Preview of Round 2 : Rallynuts Stages (15th April)
The Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground in Builth Wells plays host to the second round of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, the Rallynuts Stages, on 15th April and it was there twelve months ago that Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5) recorded the first of their three victories during the season. They arrived back at the finish half-a-minute ahead of Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) who, having retired from the Malcolm Wilson Rally a few weeks earlier, was opening his account in what turned out to be the teenager’s BTRDA Gold Star® Rally Championship-winning campaign.
<<< Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2) sliding their way to maximum Gold Star points on the Malcolm Wilson Rally
This time, having had a very successful outing on the snow-affected Malcolm Wilson Rally, Payne and co-driver Tom Woodburn start the Rallynuts Stages as MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star Championship leaders. Hirst / Dear are 3rd in the points table, marginally behind Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards who won the Interclub section of the opening round outright in their Skoda Fabia R5. Fiestas also appear in the hands of Ian Bainbridge / Will Atkins, Charlie Payne / Carl Williamson and Alistair Ginley / Craig Thorley, while Trevor Gamble / Phil Kenny will be looking to the Rallynuts Stages as an opportunity to get their challenge back on track following an unplanned early exit in Cumbria.
Russ Thompson / Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) hold the early-season bragging rights in Class B13 following their 4th place overall on the Malcolm Wilson but, with Ian Joel / Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) and Daniel Moss / Sam Davies (Lancer EVO9) also coming away with good points scores, they can take nothing for granted. At this early stage of the season, there’s also still plenty of time for Steve Pawson / Dylan Thomas (Impreza) to put their indiscretion in Greystoke behind them and catch up. The same applies to first-round absentees Rob Wilson / Richard Crozier (Lancer EVO7) who are rejoining the fray after some impressive performances during 2022.….
Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons’ mastery of the conditions encountered on the Malcolm Wilson in their Escort Mk2 brought with it not only maximum MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship points but also similar domination of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup. In Silver Star terms, Robert Proudlock / Steven Brown’s R2 Opel Adam is their nearest challenger, but Andy Davison / Tom Murphy (Sunbeam VXR) and Boyd Kershaw / Keegan Rees (Escort Mk2) have both sampled the spoils of victory in the past and will be keen to repeat the experience.
Ben Friend & Cliff Simmons (Escort) – BTRDA Silver Star & Historic Cup Leaders >>>>>
Ford Escort RS1600s are the vehicles of choice for both Jonathan Brace / Paul Spooner and Ernie & Karen Graham in the pursuit of BTRDA Historic Cup success and, while Proudlock / Brown currently hold sway in the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup, Liam Clark / Ben Wild and Alfie Hammond / Phil Boyle (both Fiestas) aren’t far behind them. The Rallynuts Stages also marks the return of Tony Simpson, with Stefan Arndt installed in the codriver’s seat, to the series.
<<< Robert Proudlock / Steven Brown (Opel Adam) – BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup Leaders
Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) swept all before them in the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship on the opening round and, as such, arrive in Builth Wells as leaders. However, not to put too fine a point(!) on it, there are people queueing up to try and halt their charge! Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards (Micra) began the defence of the driver’s MRF Tyres Rally First Cup title in fine style by finishing runners-up to the husband-and-wife crew, while Ed James / Charlie Mason (Micra Kit Car) are looking to improve on their 3rd / 2nd places in the 2022 Bronze Star table. They’ve started off on the right foot with a good haul of points to leave them in striking distance of the leaders.
Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards (Micra) >>>>
Class 1400C has the makings of a competitive affair with the Micra of Dylan Fowler-Bishop / Dan Evans attempting to hold off the attentions of Will Banks / Sam Kelter’s Nova and Luke Watts’ MG ZR. Unfazed by their early exit from the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Ashley Francis-Adams / Lucy Wilding (Micra) are back for more and, as with all the others who experienced problems on the opening round, there’s still plenty of time to haul themselves back into contention.
<<<<<<< Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) – Fuchs Lubricants Bronze Star Championship Leaders
New for this year, the MRF Tyres Motorsport Trophy offers eligible crews the chance to win a number of free entries and sets of tyres for use during the 2024 BTRDA Series. The clue is in the title – cars must use MRF tyres at all times and, following the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Andrew Wheatley (Puma) leads from Ian Bainbridge (Fiesta R5), Lewis Hooper (Micra), Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth) and Alfie Hammond (Fiesta R2). However, with Wheatley’s name absent from the Rallynuts Stages entry, that order will almost certainly have changed by the time cars return to the Showground at the conclusion of the event.
Andrew & Oliver Wheatley (Puma) >>>
SPECTATORS: The first car leaves the Showground at 8.00am on the Saturday morning and full details on spectator locations and parking can be found at www.rallynutsrally.co.uk/spectators/
All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond