Author Archives: Howard Wilcock

STILL ALL TO PLAY FOR !…

The Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages is the penultimate round of the 2017 RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship and the organisers, Sixty & Worcestershire Motor Club, have attracted a superb entry running to more than 140 cars. In BTRDA terms, with the exception of Sam Bilham and co-driver Cameron Fair who have already made sure of this year’s Fiesta ST Trophy, the titles of all the other constituent parts of the Series are still to be won and lost. The ‘pretenders’ to the various crowns have just the Woodpecker and the North York Moors-based Trackrod Forest Stages at the end of September to stake their claims. Hence, spectators out on either – or both – of these events are in for a treat!

As far as the RAVENOL BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship is concerned, this year’s winners are likely to be either Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson or Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson. The two Fiesta crews have spent much of the season running fairly close together but, with five scores to their credit, Black/Edmondson currently lead the table from Petch/Wilkinson. The latter failed to finish the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March but, since then, have taken three outright victories on the four events they have finished. Dropped scores come into play now, but whoever is to succeed Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson, (running at number 7 in a Fiesta WRC), as Gold Star Champions still have some work to do to achieve their goal.

As far as outright winners of the Woodpecker Stages are concerned, in addition to the three crews mentioned above, although Luke Francis/John H Roberts have had a disappointing season to date by their high standards, their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 is a proven winner at this level and cannot be discounted. Former Gold Star Champion Hugh Hunter, with Manxman Rob Fagg pointing the way, is still getting to grips with the intricacies of his particular Fiesta and needs a good result following a DNF on the Nicky Grist Stages, while Martyn & Dawn England have improved beyond measure in the twelve months since they took delivery of theirs. 4th overall last time out – worth a punt? Possibly!….

Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy are leading the BTRDA Production Cup in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 by the narrowest of margins from Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge. The only crew to score two category maximums so far, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence, could possibly overhaul both the aforementioned but, in order to do so, top notch results are required on the final two outings – a position in which both Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Lancer) and Andy Davies/Max Freeman (Impreza) also find themselves.  Leaving the Ludlow Racecourse start line astern will be Davies, Naylor, Thompson, Hill & Kakad but, for all concerned, the order in which they arrive back there for the finish will be of much greater importance!  The Fiesta STs also conform to Group N (Production Cup) specification and, although the overall Trophy winners have been identified, the other podium positions still have to be sorted, with Alasdair Currie/Steven Brown currently laying claim to runners-up spot.

The RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star® Championship caters purely for those with two-wheel drive cars and, with different winners on each of the five events to date, no-one has taken the series by the scruff of the neck!  Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith’s consistency – five starts, five finishes – sees their Hillman Avenger BRM atop the table but, on this occasion, Leominster’s Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook will be the first crew away in their Escort, followed by the similar cars of Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham and Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell, neither of whom scored any points on the Nicky Grist. A good result from Steve Hopewell/Clive Jones could also elevate them into the Top Three at this important stage of the season.

Much has been written on the subject of the insistence of seeding in order of anticipated performance and the effect this has had on entry levels of the smaller capacity cars. However, that is not to decry the efforts of those who are competing in such vehicles as their commitment is no less intense! While Jersey’s Ed Fossey and his Blackpool-based co-driver Chris Sharpe-Simkiss are leading the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship in their Toyota Yaris, Dave Brick can see the Woodpecker Stages HQ at Ludlow Racecourse from his farm! He and son Toby took their Nova to top honours on the Nicky Grist Stages and, if local knowledge counts for anything, the others better watch out!… Although not quite as close to Ludlow as the Bricks, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) aren’t that far away in Hereford and, given a clear run, can be relied upon to put on a good show. Bring it on!…

Bart Lang/Sinclair Young (Nissan Micra) have emerged victorious on the last three rounds of the BTRDA Rally First Championship, such that were they to sit the Woodpecker out, they would still be leading their respective categories at the end of the day. However, with two rounds to go, the destination of the winner’s trophy is yet to be decided! Chris Hickman/Alex Stanbury (MG ZR) & David Perkins/Jordan Joines (Micra) could still influence the final outcome, while category winner on the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Andrew Wheatley (Ford Puma) also returns to join in the fun on this occasion.

As far as contenders for the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship are concerned, the Woodpecker Stages represents a return to forest rallying after the option of three consecutive asphalt events. This year’s Championship has been completely revamped and, whilst it is still class based, any vehicle complying with MSA Technical Regulations is eligible to compete. After a good run on the Tyneside Stages over the Otterburn Military Ranges, Stephen Petch currently holds sway but, as every competitor is pitted against those in his/her class, it’s just as feasible that the eventual winner will come from one of the smaller capacity classes.  The latest championship points can be found at www.englishrally.co.uk/english-championship-points  In 2016 Sam Bilham, in his 2-litre two-wheel drive Fiesta ST, was victorious and there’s no saying that a similar giant-killing act will not be performed by someone this time. We’ll know by the end of September!…

For further information on the Woodpecker Stages, visit : www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk

Photo is Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson (Fiesta R5+) on the Nicky Grist Stages.     All photos courtesy of ‘Ralliphotoswales’

SERIOUS FUN in 2018!

The BTRDA are very pleased to confirm their provisional calendar* for the 2018 BTRDA Rally Series.

The BTRDA Rally Series, which will include the 65th running of the Gold Star and Silver Star Rally Championships plus the BTRDA 1400 and Rally First Championships, the BTRDA Historic Cup and Production Cup and the Fiesta ST Trophy, is consistently the most popular rally championship in the UK and will continue to provide the best selection of popular forest stage rallies.

The 2018 calendar contains eight one-day forest rallies starting on 17th February with the Cambrian Rally in North Wales and finishing on 29th September with the Trackrod Forest Stages in North Yorkshire.  The final points table will be based on a competitor’s best 6 scores, which provides some flexibility to fit in the events around family or business commitments or even to recover from an expensive car problem.

2018 Calendar (*subject to MSA approval)

Round

Event

Date

Location

1 CAMBRIAN RALLY February 17th North Wales
2 MALCOLM WILSON RALLY March 3rd Lake District
3 RALLYNUTS STAGES RALLY  April 14th Mid Wales
4 PLAINS RALLY May 12th West Wales
5 CARLISLE STAGES June 9th Kielder Forest West
6 NICKY GRIST STAGES July 14th Mid Wales
7 EVENTSIGNS WOODPECKER STAGES September 1st Shropshire/Welsh Border
8 TRACKROD FOREST STAGES September 29th North Yorkshire

We are very grateful for the wholehearted commitment from all the event organisers, because without their unstinting efforts we could not promote such a successful rally championship.

Details of all the categories, classes and incentives plus the TV coverage will be confirmed over the next couple of months, but competitors and supporters can be assured that the BTRDA Rally Series will continue to provide competitors and followers with some Serious Fun!

Back to the 2017 season and the EventSigns Woodpecker Stages, the penultimate round of the 2017 BTRDA Rally Series, which has again attracted a huge and varied entry of more than 140 cars. If competitors are still planning to compete then you need to submit an on-line entry A.S.A.P.

If you want to be part of the Woodpecker Stages, then the event organisers will still welcome any offers of help, especially with marshaling on the stages which is essential for the event to be a success. Please contact the Chief Marshal – Graham Hopewell via e-mail at [email protected]

Entries are now open for the Trackrod Forest Stages on Sat 30th September which will be the final round of the 2017 RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship. The event is based at Filey on the Yorkshire coast and uses all the best forest roads in North Yorkshire to provide 45 miles of single use stages. This is always a popular event with competitors and spectators and where the Championship winners will be confirmed.  Event regulations and on-line entries at www.rallyyorkshire.co.uk/competitors-information

Photo is the current BTRDA Rally First leaders Bart Lang / Sinclair Young.     (images courtesy of ralliphotoswales)

A Busy Weekend in Builth Wells !

Over the weekend of 8th/9th July the mid-Wales town of Builth Wells will play host to a feast of motorsport action as contenders for both the RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship make the most of the latest opportunity to further their 2017 campaigns. On Saturday both series will be contesting the all-forestry Nicky Grist Stages and then, the following day, those with an eye on English Championship glory complete a unique ‘double-header’ with a run out over the asphalt roads of the Epynt Military Ranges on the Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally.

So, first things first and Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson will lead the RAVENOL BTRDA Series & MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship contenders away from the town centre start in their Ford Fiesta WRC. Right behind them, in their similar R5+, will be BTRDA Gold Star® Championship leaders Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson – for the past three events these two crews have been virtually inseparable, arriving at the various finish lines just a handful of seconds apart. On the one hand, Petch has come out on top on each occasion – including two outright victories – but, on the other, Black’s 100% finishing record gives him the upper hand in the BTRDA points table. However, once dropped scores come into play later in the season, that situation may change!….    Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg (Fiesta)  are  another crew to have seen the finish line on all four occasions so far but, even so, they could do with a good haul of points to counter a disappointing run last time out.

2016 Nicky Grist Stages winners Luke Francis/John H Roberts are not having the season they would have wished for. A 3rd place finish on the Plains Rally in April is their best result this year as their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 had retired from the previous round and would do so again on the next one. Nevertheless, given a clean run – not to mention a slice of luck! – they are proven winners at this level and cannot  be  discounted. The Carlisle Stages winners Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead bring their recently acquired Fiesta WRC to the Nicky Grist and if their performance from Carlisle can be replicated then we are in for a treat.  Conversely, Connor McCloskey also in a Fiesta WRC, will be hoping that his quick exit from the Carlisle Stages can be quickly forgotten and they can return to their normal performance.

Occasional BTRDA Series visitors Martyn & Dawn England (Fiesta R5+), who were 6th overall on the Nicky Grist Stages last year in what was then a virtually new car to them, return and, whilst obviously not in line for any Championship honours, are still perfectly capable of mixing it with those who are. Then we have two crews approaching the event from different perspectives – Dylan Davies/Llion Williams (Impreza) will be looking for their first finish of the season while Peter Stephenson (Focus WRC) arrives in Builth fresh from his best BTRDA Series result to date on the Carlisle Stages.

The Impreza of Andy Davies/Max Freeman leads the BTRDA Production Cup runners away from the start, pursued by the Lancer EVOs of Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence, series leaders Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy, Richard Hill/Steffan Evans and  Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge.  Having already registered a couple of DNFs, the pressure is now on Daniel Moss/Sam Allen to bring their own EVO9 to the finish in one piece.

Then, of course, there are the Fiesta STs and, once again, we ask the question ‘is this the event that’ll bring an end to Sam Bilham/Cameron Fair’s monopoly of the series?’ Four starts and four maximum scores leave them in the ‘nearly, but not quite’ situation in Championship terms. However, should their dominance continue in mid Wales, it’ll put the matter beyond doubt and leave the others to squabble over the remaining podium places.

Ashley Davies (Escort Mk2) and Richard Sykes (Citroen DS3 R3) finished the recent Carlisle Stages Rally on identical penalties, with the tie-break going in Davies’ favour. Points in the RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star® Championship were awarded in a similar fashion and now, a month later, the two drivers start the latest encounter together. Silver Star leaders after the  first  round of the season, Jody Bowcott/David Millard (Escort Mk2), rejoin the fray but a couple of retirements in the intervening period have not helped their cause!  Also on the list of rapid two wheel drive competitors is Rob Dennis, the current leader of the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship, in his historic spec Escort Mk2.

Twelve months ago Chris Powell/Jim Lewis were tasting champagne (well, whatever it was ,it was fizzy!) in the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship as, in spite of a failing clutch, their Talbot Sunbeam took them to victory on the Nicky Grist Stages. Having risen to similar heights on the Plains Rally a couple of months ago, it then let them down on the Carlisle Stages. Even so, with renewed hope, they start behind the Nova of Dave & Toby Brick which has also experienced mixed fortunes in the Championship so far. They are joined by Ed Fossey/Chris Sharpe-Simkiss (Toyota Yaris) who, in spite of their absence from Carlisle, still maintain their series lead and Tommi Meadows/Ian Oakey whose hastily-repaired Ford Ka, following its topsy-turvy moment on the Plains Rally, succumbed to an electrical fault in Carlisle.

With two 1st and one 2nd places to their credit already, Bart Lang/Sinclair Young (Micra) have carved out a significant advantage in the BTRDA Rally First Championship. But – and it’s a big ‘but’! – with three rounds still to go, nobody can yet describe themselves as safe. Whatever happens in Builth Wells, Lang/Young will maintain their lead but, as the season winds towards its finale, things could still change significantly. Ask Chris Hickman/Alex Stanbury – their MG ZR has only done two events so far, but a 1st and a 2nd have set them up nicely for the remaining rounds.

And so to Sunday morning and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship contenders who have survived the rigours of the previous day (no doubt some service crews will be in for a long night as they refettle their charges!) reconvene to do it all again on Epynt. The Fiestas of Petch/Wilkinson and Black/Edmondson will be leading the charge  but,  bearing  in mind that it’s a class-based Championship, the likes of Ed Fossey (Toyota Yaris) and Bart Lang (Nissan Micra) stand just as much chance of coming away with maximum points!

The first car leaves the start of the Nicky Grist Stages in Builth Wells town centre at 08.31 on Saturday morning for 45 miles of special stages in some of the classic mid-Wales forests. Then contenders for the Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally will get an extra 10 minutes in bed on Sunday prior to 75 miles of flat-out motoring on Epynt!….

For further information on the Nicky Grist Stages, visit: www.nickygriststages.co.uk

Photo is Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead; winners of the recent Carlisle Stages   (courtesy of ralliphotowales)

CAN PETCH’S PACE PREVAIL?… Carlisle Stages Preview

Photo is Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence (Mitsubishi Evo 9), also going for a hat-trick in the BTRDA Production Cup.  (Courtesy of ralliphotoswales)

The second half of the RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series season kicks off with the DMACK Carlisle Stages (10th June) and, twelve months ago, the eventual Gold Star® Champions Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson narrowly edged out Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson to take maximum points on the day, their Fiestas finishing the event line astern after 44 stage miles in the western side of Kielder Forest. This time, Petch arrives in the Border city brimming with confidence on the back of outright victories on the last two rounds of the series and it goes without saying that the Bishop Auckland driver will be keen to keep the momentum going.  For his part, Payne’s intention was not to defend his title but, with the readjustment of the scoring following the loss of the Cambrian Rally at the start of the season and his appearance on the Plains Rally, there are still enough events left for him to make a significant impact on this year’s Gold Star battle, should he choose to do so.

For the past couple of RAVENOL BTRDA Series rounds, Petch/Wilkinson & Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson have been inseparable, their respective Fiestas being just 11s apart by the finish of both. Unlike the former who retired, though, Black/Edmondson also came home from the Malcolm Wilson with a respectable score such that they arrive in Carlisle as Gold Star leaders. Similarly, with three good results in the bank already, Ulstermen Connor McCloskey/John Rowan undertake one of their shortest journeys of the season to a rally start to consolidate, or even improve on, their current second place spot in the points.

Continuing the Fiesta monopoly, Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg are only four points behind the overall leaders but, as none of the aforementioned will need reminding, with up to 30 points available on each occasion, the look of the leader board can significantly alter virtually in the blink of an eye!  Luke Francis/John H Roberts will be hoping that their ‘lean’ spell is at an end. Their Lancer EVO 9 finished a highly creditable 5th on the recent Plains Rally and they now find themselves in a similar situation to Charlie Payne – good results and no mistakes on the remaining four events could see them challenging for the title by the end of September.

Andrew Roughead has worked his way up to 4th in the Co-drivers’ table with Tom Preston but will be sitting in Carlisle-based Peter Taylor’s Fiesta on this occasion. Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Fiesta S2000) could do with a good run to move their campaign forward while, having only contested two events so far (and finished both of them!), more of the same on the Carlisle Stages would set Wayne Sisson (Lancer EVOX) & Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) up nicely for the remainder of the season.

Consistency sees Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Lancer EVO9) currently holding sway in the BTRDA Production Cup by a narrow margin from Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge (EVO X) and the Impreza of Andy Davies/Max Freeman. However, notwithstanding a twelve-month sabbatical from the sport, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence have returned this year and planted their EVO 9 at the top of the timesheets on each of the two events they’ve contested so far. Then there’s Richard Hill who, despite retiring from the Plains Rally, is still in the Top Six and is comfortably placed to improve on that – provided of course, that Kielder doesn’t conspire to upset his plans!

The Carlisle Stages presents A N Other with the latest opportunity to bring to a close Sam Bilham/Cameron Fair’s monopoly of the top step of the Fiesta ST Trophy podium. Jon Ambler is Sam’s closest challenger while Alasdair Currie, who retired last time out, followed the leader home on the first two events. New to the series on the Plains, Martin Laverty/Phil Kenny finished an impressive 3rd, while Tony Simpson/Ian Bevan endured one of those days that, should they ever be moved to write them, would be omitted from their memoirs!….

This year’s RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star® Championship is a very open affair – different ‘winners’ on each round to date, with Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell (Escort) putting in three workmanlike performances to head the tables but they know they’ve got a job on if they’re going to stay there! Dave Bennett/Alistair McNeil lost top spot after their Corsa retired from the Plains and would, obviously, like to be back there ASAP while Ashley Davies/Lee Taylor, who were absent from Welshpool, could bring their Escort back into contention once again.

Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith are having an excellent season in their Hillman Avenger BRM – another crew to have finished every round so far with the corresponding benefits in the points table there for all to see!  Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor return in their Citroen DS3 R3 and they will certainly prove to be a threat and could put the cat amongst the pigeons on the day!

Ed Fossey/Chris Sharpe-Simkiss (Toyota Yaris) maintain their lead in the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship, in spite of being upstaged by the Talbot Sunbeam of Chris Powell/Jim Lewis and Dave Brick’s Nova on the Plains. All three will be present in Carlisle, as will Carl Davies/Rich Jones (Micra) who, although sitting in 4th place, are still less than a maximum score behind the leaders….  Re-joining the fray are Tommi Meadows/Ian Oakey whose Ka will have been the subject of a considerable amount of TLC since its much-publicised roll last time out. Such commitment will doubtless pay dividends at some point in the future – it’s just a case of ‘when?’….

Bart Lang (Micra) starts the Carlisle Stages as joint BTRDA Rally First Championship leader with Andrew Wheatley. However, the absence of the latter from the starting line-up gives Lang and Sinclair Young the opportunity to claim top spot for themselves. Well, that’s the theory but Jonathan Pickering/Simon Broom and David Perkins/Jordan Joines will have other ideas on the subject. Their own Micras are only a handful of points adrift while Sam Johnson’s Seat Arosa, which was 4th on its maiden outing on the Plains, is also back for more. Hence, everyone needs to be on their mettle on the day!

After setting out on the Somerset Stages Rally in mid-April, contenders for the revamped MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship reconvene in Carlisle for the second event in the eight-round calendar and it’s from here that the ties in the points table, always experienced after the first round of a class-based series, will begin to disappear.

Following the opening encounter Ed Fossey (Yaris), David Bennett (Corsa), Pat Naylor (Lancer EVO 9), Stephen Petch (Fiesta WRC), Rob Dennis (Escort Mk2) and Toni Carannante (Subaru Impreza) have been dining out on the strength of their joint leadership of the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship. Now, as Round 2 is upon them, they’ve got to do it all again to stand any chance of maintaining their positions at the top.  Behind them, those sharing 7th place are only two points behind, 12th three, 16th four and so on. Hence, either a calculator or considerable aptitude for mental arithmetic will be a prerequisite on the day!

The first car leaves the start of the Carlisle Stages at 8.00am on Saturday 10th June and cars are due to begin arriving back at the finish at H & H Auctions on the outskirts of the city from 3.00pm.   Further details from: http://racrally.org/dmack-carlisle-stages/index