Author Archives: Howard Wilcock

CAN THORBURN PUT GRIST TO HIS MILL?.…

Euan Thorburn and co-driver Paul Beaton have won all four rounds of the 2019 JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series so far. One more victory from the three remaining events in the calendar will put the destination of this year’s JRS BTRDA Gold Star® Championship crown beyond doubt – and the first opportunity for them comes on the Nicky Grist Stages. Their Focus WRC arrives in Builth Wells fresh from its victory on the Argyll Stages, the latest round of the Motorsport UK Scottish Rally Championship – which Thorburn/Beaton also lead – and closing out the first part of their plan would give them more time to concentrate on the second!…    The photo above is Euan Thorburn / Paul Beaton (Focus WRC) in characteristic pose on the Plains Rally!

Following a miserable start to their campaign, 2017 Nicky Grist Stages winners Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson are now heading in the right direction once more! Their Fiesta WRC was 2nd overall on the Plains Rally but, unlike the flying Scotsmen, they have no margin for error between now and the end of the season if they are to make an impact on the leader board! Following a retirement on the Plains with damage sustained by a puncture, Sam Bilham, partnered by the ubiquitous Patrick Walsh, could also do with a good result in mid Wales. He’s certainly getting the hang of his Fiesta but, with two DNFs already, pressure is mounting. Fiesta R5s also appear amongst the leading entries in the very competitive hands of Connor McCloskey and Martyn & Dawn England. Meanwhile, Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook are having another outing in their recently acquired Proton Iriz R5 in the hope of improving on the 3rd in class they netted on the Plains.

In direct contrast to the overall Gold Star situation, Class B13 has produced different winners on each of the four rounds. Although not one of them, Richard Hill has kept his nose clean and produced four more-than-adequate results to put his Impreza marginally ahead of Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor whose Lancer EVO9 triumphed last time out on the Plains. Having recorded DNFs on the first two events, Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear put their EVO9 into top spot on the Rallynuts Stages but still have considerable ground to make up while the defending champions, Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth), and Ian Bainbridge (Impreza) have, thus far, only finished one event apiece…..

<   Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry’s results in their Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 have been sufficiently impressive to put them into runners-up spot in the overall JORDAN Road Surfacing Gold Star® Championship points table!  It’ll therefore come as no surprise to learn that they’re also leading the BTRDA Production Cup. Their nearest challengers, who have also maintained a 100% finishing record, are MRF Fiesta ST Trophy leaders Zak Hughes/Tom Wood. The Lancers of former Cup champions Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence & Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy have both retired from one event and, consequently, have some catching-up to do. However, as Faulkner/Parry have already amassed three maximums, anyone else with designs on this year’s title better get a move on!…

We’ve mentioned before that George Lepley seems oblivious to the fact that it’s not in the script for an Historic spec. car to be leading the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship. However, as he’s already accrued four maximums at the wheel of Baz Jordan’s Hillman Avenger, there’s presently some frantic re-writing of that script going on as, in a similar situation to Euan Thorburn, one more and it’s game-over for the opposition! Co-driver Tom Woodburn missed the opening event and, consequently, doesn’t feature (should that read ‘yet’?…) at the top of his particular points table. Needless to say, then, that the BTRDA Historic Cup is also currently heading the Newark driver’s way….                                                                                            George Lepley / Tom Woodburn on the Plains Rally    >

In Silver Star terms, Perry Gardener / Keaton Williams (Fiesta R2) are maintaining a close eye on Lepley – or as close as is possible! – but, at the same time, with three maximums and a second, they’re seemingly on course to succeed him to the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup. If they’re still in that position after the Woodpecker Stages at the beginning of September, they’ll be in line for the prize drive on the National section of Wales Rally GB through the event’s ‘Road to Wales’ scheme.

<    Perry Gardener/Keaton Williams (Fiesta) – BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup leaders

Tony Simpson/Ian Bevan are the only R2 Cup contenders who’ve managed to beat the Ludlow crew so far – a feat they achieved on the Malcolm Wilson Rally and which helps to keep them in touch with the leaders. The Tordoffs, Mat & Tim, are the only other R2 hopefuls with four scores to their credit and there’s still time for the make-up of the leader board to alter significantly before the end of term!

Callum Black/Michael Gilbey let the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA 1400 Championship start without them but, since they joined in the fun on Round 2, their MG ZR has not been headed.  Three ‘wins’ see the pair lurking dangerously down in 5th place in the table, thanks in no small way to the reliability of the opposition. Each of the four drivers in front of them – Chris Powell (Talbot Sunbeam), Steve Black (Suzuki Swift), Dominic Hodge (Nissan Micra) & Noel Lappin (Ford Escort) – have maintained clean sheets but, as dropped scores come into play after the Nicky Grist Stages, those maximums will come into their own!                                                      Callum Black / Michael Gilby 

While brothers Mat & Dan Evans (Peugeot 205) had been in imperious form in the battle for Class 1400C honours on each of the first three rounds, they’d been unable to shake off the attentions of Richard Garnett’s Micra. Then, last time out, the tables were turned, and the Peugeot was beaten into 2nd place by just 15s. So, whose turn is it this time? Due to the Evans’ non-availability for the penultimate round of the Series, this is one that could well have to wait until the Trackrod Forest Rally at the end of September before the outcome is known….

Joseph Keen’s MG ZR leads the BTRDA Rally First Championship but the sole aim of the 2-litre version of Graham Roberts will be to reduce its advantage over the remaining events…

The NG Stages is the second of the four counting rounds of the new BTRDA Junior Driver incentive which has been donated by Adam Kent, the 1998 BTRDA Gold Star Rally Champion.  Adam’s company, Install Automation Ltd, will provide a £2,500 prize fund for a leading BTRDA Junior Driver to be used for entries to events in the 2020 BTRDA Rally Series. The winner will be chosen from a short-list of the three drivers with the highest total points score on the final 4 events in the 2019 BTRDA Junior Championship.  After the Plains Rally it is George Lepley, Matthew Hirst and Zak Hughes who are in the frame, but at this early stage it is still all to play for.

The first of the 125 crews will leave the start of the Nicky Grist Stages in Builth Wells at 8.31am on Saturday morning and on the menu are 44 miles of special stages in some of the classic mid-Wales forests. Cars then begin arriving back at the finish from 3.30pm that afternoon.

All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

The BTRDA is very pleased to announce an exciting new incentive for Junior Drivers contesting the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series which has been donated by Adam Kent, the 1998 BTRDA Gold Star Rally Champion.

Adam’s company, Install Automation Ltd, will provide a £2,500 prize fund for a leading BTRDA Junior Driver* to be used for entries to events in the 2020 BTRDA Rally Series.

The winner will be chosen by the BTRDA Rallies Committee from a short-list of the three drivers with the highest total points score on the remaining 4 rounds of the 2019 BTRDA Junior Championship, starting with the Plains Rally.  The prize will be presented by Adam at the 2019 BTRDA Rally Series Awards Evening in January.

“It’s 21 years since I won the BTRDA Gold Star Rally Championship said Adam, and it’s great to be able to put something back into the sport and provide some support to talented young drivers who were born around that time”

Home Automation & Lighting Control/Design

www.installautomation.com

*  To qualify as a Junior Driver you must have been born on or after 1st January 1995.

Main photo is George Lepley / Tom Woodburn on the recent Rallynuts Stages.   21 year old George is currently leading the 2019 BTRDA Junior Drivers.  This new prize will be based on the scores from the remaining 4 events starting with the Plains Rally.

PLAINS TAKES OFF FOR OSWESTRY….!

Marking a change to the recent format of Knutsford & DMC’s Plains Rally, the Shropshire market town of Oswestry is preparing to welcome competitors for the fourth round of the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series®, and third of the MAXXIS Motorsport UK 2019 English Rally Championship, which takes place on Saturday 11th May. However, whether the move signals a change in the fortunes of the current front-runners remains to be seen!…

The JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship has, so far, been the preserve of Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton whose Ford Focus WRC has proved unbeatable on each of the three events to date. It goes without saying, therefore, that the Scotsmen arrive at the start of Round 4 as series leaders and, having won the Plains Rally in both 2013 & 2014, it would be seen as brave to bet against them doing it for a third time! That said, a bad day at the office could potentially see them demoted from their exalted position at the top!

 

<<< This is currently the view that everyone else has of Gold Star leaders Euan Thorburn & Paul Beaton’s Focus!

Having managed to avoid the pitfalls that have interrupted the progress of many others, Scott Faulkner & Gareth Parry’s Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 (see main photo) is the current occupant of runner-up spot in the Gold Star table. However, as the season reaches the halfway point, there’s still plenty of room for manoeuvre in each of the classes and categories that make up the BTRDA Rally Series!

Irishmen Mark Donnelly and Connor McCloskey return in their Fiestas as they seek to capitalise on their 2nd & 4th places respectively last time out on the Rallynuts Stages. Then Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, whose own Fiesta finished between the two Irish R5s a month ago, need to keep the momentum going. DNFs on the opening two events in the calendar have left them with no further margin for error, no matter how caused, if they are to deem their campaign a success. Sam Bilham’s experience in an R5 continues to expand – two consecutive Top Six finishes have seen him and co-driver Patrick Walsh move into the upper echelons of the points table and more of the same would prove beneficial to the pair!

Class B13 has developed into something of a ‘now you see ‘em, now you don’t’ affair! Different crews have taken maximum points on each of the first three events but, in each case, that’s the only score they’ve managed to put on the board. Hence, Ian Bainbridge (Impreza), Matthew Hirst (Lancer EVO9) and Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth) find themselves huddled together at the foot of the table. The consistency shown by both Richard Hill (Impreza) and Richard Sykes (Lancer EVO9) sees them in 1st & 2nd places, while their co-drivers – Simon Taylor (Sykes) and Steffan Evans (Hill) – also dominate the sharp end of the table, albeit diametrically opposed to their drivers!  

 

Petr Krizan & Lukas Sintal were on course to join them, but rolling their EVO9 right in front of the BTRDA photographers on the Rallynuts Stages has put any such euphoria on hold!                                >>>

 

As mentioned above, Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry’s season has started extremely well and, in addition to their Gold Star success, they also currently lead the BTRDA Production Cup. As far as the opposition is concerned, it’s turning into a game of ‘Snakes & Ladders’! Having led the charge after the Cambrian, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence didn’t finish the Malcolm Wilson but came back strongly on the Rallynuts Stages. Meanwhile, although defending champions Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy also had a day to forget in the Lake District, actually getting their EVO9 to the finish gained them some valuable points. However, there was to be no such happy ending last time out as the car finished up on its roof on the opening stage….

Zak Hughes/Tom Wood’s domination of the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy – three wins from three starts – has also moved them into the ascendancy in the overall Production Cup points table where, prior to the Plains Rally, they are Faulkner/Parry’s biggest headache. So, in Fiesta ST terms, it’s Wales in the lead (Hughes/Wood) from Scotland (Bobby Mitchell/Shannon Turnbull), with Ireland (David Kelly/Kenny Bustard) in 3rd. England is obviously far too busy with Brexit – no results to speak of there either!….

By fitting a larger capacity BRM engine in Baz Jordan’s Hillman Avenger, the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship leader George Lepley (with Tom Woodburn) automatically changed classes to H3 for the Rallynuts Stages. However, that’s the only thing that did change! 13th overall and first 2WD car home ensured that he not only maintained, but also extended, his lead in both the Silver Star Championship and BTRDA Historic Cup and won the £500 award for the highest placed BTRDA Historic Cup driver!  This was despite the heroic efforts of both Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons, 15th overall (Escort Mk2) and Tom Llewellin / Ross Whittock, 18th overall (Escort Mk2) who were pressing him all the way.

 

Ben Friend & Cliff Simmons (class H3) pushing very hard on the Rallynuts Stages >>>

 

 

BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup leaders Perry Gardener/Keaton Williams (Fiesta) are clinging to Lepley’s shirt tails in the Silver Star Championship – indeed, Williams leads the Co-drivers’ table – but in R2 Cup terms, with two firsts and one 2nd place, they’ve earned themselves a bit of breathing space from Tony Simpson/Ian Bevan. Even so, any mistakes will be penalised as Tommi Meadows and the Tordoffs, Mat & Tim, also remain within striking distance.  If perseverance counts for anything, Taylor Gibb/Jane Nicol must be due for a change of fortune soon – their score sheet shows three starts and three retirements while, breaking the R2 Fiesta monopoly, Jersey’s Ed Fossey returns for the Plains Rally, with Rhys Stoneman riding shotgun, in his Peugeot 208.

<<< Perry Gardener & Keaton Williams leading the BTRDA Rally R2 Cup

 

Even with four events still to run, the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA 1400 Championship is shaping up for a grandstand finale. The current Top Six have finished all three rounds so far and the 7th placed driver – Callum Black – missed the opening encounter, only to take maximums on the two he has contested….

                             Callum Black & Michael Gilbey’s MG ZR on its way to BTRDA 1400 Championship success on the Rallynuts Stages  >>>

So, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) currently hold the bragging rights, but the Suzuki Swift of Steve Black/Paul Morris isn’t far behind. Dominic Hodge/Stefan Arndt’s Micra has the edge over Noel Lappin’s Escort – just! – while 1400C leaders, with three maximums already, Mat & Dan Evans (Peugeot 205) have a narrow advantage over the Micra of classmates Richard Garnett/Rob Gilham.

The BTRDA Rally First Championship will see Wesley Gilford’s 2.0 Fiesta ST attempting to fend off the attentions of series leader Joseph Keen’s MG ZR and the formerly successful – but currently recalcitrant! – Seat Arosa of Sam & Liam Johnson….

Following its recent visit to the closed-road asphalt Tendring Clacton Rally, the MAXXIS Motorsport UK 2019 English Rally Championship now moves to the Welsh borders – or should that be English borders?… – for Round 3.  Joint leaders in the class-based series prior to the off are Euan Thorburn (Focus WRC), Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth), Andy Davison (Talbot Sunbeam VXR), George Lepley (Avenger) and Zak Hughes (Fiesta ST), each of whom will be fighting to make top spot their own!

Similarly, Sam Bilham (Fiesta), Richard Hill (Impreza), Callum Black (MG ZR), Tony Simpson (Fiesta R2) and Tim Phelps (Ford Escort) are a mere two points behind the leaders and currently share 6th place. Judged on how well they each perform against others in their respective classes, further success will pay dividends as the season progresses.

The first of the 12O+ starters on the Plains Rally leaves Oswestry at 8.00am on Saturday 13th May and heads for special stages in Dyfnant, Aberhirnant and Llangower which offer 42 miles of competition.  Once completed, the finish back in Oswestry beckons from 3.45pm that afternoon.

Words by Andrew Haill. Photos courtesy of Kevin Money & Malcolm Almond.