The Trackrod Forest Stages brings this year’s JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series® to a close and such has been the quality of the competition during the season that the coveted BTRDA Gold, Silver & Bronze Stars® have already been claimed. However, in addition to various other elements of the Series that are ongoing, a number of 2nd & 3rd places in each category have still to be won and lost. Hence, the classic special stages on the North York Moors will bear witness to plenty of high-speed action on 28th September! Having secured the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Rally Championship title back in July, George Lepley’s efforts had also put him in a favourable position to take a podium finish in the Gold Star Championship. Forsaking Baz Jordan’s Hillman Avenger for a Mitsubishi Lancer EVOX for the recent Woodpecker Stages, the Newark driver came away from the penultimate round of the season with a maximum points score under his belt. With dropped scores active, George can now only improve on his lowest-to-date but, on recent form, no-one should bet against him!
On the other hand, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) have already suffered two DNFs and are, therefore, able to count their full score on the Trackrod towards their final total. Nevertheless, the pressure is on and the 2017 Gold Star Champions must produce a good result to stand any chance of featuring in the Top Three. After much of a season to forget, Ian Bainbridge’s 4th overall on the Woodpecker Stages in his first appearance in a Skoda Fabia R5 would seem to herald a change in fortunes – let’s hope the momentum is continued on to the North York Moors!
In spite of a campaign that hasn’t turned out as they could reasonably have expected, outgoing Class B13 Champions Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth), who finished 5th overall on last year’s Trackrod, are persevering and will be doing their best to stay out of the way of the battle to succeed them. This particular scenario features Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor (Lancer EVO9) and the Impreza of Richard Hill/Steffan Evans, who start the event on equal points, in starring roles. Another Lancer, in the hands of Petr Krizan/Lukas Sintal, currently occupies 3rd in class and, of course, we mustn’t forget that George Lepley will also be chasing B13 points!…
In the race for the BTRDA Production Cup®, title contenders Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence leave the start a minute in front of Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry in their respective Lancers. Both crews already have five scores and, in this instance, it’s quite simple – the first one home takes the title and a likely podium place in the Gold Star Championship..! Although the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy was settled in favour of Zak Hughes / Tom Wood on the Woodpecker Stages, Manxman Steven Ormond-Smith will be attempting to wrest runner-up spot from Bobby Mitchell. Success could also see him leap-frog the Scotsman in the overall Production Cup table but, needless to say, Mitchell will have other ideas on that score!…
Andy Davison/Tom Murphy (Talbot Sunbeam VXR) have emerged victorious from the last two rounds of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship, such that the driver is confirmed as runner-up in the Series, but Murphy will be revelling in his new-found status as 2019 Silver Star Champion Co-driver! Contesting his first BTRDA event since the Malcolm Wilson Rally back in March, Steve Hopewell (Escort) and co-driver Clive Jones will be hoping to deny Davison/Murphy their third consecutive maximum. Meanwhile, a good run from Rob Wright (Escort) could conceivably elevate the Whitehaven driver to the final podium spot in this year’s Silver Star table.
<<<<<<< Andy Davison/Tom Murphy – Talbot Sunbeam VXR
BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup winners Perry Gardener/Keaton Williams are busy preparing to take up their prize of a free entry on the National section of Wales Rally GB, leaving the Fiesta R2’s of James Giddings and Tony Simpson/Ian Bevan, plus the Peugeot 208 of Ed Fossey/Will Rutherford to close the season out. They will be joined by Fiesta ST champions Zak Hughes/Tom Wood using a Fiesta R2 for the first time.
Having been absent for several rounds, series sponsor Baz Jordan returns on the Trackrod in an Historic spec. Subaru Legacy. His presence will certainly add spice to the BTRDA Historic Cup® battle currently being waged between the Escorts of David Gathercole (MkI RS1600) and Steve Ward (Mk2), both of whom are chasing the runner-up spot. After a fraught season with their Mitsubishi Galant, Tom Coughtrie/Ian Fraser will be looking to end it on a high, while a good result from Ben Friend/Cliff Simmons’ Escort could possibly see it finish 3rd overall in the Historic Cup.
David Gathercole (MkI RS1600) >>>>>>>
Steve Black/Paul Morris are the leading Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA 1400® Championship crew in their Suzuki Swift, while Richard Jordan/James Gratton-Smith will be out to make up some lost ground caused when their Proton Satria broke a driveshaft last time out. Class 1400C is going down to the wire…. The Evans brothers’ Peugeot 205 held sway early in the season, but the ever-present Micra of Richard Garnett/Robert Gilham took centre stage on the Plains Rally. Neither car finished the Nicky Grist Stages and the Evans’ were then absent from the Woodpecker. So, a grandstand finish is on the cards, and it could go either way – brace yourselves!…
Current leader Joseph Keen’s absence from Filey means that, as long as Graham Roberts (MG ZR) finishes the Trackrod, he will become the BTRDA Rally First® Champion, no matter what Wesley Gilford (Fiesta ST) can do to throw a spanner in the works!
Graham Roberts – BTRDA Rally First MG ZR >>>>>>>>
The Trackrod Forest Stages is the final counting round towards the new BTRDA Junior Driver incentive which has been donated by Adam Kent, the 1998 BTRDA Gold Star Rally Champion.
Adam’s company, Install Automation Ltd, will provide a £2,500 prize fund for the leading BTRDA Junior Driver to be used for entries to events in the 2020 BTRDA Rally Series. The winner will be chosen by the BTRDA Rallies Committee from a short-list of the three drivers with the highest total points score on the four rounds of the 2019 BTRDA Junior Championship to take place since the initiative was announced, beginning with the Plains Rally in May. Following the Woodpecker, George Lepley (57 points) has retaken the lead with George Clarke (42 points) now up to second and Matthew Hirst currently in third with 39 points. The prize will be presented by Adam at the 2019 BTRDA Rally Series Awards Evening in January.
Filey also welcomes contenders for the MAXXIS Motorsport UK 2019 English Rally Championship although, unlike the BTRDA Rally Series, this still has another round to go after the Trackrod. However, even at this advanced stage in the season, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll eventually walk off with the title. Yes – that man George Lepley leads the charge, but only by a single point from Callum Black (MG ZR) and three from Andy Davison. One tiny mistake could prove costly and considerably alter the look of the leaderboard. Rob Wright, James Giddings and Scott Faulkner are also less than ten points adrift of the overall leader, with up to 25 available on each round!….
The first car leaves the start of the Trackrod Forest Stages at St Helens in the Park, Wykeham, at 09.01 on Saturday 28th September and, following approximately 45 miles of single-use special stages in the classic forests of Dalby, Langdale, Cropton Staindale and Gale Rigg, returns for the Ceremonial Finish at the Beach in Filey during the afternoon.
The main photo is George Lepley’s Mitsubishi Lancer in full flight during the Woodpecker Stages! All photos © Kevin Money & Malc Almond.