Once an event has taken place in any given year, the organisers normally have the chance of at least a short respite before their thoughts turn to the next one. Not so for the team from North Wales Car Club whose Diamond Jubilee Cambrian Rally brought the 2015 BTRDA Rally Series to a close last October and now, a mere four months later, sees competitors heading for Llandudno once again on 13th February for the start of this year’s RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series.  Their efforts have been well rewarded because in addition to several past Cambrian Rally winners, the top eight starters include four BTRDA Gold Star Champions, two runners-up and a third-place finisher!

Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (GS – 2013) will be making their debut in a Peugeot 208 T16 R5, while Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank (GS – 2008) are also in a new car – a Ford Fiesta R5. Steve Perez/Paul Spooner (GS – 2010 & 2014) return in their Focus WRC and Shaun Gardener/Ben Innes (GS – 2012 & 2006) are relying on their trusty Mitsubishi Lancer EVO5.9 which has been subjected to a comprehensive weight-reduction course since last contesting a full season!  Yorkshire farmer Charlie Payne (Fiesta), accompanied once again by Carl Williamson, finished 2nd overall in last year’s BTRDA Gold Star Championship, and making a welcome return after so narrowly missing out on the 2013 crown is Irishman Connor McCloskey. Having recently sold his successful Subaru Impreza, he and Damien Duffin will be using a Mini WRC for the new season. Stephen Petch (Fiesta R5+), with Michael Wilkinson installed in the co-driver’s seat, will be hoping to improve on his 3rd place overall finish in the 2015 Series. Wayne Sisson/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X) & Karl Simmons/Mark Glennerster (Impreza S11 WRC) are also amongst the Top Ten seeds in North Wales, starting just ahead of the Fiestas of MSA English Rally Champion Rhys Yates/Tom Woodburn & Steve Simpson/Andrew Roughead.

The BTRDA Production Cup sees Roland Llewellin and Manxman Mark Perryman as the highest-seeded Class NR4 starters in their new Lancer EVO X. They will have the EVO IXs of Aaron McClure/ Alex Kihurani & Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy and another EVO X driven by Sacha Kakad for company. Subaru is represented by the Imprezas of Paul Davy/Roger Allan and Andy Davies/Max Freeman. Further down the order are several Fiestas ST’s running in Class N3 and this year, they have the new Fiesta ST Trophy to aim for. ‘Next Big Step’ graduate Sam Bilham is joined by Jon Ambler, George Lepley, Owain Williams and Tom Easson in a bid to upset the ‘establishment’!

The RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star Championship had everyone on the edge of their seats right until the very end of last season and Boyd Kershaw (Ford Escort MkII) had to wait until he was safely back in Llandudno at the conclusion of the Cambrian Rally before his celebrations could begin. With a little help from co-driver Bryan Hull, the ‘Flying Kiwi’ is defending his title but, certainly on this occasion, will have the Rowlands brothers, Ieuan and John, to contend with in their rapid Escorts. On the event, another Escort, in the hands of Phil Burton, will start directly in front of Boyd while next away will be Matthew Robinson, who made the Silver Star Championship all his own by winning it three times on the bounce between 2012 and 2014, who has entered in a Fiat 131. Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook, Jody Bowcott/David Millard, Simon Tuckman/Shaun Hughes and 2015 BTRDA Historic Cup winner Paul Street and co-driver Ian Jones will, doubtless, also be in the mix in their individual Escorts, while the Vauxhall Nova of James Hutchings/James Hood is currently the highest-placed registered front-wheel drive car in the entry.

Contenders for the Thomas Panels 1400 Rally Championship are headed by Dave Brick in his Vauxhall Nova. However, following co-driver son Freddy’s defection to the driver’s seat of another car, Dave is looking for someone to replace him! Fellow Herefordshire crew Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (Talbot Sunbeam) are next up, ahead of multi-award winners from last year, Scottish brother and sister Keith & Mairi Riddick (MG ZR). Jordan & Paul Hone’s Satria starts in front of Arwyn Lloyd Davies/Aled Edwards (Nova) and Hefin Lloyd Davies/Rich Jones (Corsa), with Gaz Carless/Chris Row (Nova), Matthew Jackson/Claire Williams (Micra) and James Williams/Paul Wakely (Ford Ka) all breathing down their necks! The next batch of contenders is led by the Corsa of Scott & David Sloan, with former Rally First contenders Neil Andrew/Dom Adams moving up to the full-blown 1400 Championship this season in a Micra.

The Vital Equipment Rally First Championship once again shines the spotlight on vehicles with limited modifications – apart from, obviously, the necessary safety equipment as outlined in MSA regulations. A couple of VW Polos, in the hands of Matthew Thompson/Charlotte Wainwright and Morgan Handford/Siobhan Pugh lead the field on the Cambrian but, behind them, a Nissan Micra (Dominic Hodge/Stefan Arndt), an MG ZR (Matthew & Tim Tordoff) and a Peugeot 205 XS (Emily & Eliot Retallick) illustrate the wide variety of cars that are eligible for the category!
The first car (Thorburn/Beaton) leaves the Llandudno start at 8.00am on Saturday 13th February and, after nine stages totalling 45 miles, crews will begin returning from 3.30pm in the afternoon.

Photo is the Fiesta ST of Tony Simpson on last years Trackrod Forest Rally (Ralliphotoswales)