The premises of H&H Auctions play host to the fifth round of the RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series, the DMACK Carlisle Stages on 11th June, from where competitors will head off to the western side of the giant Kielder Forest as they bid for top billing on the day. The event has attracted an excellent entry of 115 crews and, as the BTRDA Rally Series moves into the second half of the season, pressure is beginning to build on those with designs on the various different titles.

In terms of the RAVENOL BTRDA Gold Star Rally Championship, ‘maximum man’ last time out, Julian Reynolds is absent, but co-driver Patrick Walsh is reunited with Steve Simpson in the former’s Fiesta S2000. Simpson, himself, took his best result in the Series on the recent Plains Rally with a 6th place finish. From the points tables at half-time, Charlie Payne & Carl Williamson (Fiesta) have thus far successfully resisted overtures from their rivals to lead the race to succeed Dave Weston/Kirsty Riddick as Gold Star Champions. They start behind the crew that everyone needs to be keeping a sharp eye out for at the moment, Luke Francis/John H Roberts. Two maximums and a second see the Welshmen’s Lancer EVO9 handily placed to push further in the weeks to come. Don’t forget, everyone’s best six scores from the eight events count and so, provided that they don’t make a habit of it, their one DNF will not necessarily prove to be a handicap!…
Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta R5+) came back from two consecutive retirements to finish 4th overall on the Plains Rally, setting themselves up nicely for the rest of the season – barring any more DNFs, you understand! Rory Young (Fiesta) also opened his account in Welshpool and the Dumfries driver will be hoping that, this time, the minimum distance travelled to the start will translate into maximum points on the day! Having already dropped one event, Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks (Lancer EVOX) are comfortably placed in the table, while Paul Benn/Richard Cooke (Ford Focus WRC02) had a disappointing day on the Plains but still find themselves in the Championship Top Ten. Thomas Preston/Jack Morton made their Championship debut in Somerset, taking a Top Ten finish, and now they’re back for more in their CA1 Sport-run Skoda Fabia R5. Thomas entered last year’s Carlisle Stages in his Focus WRC but was not to see the finish line – it goes without saying, therefore, that hopes are high for a successful outcome this time!

The top two crews in the BTRDA Production Cup both had shaky starts to their seasons – Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Lancer EVO9) and Andy Davies/Max Freeman (Impreza) failed to finish the opening encounter in North Wales but, since then, have collectively got their acts together to monopolise the top step of the podium on the last three rounds. Thompson’s two maximums to Davies’ one sees the Lancer slightly ahead but, as we all know (usually to our cost!) that could all change in the blink of an eye!  Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge (Lancer EVOX) weren’t to be seen until Round 3 but have finished runners-up on the two events they have contested and, should they manage to keep this up for the remainder of the season, will finish considerably higher up the pecking order than they are now!
Interspersed with the FWD machines are the Fiestas chasing glory in the ST Trophy and, with an unblemished finishing record, Sam Bilham/Richard Crozier currently rule the roost. However, ‘johnny-comelatelies’ (they missed the first round!) Cameron Davies/LeeTaylor have monopolised the table ever since and, should this trend continue, they could well return home to South Wales as Trophy leaders.

Boyd Kershaw/Bryan Hull’s preoccupation with a second consecutive RAVENOL BTRDA Silver Star Championship title in their Escort Mk2 is there for all to see. Absence from the first event has merely served to focus their attention even more and, now with two firsts and a second already in the bag, they can set about completing the season – hopefully, in their eyes, to the detriment of everyone else’s! Gavin Edwards/Caron Tomlinson lead the table and Kershaw/Hull are second but of course, having registered a DNS on the Cambrian, they have a score in hand – always supposing they can capitalise on it! Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham (Escort) won their class on the Plains, moving them up to 3rd place, but Phill Burton/Mal Capstick’s retirement has put their campaign on the back foot, for the moment at least.

The Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship continues to produce different winners – it’s four from four events so far, with the latest ‘top men’ being James Williams/Paul Wakely (Ford Ka). They start the Carlisle Stages just behind the Talbot Sunbeam of Chris Powell/Jim Lewis who, having suffered three consecutive DNFs to start the season, will have breathed a huge sigh of relief at the sight of the Plains finish line! Jordan & Paul Hone (Proton Satria), 1400cc winners on the Malcolm Wilson, are next away, ahead of Keith & Mairi Riddick (MG ZR). So, will the Carlisle Stages produce a fifth different winner or are we about to see someone take a maximum for the second time this year?…..

The Vital Equipment BTRDA Rally First Championship is showing a slightly different success ratio to the 1400s – three drivers and two co-drivers have so far put themselves into that exalted position! Dominic Hodge & Stefan Arndt began as they meant (hoped?…) to continue in their Micra. Maximums on the first two rounds put them into a lead which, despite not finishing the Somerset Stages and having someone with the gall to beat them on the Plains, they have managed to hold on to – just! They start the Carlisle Stages right behind Richard Wells/Calvin Houldsworth (VW Polo) and another good run would help to re-establish their supremacy. But wait!… Emily & Eliot Retallick are not far behind them – a hot topic of conversation in their Peugeot 205 will centre around the fact that while she has one maximum score, he’s got two!…. Sheldon Furby (MG ZR), currently 3rd, will also be there but, with only 18 points separating 1st to 4th and with 30 points on offer for a win each time, it wouldn’t take much to significantly alter the look of the leaderboard. So, nobody is safe!….

Having been lying down in darkened rooms since the middle of April, contenders for the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship meet again in Cumbria. Winning their respective classes on each of the two rounds so far means that James Hutchings (Vauxhall Nova) and Cameron Davies (Ford Fiesta ST) are inseparable at the top, while Escorteers Boyd Kershaw and Gavin Edwards are similarly placed in 3rd. George Lepley (Fiesta ST) is 5th, but a mere five more points would see him leapfrog all those ahead. Not only is it tough at the top, it’s also very tight!….
The mixed-surface BTRDA Rally Challenge takes to the stages once again in Kielder – it’s already been to the Somerset Stages (gravel) and the Manx National Rally (asphalt) and, with a couple of second-place scores, George Morrison leads the hunt in his MG ZR. He is followed by Thomas Preston (Fabia) who beat him in Somerset and Julian Barnett (Impreza) who did likewise on the Isle of Man. All three are back for more, but they must be on the lookout for the likes of Steve Simpson (Fiesta) who has yet to score…..
The first car leaves the start of the DMACK Carlisle Stages at 8.00am on Saturday 11th June and are due to begin arriving back at the finish at H&H Auctions from 3.00pm.
Further details from:-   http://racrally.org/dmack-tyres-carlisle-stages/index

Photo is Charlie Payne & Carl Williamson on the the Malcolm Wilson Rally, the previous event in Cumbria. (courtesy of ralliphotoswales)