HPM Motorsport driver Marcus Dodd ended his season with a solid fifth place on the Bulldog Rally, final round of the 2005 MSA National Gravel Rally Championship. Marcus and his co-driver Andrew Bargery endured a frustrating day in the forests of Mid and North Wales. With nothing to play for in championship terms, Marcus was keen to use the Oswestry based rally as a 'pre-2006' test for the striking black and silver Hyundai. With new gear ratios to try on the car, multiple National Rally Champion Dodd was looking forward to a strong battle with the National Championship regulars as he entered the Dyfnant stage, the opening 10 mile test of the rally. Unfortunately for Marcus, a day of niggling problems began before the car even left the start line, as the intercom in the Hyundai stopped working with twenty seconds to go, and Marcus could not hear co-driver Bargery over the noise of the car. With Andrew frantically having to adjust to try and make himself heard above the clatter of stones underneath the car, Dodd struggled to get any confidence over those ten miles, and he dropped over 10 seconds to the fastest time. With the intercom problem fixed, the pair continued to the Dyfi Forest complex, and Dodd soon realised that the new gear ratios were not best suited to the demands of the North Wales forests. Try as he might, he could not guide the Hyundai to the top of the stage times, and the car was also struggling with brake problems. The Accent consumed brake discs and pads at an alarming rate as Dodd continued to push as hard as he could to close the gap on the leaders. A slight throttle sensor problem was also giving Marcus the occasional scare, but a switch to a slightly harder compound Pirelli K4 tyre for the afternoon stages improved the Hyundai's traction and handling, and Marcus was able to get much closer to the pace of the leaders as he began to set Top 3 fastest times. Despite not being able to challenge for the victory due to a late puncture, the test had been a success in that the team had found out what worked and what didn't in preparation for another crack at the title in 2006. Marcus was pleased with the outcome as he finally ended the rally 5th overall and 3rd in class A8, exactly one minute behind eventual winner Paul Bird: 'It has been a bit of a frustrating day' commented Marcus. 'We wanted to try out some new things with the car today to see if they worked. Some of the things we tried were a success, and some of the others were not so successful. That's the nature of rallying though - you don't know if something new is better or worse until you try it - so at least its another box checked on a list of things to do in readiness for next year...'
Fellow HPM Motorsport drivers Harry Dodd and Peter Egerton were also competing on the event. Marcus's father Harry finished 30th overall and 7th in the A8 class in his Flitewise.com machine, whilst Egerton took 6th in class and an equally well driven 22nd overall. Both were competing in HPM Motorsport run Hyundai Accent WRC cars.
HPM Motorsport contested the Plains Rally in mid-Wales as practice for the Bulldog Rally coming up in October. Marcus Dodd, together with usual co-driver Andrew Bargery started the day badly when a front drive-shaft broke on the Hyundai Accent WRC on the opening stage. Although the problem was quickly sorted by the HPM Mechanics, it dropped Marcus down to 12th place. A consistent drive through the rest of the day - including fastest overall through the long Dyfi test - saw Marcus claw his way back up to 2nd overall, only to pick up a puncture in the final stage (ironically a repeat of the problematic stage 1!), which dropped him back down to 3rd overall at the finish. Marcus however, was pleased to finish after a recent run of bad luck. "It's been one of those snakes and ladders type of days - gaining and losing ground all over the place" rued Dodd.
Once again, Peter Egerton was out in his Hyundai. Together with the experienced John Bennie co-driving for the first time, Peter started quickly and was pleased to be 20th after the 1st stage. However, despite a consistent drive, Peter wasn't able to improve on this as the day went on. Another consistent finish saw him a solid 23rd overall and 10th in class.
The HPM Motorsport team had mixed fortunes on The Park Systems rally in the forests of South-West Scotland. After failing to finish the previous event in Swansea, Marcus Dodd and co-driver Andrew Bargery still held a mathematical chance of claiming the MSA National Gravel Championship. While Marcus acknowledges that the fast and rough Scottish stages suit his driving style less than the flowing Welsh forests, Marcus was second after the opening stage and went on to post consistent times for the next two stages. However, the Cairn Edward test proved to be more problematic. When the car got out of shape on a loose right-hander, Marcus was unlucky to clip a tree stump hidden in the undergrowth. This damaged the right rear wheel on the Hyundai Accent World Rally Car and Marcus elected to stop and retire in the stage, rather than try to continue and risk further damage to the car.
More successful was our customer Peter Egerton and co-driver Simon Staddon in a similar Hyundai Accent. After a consistent run, the crew had a last-minute scare when the car lost hydraulic pressure in the final stage. However, Peter was able to nurse the car back to the finish at Newton Stewart to claim a well-deserved trophy for first in class A8, finishing 14th overall.
With usual co-driver Roy Campbell involved in organising the event, Harry Dodd had teamed up with the experienced John Bennie for the event. Harry put up another solid performance, but was denied a top twenty finish after losing two minutes on the second stage with a puncture.
A promotional day was held using Bill Gwynne's Rally School at Turweston Aerodrome. This was hosted by Petard's who sponsor both Marcus and our new customer's - the Dorset Police Rally Team, Shaun Cronin and co. driver Colin Bell who will soon make their first Rally debut and hope to compete in the Ancro Series next year.
It was a great opportunity for Petards to invite some of their customers to endure and experience the 'ultimate white knuckle ride' being passenger in the Rally cars! This involved firstly being driven by Shaun in the white Subaru Impreza Group N car and then followed by Marcus full throttle in his Hyundai Accent WRC.
It was an excellent day enjoyed by all.
Early 2005, the idea of a Police Rally Team was born. Inspector Shaun Cronin said 'the rallying is being used as an innovative way of bringing a road safety message to a wider audience. For instance, we can tell young people that there are opportunities within Motorsport to get their thrills so they do not have to drive too fast on the road. You can start karting at the age of 8 and stage rallying at 16'. This is also the very first time that a rally car has carried 'Police' logos with the full backing of the Police Force, the Chief Officers of Dorset Police also see this as a new way of sending a message to an otherwise hard to reach area. Taking part in a national championship enables Dorset Police to carry these messages throughout the country.
Above from left to right: Colin Bell, Marcus Dodd & Shaun Cronin.
Below: Shaun & Colin.
Pictures provided by Steve Pugh.