This was an historic event with a small 'h', in the sense the 55-year old Dukeries Rally was coming out of the forests to Donington as a single venue tarmac event for the first time. There were eight stages, each one lasting three laps. Most drivers were feeling the nerves, it was clearly going to be fast and nobody had any previous knowledge except some familiarity with the circuit itself. It was a fiercely competitive field too, with plenty of WRC cars, high-end Escorts and a new Darrian T90 GTR+.
The grip quickly improved and the second half of the event ran in the normal track direction. The organisers used infield sections and the pits for the stages, which proved to be good fun. We were seeded 31 and while sticking to the plan, made up a few places to finish 27th from a starting field of 92 and 66 finishers.
The problem was due to play in the shift-cut switch on the Sadev gearbox, but importers SWR Motorsport were on the case after the rally and immediately sent a fix in the form of a tiny spring. I also found that I couldn't work the hydraulic handbrake mounted conventionally between the seats and I need to fit the vertical type I had in the Yellow Peril. Otherwise, the car went like the clappers, the stiffer suspension set-up I'm testing felt good for the smooth tarmac, though I might try to improve turn-in a little more by softening the front springs a tad.
It was a good start in the new car and a fabulous event. The Neil Howard Stages followed two weeks later at Oulton Park but as it was the first round of the new MSN Championship for circuit-based single venue rallies, entries sold out in two-hours and we missed it. The budget is tight anyway, so we'll probably skip Rockingham in December as well and maybe emerge at Brands Hatch in the New Year. In the meantime, I'll bring you a winter fettling update or two.
Donington onboard vid here
Car: Mk2 Ford Escort RS
Run by: Jesse Crosse
Bought: August 2015
Purchase price: N/A
Last month at a glance: First competitive outing and the new RS is flying!
For the background on Jesse's 'Yellow Peril', see all the updates here.
Action photos: Paul Carey