Author Archives: Howard Wilcock

NO PRESSURE FOR PETCH !…..

Having secured the 2017 RAVENOL BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship titles on the recent Woodpecker Stages, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) start the final round of the series, the Trackrod Forest Stages, in the enviable position of being able to enjoy the North York Moors-based event without the added burden of any Championship pressures!

Twelve months ago they were runners-up and, to conclude their best-ever season, it would be fitting for them to win their ‘home’ rally. However……As is ever the case on an event of this stature, there are any number of others with their own views on the make-up of the last leaderboard of the season! Not amongst them, though, are confirmed RAVENOL BTRDA Gold Star Championship runners-up Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson whose entry on the forthcoming Wales Rally GB has focused their attention, such that they have excused themselves from the trip to Filey.

In deference to their win on last year’s Trackrod Forest Stages, outgoing Gold Star Champions Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson (Fiesta WRC) will be first away from the start, followed by Petch/Wilkinson and then Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg, fresh from their 5th overall on the recent Rally Isle of Man. Currently 3rd in the Gold Star tables, a result in Yorkshire will virtually guarantee their podium finish but, as we all know, nothing is ever quite that simple!

Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead (Fiesta WRC) and Thomas Preston / Stuart Louden (Skoda Fabia R5) are recent additions to the entry list and both have the pace to win the event outright.  Karl & Guy Simmons (Impreza WRC) and Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth), both of whom failed to finish the Woodpecker Stages at the beginning of the month, are looking to end their BTRDA campaigns on a high, as are Peter Smith/John Millington (Fiesta R5) and Peter Stephenson/Ian Windress (Focus WRC), the latter finishing 4th overall on the Carlisle Stages in June.

Meanwhile, the destination of the BTRDA Production Cup has yet to be settled. Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Lancer EVO9) lead the race for the title but Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge (EVOX) are just three points adrift. Both crews have finished all six rounds to date and, with each competitor’s best five scores to count, can only improve on their worst score. Third-placed Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (EVO9) have a score in hand over their rivals but, if they are to stand any chance of overhauling them, nothing less than a maximum will do. Although consecutive retirements on the Plains and Carlisle Stages Rallies have conspired to hold them back, on their day Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (EVO9) are proven category winners too. So, there’s a massive battle in prospect!….

Fiesta ST Trophy champions Sam Bilham/Cameron Fair opted to sit out the Woodpecker but are back for the Bingley driver’s ‘home’ event. Behind them, Alasdair Currie could still be beaten for runner-up spot by late-comer Finlay Retson who only passed his driving test in the days leading up to the Carlisle Stages in May!

After a season that has seen five different maximum scorers in the RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star® Championship, there are now four drivers – three of whom who aren’t included in the ‘maximum’ club! – who could possibly arrive back in Filey as the 2017 title holder. The maths are rather complicated and, in several instances, success relies in part on the failure of others…. With its unblemished finishing record, Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith’s Avenger BRM is the highest-seeded contender, with current leaders Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell (Escort Mk2) right behind them.

Having started the season at a canter in their 1600cc Corsa, Dave Bennett/Alistair McNeil’s luck ran out and two retirements preceded a couple of non-starts. However, the former BTRDA Rally First and BTRDA 1400 champions are back for the finale and could well put the cat among the pigeons! Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham (Ford Escort Mk2) are the only Silver Star crew with two maximums to their credit and, with just four scores, can count whatever points they earn in Yorkshire to their total. At the same time, should Dave Brick’s 1400cc Nova come up trumps – it’s already finished 2nd twice! – and some of its rivals fall at the last hurdle, it could be his name that graces the trophy for 2017!….

Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship leaders Ed Fossey/Chris Sharpe-Simkiss (Toyota Yaris) start one minute ahead of Dave Brick who, with son Toby co-driving, will be hoping to rearrange the look of the points table before the end of the day. With all the usual caveats, Carl Davies/Richard Jones (Nissan Micra) could move up to 2nd at the last gasp, while Tommi Meadows’ first season of BTRDA Series events has been ‘character building’ – probably a syndrome that co-driver Ian Oakey had thought was behind him! Although not in line for Championship honours this year, the combination of the teenage driver and his Ka have shown potential which we look forward to being fulfilled in the future.

Having already amassed three maximums and one second-place, Bart Lang/Sinclair Young’s Micra leads the BTRDA Rally First Championship as the pair heads for North Yorkshire. The only blot on their horizon comes in the shape of David Perkins who, with Jordan Joines pointing the way, could possibly upset their apple cart. Breaking the Micra domination is Phil Spilsted’s MG ZR as the battle to succeed Dominic Hodge/Stefan Arndt as RF Champions reaches its conclusion.

In a change from previous years, the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship also reaches its climax in Filey. In the absence of Callum Black, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson are crowned Champions without actually turning a wheel, but Black’s current runner-up spot is still to be confirmed subject, obviously, to results on the Trackrod Forest Stages. A maximum of 20 points can be awarded in each of the eight English championship classes and with additional points available up to a maximum of 25, were they to be the recipients of such a haul, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence could find themselves overhauling Black for 2nd.

The permutations for some of the class awards are even more complicated but, in addition to those already mentioned, the names of Bart Lang, William Hill, Barry Jordan, Andy Davison, Robert Dennis, Ashley Davis, Richard Sykes, Russ Thompson and Sacha Kakad amongst many others, are certain to all be in the mix.  Calculators at the ready!…

The first car leaves the start of the Trackrod Forest Stages from Filey Country Park at 8.30am on 30th September. On the menu are 45 miles of single-use special stages in such famous forests as Dalby, Langdale, Cropton and Gale Rigg. Answers to all the questions posed above will be available by the time cars begin arriving back at the finish from around 3.00pm onwards!

Photo is Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson on the recent Woodpecker Stages.  (Courtesy of ralliphotoswales)

STILL ALL TO PLAY FOR !…

The Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages is the penultimate round of the 2017 RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship and the organisers, Sixty & Worcestershire Motor Club, have attracted a superb entry running to more than 140 cars. In BTRDA terms, with the exception of Sam Bilham and co-driver Cameron Fair who have already made sure of this year’s Fiesta ST Trophy, the titles of all the other constituent parts of the Series are still to be won and lost. The ‘pretenders’ to the various crowns have just the Woodpecker and the North York Moors-based Trackrod Forest Stages at the end of September to stake their claims. Hence, spectators out on either – or both – of these events are in for a treat!

As far as the RAVENOL BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship is concerned, this year’s winners are likely to be either Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson or Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson. The two Fiesta crews have spent much of the season running fairly close together but, with five scores to their credit, Black/Edmondson currently lead the table from Petch/Wilkinson. The latter failed to finish the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March but, since then, have taken three outright victories on the four events they have finished. Dropped scores come into play now, but whoever is to succeed Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson, (running at number 7 in a Fiesta WRC), as Gold Star Champions still have some work to do to achieve their goal.

As far as outright winners of the Woodpecker Stages are concerned, in addition to the three crews mentioned above, although Luke Francis/John H Roberts have had a disappointing season to date by their high standards, their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 is a proven winner at this level and cannot be discounted. Former Gold Star Champion Hugh Hunter, with Manxman Rob Fagg pointing the way, is still getting to grips with the intricacies of his particular Fiesta and needs a good result following a DNF on the Nicky Grist Stages, while Martyn & Dawn England have improved beyond measure in the twelve months since they took delivery of theirs. 4th overall last time out – worth a punt? Possibly!….

Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy are leading the BTRDA Production Cup in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 by the narrowest of margins from Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge. The only crew to score two category maximums so far, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence, could possibly overhaul both the aforementioned but, in order to do so, top notch results are required on the final two outings – a position in which both Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Lancer) and Andy Davies/Max Freeman (Impreza) also find themselves.  Leaving the Ludlow Racecourse start line astern will be Davies, Naylor, Thompson, Hill & Kakad but, for all concerned, the order in which they arrive back there for the finish will be of much greater importance!  The Fiesta STs also conform to Group N (Production Cup) specification and, although the overall Trophy winners have been identified, the other podium positions still have to be sorted, with Alasdair Currie/Steven Brown currently laying claim to runners-up spot.

The RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star® Championship caters purely for those with two-wheel drive cars and, with different winners on each of the five events to date, no-one has taken the series by the scruff of the neck!  Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith’s consistency – five starts, five finishes – sees their Hillman Avenger BRM atop the table but, on this occasion, Leominster’s Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook will be the first crew away in their Escort, followed by the similar cars of Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham and Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell, neither of whom scored any points on the Nicky Grist. A good result from Steve Hopewell/Clive Jones could also elevate them into the Top Three at this important stage of the season.

Much has been written on the subject of the insistence of seeding in order of anticipated performance and the effect this has had on entry levels of the smaller capacity cars. However, that is not to decry the efforts of those who are competing in such vehicles as their commitment is no less intense! While Jersey’s Ed Fossey and his Blackpool-based co-driver Chris Sharpe-Simkiss are leading the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship in their Toyota Yaris, Dave Brick can see the Woodpecker Stages HQ at Ludlow Racecourse from his farm! He and son Toby took their Nova to top honours on the Nicky Grist Stages and, if local knowledge counts for anything, the others better watch out!… Although not quite as close to Ludlow as the Bricks, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) aren’t that far away in Hereford and, given a clear run, can be relied upon to put on a good show. Bring it on!…

Bart Lang/Sinclair Young (Nissan Micra) have emerged victorious on the last three rounds of the BTRDA Rally First Championship, such that were they to sit the Woodpecker out, they would still be leading their respective categories at the end of the day. However, with two rounds to go, the destination of the winner’s trophy is yet to be decided! Chris Hickman/Alex Stanbury (MG ZR) & David Perkins/Jordan Joines (Micra) could still influence the final outcome, while category winner on the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Andrew Wheatley (Ford Puma) also returns to join in the fun on this occasion.

As far as contenders for the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship are concerned, the Woodpecker Stages represents a return to forest rallying after the option of three consecutive asphalt events. This year’s Championship has been completely revamped and, whilst it is still class based, any vehicle complying with MSA Technical Regulations is eligible to compete. After a good run on the Tyneside Stages over the Otterburn Military Ranges, Stephen Petch currently holds sway but, as every competitor is pitted against those in his/her class, it’s just as feasible that the eventual winner will come from one of the smaller capacity classes.  The latest championship points can be found at www.englishrally.co.uk/english-championship-points  In 2016 Sam Bilham, in his 2-litre two-wheel drive Fiesta ST, was victorious and there’s no saying that a similar giant-killing act will not be performed by someone this time. We’ll know by the end of September!…

For further information on the Woodpecker Stages, visit : www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk

Photo is Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson (Fiesta R5+) on the Nicky Grist Stages.     All photos courtesy of ‘Ralliphotoswales’

SERIOUS FUN in 2018!

The BTRDA are very pleased to confirm their provisional calendar* for the 2018 BTRDA Rally Series.

The BTRDA Rally Series, which will include the 65th running of the Gold Star and Silver Star Rally Championships plus the BTRDA 1400 and Rally First Championships, the BTRDA Historic Cup and Production Cup and the Fiesta ST Trophy, is consistently the most popular rally championship in the UK and will continue to provide the best selection of popular forest stage rallies.

The 2018 calendar contains eight one-day forest rallies starting on 17th February with the Cambrian Rally in North Wales and finishing on 29th September with the Trackrod Forest Stages in North Yorkshire.  The final points table will be based on a competitor’s best 6 scores, which provides some flexibility to fit in the events around family or business commitments or even to recover from an expensive car problem.

2018 Calendar (*subject to MSA approval)

Round

Event

Date

Location

1CAMBRIAN RALLYFebruary 17th North Wales
2MALCOLM WILSON RALLYMarch 3rd Lake District
3RALLYNUTS STAGES RALLY  April 14th Mid Wales
4PLAINS RALLYMay 12th West Wales
5CARLISLE STAGESJune 9th Kielder Forest West
6NICKY GRIST STAGESJuly 14th Mid Wales
7EVENTSIGNS WOODPECKER STAGES September 1stShropshire/Welsh Border
8TRACKROD FOREST STAGESSeptember 29th North Yorkshire

We are very grateful for the wholehearted commitment from all the event organisers, because without their unstinting efforts we could not promote such a successful rally championship.

Details of all the categories, classes and incentives plus the TV coverage will be confirmed over the next couple of months, but competitors and supporters can be assured that the BTRDA Rally Series will continue to provide competitors and followers with some Serious Fun!

Back to the 2017 season and the EventSigns Woodpecker Stages, the penultimate round of the 2017 BTRDA Rally Series, which has again attracted a huge and varied entry of more than 140 cars. If competitors are still planning to compete then you need to submit an on-line entry A.S.A.P.

If you want to be part of the Woodpecker Stages, then the event organisers will still welcome any offers of help, especially with marshaling on the stages which is essential for the event to be a success. Please contact the Chief Marshal – Graham Hopewell via e-mail at [email protected]

Entries are now open for the Trackrod Forest Stages on Sat 30th September which will be the final round of the 2017 RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship. The event is based at Filey on the Yorkshire coast and uses all the best forest roads in North Yorkshire to provide 45 miles of single use stages. This is always a popular event with competitors and spectators and where the Championship winners will be confirmed.  Event regulations and on-line entries at www.rallyyorkshire.co.uk/competitors-information

Photo is the current BTRDA Rally First leaders Bart Lang / Sinclair Young.     (images courtesy of ralliphotoswales)

A Busy Weekend in Builth Wells !

Over the weekend of 8th/9th July the mid-Wales town of Builth Wells will play host to a feast of motorsport action as contenders for both the RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship make the most of the latest opportunity to further their 2017 campaigns. On Saturday both series will be contesting the all-forestry Nicky Grist Stages and then, the following day, those with an eye on English Championship glory complete a unique ‘double-header’ with a run out over the asphalt roads of the Epynt Military Ranges on the Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally.

So, first things first and Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson will lead the RAVENOL BTRDA Series & MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship contenders away from the town centre start in their Ford Fiesta WRC. Right behind them, in their similar R5+, will be BTRDA Gold Star® Championship leaders Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson – for the past three events these two crews have been virtually inseparable, arriving at the various finish lines just a handful of seconds apart. On the one hand, Petch has come out on top on each occasion – including two outright victories – but, on the other, Black’s 100% finishing record gives him the upper hand in the BTRDA points table. However, once dropped scores come into play later in the season, that situation may change!….    Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg (Fiesta)  are  another crew to have seen the finish line on all four occasions so far but, even so, they could do with a good haul of points to counter a disappointing run last time out.

2016 Nicky Grist Stages winners Luke Francis/John H Roberts are not having the season they would have wished for. A 3rd place finish on the Plains Rally in April is their best result this year as their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 had retired from the previous round and would do so again on the next one. Nevertheless, given a clean run – not to mention a slice of luck! – they are proven winners at this level and cannot  be  discounted. The Carlisle Stages winners Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead bring their recently acquired Fiesta WRC to the Nicky Grist and if their performance from Carlisle can be replicated then we are in for a treat.  Conversely, Connor McCloskey also in a Fiesta WRC, will be hoping that his quick exit from the Carlisle Stages can be quickly forgotten and they can return to their normal performance.

Occasional BTRDA Series visitors Martyn & Dawn England (Fiesta R5+), who were 6th overall on the Nicky Grist Stages last year in what was then a virtually new car to them, return and, whilst obviously not in line for any Championship honours, are still perfectly capable of mixing it with those who are. Then we have two crews approaching the event from different perspectives – Dylan Davies/Llion Williams (Impreza) will be looking for their first finish of the season while Peter Stephenson (Focus WRC) arrives in Builth fresh from his best BTRDA Series result to date on the Carlisle Stages.

The Impreza of Andy Davies/Max Freeman leads the BTRDA Production Cup runners away from the start, pursued by the Lancer EVOs of Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence, series leaders Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy, Richard Hill/Steffan Evans and  Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge.  Having already registered a couple of DNFs, the pressure is now on Daniel Moss/Sam Allen to bring their own EVO9 to the finish in one piece.

Then, of course, there are the Fiesta STs and, once again, we ask the question ‘is this the event that’ll bring an end to Sam Bilham/Cameron Fair’s monopoly of the series?’ Four starts and four maximum scores leave them in the ‘nearly, but not quite’ situation in Championship terms. However, should their dominance continue in mid Wales, it’ll put the matter beyond doubt and leave the others to squabble over the remaining podium places.

Ashley Davies (Escort Mk2) and Richard Sykes (Citroen DS3 R3) finished the recent Carlisle Stages Rally on identical penalties, with the tie-break going in Davies’ favour. Points in the RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star® Championship were awarded in a similar fashion and now, a month later, the two drivers start the latest encounter together. Silver Star leaders after the  first  round of the season, Jody Bowcott/David Millard (Escort Mk2), rejoin the fray but a couple of retirements in the intervening period have not helped their cause!  Also on the list of rapid two wheel drive competitors is Rob Dennis, the current leader of the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship, in his historic spec Escort Mk2.

Twelve months ago Chris Powell/Jim Lewis were tasting champagne (well, whatever it was ,it was fizzy!) in the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship as, in spite of a failing clutch, their Talbot Sunbeam took them to victory on the Nicky Grist Stages. Having risen to similar heights on the Plains Rally a couple of months ago, it then let them down on the Carlisle Stages. Even so, with renewed hope, they start behind the Nova of Dave & Toby Brick which has also experienced mixed fortunes in the Championship so far. They are joined by Ed Fossey/Chris Sharpe-Simkiss (Toyota Yaris) who, in spite of their absence from Carlisle, still maintain their series lead and Tommi Meadows/Ian Oakey whose hastily-repaired Ford Ka, following its topsy-turvy moment on the Plains Rally, succumbed to an electrical fault in Carlisle.

With two 1st and one 2nd places to their credit already, Bart Lang/Sinclair Young (Micra) have carved out a significant advantage in the BTRDA Rally First Championship. But – and it’s a big ‘but’! – with three rounds still to go, nobody can yet describe themselves as safe. Whatever happens in Builth Wells, Lang/Young will maintain their lead but, as the season winds towards its finale, things could still change significantly. Ask Chris Hickman/Alex Stanbury – their MG ZR has only done two events so far, but a 1st and a 2nd have set them up nicely for the remaining rounds.

And so to Sunday morning and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship contenders who have survived the rigours of the previous day (no doubt some service crews will be in for a long night as they refettle their charges!) reconvene to do it all again on Epynt. The Fiestas of Petch/Wilkinson and Black/Edmondson will be leading the charge  but,  bearing  in mind that it’s a class-based Championship, the likes of Ed Fossey (Toyota Yaris) and Bart Lang (Nissan Micra) stand just as much chance of coming away with maximum points!

The first car leaves the start of the Nicky Grist Stages in Builth Wells town centre at 08.31 on Saturday morning for 45 miles of special stages in some of the classic mid-Wales forests. Then contenders for the Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally will get an extra 10 minutes in bed on Sunday prior to 75 miles of flat-out motoring on Epynt!….

For further information on the Nicky Grist Stages, visit: www.nickygriststages.co.uk

Photo is Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead; winners of the recent Carlisle Stages   (courtesy of ralliphotowales)