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British ORC: Matador Championship Round 2 Ellesmere.

Just six seconds separated the top two crews at round two of the Matador MSA British Off Road Championship. After two days of intense competition, husband and wife team Keith and Sally Lewis took the outright victory from brother and sister pairing, Simon and Karen Bown.

With perfect weather throughout the weekend, the course of the event was nonetheless affected by the preceeding weeks of rain. The Matador Wisentta MT control tyres had to work harder than usual as even the fast open grasslands that typify the site at Lodgewood Park near Ellesmere in Shropshire were softer and more power sapping than usual and the rough woodchip surface which dominates the woodland sections contributed to a course that slowed substantially during each day.

First off the line, reigning champion Keith Lewis was determined to make the most of the ideal conditions, well aware of the fact that the Ellesmere course doesn’t suit his car and that the track deteriorates during the day. In a dramatic demonstration of how close the championship has now become, Keith’s dominant opening time, a full 12 seconds quicker than nearest rival Simon Bown, was probably the deciding factor of the weekend’s results.

After six stages at the end of day one, Keith had retained a slender lead, but it was the winner of the opening round, Colin Gould who was in second. Colin was buoyant about his day 2 chances, his independently sprung Mattseratti buggy should have been ideally suited to the conditions. It was a tough call nonetheless, with Colin needing to pull back about six seconds per lap to take the win. Colin set about day two with especial vigour, only to come unstuck in the early stages of the opening Sunday run. Two propshaft failures in successive laps relegated him to thirteenth in the final standings.

It was then left to Simon Bown to take the challenge to Lewis. This he did by dominating the top of the timesheets throughout day two. But it wasn’t quite enough. With Lewis still setting a blinding pace, Simon Bown’s rate of progress was just not great enough. "We couldn’t have held off much longer," Lewis conceded at the finish, "I’m glad there are no more stages today!"

Former champion Tim Marsh drove a brilliantly calculated drive with an ailing engine to claim the third podium spot. Karl Gudgeon (Mitsubishi Shogun Warrior) and Paul Mansfield (Land Rover Discovery) scored a class win a piece for standard production class vehicles, on a demanding track for the showroom class machines.

2006/06/12 I 13:45 CET I Editor:

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