Preview of Round 4, the Kielder Forest Rally (15th June)
The Kielder Forest Rally will mark the halfway point in this year’s Protyre BTRDA Rally Series but, even with a further four events to run subsequently, the race for the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship is already reaching a critical point. Winner in both 2022 & 2023, Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2), is on a mission to make it three-in-a-row and, as he and co-driver Patrick Walsh arrive in Hexham for the pre-event formalities, the situation is currently looking favourable. Two maximums and one second-place put them, unsurprisingly, at the top of their respective points tables but, with such a wealth of competition, no-one can yet afford to relax!    The latest Championship Points can be viewed HERE
                  The featured image is Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh (Fiesta Rally2) – Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Gold Star Championship Leaders, on the recent Border Counties Rally.
Turning the clocks back with an outright win on the Cambrian Rally in their Class B13 Lancer EVO9 at the end of last season, Russ Thompson / Steve Link continue to pose a threat to the series leaders, having finished in the Top Four – in BTRDA terms – on each of the three events so far. Meanwhile 2023 Kielder winners, Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5), already have one victory under their belt, having beaten all-comers on the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages back in April and, in spite of a problematic Malcolm Wilson Rally, are currently 3rd in the table, just six points off the lead.
Daniel Sigurðarson (Fiesta Rally2), with recently-registered co-driver Asta Sigurðadóttir, is another with three good results in the bag, while the similar car of Liam Clark / Emily Easton-Page is improving on an event-by-event basis – 3rd overall on the Border Counties will give cause for much optimism as the season progresses.

<<<<<  Russ Thompson / Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) – Class B13 Leaders

As far as Class B13 is concerned, Thompson/Link rule the roost but hanging on to their shirt tails on each occasion have been Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence in their own EVO9. Not only do the former BTRDA Production Cup winners feature in the Top Six Gold Star runners but the situation in their class is such that, should the leaders experience a problem of any sort, top spot could change hands in the blink of an eye!

Vivian Hamill’s perseverance must be applauded – a newcomer to the BTRDA Series this year, he settled straight into the task by taking his Polo GTI R5 to 2nd overall on the Malcolm Wilson Rally but then failed to reach the end of the opening stage on each of the next two events. With the scoring system purposely designed to cater for such eventualities, all is not lost, but a result in Kielder is now required in order to move the Ballygawley driver’s season forward.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the Protyre BTRDA Silver Star® Championship is still wide open! Steve Ward’s Escort MkII currently holds sway but, behind it, Andy Davison / Tom Murphy (Sunbeam VXR) have two maximums – their progress only interrupted by a DNF on the Rallynuts! – with Michael Jenkins (Fiesta) upholding front-wheel drive honours in 3rd. The Escorts of Nick Dobson (Mk2) and Will Graham (MkI) are next while Ben Jemison, whose Chevette was runner-up to Davison on the Malcolm Wilson, missed the Rallynuts and retired on the Border Counties, is back for another go in Kielder.

                                                                                                Nick Dobson (Escort Mk2) – Class B11 Leader  >>>>>>

At the same time, Ward, Graham & Jemison also occupy the top three places in the Reis Motorsport Insurance BTRDA Historic Cup. Baz Jordan / Arwel Jenkins, who appeared on the Border Counties in their Avenger to finish 2nd behind Will & Karen Graham, could significantly enhance their standing with a similar performance this time.

After a shaky start, Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards’ assault on the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup is gathering momentum. Their Fiesta, which has won the category on the previous two outings, is set to be joined by similar vehicles in the hands of Sam Mason / James Seymour and Alfie Hammond who will be experiencing his first taste of R2 competition…

While one hesitates to use the phrase ‘back to normal’, the sight of Nigel & Kaz Jenkins’ names at the top of the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship points table would indicate that they are making their presence felt once more! Their Nova’s first maximum of the season came on the Border Counties, comfortably finishing ahead of Paddy Homan’s Puma and the Corsa of Chris Bush / Robert Bryn Jones.

<<<<<  Paddy Homan (Puma) – 2nd BTRDA Bronze Star – Border Counties Rally

In addition to those mentioned above, Bronze Star competitors will be much in evidence in Hexham. Will Banks and Matt Baddeley (Nova) will be looking for a finish, having failed to complete the Border Counties, while Dale Glover / David Smalley (Alfasud TI) and the Micras of Dylan Fowler-Bishop / Dan Evans and Ashley Francis-Adams – runner-up last time out on the Rallynuts – have also proved themselves eminently capable of ‘mixing it’, given the opportunity…

The Kielder Forest Rally welcomes contenders for the Reis Motorsport Insurance Motorsport UK English Rally Championship and Elliot Payne’s name also features at the head of this particular points table. As the only driver who has taken maximums on both the first two rounds, he leads Nigel Jenkins (Nova) by two points, Russ Thompson (Lancer EVO9) by four and Matthew Hirst (Fiesta R5) by six. However, with five rounds to run and each competitor’s five best scores to count towards their final tally, it’s still possible for someone who has yet to come to our attention to move into the ascendancy!    The latest English Rally Championship points are HERE
2022 English Rally Champion Nick Dobson (Escort Mk2) was absent from the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March but returned home from the Border Counties with a maximum under his belt. What price a repeat in Kielder?… As we regularly point out, in a classbased series such as this, competitors are set against those in similar cars, such that out-and-out power doesn’t necessarily pay dividends – as a glance at the list of previous English Rally Champions will amply illustrate!…

SPECTATORS: The first car leaves Hexham Auction Mart at 9.00am on Saturday 15th June and full details of locations/pricing can be found at:
All photos © Kevin Money & Malcolm Almond.
Further information on the Protyre BTRDA Rally Series: & Reis Motorsport Insurance English Rally Championship: