The TSH Stages, Portreath, Cornwall 20th & 21st May 2017
Stages: 14 – Starters: 77
After finishing well in the 2016 event, Mark II Motorsport headed west to compete in the SubaruWRC Spares.com TSH Stages on the 20th and 21st May. Set at the huge RAF Portreath airbase, the event was spread over 2 days with 8 shorter stages on Saturday and 6 longer tests on Sunday to challenge the crews.
Seeded at 17, Mark Welch and co-driver Andy Hollingham were confident of a positive showing. “It’s another good field as this is a popular event” said Mark, “last year was my first trip to the venue since the 90’s and I can now remember a lot of the course”! The team had planned to participate in the Bovington Stages during March, but an enforced hospital break for Mark meant that the team had to miss out that rally unfortunately.
With the field led off by event sponsor and previous winner, Steve Furzeland in his Impreza WRC, the action came thick and fast for Mark 2! It was evident that there was an immediate intercom issue, so Andy was using hand signals to guide Mark through the tricky early stages. Despite this, the boys managed 9th fastest, only 17 seconds behind Furzeland who set the top time.
SS2 was a different matter. The Mark 2 Impreza approached a 90 right corner way too quickly (“I thought it was a 45”, admitted Welch), and ploughed into a hay bale damaging the front of the once immaculate car. More damaging was the time lost leaving the team with 19th fastest.
A replacement intercom was borrowed from one Mr Furzeland (thanks Steve) so Mark and Andy were on speaking terms for SS3 and 4.10th and then 4th fastest time was the reward and things were settling down – Mark 2 was on a customary charge up the leader board.
Back in service, Chris Beckett of Rallyline Garage was skilfully attending to the car. Chris had noticed an oil leak from the engine and was monitoring the situation closely. It wasn’t bad enough to stop the team but was a cause for concern nonetheless.
Out onto SS5&6, the team continued to progress recording 10th fastest on both test, but were now back into the top 10 overall and still clawing their way up the leaderboard.
“I’m really enjoying the stages now” said Andy, “and I don’t think I’ll lose my voice after shouting my way through stages 1 and 2”!
The team headed out to the final pair of stages for the day. SS7 was executed without drama with a 5th fastest time which the team believed had moved them up into the top 6. All good! However disaster struck after literally a few yards into SS8 with a front puncture. Given the distance the team had to go on the stage, there was only one option which was to pull over and change the wheel. This cost Mark and Andy some 11 minutes, so given this plus the worsening oil leak, the team decided to retire the car so as to live to fight another day.
A huge disappointment when Mark 2 were confident of a podium finish despite the early drama. However, the speed is still there and the team is looking forward to the next event, the Wethersfield Stages in August. It’s a good job there is a break between events as Dean of GeoPrep has some work to do fixing the car!!
Mark II Motorsport would like to thank all of its sponsors as well as Chris Beckett of Rallyline Garage, and Dean George of Geo Preparations.
Images : M&H Photography