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:

All images courtesy of Kevin Money and  Malcolm Almond