MRF Trophy Points – Round 4
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: https://kielderforestrally.co.uk/spectators-timetable/
All images courtesy of Kevin Money and Malcolm Almond
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 : www.bordercountiesrally.co.uk/spectators/
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 www.rallynutsrally.co.uk/spectators/
All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond