With just a month to go before the opening round of both the 2024 Protyre BTRDA Rally Series and the Reis Motorsport Insurance MSUK English Rally Championship, the Malcolm Wilson Rally (8th / 9th March), competitors’ intentions are becoming clearer and the entry list, which already extends to more than 90, contains a number of former BTRDA Series and English Rally Champions who are returning to the scene of their former glory as they attempt to extend their run of success.
In 2023 Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) became the first person to take back-to-back BTRDA Gold Star® Championship titles for nearly 30 years (before he was born!) and has now set his sights on a third. Should he succeed, Elliot would be the first-ever triple Gold Star winner since its inception 71 years ago! Matthew Robinson won the Silver Star Championship three consecutive times (2012-14) but such a feat is yet to be emulated in either the Gold or Bronze Star Championships.
The featured image sees Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) clinching the 2023 Gold Star title on the Trackrod Forest Rally
Whatever happens, Elliot – who is reunited with Patrick Walsh, his 2022 Championship winning co-driver – will not have things all his own way as, among others, proven BTRDA Rally Series event winners (and rivals) Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5) and Cambrian Rally victors at the end of last season, Russ Thompson / Steve Link (Lancer EVO9), will be there with the express intention of giving him a hard time! After a year out, Perry Gardener / Jack Bowen (Fiesta R5), who claimed 2nd overall on their local Woodpecker Stages in 2022, are also back for more. Likewise BTRDA Rally stalwarts Patrick Naylor and Ian Lawrence return in their Mistubishi Evo 9.
.Perry Gardener & Jack Bowen on the Woodpecker Stages >>>
Due to family commitments, current BTRDA Silver Star® Champion Ben Friend is planning a limited campaign this year, but 2022 winners Rob Wright / Mark Fisher (Escort Mk2) have entered their ‘home’ event and will be pitting their skills against the likes of Andy Davison / Tom Murphy (the 2019 Silver Star Champion Co-driver) in their Sunbeam VXR and 2022 Motorsport UK English Rally Champion Nick Dobson (Escort Mk2).
<<<< Rob Wright/Mark Fisher (Escort Mk2) – 2022 BTRDA Silver Star Champions
In winning the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star® Championship last year, Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) set themselves a very high bar with a ‘full-house’ of six maximum scores. Impossible to beat but, nevertheless, the husband-and-wife team are back to defend their title. Among those who’ll have other ideas on the subject is Steve Black who claimed the 2021 Championship at the wheel of his Suzuki Swift, while Dylan Fowler-Bishop (Micra) showed everyone else in the category a clean pair of heels on last year’s Woodpecker Stages Rally.
Photos courtsey of Kevin Money & Malcolm Almond