Irish team, McCloskey and Regan, win 2013 Team GMF Wyedean Forest Rally
A blistering run through the final stage of the Team GMF Wyedean Forest Rally, Speech House, elevated Connor McCloskey and co-driver Francis Regan into the lead of the event just when it mattered.
Competing in the Forest of Dean for the first time, the Ulstermen's Subaru Impreza WRC arrived back at the Chepstow Racecourse finish seven seconds ahead of the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 of David Wright/Michael Wilkinson which, in turn, was three ahead of 2007 Wyedean winners Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank (Ford Focus WRC).
With just the run through Speech House to go, the timesheets showed Hunter to be in the lead from Euan Thorburn, with Wright third and McCloskey fourth.
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Mechanical problems with Thorburn's Ford Focus WRC saw the Scotsman retire prior to the start of the final stage but, with only 11 seconds separating the top four drivers, an upset was definitely on the cards.
Matt Edwards/Will Rogers took fourth in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9, while 2012 Team GMF Wyedean Forest Rally winners, Charlie Payne and Craig Thorley (Ford Focus WRC), were fifth.
The top six was rounded off by Luke Francis/John Roberts, who also won a tightly-contested Group N 'production' battle in their Lancer EVO9.
The first two-wheel drive car home in the 'Open' category was the Ford Escort MkII of Will Onions/Dave Williams, while the similar machines of Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook and Peter Smith/Patrick Walsh claimed the top two places in the 'Historic' section.
For the fifth year running, Julian Wilkes and Will Rutherford-Child won the 1400cc category in their Vauxhall Nova VXR.
Although not staging a repeat of their 2012 giant-killing performance which saw them finish third overall on the snow-affected event, the West Country crew still dominated the category to the point that, by the end of the day, they were almost a minute ahead of the Ford Ka of Yorkshiremen Mat Smith/Giles Dykes, whose own performance on what was their first visit to the area was, nevertheless, impressive.
Third were former BTRDA Rally First champions, David Bennett/Alistair McNeil, in their Vauxhall Corsa.
Any chance of a good result for former 1400 champion Darren Pinchin and his co-driver Kaz Watts, from Coleford, disappeared when their Proton Satria slid off the road in Chepstow Park.
The resultant delay pushed them down to seventh place in the category at the finish.
The 'Wyedean' is the only event in the year that utilises the tracks in the Forest of Dean and, although free of the snow and ice of last year, the stages were still very slippery.
Retirements accounted for more than 40 per cent of the original starters, but one crew who were denied the opportunity of starting the first stage were Graham Waite/Gill Cotton whose 'Historic' Volvo Amazon suffered a blown oil pipe prior to the start.
Team GMF Wyedean Forest Rally 2013 top 10 overall
Number six: Connor McCloskey/Francis Regan in their Subaru Impreza S9 - WR1 0:46:13
Number four: David Wright/Michael Wilkinson in their Mitsubishi EVO 9 - WR1 0:46:20
Number two: Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank in their Ford Focus - WR1 0:46:23
Number five: Matt Edwards/Will Rogers in their Mitsubishi EVO - B13 0:46:44
Number one: Charlie Payne/Craig Thorley in their Ford Focus WRC - WR1 0:48:44
Number 14: Luke Francis/John H Roberts in their Mitsubishi EVO 9 - N4 0:48:59
Number 10: Jamie Anderson/Ella Flynn in their Mitsubishi EVO 9 - N4 0:49:09
Number 26: Will Onions/Dave Williams in their Ford Escort - B12 0:50:17
Number 16: Bob Morgan/Adie Williams in their Subaru Impreza - B13 0:51:13
Number 201: Julian Wilkes/Will Rutherford-Child in their Vauxhall Nova VXR190 - 1400S 0:51:15