Author Archives: Howard Wilcock


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 :


2023 marks the 70th [Platinum edition] of both the BTRDA Gold & Silver Star® Rally Championships and, following ratification by the Rally Championship Control Panel, the BTRDA Rallies Committee is delighted to announce next year’s calendar (N.B. Dates correct at time of publication). Eight of the UK’s finest one-day forest events are included and, as ever, in order to give competitors an element of choice and to fit in with busy work / life schedules, everyone’s best six scores will count towards their final tally.  So, diaries at the ready! The 2023 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series calendar is as follows : –

   March 11th           Malcolm Wilson Rally            Cockermouth
   April 15th             Rallynuts Stages                    Royal Welsh Showground
   May 6th                Border Counties Rally           Jedburgh
   June 17th             Kielder Forest Rally               Hexham
   July 8th                Nicky Grist Stages                 Builth Wells
   September 9th    Woodpecker Stages               Ludlow
   September 23rd  Trackrod Forest Stages         Filey
   October 28th       Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally  Llandudno

(Dates for the 2023 English Rally Championship will be confirmed shortly)


<<<<<  Grant Inglis  Winner of the 2022 BTRDA Historic Cup and the AC de Monaco Trophy

For 2023 the all-encompassing 12 class structure, which caters for all rally cars conforming to the current Motorsport UK technical regulations, has undergone a few ‘tweaks’ which include: – 

BTRDA Gold & Silver Star
Class B11 (1601cc – 2000cc) will also include cars up to 1300cc with forced induction engines.

Class R2 and Junior R2 Cup will include all current and former FIA R2 cars (but not FIA Rally 4 Cars)

The BTRDA Historic Cup will be split into 2 classes: –
 Class H1/2 All Historic Category 1 and 2 cars and Category 3 cars with single cam engines.

Class H3/4 Historic Category 3 cars with multi cam engines and all Category 4a and 4b cars which comply with R49.1.5.BTRDA Historic Cup

BTRDA Bronze Star
Class 1400S – to include FIA Rally5 cars.
Class RF1.4 – to also include BTRDA Rally First cars with forced induction engines up to 1000cc.
Class RF2.0 – to also include BTRDA Rally First cars with forced induction engines up to 1300cc.
NB:   Rally First cars will now be permitted to use a limited-slip differential.

Neil Cross, BTRDA Rallies Committee Chair, commented ‘We’re delighted to present the 2023 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, returning to the events that competitors enjoyed so much this year. Offering a stable well-spread calendar, we’re looking for another season of ‘Serious Fun’ with the BTRDA. We’ve listened to our competitors and have tweaked our class eligibility. New for 2023, for example, is the introduction of limited slip diffs in Rally First, a change that we hope will bring some more cars out in that class.” 

                                                                                                                                 BTRDA R2 Junior Cup Winner   Billy Grew   >>>>>>

In addition to our title sponsor, MRF Tyres, the BTRDA would also like to place on record its thanks to all the associated sponsors including JORDAN Road Surfacing, FUCHS Titan, MINTEX Racing / Questmead, CARLESS fuels, KIELDER products and Shepherd Compello Motorsport Insurance, who have contributed to the success of the 2022 BTRDA Rally Series, and look forward to working with them again in 2023.

More information and the 2023 MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series Championship Regulations will be available from early December.  The 2023 BTRDA Rally Series (‘platinum edition’) will have something for everyone !


Preview of Round 8 (Final):

Having clinched the 2022 MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship title with a round to spare, Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh (Fiesta Rally2) start the final event, the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, with the express intention of going one better than the runners up spot they achieved in North Wales twelve months ago!   The featured image is Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh (Fiesta Rally2) – 2022 MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star Champions on the Kielder Forest Rally

It was Callum Black who took victory on the final round of last year’s BTRDA Rally Series and, while not in contention for 2022 honours, the Brackley driver will be aiming for a repeat performance in his appropriately black-liveried Fiesta Rally2 !  So, while we already know who the Gold Star Champions are, the remaining podium places are still to be decided. Without going into the mathematical gymnastics of ‘who needs to do what’ in order to qualify, Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta Rally2), Perry Gardener / Jack Bowen and newly-crowned Welsh National Rally Champions Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (both Fiesta R5s) are all in the frame and, while also battling for Class B13 supremacy, the Lancer EVO9s of Richard Hill / Pat Cooper and Russ Thompson / Steve Link could also feature by the time crews arrive back in Llandudno at the conclusion of the Cambrian!…

Class B13, itself, is an interesting one! Hill has finished all seven events to date and heads the table from Thompson who, for his part, has a score in hand and, given a clear run, is ideally placed to snatch victory at the last gasp. Then, although not quite close enough to target a class win, and with all the usual caveats, current 3rd & 4th placed Rob Wilson / Richard Crozier and Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence (also Lancer EVO9s) could well end the season in the Top Three. Fascinating stuff!…

With all due deference to Andy Davison whose Talbot Sunbeam VXR showed the other two-wheel drive cars a clean pair of heels on the recent Trackrod Forest Rally, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship has been dominated by Ford Escort Mk2’s once again this season. Maximum points on each of the other six rounds have been claimed by such vehicles and, as we approach the finale, Rob Wright – whose co-driver Mark Fisher is already confirmed as Silver Star Champion – is in front of mid-season leader Nick Dobson. At the time of writing neither name appears on the Cambrian Rally entry list and thus, should this situation be maintained, Wright will automatically join Fisher as 2022 Champion.

<<<<   Rob Wright / Mark Fisher (Escort) – MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star Championship Leaders


Already confirmed as BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup Champions, Jonathan Jones / Jez Rogers have broken the Escort stranglehold at the business end of the Silver Star table in their Fiesta and arrive in Llandudno in 3rd place. However, they must be very wary of Michael McDaid / Declan Casey whose Escort Mk2 – what else?… – has only contested four events, but has two maximums, one 2nd and a 3rd to its credit – a continuation of this form could see Jones deprived of a possible podium finish… Although only contesting selected events, the ‘Flying Kiwi’ Boyd Kershaw (Escort) and co-driver Keegan Rees, who ‘won’ Silver Star on their last appearance on the Woodpecker Stages Rally, return for the finale and can reasonably expect to be there or thereabouts when it comes to the two-wheel drive leader board.

                                                                  Jonathan Jones and Jez Rogers Winners of the 2022 BTRDA R2 Cup >>>>>>>

In spite of a couple of hiccups (or ‘retirements’ as they’re known in the trade!) along the way, Grant Inglis / Gavin Chisholm (Escort) have been the season-long leaders of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup but, as they approach the final countdown, once again it’s McDaid and Casey who could yet upset the apple-cart. Put simply, if Inglis / Chisholm finish, they’ll be safe but, as we all know, that’s easier said than done!

Lewis Hooper has led the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship right from the word ‘go’ in his ‘Rally First’-specification Nissan Micra. In spite of its lack of power when set against the 1400S ‘pocket-rockets’, reliability has helped maintain its position which only now is coming under threat as proceedings draw to a close.

<<<<<<<<   Lewis Hooper (Nissan Micra) – Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship Leader

Pete Gorst / Mark Twiname (Nova) have three maximums (four in the co-driver’s case) to their name but have also recorded two DNFs – so, on the one hand, they have a score-in hand over their rivals but, on the other, leave themselves with absolutely no margin for error. Not only must they finish the Cambrian to give themselves any chance of success but, if they finish well, they could earn themselves a BTRDA Bronze Star each!…  Ed James / Charlie Mason (Nissan Micra Kit Car), who posted their first retirement of the season last time out, can only improve on past scores but, dependant on the fortunes of others, could possibly hold on to their current 2nd (Driver) and 1st (Co-driver) positions. In spite of two consecutive retirements, Richard Garnett / Stefan Arndt (Nissan Micra) hold sway in Class 1400C but they’ll need to keep a wary eye out for the Ka of Adrian & Matt Walk which, while also the victim of a couple of DNFs, could still overhaul them – just!

SPECTATORS : The first car leaves the start on Llandudno Promenade at 08.01 on 29th October and further details are available at :
All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond


Preview of Round 7:
As the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series moves towards its finale, Filey plays host to the penultimate encounter, the Trackrod Forest Stages, on 24th September and, following victory last time out on the Woodpecker, Callum Black (featured image) will lead contenders away from the start in his black liveried Fiesta Rally2. Due to his absence from a number of the earlier rounds, he’s not personally involved in the battle for MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star Rally Championship glory but, for those who are, it now gets serious as dropped scores come into play.

Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5) are next but, while they have already won two rounds outright, a ‘did-not-start’ and a retirement leave them with no room for error between now and the end of the season if they are to capitalise on their earlier successes. Meanwhile, Elliot Payne / Patrick Walsh (Fiesta Rally2) not only have two victories to their credit but have also backed them up with a pair of second-places and one third.

                                                                                                      Elliot Payne / Patrick Walsh (Fiesta Rally2)  >>> 

Even so, there is still work to do if they are to achieve their aim and become the latest in a long – and illustrious! – line of BTRDA Gold Star Rally Champions…
Perry Gardener / Jack Bowen (Fiesta R5) were leading the points table prior to an accident on the Nicky Grist Stages in July and, in spite of finishing runners-up on the recent Woodpecker Rally, currently trail Payne / Walsh & Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson’s Fiesta Rally2. All three crews have, so far, only registered one retirement apiece and, thus, still have an element of wriggle-room before Judgement Day at the end of October!

Class B13 is proving to be its usual hot-bed of competition to the point that, without a blemish on their finishing record, Richard Hill / Pat Cooper (Lancer EVO9) are actually leading the Gold Star Championship overall. We could, therefore, be accused of stating the obvious by recording the fact that they also head B13 – currently by a considerable margin! The one crew who could yet rain on their parade is Russ Thompson / Steve Link (also Lancer EVO9) who, similar to Hirst / Dear, already have a couple of gaps on their scorecards and cannot afford to put a foot wrong. Pressure – what pressure?….

In common with Gold Star, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship has also witnessed four different winners so far this season and, from them, it’s the ‘double top’ crew of Michael McDaid / Declan Casey (Escort Mk2) who are the first two-wheel drive car away as they attempt a hat-trick.

<< Michael McDaid / Declan Casey (Escort Mk2) on the Woodpecker

The Irishmen will have the Talbot Sunbeam VXR of Andy Davison / Tom Murphy and early season leaders Rob Wright / Mark Fisher (Escort Mk2) to keep an eye out for while, from the start, current series leader Nick Dobson (Escort Mk2) is only a couple of minutes behind this group.
Jonathan Jones / Jez Rogers (Fiesta) lead the race to succeed Ioan Lloyd / Sion Williams as BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup Champions, but there is still work to be done before the matter is put beyond doubt. So, a good run over the North York Moors would help immeasurably!
Another category-leading crew to fall foul of the terrain on the Woodpecker was Grant Inglis / Gavin Chisholm whose Escort came off second-best in a skirmish with some logs. In spite of this setback, they’ve managed to maintain their lead in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup, albeit by a reduced margin from Michael McDaid / Declan Casey (Escort). James Lepley (Escort) had his best run to-date on the Woodpecker and will be hoping for a continuation in this change of fortune while the presence of Alex Waterman / Glyn Thomas (Datsun 1600SSS) and Ernie & Patricia Lee (BMW 325) provides further variety to the category as a whole.

Long-time Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship leader Lewis Hooper (Nissan Micra) was absent from the Woodpecker, allowing Ed James / Charlie Mason (Micra Kit Car) to overhaul him. Another crew to fall foul of a broken driveshaft last time, Richard Garnett / Stefan Arndt (Micra) were, thus, unable to further their cause while, at the same time, Pete Gorst / Mark Twiname can count themselves lucky as, by the finish at Ludlow Racecourse, their blue Nova was sporting a large dent in its roof!   Nevertheless, returning to the subject of dropped scores, Gorst / Twiname have previously accrued three maximums and, while not sufficient to put the matter beyond doubt, will certainly benefit from them as the season draws to a close.

Having had July and August to regroup, contenders for the Motorsport UK English Rally Championship in association with Seacon UK, are being called to arms for the second time in three weeks on the Trackrod Forest Stages! Richard Hill (Lancer EVO9) leads Nick Dobson (Escort Mk2) by a single point, with Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth) and Stephen Petch (Fiesta Rally2) tied in 3rd place, another one point behind.

SPECTATORS : Advanced tickets (no cash on the day) and details are available via the website (

All photos © Kevin Money / Malcom Almond