Author Archives: Howard Wilcock

THE GENERATION GAME

The second round of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series takes contenders to the Lake District and the Malcolm Wilson Rally which is an event that the current MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star® Championship leader, Stephen Petch, has yet to win. However, his dad – Steve – is a three-time Malcolm Wilson Rally victor, the most recent coming exactly twenty years ago! So, having set a cracking pace to come out on top of the opening round of the Series, can Stephen and co-driver Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) maintain their momentum and repeat the success?….  [The Main photo is Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson on the recent Cambrian Rally].

One of their main adversaries in the battle to succeed Euan Thorburn to the BTRDA Gold Star crown, Charlie Payne (Fiesta WRC), was the winner here in 2016 – coincidentally on his way to claiming the title for himself. Now, with Patrick Walsh ensconced in the co-driver’s seat and following a retirement last time out, the pair will be looking to put their campaign back on track. Ian Bainbridge’s Fabia was runner-up to Petch on the Cambrian but another Skoda crew whose season got off to a less-than-satisfactory start was Dylan Davies / Llion Williams. They’ll be relishing the chance to considerably improve their standing in Gold Star, Class B14 and the new BTRDA Rallye R5 Cup. Chasing similar goals will be the Fiestas of Martyn & Dawn England, Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge and Hugh Brunton/Paula Swinscoe.

Class B13 is as popular as ever with the Top Four finishers on the Cambrian Rally – George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Lancer EVO X), Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Lancer EVO 9), Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) and Maxx Bradshaw (Lancer EVO 2) – all heading for M Sport’s premises in Dovenby for the start of the Malcolm Wilson Rally. They are joined by Matthew Jackson/Will Atkins in their Subaru Impreza who aim to break up the Mitsubishi dominance. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Lancer EVO 9) failed to make it to the finish ramp in North Wales and it goes without saying that there is now extra pressure on a result this time. 

By finishing ahead of their main rivals Scott Faulkner/Steve Link on the first round – i.e. having fewer time-consuming problems! – Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Lancer EVO 9) lead the BTRDA Production Cup. Both crews are set to resume their quest for supremacy in the Lake District and, should something untoward happen, several Fiesta STs will be lurking in the background ready to capitalise on any such misfortune! In spite of their vehicles’ relative lack of power and traction in comparison to their four-wheel drive turbo-charged counterparts, the presence of Bobby Mitchell, Jonny Sproat & Callum Hughes must be regarded as a potential threat!

Naylor/Lawrence are also joint-leaders of the MRF Tyres Mixed-Surface Challenge following the opening encounter, a position they currently share with Ewan Tindall/Andrew Roughead (Fiesta R2). Joel/Wood (Escort Cosworth) and Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) are suitably placed to alter the look of the leader board before the Challenge then heads off to the first asphalt event in its eight-round calendar.

Andy Davison/Tom Murphy took their Talbot Sunbeam VXR to maximum MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship points on the Cambrian Rally, leaving no-one in any doubt as to the driver’s intentions in terms of improving on his 2019 runner-up spot! However, opposition could come from several different directions! Baz Jordan/Arwel Jenkins (Hillman Avenger) and Nick Dobson/Jonathan Turnbull (Escort Mk2) begin their quests for glory in the north-west, David Gathercole and Ben Friend’s Historic MkI & Mk2 Escorts cannot be discounted, along with a whole host of Fiestas that will also be squabbling over BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup points.
<<<<<<<<<<<   Andy Davison/Tom Murphy (Sunbeam VXR) – BTRDA Silver Star® Championship Leaders After Round 1

In that latter category, Motorsport UK 2020 English Rally Championship sponsor Tony Simpson and co-driver Ian Bevan join the fray on the Malcolm Wilson Rally where they’ll come up against the similar Fiestas R2’s of leaders Perry Gardener/Andrew Sankey, Rob Wilson/Martin Haggett and the aforementioned Ewan Tindall/Andrew Roughead who are amongst the 10 BTRDA R2 Cup crews. Now, there’s a scrap to keep an eye on!…

The Cambrian Rally proved problematic for a number of front-running Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA 1400 Championship contenders but, avoiding the pitfalls that befell others, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) returned home to Herefordshire as leaders of the race to claim the 2020 BTRDA Bronze Stars. They now journey up to north-west England with the express intention of consolidating – and, hopefully, extending! – their advantage. The likes of Dave Brick/Rob Woodhouse (Nova), Aaron Rix/Rob Cook (Escort) and Richard Jordan/James Gratton-Smith (MG ZR) may have other ideas, but you get the drift!…
Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Sunbeam) – BTRDA Bronze Star Championship Leaders After Round 1   >>>>>>>

Similarly, Dominic Hodge/Stefan Arndt (Nissan Micra) emerged victorious from a very closely fought Class 1400C battle on the Cambrian Rally and, now, Richard Garnett/Rob Gilham (Micra), Sam & Liam Johnson (Seat Arosa) and Dale Glover/Sean Ward (Vauxhall Nova) will be on hand to ensure that whoever comes out on top this time will have had to work for it!
Simon Double/Jessica Mitchell (MG ZR) will put their ‘nil points’ on Round 1 of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally First Championship behind them and turn their attention to keeping the similar car of Joe Keen/Paul Barbet in their rear-view mirror – hopefully!…

 

The Motorsport UK 2020 English Rally Championship, in association with Seacon UK, begins on the Malcolm Wilson Rally, the first of a six all-forest event calendar that rewards success within its class structure, rather than from out-and-out speed. Hence, the eventual winner could come from any of the seven capacity classes – indeed, the 2019 winner was Steve Black in his 1400cc Suzuki Swift!…

<<<<<<<<   Motorsport UK English Rally Championship Sponsor Tony Simpson (Fiesta R2)

The first car leaves the start of the Malcolm Wilson Rally from M-Sport at 7.00am on Saturday 14th March for seven special stages in the Lake District, before the finish on the outskirts of Penrith, from 14.30.
Further information on the Motorsport UK 2020 English Rally Championship in association with Seacon UK and be found at www.englishrally.co.uk

All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond.
AH/060320

THE GOLD STANDARD…!

2020 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series Preview:   As the BTRDA Rally Series enters its 67th year of ‘Serious Fun’, MRF Tyres join the party as they begin a three-year term as headline sponsors of the UK’s most popular Rally Championship. Current BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Champions, Scotsmen Euan Thorburn / Paul Beaton, have elected not to defend their title and hence we look to the opening round of the 2020 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, for some clues as to who might possibly succeed them….
In the Blue (Oval!) corner there are Fiestas for 2016 Gold Star Champion Charlie Payne, who has reigning British Rally Champion Co-driver Patrick Walsh for company this year, 2017 Gold Star Champions Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson, plus more recent converts Sacha Kakad / James Aldridge, Irishmen Niall Henry / Damien Duffin and Taunton husband-and-wife Martyn & Dawn England. Meanwhile, choosing Skoda Fabia R5s for their tilt at the coveted crown are Ian Bainbridge / Dale Bowen, Dylan Davies / Llion Williams and Karl Simmons / Mark Glennerster and it won’t be until after Signing-On & Championship registration in Llandudno closes that we’ll know if anyone else has put their head above the parapet by joining them!  New for 2020 is the BTRDA R5 Cup and, hence, those with compliant cars can add it to their quest for overall and Class B14 honours!

<  Ian Bainbridge’s Skoda Fabia R5 on the Trackrod Forest Stages  (photo © Kevin Money)

Although not coming under the designation of ‘World Rally Cars’, there are a number of well driven – not to mention extremely quick! – four-wheel drive turbo-charged cars in Class B13 that can reasonably be expected to be there, or thereabouts. George Lepley and Tom Woodburn, [2019 Silver Star Champions] who appeared in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X towards the end of last season and managed to show all the WRC cars a clean pair of heels on the Woodpecker Stages, are returning for a crack at the Gold Star, as are the 2018 Motorsport UK English Rally Champions, Ian Joel / Graeme Wood, in their MRF Tyres supported Escort Cosworth. However, they must be prepared for a barrage of Mitsubishi Lancer EVOs, not least of which will be that of former BTRDA Production Cup winners Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy and current Welsh Stage Rally Champions Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear who took a couple of BTRDA class wins last season in their EVO9 but a string of retirements saw to it that their efforts would go unrewarded at the end of the season.

The Cambrian Rally also plays host to the inaugural MRF Mixed Surface Challenge – an eight round series featuring four on gravel and four on asphalt. Two of the above-mentioned Lancer EVOs, driven by Manxmen Stephen Ormond-Smith and Maxx Bradshaw, set out on the road which will take them, eventually, to their ‘home’ event, the Pokerstars Rally, in November. Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence remain loyal to their FIA-homologated Group N Lancer, which has undergone a complete rebuild over the winter, as they eye up another Production Cup title. However, what could prove to be a rather large fly in their ointment is that the current holder, Scott Faulkner, has also indicated his intention to take another pop at top spot!   Fiesta ST Trophy cars also qualify for the Production Cup and on occasions, while only benefitting from two driven wheels, consistency over the course of a Championship has seen contenders taking podium finishes on events. Returnee Bobby Mitchell will be joined by some new faces, including those of Alex Hawkins, Callum Hughes and Jonny Sproat.

As far as the two-wheel drive MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship is concerned, with the winner in 2018 & 2019, George Lepley, transferring his allegiance to four-wheel drive (see above), there’s also going to be a different name on the trophy this time. Last year’s runner-up, Andy Davison (Talbot Sunbeam VXR), would dearly love it to be his, but there’ll be plenty of others with similar ambitions. In addition to the higher-powered cars, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the top 1400s were making regular appearances on the Silver Star podium during last season!  Now entering its third year, the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup has struck a chord with competitors. Perry Gardener returns to defend his title but, with competitor numbers in double figures, he’ll no doubt have his work cut out to keep the marauding pack at bay! Having missed last season, teenager Ewan Tindall, who made quite an impression on his debut in 2018, rejoins in North Wales and will be looking to continue where he left off! Once again, whoever leads the R2 Cup after the Woodpecker Stages in September will have earned themselves a free entry on Wales Rally GB National Rally through its ‘Road to Wales’ scheme….  The winner of the Install Automation Ltd ‘Looking to the Future’ prize, Zak Hughes, is also at the wheel of a Fiesta R2. Having won the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy last year, the Welshpool driver will be using the £2500 to fund BTRDA Rally Series event entry fees for the current season.

Having relinquished the mantle of overall Rally Series title sponsor for 2020, Baz Jordan is maintaining his links with the BTRDA by putting up on-event prize money for successful JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup competitors. Indeed, Baz himself will be behind the wheel of his recently-completed Subaru Legacy which will be competing for honours in Class H4 where he’ll find Tom Coughtrie’s Mitsubishi Galant VR4 keeping him company.

Last year’s BTRDA Historic Cup runner-up, David Gathercole, pictured on the 2019 Trackrod Forest Stages, returns in his Escort Mk I while Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons’ Mk2 version scored a couple of excellent finishes in 2019 but, unfortunately, they were interspersed with a number of retirements which adversely affected their end-of-season position. Nevertheless, 5th overall and a class win on last November’s Wyedean Stages Rally should give them renewed confidence for the campaign ahead.

Having regained their rightful place running at the front of the field, the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA 1400 Championship contenders can always be relied upon to produce fireworks! 2019.  Motorsport UK English Rally Champion Steve Black and Paul Morris, who missed out on the Co-drivers’ title on a tie-break, return with their Suzuki Swift which finished all seven rounds of the 2019 Championship, in an attempt to add the 1400s to their respective CVs.  Chris Powell / Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam), who were just ahead of Black & Morris last year, are also back for more, as are the Brick family – Dave and son Freddie will be out in a Vauxhall Nova and Corsa respectively. Dave’s 2019 season was curtailed early on but not before he’d taken runner-up spot, behind Powell, on the Cambrian Rally.

MRF Tyres have also put their name to the BTRDA Rally First® Championship for the new season – always targeted as an excellent way to enter (or even re-enter!) the sport, suitable vehicles require only minimal modifications to comply with the regulations. For example, Simon Double’s 2.0 litre MG ZR ticks all the boxes, as does the Ford Puma of the FIA’s WRC Category Manager – and former M-Sport Business Development Manager – Andrew Wheatley.

So, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series once again makes a beeline for Llandudno, and the Cambrian Rally, to set the wheels in motion – literally!  As ever, each competitor’s five best scores, from the seven rounds, will count towards their final total and, in this way, holidays, work or non-availability on any given day need not detract from the completion of the requisite number of events. We know it starts here, but no-one yet knows how it’ll finish!…

AH/310120

Welcome to the 2020 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series

Serious Fun’ is our tag line and we have every expectation that 2020 will live up to that ethos.

The 2020 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series is open to all stage rally cars and includes a broad spread of categories and competition classes, so there is something for everyone.  The 2020 Regulations can be viewed via the Competitors section of this website.  The calendar includes 7 very popular one-day forest events with the final championship results based on your best 5 scores. We welcome the Scottish Rally to the Series for the first time. This event is celebrating its 75th year and promises to be a great addition to the calendar.

    • Visit Conwy CAMBRIAN RALLY    8th February    North Wales
    • MALCOLM WILSON RALLY    14th March    Lake District
    • RALLYNUTS STAGES RALLY    18th April    Mid Wales
    • The 75th SCOTTISH RALLY    6th June    Lockerbie/Scottish Borders
    • NICKY GRIST STAGES    11th July    Mid Wales
    • EVENTSIGNS WOODPECKER STAGES    5th September    Shropshire/Welsh Borders
    • TRACKROD FOREST STAGES    26th September    North Yorkshire

Competitors who have not yet registered for 2020 can do so now via the on-line BTRDA membership and registration system (see Competitor section) or print off a Registration Form and post it to Paul Price, the Membership Secretary. If all else fails, you can still register at the BTRDA desk on the Friday afternoon / early evening before the championship event.

The Registration Fee includes BTRDA club membership and registration for both the BTRDA Rally Series, the English Rally Championship and the MRF Mixed Surface Challenge. (BTRDA membership gives eligibility to all BTRDA Rally Series and English Rally Championship events). There is a £10 discount if both members of the crew register together.
NB: BTRDA membership and Rally Championship registration is FREE to new BTRDA members under the age of 25 on 1st Jan 2020 for their first year of registration.

CHAMPIONSHIP SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS
We are pleased to confirm that all our sponsors from last year are continuing with us including JORDAN Road Surfacing who are supporting the BTRDA Historic Cup, Fuchs Lubricants who are supporting the BTRDA Bronze Star (1400) Championship and Revolution Wheels, Install Automation Ltd, Mintex, and REIS who will again be providing invaluable support for the championship and its competitors.
Our new title sponsor for the BTRDA Rally Series is MRF TYRES through our old friend Jerry Freeman of Service & Sport. Jerry said “we are thrilled MRF are to be sponsoring the BTRDA Rally Series for the next three years and we hope to help the championship
prosper and innovate.” Contact Jerry on 07789 392080 or 01942 218498 or via email jfreeman@serviceandsport.com for exciting deals exclusive to our championship contenders.
We are grateful to all our sponsors and we look forward to working with them during the forthcoming year.

New for 2020 is the MRF Mixed-Surface Rally Challenge. It is open to vehicles that comply with the Motorsport UK Safety and Technical Regulations for Special Stage Rallies.  All MRF Mixed-Surface Challenge cars must use MRF branded tyres on every event, but the tread pattern and profile are free. See MRF Motorsport Tyres in UK at Service & Sport  Tel 07789 392080 or 01942 218498 or e-mail Jerry@Serviceandsport.com 

The MRF Mixed-Surface Challenge includes a selection of the best UK forest and asphalt stage rallies. The final points tables will be based on a competitor’s best 6 scores.

        •  CAMBRIAN RALLY (G)    8th February    North Wales
        •  MALCOLM WILSON RALLY (G)    14th March    Lake District
        •  TENDRING & CLACTON RALLY (A)    25th/26th April    East Anglia
        •  The  75th SCOTTISH RALLY (G)    6th June    Lockerbie/Scottish Borders
        •  NICKY GRIST STAGES (G)    11th July    Mid Wales
        •  MEWLA RALLY (A)    30th August Epynt,    Mid Wales
        •  POKERSTARS RALLY LEG 1 (A)    2nd October    Isle of Man
        •  POKERSTARS RALLY LEG 2 (A)    3rd October    Isle of Man

There are 7 competition classes and the scoring system will reflect achievement against other registered competitors in the same vehicle class and the level of championship competition in that class. (see Regulations in the Competitor section of this site for more details) The ST Trophy will follow the MRF Tyres Mixed Surface Challenge in 2020.

DECALS – FIRST ISSUE AND REPLACEMENT
Championship decals will be posted out to all drivers who are registered for 2020, up to the 31st January so you should receive them in time to put them on before the first event.  These decals (1 x screen strip and 2 x sponsor panels- 375mm x 265mm; one for each side of the car) must be displayed on the rally car to qualify for Championship points. Those not registered by 31st January can collect them from the BTRDA Signing-On desk of your first event in the BTRDA series. Replacement decals are available, but a small charge may be made to cover admin costs.
ON EVENT FUEL / RE-FUEL
Vital Equipment will be at all events in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series. We strongly emphasise the convenience, safety and organisational benefits that using the Vital Equipment re-fuel facility provides for all competitors. To order your fuel please use the on-line order facility. www.vitalequipment.co.uk/pages/btrda-rally-series-fuel-order-form   or Tel: 01981 241169.

Main photo is 2019 BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup winners Perry Gardener / Keaton Williams who also won a free entry in the Wales Rally GB National Rally thanks to the Road to Wales initiative.