Author Archives: Howard Wilcock


Sixty & Worcestershire Motor Club, organisers of the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages, the penultimate round of the 2019 JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series®, has amassed a superb entry of 160 crews, all of whom will be making a beeline for Ludlow Racecourse at the end of the month! One crew is missing from the list, however – Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton have won all five of the BTRDA Rally Series rounds so far this year, such that they were confirmed as JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Champions following the Nicky Grist Stages in July.  (Subsequently they were also crowned 2019 Scottish Rally Championship winners).  So, who’ll take their place at the top of the leader board this time?

2016 Woodpecker Stages winners, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson have recovered from a dreadful start to the season, posting two 2nd places and one 3rd in recent times, but must now produce similar results on both the remaining events if their Fiesta is to end its campaign with a podium finish in the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship. Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson (Fiesta R5), the 2016 Gold Star Champions, were missing from the Ludlow line-up twelve months ago. However, returning once again, they’ll be looking to improve on the 6th place finish they achieved in 2017. Ian Bainbridge has forsaken his recalcitrant Impreza and will be out in a Skoda Fabia R5, while Sam Bilham/Patrick Walsh’s hard work acclimatising themselves to their Fiesta is beginning to pay dividends. 3rd overall last time out sees them moving up the table but, in a situation similar to that of Petch/Wilkinson, they’ve already posted two DNFs and no longer have the luxury of being able to drop a score.

Class B13 has been somewhat akin to a roller-coaster ride for most of its contestants but, having thus far avoided all the pitfalls that have taken turns to claim their rivals, Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor (Lancer EVO9) lead the table as they arrive in Ludlow. However, with dropped scores now coming into play, they can only improve on those already on the board, whereas the likes of Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth), Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (EVO9) and Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Impreza) can (must?…) count everything they earn on the Woodpecker towards their final tallies.  Not exactly a ‘wild card’ but, having clinched both the BTRDA Silver Star® Championship & Historic Cup titles with two rounds to spare, George Lepley now joins the B13 brigade in an EVO X. OK, he’s not in a position to challenge for end-of-season class honours but, having taken to everything else he’s driven like a duck to water, the ‘regulars’ better be on their mettle if they’re not to find themselves upstaged!

Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry’s grip on the BTRDA Production Cup slipped a bit after their Lancer EVO9 failed to finish the Nicky Grist Stages. They still lead the category but have fallen back into the clutches of the similar cars of Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence and Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy. All three crews have posted one retirement to date and six points currently separate first from third. A glance at the calendar will tell you that it’s not 5th November but, nevertheless, expect some fireworks before this one reaches its conclusion!
Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Lancer EVO9) on their way to winning the Production Cup on the 2018 Woodpecker.

Having taken four consecutive maximum scores, Zak Hughes/Tom Wood’s inexorable march towards this year’s MRF Fiesta ST Trophy suffered a setback on the Nicky Grist Stages when they were sidelined by a broken bottom arm. So, they still need one more good score and have two opportunities to claim it – if they don’t, they’ll leave the door open for either Scot Bobby Mitchell or Manxman Stephen Ormond-Smith….

All the two-wheel drive cars in the Woodpecker Stages entry are running at the front of the field in reverse order of seeding.  As previously discussed, George Lepley is the Silver Star Champion for the second consecutive year, but second and third places remain to be decided. Andy Davison/Tom Murphy (Talbot Sunbeam VXR), who retired from the season-opening Cambrian Rally, came out on top last time – more of the same on the Woodpecker would do their chances a power of good as the two crews ahead of them in the table – Perry Gardener/Keaton Williams and Tony Simpson/Ian Bevan (both R2 Fiestas) – already have the obligatory five scores….

<<<<<<< Andy Davison / Tom Murphy on the Nicky Grist Stages

Gardener/Williams are confirmed as 2019 BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup winners – for which they’ve earned a free entry on the National section of Wales Rally GB – but there is still work to be done in BTRDA Silver Star Championship terms and anyway, as they live in Ludlow, it’d be rude not to show their faces at the Racecourse at some point over the weekend!….

Perry Gardener/Keaton Williams (Fiesta) – BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup Winners >>

Having been absent as a competitor for much of the season, BTRDA Rally Series sponsor Baz Jordan returns in his Avenger – you know, the one that George Lepley has used to win all and sundry!…’ – and, with the help of Arwel Jenkins, will be joining the Escorts of Steve Ward, Ben Friend and Jonathan Brace chasing BTRDA Historic Cup points.
While not in the hunt for BTRDA Championship points, it’s interesting to note that five-times Woodpecker Stages winner (1988 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 96) Richard Gough, who has retained his ex Rothmans Ford Escort Mk2 since those heady days all that time ago, will be taking part once again!

And so to the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA 1400 Championship (BTRDA Bronze Star) which, to put it mildly, is finely poised! The top four drivers in the table – Chris Powell (Talbot Sunbeam), Steve Black (Suzuki Swift), Dominic Hodge (Nissan Micra) & Noel Lappin (Ford Escort Mk2) – have all maintained 100% finishing records to date, while 5th-placed Callum Black (MG ZR)  missed the first round but has since scored three maximums and a third…. Indeed, he can count himself very lucky to have finished the last round as, by the time he and Michael Gilbey arrived back in Builth Wells, the oil pressure warning light had been glowing for far too long!… All five cars will leave Ludlow Racecourse in pristine condition but, as to the order in which they return, your guess is as good as anyone else’s!…   

                                                                                     Callum Black and Michael Gilbey (MG ZR) on the Plains Rally….. >>>>>>

Wesley Gilford/Mark Townson’s BTRDA Rally First Championship specification Fiesta ST will have the honour of leading the contestants away from the start followed, one minute later, by the MG ZR of series leader Joseph Keen. Having had a season to forget until recently, Sam & Liam Johnson will be hoping that their Seat Arosa’s maximum score on the Nicky Grist Stages wasn’t a flash in the pan.

The MAXXIS Motorsport UK English Rally Championship continues on the Woodpecker Stages…. and George Lepley will be hoping to continue to lead it! The class-based series is a very close-fought affair – currently, a mere five points separate first from tenth drivers! Breathing down Lepley’s neck, Callum Black’s MG ZR has a slender one-point advantage over Perry Gardener’s Fiesta, Andy Davison’s Sunbeam and the Escort Mk2 of Tim Phelps.
Pretenders to the English Championship crown have three more events, including the Woodpecker, Trackrod Forest Rally and the Wyedean Stages, on which to assert themselves as they strive to add a Motorsport UK-backed Championship title to their rallying CVs. Good luck to them all!…

The first car is due to leave the start of the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages at 08.31 on the Saturday morning and, following the completion of five special stages – two in Radnor, two in Haye Park and one in Hopton – totalling 44 miles, returns to the Racecourse at 16.45.

Main photo is Richard Sykes / Simon Taylor (Lancer EVO9) – Class B13 leaders, competing on the Plains Rally


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.


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

*  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.


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.