Author Archives: Howard Wilcock

SHOWGROUND SHOWDOWN!…

Preview of Round 6: Nicky Grist Stages – 14th July                                            Photo is Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence on the Carlisle Stages … and yes they were trying very hard!  

As contenders for the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series prepare for their second visit of the season to the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells for the Nicky Grist Stages, the pressure on the leaders – not to mention those who have designs on podium places! – in each of its various facets is beginning to mount. With just two rounds to go after this weekend, no-one is yet in a position to relax. Indeed, apart from the inaugural BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup which, thus far, has been completely monopolised by the Fiesta of George Lepley/Tom Woodburn, each category has seen at least two different winners from the four events that have already taken place.

Meanwhile, contenders for the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship are really only just getting into their stride. The unfortunate cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson Rally put the start of this year’s ERC back to the Carlisle Stages at the beginning of June, with the Quinton Motor Club-organised Nicky Grist Stages as the second round, and then there are still another three to complete after this weekend.

Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson won last year’s Nicky Grist Stages, on their way to claiming the BTRDA Gold Star® Championship crown – and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship – and have made no secret of their wish to repeat the exercise in 2018.  However, their efforts have so far been somewhat upstaged by Matt Edwards/ Darren Garrod (Fiesta WRC) and current BTRDA Rally Series leaders Paul Bird/Jack Morton (Focus WRC) who have amassed two maximum scores apiece.   

2016 Nicky Grist Stages winners Luke Francis/John H Roberts have changed their allegiance to a Fiesta WRC this season – with mixed results. A couple of excellent second-place points scores have been bookended by DNFs, placing them just outside the Top Ten in the Gold Star Championship points. There’s still time to make amends but any further ‘misfortunes’ will cost them dearly. 2016 Gold Star Champions Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson start behind them in their hastily-repaired Fiesta following its inversion last time out in Kielder, while Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge continue to acquaint themselves with their new R5 Fiesta. Martyn & Dawn England (Fiesta R5+) were 4th overall on last year’s Nicky Grist Stages and the Ilminster husband-and-wife team return in an attempt to improve on that excellent result.

Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence travelled back to the Midlands from Carlisle last month with maximum BTRDA Production Cup points in the bag but, up until then, Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy had come out on top of the Lancer EVO battle and that, allied to their 100% finishing record, sees them arriving in Builth Wells as top dogs. The Impreza of Jon Ross/Martin Auskerin returns after absenting itself from the trip up north and a good result now will keep both car and crew in the mix.

Meanwhile, there’s a strong Welsh element to the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy entry! The top seeded crew is Zak Hughes (Welshpool) & Tom Wood (Cwmbran) who’ll be followed a couple of minutes later by Kalvin Green (Treorchy)/Osian Owen (Rhyl) and current leaders James Giddings (Swansea)/Sion Cunniff (Gaerwen). Mathew & Tim Tordoff are the highest placed ‘English’ crew prior to the Nicky Grist but they all need to be keeping a sharp eye out for 17-years old Ewan Tindall and co-driver Paul Hudson who, on the grounds of the driver’s age, have only been able to contest the last two events – and ‘won’ the second!…

As JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship leaders following the Carlisle Stages, Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell have the honour of being the first of the main series contenders away from the Showground in their Escort Mk2. Right behind them are Owen McMackin/Lee Taylor in their larger-engined version, with Allan McDowall/Gavin Heseltine’s 2.5 litre car and the Sunbeam VXR of Andy Davison/Tom Murphy also in close attendance.

As mentioned above, George Lepley’s stranglehold on the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup is such that, unless something untoward happens on the Nicky Grist Stages, he will qualify for the free entry to Wales Rally GB through the ‘Road to Wales’ scheme. Nevertheless, the words ‘chickens’ and ‘counting’ spring to mind!… Will Graham/Steven Davey, in another Fiesta, are handily placed to benefit from any misfortune that may occur to the current R2 Cup leader and then ‘crunch time’ – when the prize-winner is revealed – is at the finish of the Woodpecker Stages at the beginning of September. Bob Vardy, Roger Nevitt and a returning Sam Bilham, (the 2017 Fiesta ST Champion) also in Fiesta R2’s, are also sure to provide George with some strong competition.

George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Fiesta) – BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup Leaders on the Carlisle Stages

In the battle for the BTRDA Historic Cup, normal service was resumed on the Carlisle Stages following a blip on the previous month’s Plains Rally. Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard not only took their Escort to a category win but also claimed 3rd-place Silver Star points in the process! Tom Coughtrie’s Mitsubishi Galant VR4, which had also failed to finish the Plains, went some way to restoring its driver’s faith with a class win to keep it in contention for the overall lead.

So, we now move on to the contenders for the BTRDA 1400 & Rally First Championships who, along with crews in Historic Category 1 & 2 cars (+ Category 3 with single cam engines), will start at the front of the field, following the MSA’s relaxation of the rules regarding the running order on events, but in reverse order. Still with us? Splendid!….

Perhaps the people who need to be most aware of the situation are Emma Morrison, who has switched roles to take over the driving seat for this event, and Jon Quintrell who will be first away from the start of the Nicky Grist Stages in a Rally First Volkswagen Lupo GTI. The two Rally First 2.0 litre Toyota Corollas of Championship leader Matthew Baddeley and Guy Butler resume their friendly rivalry – on the Carlisle Stages, one didn’t start and the other didn’t finish!… Having also been absent last time, leaders after the opening round, Sam & Liam Johnson, will be hoping that their Seat Arosa will be in a position to give them a second maximum in mid Wales.

The ‘Historic’ Hillman Avenger of series sponsor Barry Jordan and co-driver Paul Wakely, who also missed out on the finish celebrations in Carlisle, starts a minute in front of Tommi Meadows’ Ford Ka, 1400 Championship winner last time. Then Steve Black’s Suzuki Swift has each of the current top six drivers in the table breathing down his neck, viz. Stuart Spyer (Corsa), Perry Gardener (Nova), Richard Cole (Escort MkII), Kieran Darrington (Corsa), Chris Powell (Sunbeam) and Dave Brick (Nova). Fireworks in July? You’d better believe it!…

 

                                                                                                                Chris Powell / Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) on the recent Carlisle Stages

 

Following the opening round of the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship, as a class-based series, a look at the points tables reveals multiple leaders. It’s only now, as contenders have a second chance to exert their supremacy that the number of names with maximum points begins to decrease. Those dining out on their success prior to the Nicky Grist include Ernie Graham (Escort Mk2), George Lepley (Fiesta R2), Paul Bird (Focus WRC), Tommi Meadows (Ka) and Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth). It goes without saying that all these good folk are preparing for a trip to Builth Wells on 14th July!

The first car (Emma Morrison/Jon Quintrell) leaves the start of the Nicky Grist Stages at 8.31am on Saturday morning and on the menu are 45 miles of special stages in some of the classic mid-Wales forests. Cars then begin arriving at the finish from 3.30pm that afternoon.  For further information on the Nicky Grist Stages, visit: www.nickygriststages.co.uk

AH             (Photographs courtesy of Kevin Money & Malc Almond)

BACK TO THE FRONT….!

Preview of Round 5: ATL Carlisle Stages – 9th June.

The ATL Carlisle Stages is the first event in the 2018 JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series to take advantage of the MSA’s recent relaxation of their regulations in relation to permitted running order. In this instance, it not only allows contenders for the BTRDA 1400 and BTRDA Rally First Championships and the older Historic Rally cars to run at the head of the field, but also in reverse seeded order.

As this is also a joint event with the British Historic Rally Championship it could be Paul Mankin / Desmond Bell in a Lotus Cortina who lead the event away from the start at 8.00am on Saturday 9th June.  Kieran Darrington/Adrian Cooper and Stuart Spyer/Pete Williams will be relying on their respective Corsas to carry them to the finish of the Carlisle Stages.  Having sampled an R2 Fiesta last time out on the Plains Rally, Tommi Meadows/Emma Morrison revert to their 1400cc Ford Ka once again whilst Richard Cole (Ford Escort) will be travelling all the way from South Devon to compete on the event.  Meanwhile, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) and Dave & Toby Brick (Corsa) who both have maximum scores to their credit already, will be looking to outdo each other and add another one to their accounts.     Main Photo is Dave & Toby Brick (Corsa) on the 2018 Rallynuts Stages.

Following the initial group of competitors, the event returns to ‘conventional’ seeding for JORDAN Road Surfacing Gold Star® Championship contenders. Matt Edwards (a former BTRDA 1400 Champion in 2010) and Darren Garrod (Fiesta R5) have emerged victorious from the previous two encounters this year and will now be chasing a hat-trick. However, those out to see that there’s a change at the top of the leader board on this occasion include Luke Francis/John Roberts (Fiesta WRC) and current Gold Star Championship leaders Paul Bird/Jack Morton who are keeping the faith with their Focus WRC. Bird lives in nearby Penrith and will be very much hoping that local knowledge plays a part in the outcome! 

Current BTRDA Rally Series leaders Paul Bird / Jack Morton (Focus WRC) on the recent Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally >>>>>>>>

Defending Gold Star Champions Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) are keeping up the pressure on Bird/Morton but can’t afford to make any mistakes as they continue their quest for back-to-back titles. A welcome return for Mick O’Brien accompanied by Rob Fagg (Fiesta R5+) are next away, followed by Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge (Fiesta R5) and the 2016 BTRDA Gold Star Champion Charlie Payne in another Fiesta who has Dale Bowen for company this time.

Late arrivals to the party, Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Impreza) swept all before them in Class B13 on their first outing, the Plains Rally, finishing in front of the Lancer EVO9 of Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear.  Ian Joel/Graeme Wood put their Escort Cosworth off the road in Wales and now need to make up the lost ground. They still have plenty of time but a good result in Carlisle would be hugely satisfying….

Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy have grabbed this year’s BTRDA Production Cup by the scruff of the neck, taking their Lancer EVO9 to maximum points scores on each of the three rounds so far. Following Tom Naughton’s big accident on the Plains a month ago, his enforced absence leaves Thompson to concentrate on keeping fellow Lancer devotees Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence at a safe distance. However, rest assured that the Midlands crew will have other ideas on the subject!…

Having finished in the Top Ten overall last time and taking maximum JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship points to boot, Ieuan Rowlands/Emyr Hall head north with their Hillman Avenger in an attempt to repeat the process. Nevertheless, it’ll come as no surprise to them that the ‘Escort Brigade’ – Rob Dennis/ Andy Boswell, Owen McMackin/Lee Taylor, Allan McDowall/Gavin Heseltine, Nick Dobson/Steve Pugh & Steve Hopewell/ Clive Jones to name just a few – will be doing everything in their power to thwart their plans!  Then, we can’t ignore Andy Davison/Tom Murphy’s rapid Sunbeam VXR or, indeed, Barry Jordan/Paul Wakely in the JORDAN Road Surfacing Avenger.  

Starting the season in such good form in their quest for BTRDA Historic Cup honours, Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard (Escort) and Tom Coughtrie (Mitsubishi Galant VR4) will have been somewhat underwhelmed by the Plains Rally which saw them both listed among the retirements. Even so, in spite of the setback, they start the Carlisle Stages leading their respective categories and will be looking for another opportunity to stamp their authority on the proceedings.

In BTRDA terms, the inaugural Rallye R2 Cup is proving to be a welcome addition to the fold as eleven drivers have already scored points. Be that as it may, George Lepley/Tom Woodburn have ignored all the others, instead treating the category as if it was their own!  Three maximum scores from three events unsurprisingly sees their Fiesta leading the table as they head off up the M6 to the start of the Carlisle Stages. Will Graham/Steven Davey, in another Fiesta, occupy 2nd place and, in the absence of Jack Leese as he recuperates following his major off on the Plains, Bob Vardy/Keaton Williams are next.  Zak Hughes/Tom Wood lead the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy runners, followed some 10 minutes later by James Giddings/Sion Cunniff and Kalvin Green/Rhys Stoneman.

2018 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship

Following the unfortunate cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson Rally back in March due to the attentions of the ‘Beast from the East’, the ATL Carlisle Stages hosts the rescheduled start of the 2018 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship and we’re now looking at a five-round championship, with everyone’s four best scores to count.. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta) managed to hold off the attentions of Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Lancer EVO9) to take last year’s title but, as a class-based series, it’s perfectly possible for the eventual winners to come from any one of the eight capacity classes.

Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson begin the defence of their MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship title

Starting in Carlisle for the ATL Carlisle Stages, the action in an all-gravel format then moves to the Quinton Motor Club promoted Nicky Grist Stages six weeks later. After a similar gap, the Woodpecker Stages will welcome contenders to Ludlow Racecourse for some of the famous Marches special stages. The North York Moors play host to the penultimate round, the Trackrod Forest Rally, at the end of September before the finale, a welcome return to the Wyedean Stages, in the picturesque Forest of Dean on 10th November.

Revised 2018 Calendar
• ATL Carlisle Stages Rally    9th June    Kielder Forest West
• Nicky Grist Stages    14th July    Mid Wales Forests
• Woodpecker Stages    1st September    Shropshire and the Welsh Borders
• Trackrod Forest Rally    29th September    North Yorkshire
• Wyedean Stages Rally    10th November    Forest of Dean

So, this could be a second bite at the cherry so to speak, especially for those that have had a ‘difficult start to the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series.     NB: The MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship registration is all part of the 2018 BTRDA Rally Series and BTRDA membership package.

All participating vehicles must comply with the current MSA Safety & Technical Regulations for Special Stage Rallies but then the Championship will be split into 8 championship classes with the scoring system reflecting achievement against other competitors in the same class. Let the fun begin!…

The ATL Carlisle Stages is based at the premises of H & H Auctions in Carlisle, from where the first car leaves at 8.00am on the Saturday morning. Five challenging stages later, the cars begin appearing back there for the finish from 3.10pm.

Photos supplied by Kevin Money & Malcolm Almond                                                                                                                                                                                                                     AH

PETCH’S INTENTION IS PLAIN !…

Preview of Round 4: Plains Rally – 12th May.

On their way to claiming the 2017 BTRDA Gold Star® Championship crown, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson won the Plains Rally outright in their Fiesta WRC and, as they continue with a very robust defence of their title, a similar result on the fourth round of the 2018 JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series would do very nicely, thank you!

Solid runs on both the Cambrian and Rallynuts Stages Rallies have put Petch/Wilkinson into 2nd place in the Championship points, almost within touching distance of the current leaders, Paul Bird/Jack Morton (Ford Focus WRC).  However, the ‘men of the moment’ are Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod who not only took their M-Sport prepared Fiesta to victory on the Rallynuts Stages but then followed it up with a similar result on the opening round of the British Rally Championship, the Pirelli Rally, at the end of April.  As a result they are seeded at No 1 on the Plains Rally and but for problems experienced on the Cambrian Rally, they would be arriving in Welshpool for the Plains as Gold Star leaders themselves….. The photo above is of Matt and Darren (Fiesta R5) – on their wat to victory on the Rallynuts Stages Rally.   (Image courtesy of Malcolm Almond)

Another crew to experience difficulties on the season-opener – in this case leading to a DNF – were Luke Francis/John Roberts who are sampling Fiesta WRC power for the first time this year. They went some way to putting their BTRDA campaign back on track with 2nd overall on the Rallynuts Stages, but now need to do it all over again to keep up with the leaders. Having forsaken their Mitsubishi Lancer, Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge have also joined the ever growing ranks of Fiesta R5 owners but its debut on the Cambrian was very short-lived after their particular example developed starter motor problems prior to the opening stage. Steve Simpson/Mark Glennerster (Fiesta S2000) will be hoping to emulate, or even improve on, the 5th place they attained the last time they contested the event together in 2016.  However, one crew who will be absent from the line-up are 2009 Plains winner Hugh Hunter and co-driver Rob Fagg who will be defending their victory on the 2017 Manx National Rally which, this year, takes place over the same weekend.

Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) have come out on top of the BTRDA Production Cup contenders on both occasions so far and will, no doubt, be looking to continue this trend on the Plains Rally. Their main rivals, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence and Tom Naughton/Will Rogers have registered one DNF apiece and, consequently, have a spot of catching up to do! Meanwhile, unlike these three Lancer EVO crews, Jon Ross/Martin Auskerin have put their faith in a Subaru Impreza for their challenge and, so far, it has rewarded them with a couple of good points scores.

Although it’s still early days, James Giddings/Sion Cunniff lead the race to become MRF Fiesta ST Trophy champions but, prior to the Plains, Kalvin Green/Osian Owen are only three points behind them. Trophy winners on the Cambrian Rally, Zak Hughes/Tom Wood, suffered the indignity of a retirement on the Rallynuts Stages and now need a result to regain their momentum. However, several others, including the likes of Mat Tordoff, Martin Laverty and Richard Wells, would all like a say in how the situation pans out this time!

Two events, two different winners so far in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship – and both crews feature in the starting line-up for the Plains. John Rowlands/Glenn Latham took first blood in their Escort, while Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell (see picture) did likewise on the Rallynuts Stages. Dennis leads the table from Ulsterman Owen McMackin whose bigger-engined Escort is up against the similar car of Ieuan Rowlands/Emyr Hall who performed a giant-killing act on the event last year by finishing 10th overall and first two-wheel drive, more than two minutes in front of their nearest rivals!

Andy Davison/Tom Murphy will be bringing their rapid Talbot Sunbeam VXR and, having been absent from the Rallynuts Stages, Barry Jordan returns with his Hillman Avenger. Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard maintain a vice-like grip on the BTRDA Historic Cup in their Escort, while Tom Coughtrie’s Mitsubishi Galant VR4 is exerting a similar level of dominance in Class H4.

 

On the subject of superiority, George Lepley has taken his Fiesta to maximum points scores on both rounds of the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup so far but, close behind, Jack Leese (Peugeot 208) and Bob Vardy (Fiesta) are tying for 2nd place. None of them will need reminding that even a minor indiscretion on the Plains Rally could result in a vastly different look to the leaderboard by the end of the day!…  It’s also interesting to note that Tommi Meadows has upgraded from his 1400cc Ka to an R2 Fiesta for the Plains – he’s obviously got his eye on the free entry to Wales Rally GB which will go to the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup leader after the Woodpecker Stages in September.

                                                                                     George Lepley / Tom Woodburn (Fiesta R2) on the Rallynuts Stages  > > >

Perry Gardener’s Vauxhall Nova leads the BTRDA 1400 Championship after two rounds, but he must be very wary of the two driver/car combinations that have already scored maximums. Having had a fantastic run on the Cambrian Rally, finishing second 2WD car on the day, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis’s Talbot Sunbeam let them down on the Rallynuts Stages. Hopefully, the severe dressing down it’ll have received, once recovered to its Hereford base, has been heeded and will now take its crew to further glory on the Plains Rally…. Then Perry has fellow Ludlow crew Dave & Toby Brick to contend with – having sat out the Cambrian, the father and son took their Vauxhall Corsa to the top step of the podium last time out and will be looking to repeat the exercise on the Plains. Meanwhile, Kieran Darrington’s return to the sport continues – a successful run on the Rallynuts Stages to 2nd 1400 in his trusty Corsa and he, too, will be heading for Welshpool.

BTRDA Rally First Championship contestants Matt Baddeley and Guy Butler started the Rallynuts Stages one minute apart in their identical Toyota Corollas and, by the finish, the gap had reduced to a mere 15s! The main difference here was that it was Baddeley’s second score while Butler had retired from the opening encounter. Sam & Liam Johnson (Seat Arosa), who showed the others the way home on the Cambrian, are back for more and, following successive retirements, Richard Ingleby/Alex Booth will be encouraging their MG ZR to get them to the finish this time!

The first car leaves the start of the Plains Rally in Welshpool at 8.00am on Saturday 12th May and 8 special stages await the 125-car entry. The organisers, Knutsford & District Motor Club Ltd., are delighted that, for the first time for 14 years, they’ve been able to include stages in Dyfnant forest and extend their gratitude to the various agencies that have made this possible.

The first car is then due back in Welshpool for the finish at 6.00pm.

Images courtesy of Kevin Money and Malcolm Almond.