Author Archives: Howard Wilcock


Preview of Round 6:  Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages (9th September).
Having been ‘resting between engagements’ since mid-July, MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series contenders now head to Ludlow Racecourse for Round 6, the 40th anniversary running of the Woodpecker Stages (9th September), and, with three rounds still to run, just seven points separate the top four crews in their respective bids for 2023 MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star® Championship glory.
Defending champion Elliot Payne and co-driver Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2) top the table but the chasing pack is led by Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards (Fabia R5), with Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5) and Russ Thompson / Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) in very close proximity. Each of the above has maintained a 100% finishing record so far with nothing lower than a 4th place points score and, as the pressure continues to mount, something’s got to give!… Although not involved in the Gold Star tussle, last year’s runners-up Perry Gardener / Jack Bowen (Fiesta R5) will be very keen to go one better this time and add their name to the trophy that already bears the name of Perry’s dad, Shaun, from 2006 and 2008!

                   Matthew Hirst / Decal Dear (Fiesta R5)   >>>>>>>>

<<<<  Russ Thompson/Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) – 4th Gold Star & Class B13 Leaders

As may be imagined, Thompson / Link’s performances thus far have given them a commanding lead in Class B13 such that one more good result will put the title beyond reach – and they’ve still got three opportunities to clinch it!


Meanwhile, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship is also still wide open – a fact that will be of no comfort whatsoever to current leaders Boyd Kershaw / Keegan Rees (Escort Mk2)! They have also retained a clean sheet in terms of event finishes but will be very wary of Robert Gough / Paul Morris who, having missed the opening round, burst on to the scene in their Historic spec. Escort Mk2 to trump the opposition on the next two. Kershaw went some way to redress the balance on the Kielder Forest Rally, only for Gough to turn the tables on his rival once more last time out. Dropped scores come into play after the Woodpecker and this is when maximums really come into their own – the current tally is Gough 3 : Kershaw 1 but, as has already been outlined, there’s still plenty of time for the pendulum to swing in either direction!
Andy Davison’s Sunbeam VXR is hanging in there and currently occupies the final podium spot in the Silver Star table while, following an accident on the Border Counties Rally and an absence from the next event while their Escort Mk2 was refettled, early season leaders Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons (Escort Mk2) have some catching up to do!…

<<<<<<    Andy Davison (Sunbeam VXR) – 3rd BTRDA Silver Star Championship

For their part, Gough and Morris hold sway in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup but that, too, could yet have a different look to it by the end of the season. The Escort MkI RS1600 of Ernie & Karen Graham just won’t leave them alone while, depending to an extent on what happens in front of them, a determined push from Steve Ward / Phil Sandham might well see their Escort Mk2 improve on its current 3rd place.
Robert Proudlock and Steven Brown (Opel Adam) – 2nd BTRDA Rallye R2 & R2 Junior Cups  >>>>>>>

Whether the destination of both the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup and BTRDA Rallye R2 Junior Cup is north or south of the Scottish border is firmly in the hands of Liam Clark (Fiesta – Keighley) and Robert Proudlock (Opel Adam – Dumfries). As is the case in the Silver Star Championship, the current runner-up has more maximum scores than the leader but the burning question is ‘will that still be the case at the end of the season’?….
Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) set out their stall in terms of the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship right from the word ‘go’ and now, after five events, are just two points shy of a full-house! Can they be ousted from their dominant position? Possibly – but, once again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens on the Woodpecker. Although obviously not quite as quick as his stepfather’s Nova, Luke Watts’ MG ZR is proving to be equally reliable and its closest rival in the race to succeed Pete Gorst / Mark Twiname to the 1400cc title. However, another Nova in the hands of Chris & James Greenall has been steadily speeding up as the season progressed to the point that, should their run of results continue at the same (or even higher!) level, an improvement on their current 4th place is definitely on the cards.

<<<<<<<    Chris & James Greenall (Nova) – 4th BTRDA Bronze Star Championship

Returning after a three-month break, the Motorsport UK English Rally Championship, in association with Seacon UK, now looks forward to two events in a fortnight – nobody said it was going to be easy! Prior to the start of the first of these, Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) has a one-point advantage over Nigel Jenkins (Nova) who, himself, is a similar margin ahead of Boyd Kershaw (Escort). Then Matthew Hirst (Fiesta R5), Russ Thompson (Lancer EVO9) and Arron Newby (Fabia R5) complete the Top Six with just five points separating all of them. To say there was ‘all to play for’ could, therefore, be construed as something of an understatement!…

New for 2023, the MRF Motorsport Tyres Trophy is for users of said tyres on BTRDA Rally Series events and, from those fulfilling the criteria, the chance of some free entries and tyres for use on events featured in next year’s BTRDA calendar has so far attracted 20 drivers to register. From them, Colin Minton (Fiesta R5) rules the roost as he arrives at Ludlow Racecourse for the start of the Woodpecker Stages but, like almost everything else connected with this year’s BTRDA Rally Series, his position is not yet secure!

SPECTATORS: The first car leaves Ludlow Racecourse at 7.30am on the Saturday morning and full details can be found at
All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond
Further information on the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series : & Motorsport UK English Rally Championship :



Preview of Round 5 : Nicky Grist Stages (8th July)
As the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series moves into the second half of the 2023 season and contenders head to Builth Wells for the Nicky Grist Stages, Matthew Hirst and codriver Declan Dear could be excused for harbouring a degree of optimism when it comes to the eventual outcome of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star® Championship!  Last year’s Nicky Grist winners arrive in mid Wales on the back of victory on the previous BTRDA round, the Kielder Forest Rally, (see featured image) and, although currently 3rd in the table, their Fiesta R5 is only four points adrift of defending Gold Star Champion Elliot Payne and Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2).

The ‘meat’ in this Fiesta sandwich is provided by the Skoda Fabia R5 of Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards and, between them, these three crews have not only won all four events to date but have also finished no lower than 4th overall at any point!…  So, while there are still four rounds to go, anyone with a view to muscling in on the action will be only too aware that, in order to stand any chance of achieving their goal, they must certainly match the current standard, if not even bettering it!

                                                          Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards (Skoda Fabia R5) on the recent Kielder Forest Rally >>>>

Russ Thompson / Steve Link are having an excellent season in their Lancer EVO9, such that they are 4th in the Gold Star table, one point behind Hirst & Dear. Their exploits find them dominating Class B13 by a sufficient margin that, whatever happens on the Nicky Grist, they’ll still be leading at the end of the day.

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

Returning to the BTRDA Series this year, Alistair Ginley / Craig Thorley (Fiesta Rally2) are improving with each event – a 4th place finish in Kielder, less than a minute behind the leaders, giving ample notice of their intent. Ian Bainbridge / Will Atkins (Fiesta) have led a BTRDA event in the past but a retirement and an absence so far this season leave them with some catching up to do, while both Eddie Lewis / Sion Cunniff (Fiesta R5) and Trevor Gamble / Phil Kenny (Fiesta Rally2) arrive in Builth Wells on the back of their best results to-date last time out. Then there are Steve Black / Jack Morton in the black-liveried Rally2 being campaigned so successfully by Callum Black on asphalt this year – no threat in overall Gold Star terms but eminently capable of mixing it on the day!  Having missed Kielder, Ian Joel / Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) rejoin the B13 battle while Rob Wilson / Richard Crozier, who took the start but not the finish of the event after their Lancer’s brakes failed, will also be craving a return to previous form!

Although only benefitting from two driven wheels, as opposed to the four of its Gold Star counterpart, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship has also witnessed three different ‘winners’ so far this year. Boyd Kershaw and Keegan Rees (Escort Mk2) consolidated their lead in the series with maximum points last time out, edging Robert Gough / Paul Morris, who had come out on top in the previous two encounters, into 2nd place. Meanwhile the early-season leaders, Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons, will be looking to reclaim their advantage after an off on the Border Counties and a no-show in Kielder have severely curtailed their momentum.

                                               Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees (Escort Mk2) – BTRDA Silver Star Championship Leaders  >>>

Neil Andrew / Dom Adams (Escort) find themselves currently wedged midway between Kershaw / Rees and Gough / Morris in the points while, at the same time, the latter crew holds sway in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup. Ernie & Karen Graham (Escort RS1600) are only a couple of points behind them but the reappearance of Friend / Simmons should keep all the serious contenders on their toes!

Prior to its retirement from the Border Counties, Robert Proudlock / Steven Brown’s Opel Adam featured in the Silver Star Top Three but, for the moment, it must be content with leading both the BTRDA Rallye R2 and Rallye R2 Junior Cups! The Fiestas of Liam Clark and Alfie Hammond both failed to finish in Kielder which, in its own way, evens things up somewhat as each of the above has now registered one DNF. So, still all to play for, especially as the R2 victors on the Border Counties, Tony Simpson / Stefan Arndt (Fiesta), return for the Nicky Grist.

The Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship offers a different perspective from Gold & Silver Star in that, rather than three different crews scoring maximum points, we have one crew doing it three times! Unsurprisingly, therefore, Nigel & Kaz Jenkins’ Nova leads from the MG ZR of Luke Watts / Matt Rogers and Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards’ Micra – the only other car with a maximum to its credit so far!
<<< Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) – Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship Leaders

Chris & James Greenall (Nova) have been the Jenkins’ closest challenger for the past couple of events and, in what will quite likely be something of a gathering of the clans, 2022 Championship front-runners Ed James / Charlie Mason (Micra Kit Car) and Aaron Rix / Abi Haycock (Escort) return after lengthy absences.
Class 1400C is, once again, proving to be a closely-fought affair with Luke Watts leading the Drivers’ table from an inseparable Dylan Fowler-Bishop and Ashley Francis-Adams (both Micras) in joint 2nd, while co-driver Lucy Wilding (Francis-Adams) has top spot to herself from Matt Rogers (Watts) and Dan Evans (Fowler-Bishop).

With three maximums and one 2nd to his credit already, Colin Minton (Fiesta R5) leads the MRF Motorsport Tyres Trophy at the halfway stage. However, the lure of some free entries and sets of tyres to use during the 2024 BTRDA Rally Series is proving attractive to a number of other drivers, such that the current Top Six will all be present in Builth Wells! Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth) is Minton’s closest rival, but Lewis Hooper (Micra), Alfie Hammond & Tony Simpson (Fiesta R2s) and Ed James (Micra Kit Car) all have time to make an impact before the day of reckoning!…
Colin Minton (Fiesta R5) – MRF Motorsport Tyres Trophy Leader

SPECTATORS : The first car leaves the start in Builth Wells at 8.30am on Saturday 8th July and full details can be found at:

All photos © Kevin Money and Malcolm Almond


Preview of Round 4 : Kielder Forest Rally (17th June)
Hexham Auction Mart once again plays host to the Kielder Forest Rally, the fourth round of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series on 17th June and, as the season moves towards its halfway stage, last year’s winner Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) holds the upper hand as he seeks to successfully defend his 2022 BTRDA Gold Star Championship crown. Elliot and Tom Woodburn have already claimed two maximums and one second-place, leaving them just two points shy of a full-house as they head for north-east England.

The featured image above is Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2) – the 2023 BTRDA Gold Star Championship Leaders

Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards (Fabia R5), who upstaged Payne/Woodburn to win the Rallynuts Stages, are only four points adrift, while Russ Thompson / Steve Link (photo below) have also had an excellent start to their campaign, taking their Class B13 Lancer EVO9 to three consecutive Top Five finishes which sees them in 3rd place overall, just one point behind Newby / Edwards. Meanwhile, Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5) are nothing if not consistent, having secured three 3rd place finishes in a row. To put the above in perspective, just seven points currently separate 1st from 4th place and, with 30 available on each of the five remaining events, everyone involved needs to be on their mettle if they are to play a significant role in the latter stages of the season.

Among those with an eye to joining in are 2017 Gold Star Champions Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson whose transition from a Fiesta to a Fabia Rally2 has proved to be somewhat problematic, certainly in terms of the two BTRDA Series events they have contested, both of which witnessed the pair heading home earlier than intended. Moving in the opposite direction – from Skoda to Ford – Ian Bainbridge / Will Atkins’ retirement from the Rallynuts Stages is enough to keep them out of the Top Ten at this point, but a good run in Kielder would certainly prompt a degree of upward mobility!…
Having been absent from the Border Counties line-up, Al Ginley / Craig Thorley are back in their ex Elliot Payne Fiesta Rally2, while 2016 Gold Star Champions Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson (Fiesta Rally2) will be at least hoping to finish the Kielder Forest Rally this year after a second-stage accident put them out in 2022….
Ian Joel / Graeme Wood’s Escort Cosworth is Thompson / Link’s nearest challenger in B13, but Rob Wilson / Richard Crozier (Lancer) were only 20s behind the class leaders last time out and, consequently, pose a significant threat to all-comers in this particular category.

<<<<  Boyd Kershaw / Keegan Rees’ Escort Mk2 currently holds sway – just! – in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship from the Sunbeam VXR of Andy Davison / Tom Murphy and Neil Andrew / Dom Adams’ Escort. However, having missed the Malcolm Wilson, Robert Gough / Paul Morris (Escort Mk2) showed everybody a clean pair of heels on the next two events and are 5th in the table from just two scores. Defending Champions Rob Wright / Mark Fisher (Escort Mk2) also have a ‘Did Not Start’ on their scoresheet but 2nd & 3rd from the events they’ve contested leave them handily placed to improve….

Gough / Morris’ efforts see them leading the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup, with Ernie & Karen Graham’s Escort RS1600 likely to be their leading challenger on this occasion. Ernie & Patricia Lee’s BMW325i didn’t complete the opening stage on the Border Counties and thus, in the interests of fair play, a full day’s sport in Kielder would go some way to redress the balance!

Liam Clark / Ben Wild (Fiesta R2) BTRDA Rallye R2 & Junior R2 Cup leaders >>

Liam Clark / Ben Wild (Fiesta) lead the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup and Junior R2 Cup from Alfie Hammond, after erstwhile leaders Robert Proudlock / Steven Brown were forced out of the Border Counties when their Opel Adam succumbed to electrical gremlins. The Scotsmen now have the opportunity to restore what, in their eyes, would be the status quo….

Also registering a rare retirement on the Border Counties, Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards (Micra) have suffered a setback in their quest for Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship supremacy. That honour currently lies with Nigel & Kaz Jenkins whose Nova is mimicking the performance of Elliot Payne’s Fiesta, with two maximums and a second to its credit. Luke Watts, whose own Nova maintains a 100% finishing record, is next up, with Hooper / Edwards now 3rd – but still less than one maximum off prime spot!…

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

Experiencing vastly differing fortunes in the Borders, Paddy Homan’s Puma finished 3rd in class, behind the Nova of Chris & James Greenall, while Justin Fowler-Bishop / Dan Evans (Micra) suffered the indignity of having to be rescued from a ditch on the opening stage. This situation now leaves something of a log-jam in the points, with Homan (52), Fowler-Bishop (51), Greenall and the Nova of Will Banks (50) but rest assured, one way or another, the table will have a different aspect by teatime on 17th June!
Notwithstanding the upset on the Border Counties, Lewis Hooper is still in the pound seats when it comes to retaining his 2022 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally First Cup title. There’s still some work to do, but confidence will be high within the team….

Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth), Colin Minton (Fiesta R5) and Alfie Hammond (Fiesta R2) are the only three drivers to have kept clean sheets in their respective quests for the MRF Tyres Motorsport Trophy and, thus, lead the charge for the possibility of winning some (MRF!) tyres and rally entries for the 2024 BTRDA Series.

The Motorsport UK English Rally Championship, in association with Seacon UK, also includes the Kielder Forest Rally in its calendar and, as the only driver to have scored maximums on both previous rounds, Elliot Payne has edged ahead of his ‘co-leaders’ following the Malcolm Wilson Rally to claim top spot for himself. However, it’s worth noting that five more points-scoring opportunities remain, following the Border Counties Rally the difference between 1st and 10th places in the table is just nine points and 21 of the current top 22 drivers will be in Hexham – so hold on to your hats!…

SPECTATORS:  The first car leaves Hexham Auction Mart at 10.00am on Saturday 17th June and full details of locations/pricing can be found at:

All images courtesy of Kevin Money and  Malcolm Almond