No Time To Lose…!

Preview of Round 2: Malcolm Wilson Rally – 3rd March.
With the Cambrian Rally moving back a week this year and the second round of the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series, the Malcolm Wilson Rally, running a week earlier, there’s barely time to draw breath before contenders for each of the various Championships head off to event sponsor M-Sport’s premises in Dovenby for the pre-event formalities.

Although his car is prepared in the Scottish borders, one person who won’t have far to travel to the start on this occasion is the current Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Gold Star® Championship leader Paul Bird who hails from Penrith. He will be chasing a record-breaking 5th win on his ‘home’ event – his fourth came in 2014 which put him on a par with Bill Dobie, the Cumbrian who took his four victories in five years between 1978 & 1982. Bird and co-driver Jack Morton will be out to consolidate the advantage their Focus WRC gained on the opening round of the series but will be under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge ahead of them.

Defending Gold Star Champions Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) are right behind Bird/Morton after the season’s opening encounter and, having retired from last year’s Malcolm Wilson, need to keep up the pressure if their aim of back-to-back titles is to become a reality. Meanwhile, Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod (Fiesta) set FTD on five of the Cambrian’s seven stages but damaged suspension ruined any chance of translating that speed into a good result. So, in Gold Star terms, a sizeable haul of points in Cumbria is a pre-requisite….
Breathing down their necks will be another trio of Fiestas in the hands of Julian Reynolds/Patrick Walsh, Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg & Charlie Payne/Ian Windress, with a further couple crewed by Luke Francis/John H Roberts and Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge aiming to put their BTRDA seasons back on track following retirements on the Cambrian.

In the B13 class battle, Dylan Davies/Llion Williams (Impreza) narrowly beat Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) on the Cambrian but, when it comes to the Malcolm Wilson Rally, the latter crew currently holds the bragging rights – they finished 13th in 2017 whilst Davies/Williams retired!…

Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy lead the BTRDA Production Cup runners but, if that situation is to continue, they will need to see off challenges from the likes of fellow Lancer EVO crews Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence, Tom Naughton/Will Rogers and Dan Moss/Sam Allen, as well as from the Imprezas of Andy Davies/Max Freeman and Jon Ross/Martin Auskerin.   Fiesta ST Trophy contenders Zak Hughes/Tom Wood are ‘Kings of the Castle’ after the Cambrian, a situation which both James Giddings/Sion Cunniff and Calvin Green/Osian Owen will be out to change on Round 2, while Martin Laverty/Phil Kenny would just be happy with a finish following retirement last time out.

Neither John or Ieuan Rowlands, who finished 1st & 3rd respectively in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Silver Star® Championship on the Cambrian, will be present on the Malcolm Wilson, giving Chris Powell/Jim Lewis the opportunity to put their 1400cc Sunbeam, which took 2nd place points in North Wales, into the mix once again. However, looming large – and that’s not just in engine capacity! – are the Escorts of Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell, Alan McDowell/Gavin Heseltine and Nick Dobson/Steve Pugh, plus the Citroen DS3 of Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor and Talbot Sunbeam VXR of Andy Davison/Tom Wood. Also appearing on the entry list is the name of Matthew Robinson whose exuberant – not to mention very quick! – driving style helped him on his way to secure the domination of the BTRDA Silver Star Championship for a period of three years from 2012 to 2014. Co-driven by Dave Robson, he has entered the Malcolm Wilson Rally in an Escort RS which also conforms to the BTRDA Historic Cup® regulations….

In the pursuance of its policy of welcoming all-comers to the Rally Series, the BTRDA has introduced a Rallye R2 Cup this year and, first time out, nine drivers scored points. Thus far, Fiestas (R2s, of course!) seem to be the most popular mode of transport, a theory to which both George Lepley/Tom Woodburn and Bob Vardy/Keaton Williams would subscribe, while Jack Leese/Sam Spencer have opted for a Peugeot 208. As ever, at this early point of the season, the jury is out as to the wisdom of their individual choices!

As mentioned above, Chris Powell/Jim Lewis made the BTRDA 1400 Championship all their own on the Cambrian but, in football parlance, you’re only as good as your last result and, thus, there’ll be no room for complacency – or problems! – this time. Attempting to keep them honest will be Tommi Meadows/Ian Oakey (Ford Ka), Pete Gorst/Phil King (Vauxhall Nova) and a brace of Corsas driven by Scott & David Sloan and Stuart Spyer/Pete Williams.
Each of the BTRDA Rally First Championship crews who scored points on the opening round opted for different makes of car. Sam & Liam Johnson’s Seat Arosa came out on top, while Matthew Baddeley/Shaun Hughes, who finished 2nd in the points in a 2.0 VW Lupo, have entered the Malcolm Wilson in a 1.0 litre Toyota Corolla. The comparison between the two, not least in power output, will be interesting!

This year’s MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship sets sail in the Lake District and, having been reformatted last year, now encompasses all vehicles conforming to the MSA’s current technical regulations. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson came out on top in their Fiesta WRC but, as a class-based series, the eventual winners could potentially come from any one of the eight classes. Indeed, the Top Six from 2017 featured two World Rally Cars, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence’s Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9, a couple of two-wheel drive cars and a ‘Rally First’ spec. Nissan Micra!…

The first car leaves the start of the Malcolm Wilson Rally from M-Sport at 7.00am on Saturday 3rd March for the first of nine special stages in the Lake District, before the finish at the Hired Lad, just off the M6 on the outskirts of Penrith, at 14.50.

Main photo is George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Fiesta R2) – BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup Leaders on the Cambrian.   (Photo by Malcolm Almond)