BEN Friend together with regular Monmouth co-driver Cliffy Simmons returned from his sabbatical with a fine performance on the recent Grooms Garages Sweetlamb Rally Time Trial, taking the Historic class and eighth overall in the Allglass Anglia Escort RS1800, reports PAUL WILLETTS.

Newtown and District Automobile Club attracted a full entry of 50 cars for the 24 competitive miles run over six tests with three runs over the same four-mile stage in the morning, then the reverse stage with a further three runs in the afternoon.

It was a solid performance by the duo with fastest historic car on the first five tests, with only a throttle issue on the final stage preventing a clean sweep, but they were comfortable historic category winners by 28 seconds.

"It's been a good day and useful mileage ahead of the forthcoming Nicky Grist Stages, it's a cracking event and could do with more mileage," said Friend.

First time in an Escort for 40 years, Ian Evans and Justin Brooks took 10th
First time in an Escort for 40 years, Ian Evans and Justin Brooks took 10th. Photo: DARREN BOWEN (Darren Bowen)

Behind was Herefordshire's Ian Evans, who in the early 1980s was one of the up and coming stars in the Vauxhall Nova Challenge and is renowned for his giant killing drives in his 1300 Nova over the years

But the Allensmore driver was debuting his Historic spec Escort RS1800 – the first time he'd driven an Escort for 40 years and then it was only a 1300, so this was a real baptism of fire.

But with regular co-driver Justin Brooks, he built his speed during the day and entertained the spectators with his flamboyant style to finisha excellent 10th overall and second in class after a trouble-free run.

The mighty TR7 V8 of Graham Thatcher and Tim Samuel
The mighty TR7 V8 of Graham Thatcher and Tim Samuel. Photo: DARREN BOWEN (Darren Bowen)

The awesome sounding TR7 V8 of Heads of the Valleys AC's Graham Thatcher and Tim Samuel finished 33rd and eighth in class.

And the Forest of Dean's Mike Truman and Martha Howells in the ME Damsell Subaru Impreza made a welcome return to gravel and netted 35th overall and fifth in class

Coleford's James Dunkley had Jack Morris back onboard the Dunkley Auto Services Vauxhall Corsa and finished just one place behind Truman in 36th and fourth in class.

Forest of Dean MC's Mark Christopher made a rare outing in his Mini Challenge spec Cooper with Jasmin Westcarr in the co-driving seat and took 39th and sixth in class.

It was tuition time for clubmate Dave Troughton, who had Coleford's Nigel Jenkins in the hotseat of the Hyundai i20 and they had a solid run to 42nd and 6th in class.

Unfortunately FoD MC's Bob Morgan and Adrian Williams in the Winner Garage Skoda Fabia R5, in a first outing since the Wyedean, rolled on the afternoon loop while holding a strong fourth, ending their rally, although the crew were OK.

Yet again NADAC put on a first class event and British rallying needs more of these type of cost effective rallies to encourage newcomers into the sport.