Dry, dusty and very very hot, that was the story from the opening half of the Kielder Forest Rally which featured 3 stages in the giant forest complex and saw Elliot Payne / Patrick Walsh head back to Hexham for the service halt with an 18 second advantage over Perry Gardiner / Jack Bowen with Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson close behind and Tom Llewllin / Ross Whittock another 25 seconds in arrears following an off road moment on the gravelly surface.
Payne / Walsh were quickest on the opening stage, 7 seconds up on Llewellin / Whittock with Petch and Gardiner tied on third fastest. The recent spell of dry weather had left the stages very loose, with the surface like ball bearings and dust was also a problem for quite a lot of drivers. Richard Hill / Patrick Cooper survived a 360 degree spin, Rob Wilson / Richard Crozier were troubled by a sticking throttle and Barry Lindsay / Caroline Lodge visited a couple of ditches.
The first retirement was the Fiesta of Charlie Payne which went off, one of many to be caught out by the slipppy surface. Also in bother were Yaniv Bar who had flown in from Europe to do the event, he slid off into a ditch and damaged the suspension on a stout tree stump, Terry Pankhurst was another to visit the scenery.
The Bewshaugh stage saw problems for some drivers when a gate swung shut across the track and then one of the Bowler Land Rovers rolled, blocking the stage briefly. The third stage was the long Falstone stage which cost Llewellin time with an off, Naylor / Lawrence survived a lurid spin, Thompson / Link crashed out and the Misubishi of Wilson / Crozier dropped back with only 2 wheel drive. Dubaso / Edwards rolled their Fiesta and Simpson / Beavan struggled out of the stage with a blown turbo.
After the Hexham service the crews repeat the same 3 stages and it’s all to play for as the least error will see the leader board change once again, with the leading crews in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Championship so closely bunched it is going to be interesting to see if anyone “Goes For It” or are they all going to play safe to ensure a finish.