Author Archives: Howard Wilcock


Preview of Round 3 : Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally (6th May)

The Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally is the third round of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series and Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards (Fabia R5) and Elliot Payne / Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2) arrive in Jedburgh as joint leaders of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star® Championship, each with a 1st and a 2nd place to their credit so far. However, as both crews can’t be credited with identical scores on any particular event, one way or another, the tie will be broken on 6th May.

Joint BTRDA Gold Star Leaders: Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards (Fabia R5)  and  Elliot Payne / Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2) >>>

The records show that Elliot Payne won the event last year, ahead of David Henderson (Fiesta Rally2) who is returning in an attempt to go one better this time, but a glance at the entry list tells us that whoever comes out on top will have had to work very hard for the privilege!  Missing the 2022 event in favour of his co-driver Declan Dear’s wedding, Matthew Hirst (Fiesta R5) has proved he’s a force to be reckoned with wherever he competes and the pair will view it as an opportunity to improve on their current 4th place in the points table. Meanwhile Fiesta converts Ian Bainbridge / Will Atkins will want to put a retirement on the recent Rallynuts Stages behind them and set about making an impression on the leaderboard.
Making a welcome return to the BTRDA Series are 2017 Gold Star Champions Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson who have transferred their allegiance from Ford to a Skoda Fabia Rally2. Although they’ve not contested either of the first two rounds of this year’s Series, the words ‘cat’ and ‘pigeons’ spring to mind!…

Then we mustn’t forget the B13 Lancer EVO9 of Russ Thompson / Steve Link – 4th overall on both the Malcolm Wilson and Rallynuts Stages see them occupying the final podium spot in the Gold Star table at the one-quarter distance. Ian Joel / Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) are their nearest class rivals but, having missed the opener, Rob Wilson / Richard Crozier, in another Lancer, were 2nd to Thompson last time out….

<<<<<   Class B13 Leaders : Russ Thompson/Steve Link (Lancer EVO9)

Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons (Escort Mk2) rule the roost in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship with a 1st and a 2nd place so far, but they were upstaged by the similar car of Robert Gough / Paul Morris on the Rallynuts Stages and now go head-to head once more in both Silver Star and the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup.

Ben Friend/Cliff Simmons (Escort) – BTRDA Silver Star & Historic Cup Leaders >>> 

Boyd Kershaw / Keegan Rees (Escort Mk2) and Robert Proudlock / Steven Brown (Opel Adam) are inseparable in runners-up spot in the Silver Star table – an alliance which, once again, will be broken on the Border Counties and, from the BTRDA’s point of view, it’s gratifying to see that there are several crews who might just get involved in such a breakage!  Andy Davison / Tom Murphy (Sunbeam VXR) have begun their 2023 campaign well, as have Neil Andrew / Dom Adams (Escort) – it’s amazing what a couple of solid scores early in the season does for your confidence! Having been absent from the Rallynuts Stages, defending Silver Star Champions Rob Wright / Mark Fisher, who were runners-up on the Malcolm Wilson in their Escort, are back and their track record is such that they can’t be discounted from causing an upset!

<<<<  Robert Proudlock and Steven Brown (Opel Adam)

While, unsurprisingly, Proudlock / Brown lead the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup, the Fiestas of Liam Clark / Ben Wild, Alfie Hammond / Phil Boyle and Tony Simpson / Stefan Arndt are all in the mix and, at the risk of tempting fate, thus far have yet to record a DNF!  Proudlock, Clark and Hammond are also eligible for the BTRDA Rallye R2 Junior Cup with the three currently separated by a mere four points….
OK, so Friend / Simmons lead the BTRDA Historic Cup from Gough/Morris but the Border Counties entry also includes Ernie & Patricia Lee (BMW 325i) and Ernie & Karen Graham (Escort RS1600) who could each give their campaigns a welcome boost in what is a very crowded table!


After two events, the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship finds itself in a similar situation to that of the Gold Star in that there is a tie for top spot. Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) headed Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards (Rally First Micra) home on the Malcolm Wilson while the roles were reversed on the Rallynuts Stages. So, whose turn is it on the Border Counties – or will someone else take centre stage?…  Class 1400C leaders, Dylan Fowler-Bishop / Dan Evans (Micra) are 3rd in the overall table and, consequently, best placed to benefit should anything untoward happen to either of the crews in front of them.

Bronze Star Leaders:  Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) and Lewis Hooper/Rhys Edwards (Micra) 

In addition to the defence of his MRF Tyres Rally First Cup title, Lewis Hooper is also chasing victory in the MRF Motorsport Tyres Trophy which could earn him a number of free entries and/or sets of tyres for the 2024 BTRDA Rally Series. Following the Rallynuts Stages, Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth) is ‘King of the Castle’ with Lewis 2nd on a tie-break (sound familiar?) but neither driver will need reminding that there’s still a long way to go!

Having been ‘resting’ since the beginning of March, contenders for the Motorsport UK English Rally Championship, in association with Seacon UK, are back on parade in Jedburgh as they attempt to resolve the inevitable ties that occur after the first round of the class-based series. Robert Proudlock, Nigel Jenkins, Elliot Payne & Ben Friend share top billing, but Arron Newby & Russ Thompson are two points behind with another five drivers a further one in arrears. So, there’ll be plenty of action while all this is sorted out!

The Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally takes in six special stages and the first car leaves the start at Jedburgh Abbey at 8.00am on Saturday 6th May. Prospective spectators should consult :

All photos © Kevin Money & Malcolm Almond


Preview of Round 2 : Rallynuts Stages (15th April)

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground in Builth Wells plays host to the second round of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, the Rallynuts Stages, on 15th April and it was there twelve months ago that Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5) recorded the first of their three victories during the season. They arrived back at the finish half-a-minute ahead of Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) who, having retired from the Malcolm Wilson Rally a few weeks earlier, was opening his account in what turned out to be the teenager’s BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship-winning campaign.

<<<   Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2) sliding their way to maximum Gold Star points on the Malcolm Wilson Rally

This time, having had a very successful outing on the snow-affected Malcolm Wilson Rally, Payne and co-driver Tom Woodburn start the Rallynuts Stages as MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star Championship leaders. Hirst / Dear are 3rd in the points table, marginally behind Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards who won the Interclub section of the opening round outright in their Skoda Fabia R5. Fiestas also appear in the hands of Ian Bainbridge / Will Atkins, Charlie Payne / Carl Williamson and Alistair Ginley / Craig Thorley, while Trevor Gamble / Phil Kenny will be looking to the Rallynuts Stages as an opportunity to get their challenge back on track following an unplanned early exit in Cumbria.

Russ Thompson / Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) hold the early-season bragging rights in Class B13 following their 4th place overall on the Malcolm Wilson but, with Ian Joel / Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) and Daniel Moss / Sam Davies (Lancer EVO9) also coming away with good points scores, they can take nothing for granted. At this early stage of the season, there’s also still plenty of time for Steve Pawson / Dylan Thomas (Impreza) to put their indiscretion in Greystoke behind them and catch up. The same applies to first-round absentees Rob Wilson / Richard Crozier (Lancer EVO7) who are rejoining the fray after some impressive performances during 2022.….

Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons’ mastery of the conditions encountered on the Malcolm Wilson in their Escort Mk2 brought with it not only maximum MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship points but also similar domination of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup. In Silver Star terms, Robert Proudlock / Steven Brown’s R2 Opel Adam is their nearest challenger, but Andy Davison / Tom Murphy (Sunbeam VXR) and Boyd Kershaw / Keegan Rees (Escort Mk2) have both sampled the spoils of victory in the past and will be keen to repeat the experience.

                                                                        Ben Friend & Cliff Simmons (Escort) – BTRDA Silver Star & Historic Cup Leaders   >>>>>

Ford Escort RS1600s are the vehicles of choice for both Jonathan Brace / Paul Spooner and Ernie & Karen Graham in the pursuit of BTRDA Historic Cup success and, while Proudlock / Brown currently hold sway in the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup, Liam Clark / Ben Wild and Alfie Hammond / Phil Boyle (both Fiestas) aren’t far behind them. The Rallynuts Stages also marks the return of Tony Simpson, with Stefan Arndt installed in the codriver’s seat, to the series.

<<<      Robert Proudlock / Steven Brown (Opel Adam) – BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup Leaders

Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) swept all before them in the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship on the opening round and, as such, arrive in Builth Wells as leaders. However, not to put too fine a point(!) on it, there are people queueing up to try and halt their charge! Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards (Micra) began the defence of the driver’s MRF Tyres Rally First Cup title in fine style by finishing runners-up to the husband-and-wife crew, while Ed James / Charlie Mason (Micra Kit Car) are looking to improve on their 3rd / 2nd places in the 2022 Bronze Star table. They’ve started off on the right foot with a good haul of points to leave them in striking distance of the leaders.

                                                                                                                                                 Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards (Micra)  >>>>

Class 1400C has the makings of a competitive affair with the Micra of Dylan Fowler-Bishop / Dan Evans attempting to hold off the attentions of Will Banks / Sam Kelter’s Nova and Luke Watts’ MG ZR. Unfazed by their early exit from the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Ashley Francis-Adams / Lucy Wilding (Micra) are back for more and, as with all the others who experienced problems on the opening round, there’s still plenty of time to haul themselves back into contention.


<<<<<<<     Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) – Fuchs Lubricants Bronze Star Championship Leaders

New for this year, the MRF Tyres Motorsport Trophy offers eligible crews the chance to win a number of free entries and sets of tyres for use during the 2024 BTRDA Series. The clue is in the title – cars must use MRF tyres at all times and, following the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Andrew Wheatley (Puma) leads from Ian Bainbridge (Fiesta R5), Lewis Hooper (Micra), Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth) and Alfie Hammond (Fiesta R2). However, with Wheatley’s name absent from the Rallynuts Stages entry, that order will almost certainly have changed by the time cars return to the Showground at the conclusion of the event.

                                                                               Andrew & Oliver Wheatley  (Puma)  >>>

SPECTATORS: The first car leaves the Showground at 8.00am on the Saturday morning and full details on spectator locations and parking can be found at

All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond


M-Sport’s premises in Dovenby provide an appropriate setting for the commencement of the 2023 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series and Motorsport UK English Rally Championship, in association with Seacon UK, as the battle (and make no mistake – it will be!) for the prestigious BTRDA Gold, Silver and Bronze Stars begins on the Malcolm Wilson Rally.

Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) is defending his MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star® Championship title in addition to his challenge for the BRC and will be partnered by 2018 BTRDA Silver Star® Champion Co-driver Tom Woodburn for the new season. Meanwhile, Matthew Hirst (Fiesta R5) was the only driver to score three outright wins during 2022 on his way to runner-up spot but a retirement and an absence, whilst attending the wedding of his co-driver Declan Dear, saw the pair narrowly miss out on the overall crown.

The featured image is Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) clinching the 2022 BTRDA Gold Star® Championship on the Trackrod Rally

Having only contested three BTRDA events last year but emerging victorious from the Woodpecker Stages first time out in their new Fiesta Rally2, Callum Black / Jack Morton are starting at the beginning this time. Black, who finished 2nd to Stephen Petch in the 2017 Gold Star Championship, is seeking to add the overall title to the Bronze Star he won back in 2019. Ian Bainbridge / Will Atkins, who have swopped their Skoda Fabia for a seemingly all-conquering Fiesta, have led BTRDA events in the past but have yet to convert their proven speed into an outright win and will be hoping to do just that in the Lake District….
If experience counts for anything, 2016 Gold Star winners Charlie Payne / Carl Williamson and Hugh Hunter (2008), co-driven by Manxman Rob Fagg, know a thing or two about success at this level and will be looking to put that knowledge to good use once more.
Seemingly unperturbed by a big accident on the Kielder Forest Rally which left their car in need of a major rebuild, Russ Thompson / Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) not only came out on top of a very keenly fought Class B13 tussle last year but also ended up with a Top Five place in the overall Gold Star table. They return in the company of Ian Joel / Graeme Wood whose MRF Tyres-shod Escort Cosworth also had its fair share of dramas during 2022 but, ironically, won its class in Kielder!…

Just as Fiestas seem likely to hold sway in the battle for four-wheel drive supremacy, Ford products have also held the upper hand in the two-wheel drive MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship in recent times – not exclusively as ‘winners’ on the Trackrod Rally, Andy Davison / Tom Murphy (Sunbeam VXR), would rightly point out, but defending champions Rob Wright / Mark Fisher will be hoping that it’s an Escort – and theirs in particular! – that features at the sharp end of the points table when it matters most! A thought doubtless shared – at least in part! – by Boyd Kershaw / Keegan Rees whose own Mk2 showed the others a clean pair of (w)heels on the Woodpecker Stages….

<<<<    Andy Davison/Tom Murphy (Talbot Sunbeam VXR)

A couple of other matters the Silver Star hopefuls would be well advised to consider certain contenders for the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup and the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup (and Junior version thereof) have on occasions, graced the two-wheel drive podium. Representing the former category, for example, Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons and Steve Ward / Phil Sandham will be present in very potent Escort Mk2’s, while R2 Fiestas in the hands of Robert Proudlock, Alfie Hammond and Liam Clark (Junior) might also emulate the results of competitors in similar vehicles in 2022.

Certainly, the winner in terms of the variation in manufacturers attaining top honours over the years, the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Rally Championship continues to provide a competitive platform for 1400cc vehicles of all shapes and sizes! Vauxhall currently holds the bragging rights and, consequently, Nigel & Kaz Jenkins will be of a mind to keep it that way as their Nova sets out to claim the title for itself. 5th overall last year, in just four outings it registered three maximums and one 2nd place – so, now we’ll get to see what it’s really made of!                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (1400cc Vauxhall Nova)  >>>>>>>>

Competitors with ideas diametrically opposed to those of the Jenkins include 2021 Bronze Star Champion Steve Black who is returning with his aptly-named Suzuki Swift, Ed James / Charlie Mason (Nissan Micra Kit Car), Dale Glover / Sean Ward (AlfaSud Ti) and Aaron Rix / Abi Haycraft (Escort).


Such was Lewis Hooper’s domination of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally First Cup in 2022 that his Nissan Micra also led the Bronze Star table right up until the final round when he – and it! – were both pipped at the post for the overall title. Notwithstanding, Lewis returns with a car that, following a change in the regulations, is now allowed a limited-slip differential which, if nothing else, will require the opposition to spend even more time checking their rear-view mirrors!…

<<<<<<<<<     Lewis Hooper (Nissan Micra) – 2022 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally First Cup Winner


Registration for the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series automatically qualifies competitors for the Motorsport UK English Rally Championship in association with Seacon UK and, after the first round of this class-based series, there are always several joint leaders (all those who scored maximum points in their respective classes on the Malcolm Wilson Rally). It’s only as the season progresses that that number is whittled down – a task performed so efficiently by Nick Dobson in 2022 as his Escort Mk2 moved relentlessly to the top of the pile! However, without his name on the entry list for the opening encounter, we wait to see who takes up the cudgel to replace him…

For details of the Malcolm Wilson Rally:
All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond
Further information on the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series :     &    Motorsport UK English Rally Championship :