The Challenger Stages, Bovington, Dorset 19th November 2017
Stages: 6 – Starters: 62
After the teams excellent result at Wethersfield on August Bank Holiday Monday, Mark ll Motorsport headed down to one of its favourite venues, the tank museum test track at Bovington, near Dorchester, Dorset. The team were due to compete on the Bovington Stages here back in March, but an enforced hospital visit for driver Mark Welch had prevented the teams participation.
With the Subaru Impreza cured of its oil leak and skilfully prepared for the event by Geo Preparations, the team were looking forward the rally where they finished 6th overall in 2016.
However, just to spice things up a little, the organisers had decided to seed Mark ll at car number 1 as they obviously thought the Impreza stood a good chance of overall victory! Driver Mark Welch had a different view. “It will look good in the pictures, but I think the seeding is extremely optimistic, particularly as there are some quick Escort and Darrian boys out there today”. These included Geoff Bennet, a local man who was 3rd here earlier in the year, Josh Payton a very quick lad very much in form, Mark Jasper, who despite coming to the event for the first time has a string of victories over the past 18 months, and Chris Tappin in a giant killing Darrian kit car.
Co-driven again by the other half of Mark ll, Mark Norris, the teams blue Impreza led the field away for the first of 6 stages. Although the sun was breaking through, conditions were slippery with the track damp from overnight rain. The two Marks opted for slick tyres which in hindsight, was probably ambitious. “I was very cautious as grip levels were pretty inconsistent” said Welch, who was generally dissatisfied at his pace on the opening test, particularly as he was aware that Payton had taken a chunk of time off of them. What Welch didn’t know however is although Payton had been flying and set the quickest time, the two Marks were actually second fastest!
Whilst the service crew of Mark Sims and Tim Gore set about checking the car before SS2, Welch gave himself a good talking to! “Mark doesn’t want to know what position we are in” said co-driver Norris, “but that run wasn’t as bad as he thought!”
Unusually, Welch must have listened to himself as the Impreza flew around SS2 nearly a minute faster and took fastest time ahead of Payton!
Things were now hotting up, on SS3 Jasper got into the groove taking fastest time from Payton by 2 seconds with Welch and Norris a further 3 seconds back. With Welch still blissfully unaware of progress, at the halfway point the team were a in a solid second place overall, a little adrift of Payton (courtesy of his very quick first stage time) but well ahead of 3rd place.
A little time was lost on SS4 as Mark ll’s tyres were beginning to feel the stress of it all, with the team recording 5th fastest time but a quick trip to Slick Tyres for some new front rubber saw normal service resumed for the final 2 stages.
As the Impreza came into service for the final time, Welch obviously wanted to know what position Mark ll had finished. He was gobsmacked when Norris said “we’re second overall, 1st in class and have been since SS1”!
So a great way to finish the season. The team has a reliable, competitive car with a lot of promise for the future. However, due to a number of changes throughout 2017 and the loss of a major sponsor, that future unfortunately looks uncertain at this stage.
Mark II Motorsport would like to thank all of its sponsors as well as Mark Sims and Tim Gore of TG Motorsport our brilliant service crew with again a little help from Ben Norris, and Dean George of Geo Preparations for providing us with a reliable, competitive car.