IN CONTRAST to the extreme wet weather Abbey Meads rally driver Ian Barnes encountered back in February, last weekend delivered sunshine and dry and dusty conditions for his second race of the year.
Starting out from Welshpool on Saturday morning, competitors on the Plains Rally ventured into the forests of mid Wales for 44 competitive miles over eight stages before returning for a ceremonial finish in the town.
It was a day of new experiences for Barnes, having never attempted the Plains Rally before. Running with a replacement co-driver, Stuart Andrews from Hampshire, after his regular partner was unavailable for the event, Barnes said: “We had to take it easy most of the day being a new partnership but we set out with a plan for a sensible, solid finish and to enjoy the day.
“The car ran without fault and we used the rally as an opportunity to test new things but not to the detriment of trying to score points for my championships. I decided to try a different make of tyres in the afternoon and that went really well. We were rewarded with respectable times even though we both made small mistakes which cost us time on a few stages.”
It was the dry conditions that hampered their pace most of all as, on the longer stages, Barnes was quicker than the car running ahead of him.
“The cars start at one-minute intervals and if you are faster than the car in front you close the gap to them which on Saturday was a problem as the dust clouds made visibility difficult forcing us to back off,” he said.
“I also stalled the engine on one tight hairpin bend on stage seven. I panicked a little on the brakes, slowing for the turn because of the poor visibility, which compromised my timing on the clutch and handbrake, resulting in the engine stalling and cost us a few seconds to restart it.”
The Plains Rally was the fourth round of the 2014 British Trial and Rally Drivers Association forest rally series but, with Barnes’ budget allowing for only half of the rounds to be contested, it is important for him to finish every rally he enters.
“The best six scores count and I may not even be able to afford to do six rounds so every finish is vital,” he said. “I have to drive tactically rather than flat out which is fine, it is a considered decision. It is important for me to get my name known by having it on the championship tables rather than trying to be faster but not finishing as often.”
Those tactics paid off as Barnes now sits fourth overall in the BTRDA Historic Cup and second in class with his 1973 Ford Escort Mk1 RS2000. He is also 12th overall in the BTRDA Silver Star Championship for two-wheel drive cars, a championship for drivers of all classes of two-wheel drive cars not just historics and 51st overall in the Gold Star Championship for drivers of all cars, including modern World Rally Cars.
The Plains Rally was won by Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton in a Ford Focus WRC.
TO follow the Swindon-based driver and the Major Motorsport team go to www.majormotorsport.co.uk.