SWINDON racer Ian Barnes got his 2014 British Trial and Rally Drivers Association Forest Rally Series and Welsh Historic Rally Championship campaign off and running last weekend.

Despite the terrible recent weather, 150 teams gathered for seven gruelling stages in the Forest of Dean in the build-up to the start of the Wyedean Rally.

Barnes, driving his 1973 Mk 1 Escort RS2000, played it cautious in the opening moments of the rally, having not raced for the best part of six months.

Alongside co-driver Melanie Holmes, Barnes was fortunate to stay in the competition during the sixth stage of the race around Speech House, as he came close to crashing out of the contest.

Barnes said: “We were about 10 miles into the 13-mile stage and were pushing quite hard. It was all about being neat and keeping to the narrow, dry lines made by the previous cars but on a long, fast straight I made a slight mistake and drifted to the right onto the mud to the side of the clear line.

“Once in the mud the car just got sucked further to the edge and we went off the track at about 80mph. We ran up onto the rough forest verge, bounced into the air and for a moment we expected a big accident. But having landed okay, next came a felled tree trunk about 10-inch diameter across our path and, with no way of avoiding it, we hit it and jumped over the log, a bit like a horse at Badminton.

“The steering wheel was wrenched from my hands and we braced for a big ending but somehow we kept facing ahead. I kept the car moving to bring it back onto the track and remarkably we had no critical damage and were able to complete the stage without losing too much time.”

Having completed the seventh and final stage in more conventional style, the Swindon driver finish the rally 69th overall and third in his historic class.

“I needed a good start to the year,” he said. “Last year was a little disappointing but we have re-grouped and got off to a solid finish in difficult conditions and, as a self-funded amateur, just competing at this level is a challenge so any good finish is a very respectable achievement.

“We have some body work damage to attend to before our next rally in April but I am relieved not to have too badly damaged the car.”

To follow the Swindon-based driver and the Major Motorsport team go to www.majormotorsport.co.uk.