Paul Bird and Aled Davies upped their pace over the afternoon stages to jump from third to first and claim their second BTRDA top score of the year. Meanwhile Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis wrapped up the Silver Star Championship with yet another maximum score in the 2WD class.
The Nicky Grist stages, being event 6 of the 9 round schedule, was set to be pivotal in the race for the Gold Star crown. With 6 scores counting, Scottish rivals David Bogie and Euan Thorburn had effectively ended their challenge by not entering the event. Meanwhile Dave Weston Jnr and Paul Bird’s chances lay on a knife edge with both needing to score big on the remaining 4 events to be in with a chance of taking the championship honours. A championship lead by Russ Thompson, having scored on each of the first five rounds.
Torn between Monument and Route 60 we eventually settled for the latter given the unpredictable weather forecast; the open spaces offering greater flexibility in terms of photographing the event should the heavens open. We were however greeted with glorious early morning sunshine on arrival; It was good to be back on the stages after 3 months away.
The early running suggested the battle for victory would be between the Focus WRC of Bird and Davies, the similar machine of Somerset and Dukeries winners Steve Perez and Paul Spooner and the Subaru Impreza WRC of Dave Weston Jnr and Kirsty Riddick. By the halfway point each had taken at least 1 stage win with Weston Jnr holding a 5 second lead over Bird, and Perez 6 seconds further back in third.
In 4th, Stephen Petch and Ian Windress, in the newly acquired Fiesta R5+, were struggling to keep pace with those ahead and would find themselves 27 seconds adrift after 4 stages. While Alex Allingham and Chris Williams were only just behind in 5th with 4WD new boys Desi Henry and Damien Duffin putting in a great performance to be lying 6th overall in their B13 Evo 9.
It was all to play for after lunch as the crews repeated the first three stages of Monument, Route 60 and Halfway with an extra loop added to the Crychan finale. Bird seemed to have the bit between his teeth, taking 4 seconds out of Weston Jnr’s lead on the second running of Monument and then a further 2 on stage 6 to take the lead heading into the final 2 tests. Perez had been able to tie Bird on stage 5, but could not match the Cumbrian on Route 60, and remained 11 seconds off the lead.
Dave Weston Jnr was obviously suited to the Halfway stage; having been quickest on stage 3, the Subaru pilot was again top of the times on stage 7. This left a deficit of just 1 second between himself and Bird going into the final stage.
Crychan however was most definitely Bird’s stage as he and Aled Davies emerged as rally victors by just 3 seconds. This was their second BTRDA win of the season after taking top spot on Bird’s home event, the Malcolm Wilson Rally, in March.
Behind, the Group N battle had been lead for most of the day by current Welsh Champions Alex Allingham and Chris Williams. Their lead averaging at around 10 seconds over the morning loop. A ball joint failure on Stage 7 however caused their retirement leaving the Mitsubishi crew of Jamie Anderson and Chris Brooks to take the victory for the second time in as many BTRDA events. Roland Llewellin and Jamie Edwards would take second in class with Wug and Max Utting rounding out the podium in their Subaru.
The new bridge on Route 60 had taken it’s toll on a couple of the Group N Mitsubishi runners with Thomas Naughton and pre event championship leader, Russ Thompson, suffering event ending damage after hitting the bridge hard; the lip of the new structure being at the point of compression after a steep downhill part of the stage. Luke Francis and John H Roberts in a similar B13 spec car were among a number of other crews also caught out. Thankfully this section was heavily cautioned for the second run but this was no consolation for the drivers who had suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage on the first pass through.
Silver Star honours went they way of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis and with it the Championship title after hardly conceding a point to their opposition over the first 6 rounds.
The Escort crew also taking top Historic honours with 14th overall. Terry Brown and Den Golding put in a strong performance to come home second in class, with H2 winners, Paul Barrett and Dermot Coltan just one place further back in 19th. Robinson showed massive bravery over the famous slight right over crest in route 60, rivalled only in commitment by Alex Allingham and Chris Williams in the group N Subaru.
It was a battle of attrition in the 1400 category with early leaders Mat Smith and Giles Dykes retiring with Clutch problems, David Bennett and Alistair McNeil going OTL before Stage 1 and Tom Walster and Chris Ridge being excluded. All this allowed the very rapid Nova crew of Justin Lawson and Paul Hargreaves to take the win, with the Peugeot 106 of Dan Gray and Matt Rogers taking second, just over a minute in arrears.
Mick Smith and Tom Jordan in the 1400c class Nissan Micra put in a great performance to take third, beating several more powerful cars in the process.
In the main field, B12 went the way of Seamus O’Connell and Elgan Davies in the MK2 Escort, with B11 going to fellow Ford crew Edvall Martin and Siw Helen Stenberg. The Stenberg’s performance particularly impressive given second and third in class were the vastly experienced John Perrott and Jon Ballinger!
Neil Matthews and Jez Rogers claimed B10 honours in their Vauxhall Nova with 29th overall whilst also taking the Nicky Grist Challenge Victory. Meanwhile Sacha Kakad and Andrew Price recorded their 5th maximum N3 points haul of the year with 41st. And Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith brought the glorious Hilman Avenger home in 52nd to take the class H1 victory.
All this leaves Matthew Robinson sitting on top of the Gold Star championship table with 3 rounds remaining. However with 6 scores already counting, he and co-driver Sam Collis are unlikely to be there at the end of the year. Instead Steve Perez and Stephen Petch are in a good position as things stand while Dave Weston Jnr and Paul Bird also have strong points scores but cannot afford another non finish. Dave Bennett is now out of the running in the 1400 championship after registering another non finish, while Mat Smith must score well on all three remaining rounds to stand a chance of the title. A couple more good scores from Justin Lawson or Dan Gray on the other hand could see either one of them take the crown.
The rain had just about held off throughout the day with the umbrella only really needed for the walk back to the car. The novelty of leaving Epynt on a Saturday rewarded with top drawer fish and chips in Crickhowell. Something which won’t be repeated in 2 weeks time when we are back on Epynt for the Harry Flatters rally. How dare the owners have Sunday off!
1. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus 07 WRC – 45:23
2. David Weston Jnr / Kirsty Riddick – Subaru Impreza WRC – +00:03
3. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC – +00.19
4. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ – +00.44
5. Desi Henry / Damien Duffin – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +01.15
6. Jamie Anderson / Chris Brooks – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +01.31
7. Tristan Bailey / James How – Mitsubishi WRC 04 – +02.06
8. Wayne Sisson / Neil Shanks – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +02.12
9. Roland Llewellin / Jamie Edwards – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +02.20
10. Karl Simmons / Guy Simmons – Subaru Impreza WRC – +02.33
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