Having secured the 2017 RAVENOL BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship titles on the recent Woodpecker Stages, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) start the final round of the series, the Trackrod Forest Stages, in the enviable position of being able to enjoy the North York Moors-based event without the added burden of any Championship pressures!

Twelve months ago they were runners-up and, to conclude their best-ever season, it would be fitting for them to win their ‘home’ rally. However……As is ever the case on an event of this stature, there are any number of others with their own views on the make-up of the last leaderboard of the season! Not amongst them, though, are confirmed RAVENOL BTRDA Gold Star Championship runners-up Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson whose entry on the forthcoming Wales Rally GB has focused their attention, such that they have excused themselves from the trip to Filey.

In deference to their win on last year’s Trackrod Forest Stages, outgoing Gold Star Champions Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson (Fiesta WRC) will be first away from the start, followed by Petch/Wilkinson and then Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg, fresh from their 5th overall on the recent Rally Isle of Man. Currently 3rd in the Gold Star tables, a result in Yorkshire will virtually guarantee their podium finish but, as we all know, nothing is ever quite that simple!

Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead (Fiesta WRC) and Thomas Preston / Stuart Louden (Skoda Fabia R5) are recent additions to the entry list and both have the pace to win the event outright.  Karl & Guy Simmons (Impreza WRC) and Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth), both of whom failed to finish the Woodpecker Stages at the beginning of the month, are looking to end their BTRDA campaigns on a high, as are Peter Smith/John Millington (Fiesta R5) and Peter Stephenson/Ian Windress (Focus WRC), the latter finishing 4th overall on the Carlisle Stages in June.

Meanwhile, the destination of the BTRDA Production Cup has yet to be settled. Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Lancer EVO9) lead the race for the title but Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge (EVOX) are just three points adrift. Both crews have finished all six rounds to date and, with each competitor’s best five scores to count, can only improve on their worst score. Third-placed Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (EVO9) have a score in hand over their rivals but, if they are to stand any chance of overhauling them, nothing less than a maximum will do. Although consecutive retirements on the Plains and Carlisle Stages Rallies have conspired to hold them back, on their day Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (EVO9) are proven category winners too. So, there’s a massive battle in prospect!….

Fiesta ST Trophy champions Sam Bilham/Cameron Fair opted to sit out the Woodpecker but are back for the Bingley driver’s ‘home’ event. Behind them, Alasdair Currie could still be beaten for runner-up spot by late-comer Finlay Retson who only passed his driving test in the days leading up to the Carlisle Stages in May!

After a season that has seen five different maximum scorers in the RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star® Championship, there are now four drivers – three of whom who aren’t included in the ‘maximum’ club! – who could possibly arrive back in Filey as the 2017 title holder. The maths are rather complicated and, in several instances, success relies in part on the failure of others…. With its unblemished finishing record, Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith’s Avenger BRM is the highest-seeded contender, with current leaders Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell (Escort Mk2) right behind them.

Having started the season at a canter in their 1600cc Corsa, Dave Bennett/Alistair McNeil’s luck ran out and two retirements preceded a couple of non-starts. However, the former BTRDA Rally First and BTRDA 1400 champions are back for the finale and could well put the cat among the pigeons! Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham (Ford Escort Mk2) are the only Silver Star crew with two maximums to their credit and, with just four scores, can count whatever points they earn in Yorkshire to their total. At the same time, should Dave Brick’s 1400cc Nova come up trumps – it’s already finished 2nd twice! – and some of its rivals fall at the last hurdle, it could be his name that graces the trophy for 2017!….

Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship leaders Ed Fossey/Chris Sharpe-Simkiss (Toyota Yaris) start one minute ahead of Dave Brick who, with son Toby co-driving, will be hoping to rearrange the look of the points table before the end of the day. With all the usual caveats, Carl Davies/Richard Jones (Nissan Micra) could move up to 2nd at the last gasp, while Tommi Meadows’ first season of BTRDA Series events has been ‘character building’ – probably a syndrome that co-driver Ian Oakey had thought was behind him! Although not in line for Championship honours this year, the combination of the teenage driver and his Ka have shown potential which we look forward to being fulfilled in the future.

Having already amassed three maximums and one second-place, Bart Lang/Sinclair Young’s Micra leads the BTRDA Rally First Championship as the pair heads for North Yorkshire. The only blot on their horizon comes in the shape of David Perkins who, with Jordan Joines pointing the way, could possibly upset their apple cart. Breaking the Micra domination is Phil Spilsted’s MG ZR as the battle to succeed Dominic Hodge/Stefan Arndt as RF Champions reaches its conclusion.

In a change from previous years, the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship also reaches its climax in Filey. In the absence of Callum Black, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson are crowned Champions without actually turning a wheel, but Black’s current runner-up spot is still to be confirmed subject, obviously, to results on the Trackrod Forest Stages. A maximum of 20 points can be awarded in each of the eight English championship classes and with additional points available up to a maximum of 25, were they to be the recipients of such a haul, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence could find themselves overhauling Black for 2nd.

The permutations for some of the class awards are even more complicated but, in addition to those already mentioned, the names of Bart Lang, William Hill, Barry Jordan, Andy Davison, Robert Dennis, Ashley Davis, Richard Sykes, Russ Thompson and Sacha Kakad amongst many others, are certain to all be in the mix.  Calculators at the ready!…

The first car leaves the start of the Trackrod Forest Stages from Filey Country Park at 8.30am on 30th September. On the menu are 45 miles of single-use special stages in such famous forests as Dalby, Langdale, Cropton and Gale Rigg. Answers to all the questions posed above will be available by the time cars begin arriving back at the finish from around 3.00pm onwards!

Photo is Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson on the recent Woodpecker Stages.  (Courtesy of ralliphotoswales)