Author Archives: Howard Wilcock


Preview of Round 5: ATL Carlisle Stages – 9th June.

The ATL Carlisle Stages is the first event in the 2018 JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series to take advantage of the MSA’s recent relaxation of their regulations in relation to permitted running order. In this instance, it not only allows contenders for the BTRDA 1400 and BTRDA Rally First Championships and the older Historic Rally cars to run at the head of the field, but also in reverse seeded order.

As this is also a joint event with the British Historic Rally Championship it could be Paul Mankin / Desmond Bell in a Lotus Cortina who lead the event away from the start at 8.00am on Saturday 9th June.  Kieran Darrington/Adrian Cooper and Stuart Spyer/Pete Williams will be relying on their respective Corsas to carry them to the finish of the Carlisle Stages.  Having sampled an R2 Fiesta last time out on the Plains Rally, Tommi Meadows/Emma Morrison revert to their 1400cc Ford Ka once again whilst Richard Cole (Ford Escort) will be travelling all the way from South Devon to compete on the event.  Meanwhile, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) and Dave & Toby Brick (Corsa) who both have maximum scores to their credit already, will be looking to outdo each other and add another one to their accounts.     Main Photo is Dave & Toby Brick (Corsa) on the 2018 Rallynuts Stages.

Following the initial group of competitors, the event returns to ‘conventional’ seeding for JORDAN Road Surfacing Gold Star® Championship contenders. Matt Edwards (a former BTRDA 1400 Champion in 2010) and Darren Garrod (Fiesta R5) have emerged victorious from the previous two encounters this year and will now be chasing a hat-trick. However, those out to see that there’s a change at the top of the leader board on this occasion include Luke Francis/John Roberts (Fiesta WRC) and current Gold Star Championship leaders Paul Bird/Jack Morton who are keeping the faith with their Focus WRC. Bird lives in nearby Penrith and will be very much hoping that local knowledge plays a part in the outcome! 

Current BTRDA Rally Series leaders Paul Bird / Jack Morton (Focus WRC) on the recent Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally >>>>>>>>

Defending Gold Star Champions Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) are keeping up the pressure on Bird/Morton but can’t afford to make any mistakes as they continue their quest for back-to-back titles. A welcome return for Mick O’Brien accompanied by Rob Fagg (Fiesta R5+) are next away, followed by Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge (Fiesta R5) and the 2016 BTRDA Gold Star Champion Charlie Payne in another Fiesta who has Dale Bowen for company this time.

Late arrivals to the party, Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Impreza) swept all before them in Class B13 on their first outing, the Plains Rally, finishing in front of the Lancer EVO9 of Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear.  Ian Joel/Graeme Wood put their Escort Cosworth off the road in Wales and now need to make up the lost ground. They still have plenty of time but a good result in Carlisle would be hugely satisfying….

Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy have grabbed this year’s BTRDA Production Cup by the scruff of the neck, taking their Lancer EVO9 to maximum points scores on each of the three rounds so far. Following Tom Naughton’s big accident on the Plains a month ago, his enforced absence leaves Thompson to concentrate on keeping fellow Lancer devotees Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence at a safe distance. However, rest assured that the Midlands crew will have other ideas on the subject!…

Having finished in the Top Ten overall last time and taking maximum JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship points to boot, Ieuan Rowlands/Emyr Hall head north with their Hillman Avenger in an attempt to repeat the process. Nevertheless, it’ll come as no surprise to them that the ‘Escort Brigade’ – Rob Dennis/ Andy Boswell, Owen McMackin/Lee Taylor, Allan McDowall/Gavin Heseltine, Nick Dobson/Steve Pugh & Steve Hopewell/ Clive Jones to name just a few – will be doing everything in their power to thwart their plans!  Then, we can’t ignore Andy Davison/Tom Murphy’s rapid Sunbeam VXR or, indeed, Barry Jordan/Paul Wakely in the JORDAN Road Surfacing Avenger.  

Starting the season in such good form in their quest for BTRDA Historic Cup honours, Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard (Escort) and Tom Coughtrie (Mitsubishi Galant VR4) will have been somewhat underwhelmed by the Plains Rally which saw them both listed among the retirements. Even so, in spite of the setback, they start the Carlisle Stages leading their respective categories and will be looking for another opportunity to stamp their authority on the proceedings.

In BTRDA terms, the inaugural Rallye R2 Cup is proving to be a welcome addition to the fold as eleven drivers have already scored points. Be that as it may, George Lepley/Tom Woodburn have ignored all the others, instead treating the category as if it was their own!  Three maximum scores from three events unsurprisingly sees their Fiesta leading the table as they head off up the M6 to the start of the Carlisle Stages. Will Graham/Steven Davey, in another Fiesta, occupy 2nd place and, in the absence of Jack Leese as he recuperates following his major off on the Plains, Bob Vardy/Keaton Williams are next.  Zak Hughes/Tom Wood lead the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy runners, followed some 10 minutes later by James Giddings/Sion Cunniff and Kalvin Green/Rhys Stoneman.

2018 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship

Following the unfortunate cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson Rally back in March due to the attentions of the ‘Beast from the East’, the ATL Carlisle Stages hosts the rescheduled start of the 2018 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship and we’re now looking at a five-round championship, with everyone’s four best scores to count.. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta) managed to hold off the attentions of Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Lancer EVO9) to take last year’s title but, as a class-based series, it’s perfectly possible for the eventual winners to come from any one of the eight capacity classes.

Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson begin the defence of their MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship title

Starting in Carlisle for the ATL Carlisle Stages, the action in an all-gravel format then moves to the Quinton Motor Club promoted Nicky Grist Stages six weeks later. After a similar gap, the Woodpecker Stages will welcome contenders to Ludlow Racecourse for some of the famous Marches special stages. The North York Moors play host to the penultimate round, the Trackrod Forest Rally, at the end of September before the finale, a welcome return to the Wyedean Stages, in the picturesque Forest of Dean on 10th November.

Revised 2018 Calendar
• ATL Carlisle Stages Rally    9th June    Kielder Forest West
• Nicky Grist Stages    14th July    Mid Wales Forests
• Woodpecker Stages    1st September    Shropshire and the Welsh Borders
• Trackrod Forest Rally    29th September    North Yorkshire
• Wyedean Stages Rally    10th November    Forest of Dean

So, this could be a second bite at the cherry so to speak, especially for those that have had a ‘difficult start to the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series.     NB: The MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship registration is all part of the 2018 BTRDA Rally Series and BTRDA membership package.

All participating vehicles must comply with the current MSA Safety & Technical Regulations for Special Stage Rallies but then the Championship will be split into 8 championship classes with the scoring system reflecting achievement against other competitors in the same class. Let the fun begin!…

The ATL Carlisle Stages is based at the premises of H & H Auctions in Carlisle, from where the first car leaves at 8.00am on the Saturday morning. Five challenging stages later, the cars begin appearing back there for the finish from 3.10pm.

Photos supplied by Kevin Money & Malcolm Almond                                                                                                                                                                                                                     AH


Preview of Round 4: Plains Rally – 12th May.

On their way to claiming the 2017 BTRDA Gold Star® Championship crown, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson won the Plains Rally outright in their Fiesta WRC and, as they continue with a very robust defence of their title, a similar result on the fourth round of the 2018 JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series would do very nicely, thank you!

Solid runs on both the Cambrian and Rallynuts Stages Rallies have put Petch/Wilkinson into 2nd place in the Championship points, almost within touching distance of the current leaders, Paul Bird/Jack Morton (Ford Focus WRC).  However, the ‘men of the moment’ are Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod who not only took their M-Sport prepared Fiesta to victory on the Rallynuts Stages but then followed it up with a similar result on the opening round of the British Rally Championship, the Pirelli Rally, at the end of April.  As a result they are seeded at No 1 on the Plains Rally and but for problems experienced on the Cambrian Rally, they would be arriving in Welshpool for the Plains as Gold Star leaders themselves….. The photo above is of Matt and Darren (Fiesta R5) – on their wat to victory on the Rallynuts Stages Rally.   (Image courtesy of Malcolm Almond)

Another crew to experience difficulties on the season-opener – in this case leading to a DNF – were Luke Francis/John Roberts who are sampling Fiesta WRC power for the first time this year. They went some way to putting their BTRDA campaign back on track with 2nd overall on the Rallynuts Stages, but now need to do it all over again to keep up with the leaders. Having forsaken their Mitsubishi Lancer, Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge have also joined the ever growing ranks of Fiesta R5 owners but its debut on the Cambrian was very short-lived after their particular example developed starter motor problems prior to the opening stage. Steve Simpson/Mark Glennerster (Fiesta S2000) will be hoping to emulate, or even improve on, the 5th place they attained the last time they contested the event together in 2016.  However, one crew who will be absent from the line-up are 2009 Plains winner Hugh Hunter and co-driver Rob Fagg who will be defending their victory on the 2017 Manx National Rally which, this year, takes place over the same weekend.

Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) have come out on top of the BTRDA Production Cup contenders on both occasions so far and will, no doubt, be looking to continue this trend on the Plains Rally. Their main rivals, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence and Tom Naughton/Will Rogers have registered one DNF apiece and, consequently, have a spot of catching up to do! Meanwhile, unlike these three Lancer EVO crews, Jon Ross/Martin Auskerin have put their faith in a Subaru Impreza for their challenge and, so far, it has rewarded them with a couple of good points scores.

Although it’s still early days, James Giddings/Sion Cunniff lead the race to become MRF Fiesta ST Trophy champions but, prior to the Plains, Kalvin Green/Osian Owen are only three points behind them. Trophy winners on the Cambrian Rally, Zak Hughes/Tom Wood, suffered the indignity of a retirement on the Rallynuts Stages and now need a result to regain their momentum. However, several others, including the likes of Mat Tordoff, Martin Laverty and Richard Wells, would all like a say in how the situation pans out this time!

Two events, two different winners so far in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship – and both crews feature in the starting line-up for the Plains. John Rowlands/Glenn Latham took first blood in their Escort, while Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell (see picture) did likewise on the Rallynuts Stages. Dennis leads the table from Ulsterman Owen McMackin whose bigger-engined Escort is up against the similar car of Ieuan Rowlands/Emyr Hall who performed a giant-killing act on the event last year by finishing 10th overall and first two-wheel drive, more than two minutes in front of their nearest rivals!

Andy Davison/Tom Murphy will be bringing their rapid Talbot Sunbeam VXR and, having been absent from the Rallynuts Stages, Barry Jordan returns with his Hillman Avenger. Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard maintain a vice-like grip on the BTRDA Historic Cup in their Escort, while Tom Coughtrie’s Mitsubishi Galant VR4 is exerting a similar level of dominance in Class H4.


On the subject of superiority, George Lepley has taken his Fiesta to maximum points scores on both rounds of the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup so far but, close behind, Jack Leese (Peugeot 208) and Bob Vardy (Fiesta) are tying for 2nd place. None of them will need reminding that even a minor indiscretion on the Plains Rally could result in a vastly different look to the leaderboard by the end of the day!…  It’s also interesting to note that Tommi Meadows has upgraded from his 1400cc Ka to an R2 Fiesta for the Plains – he’s obviously got his eye on the free entry to Wales Rally GB which will go to the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup leader after the Woodpecker Stages in September.

                                                                                     George Lepley / Tom Woodburn (Fiesta R2) on the Rallynuts Stages  > > >

Perry Gardener’s Vauxhall Nova leads the BTRDA 1400 Championship after two rounds, but he must be very wary of the two driver/car combinations that have already scored maximums. Having had a fantastic run on the Cambrian Rally, finishing second 2WD car on the day, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis’s Talbot Sunbeam let them down on the Rallynuts Stages. Hopefully, the severe dressing down it’ll have received, once recovered to its Hereford base, has been heeded and will now take its crew to further glory on the Plains Rally…. Then Perry has fellow Ludlow crew Dave & Toby Brick to contend with – having sat out the Cambrian, the father and son took their Vauxhall Corsa to the top step of the podium last time out and will be looking to repeat the exercise on the Plains. Meanwhile, Kieran Darrington’s return to the sport continues – a successful run on the Rallynuts Stages to 2nd 1400 in his trusty Corsa and he, too, will be heading for Welshpool.

BTRDA Rally First Championship contestants Matt Baddeley and Guy Butler started the Rallynuts Stages one minute apart in their identical Toyota Corollas and, by the finish, the gap had reduced to a mere 15s! The main difference here was that it was Baddeley’s second score while Butler had retired from the opening encounter. Sam & Liam Johnson (Seat Arosa), who showed the others the way home on the Cambrian, are back for more and, following successive retirements, Richard Ingleby/Alex Booth will be encouraging their MG ZR to get them to the finish this time!

The first car leaves the start of the Plains Rally in Welshpool at 8.00am on Saturday 12th May and 8 special stages await the 125-car entry. The organisers, Knutsford & District Motor Club Ltd., are delighted that, for the first time for 14 years, they’ve been able to include stages in Dyfnant forest and extend their gratitude to the various agencies that have made this possible.

The first car is then due back in Welshpool for the finish at 6.00pm.

Images courtesy of Kevin Money and Malcolm Almond.




Preview of Round 3: (2nd event)  Rallynuts Stages – 14th April.

For the first time since 1989, the Rallynuts Stages (or ‘Severn Valley’ as it was known prior to the involvement of its current sponsor) features in the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series and, following the unfortunate cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson Rally due to the effects of the ‘Beast from the East’, moves up to become effectively the second event in the calendar. The organisers, Midland Manor Motor Club Ltd, have attracted a quality entry of 130 crews who will be heading for the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells on 14th April.

Coincidentally, the Top Three finishers from the 2017 Rallynuts Stages – Connor McCloskey/John Rowan, Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson and Martyn & Dawn England – are all chasing JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Gold Star® Championship points in their respective Fiestas this year. They will be joined by series leaders following the Cambrian Rally, Paul Bird/Jack Morton in the former’s Focus WRC, plus a gaggle of Fiestas in the hands of defending Gold Star Champions Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, Julian Reynolds/Patrick Walsh, Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg and Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod who set multiple fastest stage times on the Cambrian but whose chances of a top result were ruined by damaged suspension during the morning.  Following a retirement in North Wales, Luke Francis/John H Roberts will also be looking to put their Gold Star season back on track in Mid Wales. The photo is of Luke and John (Fiesta WRC) – trying very hard before their retirement on the Cambrian.  (Images courtesy of Kevin Money)

In Class B13, the rivalry between Dylan Davies/Llion Williams (Impreza) and Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth), which went marginally in favour of the former crew on the Cambrian, is set to continue but, amongst others joining the fray this time, Richard Hill/Steffan Evans, in another Impreza, will doubtless be aiming to upset the apple cart!

Maintaining the theme of close competition, especially over the past couple of seasons, the BTRDA Production Cup has become used to seeing a handful of seconds separating winners and ‘others’. Defending Cup Champions Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence lost out to Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy in the battle of the Lancer EVOs last time and will be hoping for a spot of role reversal on the Rallynuts Stages. Meanwhile, for their part, Tom Naughton/Will Rogers will be looking for a finish after mechanical bothers saw to it that their Lancer didn’t reach the final control on the Cambrian.

With the possible exception of Fiesta ST Trophy leaders Zak Hughes/Tom Wood, all the other contenders will be out to change the look of the points table on the Rallynuts Stages. James Giddings/Sion Cunniff and Kalvin Green/Osian Owen are currently in the remaining podium positions and would dearly love to ‘up’ their game – in more ways than one!

Zak Hughes/Tom Wood – Fiesta ST Trophy Leaders >

After its amazing run on the Cambrian Rally to 17th overall, the 1400cc Talbot Sunbeam of Chris Powell/Jim Lewis will be the best-placed JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship starter next weekend. However, it goes without saying (but we will anyway!) that there’ll be some more powerful cars with the express intention of raining on their parade. The Escorts of Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell, Nick Dobson/Steve Pugh, Allan McDowall/Gavin Heseltine and the Citroen DS3 R3T of Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor plus the Talbot Sunbeam VXR of Andy Davison/Tom Murphy could, potentially, lead the charge but there’ll be others – lots of others!…

The addition of a BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup to the BTRDA’s Rally Series arsenal this year has certainly struck a chord. Nine drivers scored points first time out and now, on Round 2, the entry list has increased still further. George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Fiesta) are the first-ever leaders of this particular category but, at this early stage of the season, the slightest of problems could spell disaster. Not wishing ill on their rivals (much!), Bob Vardy/Keaton Williams are best-placed to benefit from any misfortune that might hinder the leaders’ progress, with Jack Leese/Sam Spencer (Peugeot 208) hoping that lightning could possibly strike twice and upset both crews’ rhythm on the day! The entry list also benefits from a couple of R2 cars crewed by BRC regulars.

And so to the BTRDA 1400 Championship – another area in which the BTRDA took a pioneering stance, in this case some 16 years ago. In spite of the decline in numbers, due in no small part to the insistence that the lesser powered vehicles are no longer able to run at the front of the field, those who campaign such cars exhibit a similar level of commitment to those fighting for outright victory! Previously mentioned in despatches, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis will have been dining out for the past couple of months on their Cambrian result, but now it’s time to do it all over again!


<   Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (1400cc Talbot Sunbeam)

Among those hoping they don’t/can’t, we find Tommi Meadows (KA) and Perry Gardener (Nova) and good to see the return of Kieran Darrington (Corsa).    There’s an entry from the Brick family in a Corsa but, currently, that’s the only information to which we’re privileged! Nevertheless, historically, such is the reputation of the Ludlow farming dynasty that, come the day, whoever is ensconced in the driving seat will require careful monitoring by those hoping to come out on top. 

Although the BTRDA Rally First Championship caters for cars up to 2-litres, albeit with minimal technical modifications, competitors find themselves under the same constraints in regard to running order as do the 1400s. Notwithstanding, a trio of 2-litre cars have been entered by the ‘rallyme’ organisation for Wesley Gilford/Ryan Griffiths (Fiesta ST) and Matt Baddeley & Guy Butler (both Toyota Corollas). Having missed the opening round, 2017 Champions Bart Lang/Sinclair Young return in their all-conquering Nissan Micra.

The first car leaves the start of the Rallynuts Stages at the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells at 8.30am on Saturday 14th April. 45 miles of competition in the forests of Crychan, Cefn, Gwibedog and Radnor are on the agenda prior to the finish, back at the Royal Welsh Showground, from 15.50 that afternoon.