Preview of Round 6: Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages (9th September).
Having been ‘resting between engagements’ since mid-July, MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series contenders now head to Ludlow Racecourse for Round 6, the 40th anniversary running of the Woodpecker Stages (9th September), and, with three rounds still to run, just seven points separate the top four crews in their respective bids for 2023 MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star® Championship glory.
Defending champion Elliot Payne and co-driver Tom Woodburn (Fiesta Rally2) top the table but the chasing pack is led by Arron Newby / Jamie Edwards (Fabia R5), with Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear (Fiesta R5) and Russ Thompson / Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) in very close proximity. Each of the above has maintained a 100% finishing record so far with nothing lower than a 4th place points score and, as the pressure continues to mount, something’s got to give!… Although not involved in the Gold Star tussle, last year’s runners-up Perry Gardener / Jack Bowen (Fiesta R5) will be very keen to go one better this time and add their name to the trophy that already bears the name of Perry’s dad, Shaun, from 2006 and 2008!
Matthew Hirst / Decal Dear (Fiesta R5) >>>>>>>>
<<<< Russ Thompson/Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) – 4th Gold Star & Class B13 Leaders
As may be imagined, Thompson / Link’s performances thus far have given them a commanding lead in Class B13 such that one more good result will put the title beyond reach – and they’ve still got three opportunities to clinch it!
Meanwhile, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Silver Star® Championship is also still wide open – a fact that will be of no comfort whatsoever to current leaders Boyd Kershaw / Keegan Rees (Escort Mk2)! They have also retained a clean sheet in terms of event finishes but will be very wary of Robert Gough / Paul Morris who, having missed the opening round, burst on to the scene in their Historic spec. Escort Mk2 to trump the opposition on the next two. Kershaw went some way to redress the balance on the Kielder Forest Rally, only for Gough to turn the tables on his rival once more last time out. Dropped scores come into play after the Woodpecker and this is when maximums really come into their own – the current tally is Gough 3 : Kershaw 1 but, as has already been outlined, there’s still plenty of time for the pendulum to swing in either direction!
Andy Davison’s Sunbeam VXR is hanging in there and currently occupies the final podium spot in the Silver Star table while, following an accident on the Border Counties Rally and an absence from the next event while their Escort Mk2 was refettled, early season leaders Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons (Escort Mk2) have some catching up to do!…
<<<<<< Andy Davison (Sunbeam VXR) – 3rd BTRDA Silver Star Championship
For their part, Gough and Morris hold sway in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Historic Cup but that, too, could yet have a different look to it by the end of the season. The Escort MkI RS1600 of Ernie & Karen Graham just won’t leave them alone while, depending to an extent on what happens in front of them, a determined push from Steve Ward / Phil Sandham might well see their Escort Mk2 improve on its current 3rd place.
Robert Proudlock and Steven Brown (Opel Adam) – 2nd BTRDA Rallye R2 & R2 Junior Cups >>>>>>>
Whether the destination of both the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup and BTRDA Rallye R2 Junior Cup is north or south of the Scottish border is firmly in the hands of Liam Clark (Fiesta – Keighley) and Robert Proudlock (Opel Adam – Dumfries). As is the case in the Silver Star Championship, the current runner-up has more maximum scores than the leader but the burning question is ‘will that still be the case at the end of the season’?….
Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) set out their stall in terms of the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Championship right from the word ‘go’ and now, after five events, are just two points shy of a full-house! Can they be ousted from their dominant position? Possibly – but, once again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens on the Woodpecker. Although obviously not quite as quick as his stepfather’s Nova, Luke Watts’ MG ZR is proving to be equally reliable and its closest rival in the race to succeed Pete Gorst / Mark Twiname to the 1400cc title. However, another Nova in the hands of Chris & James Greenall has been steadily speeding up as the season progressed to the point that, should their run of results continue at the same (or even higher!) level, an improvement on their current 4th place is definitely on the cards.
<<<<<<< Chris & James Greenall (Nova) – 4th BTRDA Bronze Star Championship
Returning after a three-month break, the Motorsport UK English Rally Championship, in association with Seacon UK, now looks forward to two events in a fortnight – nobody said it was going to be easy! Prior to the start of the first of these, Elliot Payne (Fiesta Rally2) has a one-point advantage over Nigel Jenkins (Nova) who, himself, is a similar margin ahead of Boyd Kershaw (Escort). Then Matthew Hirst (Fiesta R5), Russ Thompson (Lancer EVO9) and Arron Newby (Fabia R5) complete the Top Six with just five points separating all of them. To say there was ‘all to play for’ could, therefore, be construed as something of an understatement!…
New for 2023, the MRF Motorsport Tyres Trophy is for users of said tyres on BTRDA Rally Series events and, from those fulfilling the criteria, the chance of some free entries and tyres for use on events featured in next year’s BTRDA calendar has so far attracted 20 drivers to register. From them, Colin Minton (Fiesta R5) rules the roost as he arrives at Ludlow Racecourse for the start of the Woodpecker Stages but, like almost everything else connected with this year’s BTRDA Rally Series, his position is not yet secure!
SPECTATORS: The first car leaves Ludlow Racecourse at 7.30am on the Saturday morning and full details can be found at www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk
All photos © Kevin Money / Malcolm Almond
Further information on the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series : www.btrdarally.com & Motorsport UK English Rally Championship : www.englishrally.co.uk