There is such a wide range of crews and cars then in truth the event is very open. Top seed is Graham Coffey with his Ford Fiesta WRC who has won similar events at Oulton Park in the past. His co-driver is Jon Atherton who, as well as being a very competitive rally driver, is also a Director of our sponsors RAINWORTH SKODA. This crew looked on course to win last year’s event and had a healthy lead going into the final stage but broke a driveshaft and had to finish at reduced speed, missing out on the win by just 2 seconds!
Starting at two will be Guy Smith/Patrick Walsh. Guy is better known as a very successful racing driver with victories at Le Mans in 2003 and the American Le Mans Series in 2011 and he has been the lead driver in the Bentley Racing Team for many years. Although he has only done a few rallies, that includes 2 outright wins at Croft ! Accompanied by the vastly experienced Patrick Walsh, this crew certainly has the best pedigree.
Having led at Donington twice until retiring on the sixth stage each time, Alan Kirkaldy is back with Cameron Fair for another go with his 2.5 litre Escort. Kirkaldy has had wins in Scotland with his Escort this year and was successful at the Anglesey rally in one of Peter Smith’s Fiesta’s too. He is a former BMW Compact racer and also took part in the Citroen C1 24hrs race at Rockingham this year.
John Cope/Simon Hunter’s Subaru Impreza WRC is at four, with Peter Smith/John Millington in the ex Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta WRC next up. Both John and Peter are also previous winners at Anglesey. Completing the top six are Josh and Tamsyn Davey, the brother and sister team from Cornwall who have had tasted success with their Darrian T90, but have also had a number of mechanical issues to overcome. They should take heart from the fact that a Darrian (driven by Ashley Field) has won two previous RAINWORTH SKODA Dukeries Rallies here at Donington.
Starting seventh are local crew John Griffiths/Nigel Wetton in an Impreza. Until a couple of years ago Griffiths had only done a couple of rallies during a successful circuit racing career but has now become a regular frontrunner as well as making a racing comeback recently with a top 10 finish at Snetterton in the C1 Challenge.
Dave Welch/Steve McNulty are also in a Impreza at eight, although Dave is known not to be fan of race circuit rallying, could this weekend to change his mind? The Escorts of Gary Mason/John Matthews and Mike English/Andy Robinson complete the top 10, Mason having changed from a Mk1 to a Mk2 this season.
There are also lots of very competitive crews outside the top 10, and many of them will be challenging for the class awards. Jon Hudson/Adi Collins in their Suzuki Swift and Mark Annison/Ian Humphrey (Ford Puma) are amongst the favourites for Class 1 up to 1400cc cars, while Ken Sturdy/Richard Wood (Suzuki Swift Maxi), Andrew Turner/Richard Winstanley (Honda Civic) and Paul Rees/Paul Briggs (Astra Mk2) will all be challenging for Class 2 (up to 1600cc) honours.
So, will it be a 4-wheel drive car, a super quick Darrian, or a very powerful and well driven Mk2 Ford Escort? The stage routes have been designed to challenge the drivers but also give them some fun. It could come down to the weather conditions on the day. If it is wet, (forecast is dry!) then the 4-wheel drive cars should have an advantage but if it stays dry then the lighter and more agile 2-wheel drive cars may be able to use their better power to weight ratio to great effect.
The action starts at 9.20 am and there will be seven stages of rallying at close quarters. We will announce the winners of the Dukeries Rally around 6.00pm at the Awards Presentation in the Garage 39 Café & Restaurant. The Official Programme will be on sale at Donington from the Clipstone Scouts priced at just £3. The 20-page programme includes all the stage maps, the entry list and timetable plus lots of other information.
Finally, we must mention the recent passing of Jim Porter. Jim was a three-time winner of the Dukeries Rally with Roger Clark in 1962, 1972 and 1973. He was also the man who brought rallying to Donington with the Lombard RAC Rally in 1977. Jim was a true gentleman with a dry sense of humour who was a good friend to Dukeries Motor Club. R.I.P.
(The outline of this preview was written by Peter Scherer with some additional content) Photo is Martin Stockdale on the 2017 Dukeries Rally. Courtesy of Kevin Money