Donington Park, 20 August 2017

LAST GASP VICTORY FOR BELL AND RADFORD

Everything changed on the final stage of the 58th Dukeries Rally at Donington Park. Graham Bell and Russ Radford stole a last gasp victory in their Proton Satria S2500 Millington after the drive shaft broke on the Ford Fiesta WRC of long-time leaders Graham Coffey and Jon Atherton. The margin, after 8 stages: 2 seconds, just 6 seconds covering the top four at the finish.

Ian Woodhouse, winner here of the Donington Rally back in March, raced his Mk2 Ford Escort into an early lead, 3 seconds clear of Coffey and Atherton and Martin Hodgson and Tony Jones in their Mk2 Escort. Stephen Tilburn and Jody Wilson (Mk2 Escort) were a further 3 seconds back.

Woodhouse, with Jason Leaf on board, made a costly mistake on Stage 2, missing out one of the chicanes on the Donington circuit for which they were handed a 1 minute penalty. Coffey was quickest and leapt to a 17 seconds lead over Class 4 leader Tilburn who stalled after a spin at the Old Hairpin. Josh Payton and Marcus Mizen, leading Class 3 in their Mk2 Escort, were third, 19 seconds behind, with Bell and Radford up to fourth place.

Coffey continued to set the pace, increasing his lead. Peter Smith and John Millington emerged in a solid second place in their Ford Focus RS WRC until an exhaust problem ended their day late on.

As the rally passed the half way point, Woodhouse found his pace and recorded the fastest time on each of the final four stages to close to just 16 seconds behind the leader at the finish. His Stage 2 error had indeed been costly and Woodhouse has appealed the penalty, so the results remain provisional at the time of writing.

Payton and Bell also took time out of the leader over stages 5, 6 and 7, but Coffey and Atherton still held a 21 seconds advantage over Payton and Mizen ahead of the final stage. Bell and Radford were 23 seconds off the lead.

What should have been a formality turned into a nightmare for Coffey and Atherton as the Fiesta broke a drive shaft on the final stage and they limped home 25 seconds slower than Bell and Radford, but managed to hang on to second place, 1 second ahead of Payton and Mizen.

“ I am in total shock, said Graeme Bell after his surprise victory. “We had a very good day, but I’m sorry Graham didn’t have a good last stage. I feel guilty for taking the trophy,” he added, turning to Graham Coffey, “ but unfortunately I’m going to have to!”

Class 4 leaders Mark Kelly and Andy Baker (Mk2 Escort) had risen to fourth overall, 6 seconds off the lead while Woodhouse and Leaf came home in fifth place. Further back, John Griffiths and Nigel Wetton (Subaru Impreza) were the first crew home from the host Dukeries MC, taking ninth place overall. Abi Mahmood and Dean Ross took the Class 2 victory in their Renault Clio S1600 while Aaron Rix and Rob Cook (Ford Ka) were Class 1 winners.

Please click here for full results.

The awards were presented by Debbie Atherton of event sponsors Rainworth Skoda.