally Series, of which the Dukeries was the fifth round.

Bringing their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 back to the Southwell Racecourse finish in a fine third place, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence also took a class win in the Group N ‘production’ category, finishing 10 seconds in front of the similar car of Jamie Anderson/Ella Flynn who were fifth overall.

Sandwiched between the two Lancers was the older, but more powerful, EVO5 of BTRDA Series leaders Shaun Gardener/Ben Innes, a result which sees them maintain their position at the top of the table.

In the battle for two-wheel drive honours, after nine of the 12 stages, Boyd Kershaw/Bryan Hull (Ford Escort) and Allan McDowall/Gavin Heseltine (Opel Kadett) were on identical penalties.

Kershaw then took three seconds out of the defending BTRDA Silver Star Rally Champions on the next one to put himself into a lead which surged to over a minute by the finish after the Opel suffered a problem on the final stage.

At the halfway point of the rally at the Thoresby Park service area, Matthew Robinson/Nigel Hutchinson’s Ford Escort MkII was in the lead but it then rolled into retirement on the seventh stage.

On their first visit to the event since 2008, the west-country crew of Julian Wilkes/Will Rutherford-Child convincingly won the 1400 category in their Vauxhall Nova VXR190. Behind them, though, there was a great deal of jockeying for position before the cars arrived back at the finish. The Proton Satria of Roger Priestnall/Jamie Forrest took the runner-up spot, but only after Brian McGuinness/Pam Hilton had relinquished it on the penultimate stage when their Vauxhall Corsa broke a driveshaft. Also in a Corsa, Kieran & Lyndsey Darrington were third, just six seconds in front of Clive Anstey/ Annabel Sealey’s Nova. Starting behind Wilkes, Justin Lawson/Paul Hargreaves were hoping for great things, but their Nova hit a bank on the first stage which damaged it’s front suspension – game over!

The recent rains had done an excellent job of settling the dust that has been a feature of several events in past years but, even so, retirements accounted for a quarter of the original 120-car entry. Happily, the day passed without any serious incidents but, for the second year running, the event medical services came to the rescue of a mountain biker who had injured himself after falling off his machine on one of the stages after the cars had passed through!