Paul Bird and Aled Davies ended David Weston’s BTRDA winning streak by taking Nicky Grist Stages victory for the second consecutive year; as a result putting themselves firmly back in the title fight.
A Mammoth 169 car entry had been compiled by Quniton Motor Club for the 35th running of the Nicky Grist Stages rally, where David Weston and Kirsty Riddick were looking to claim their fourth consecutive BTRDA victory of the season. However, the Scottish duo would face tough opposition in the form of 2014 victors, Paul Bird and Aled Davies, and 2015 Malcolm Wilson Rally winners Euan Thorburn and Richard Cooke.
While there was little to choose between the three main protagonists on stages 1 and 2, the longer stages 3 and 4 proved decisive. In the space of 13.5 miles, Bird and Davies had leapt from third to first, taking a 19 second advantage into the Builth Wells service halt; the Cumbrian setting a particularly impressive time in Crychan to go 9 seconds quicker than anyone else.
Thorburn set about closing the gap straight after lunch with a very quick time in Monument reducing the gap to 15 seconds, but braking issues in Route 60 dropped the Scotsman to third; his push for victory fading as he sat 29 seconds adrift of Bird and Davies with just 2 stages remaining. And while they were back in form on Halfway 2, ultimately the Amigos sponsored Focus crew would end the day on the final step of the podium.
Weston meanwhile was setting a strong pace over the afternoon stages; joint quickest on Route 60 promoting the championship leader to second while a sensational time in Crychan 2 secured the runner up spot. Weston and Riddick ended the event just 14 seconds behind the winners; a story which may have been very different had they not lost 18 seconds to Bird over the first pass of Crychan and Halfway.
Behind, Charlie Payne, Stephen Petch and Jamie Anderson all started the day well; Payne and Petch joint fastest on stage 1 while Anderson claimed stage 2 victory to leave Payne and co-driver Carl Williamson in the lead of the event after the first pass of Route 60. But while Bird set Crychan alight, Payne, Petch and Anderson began to lose touch; Payne sitting 24 seconds behind the Focus pilot at the Builth Wells service halt, while Petch and Anderson were 9 and 11 seconds further back respectively in 5th and 6th.
Whilst both Petch and Anderson were quicker than Payne on certain stages of the afternoon loop, their inconsistency ultimately allowed the Amigos Fiesta to wrap up 4th position. Anderson had gone into the final stage just five seconds adrift of the Yorkshire man, but instead of challenging Payne, a slow time relegated the Mitsubishi driver back to 6th. Petch had earlier fallen behind Anderson courtesy of a couple of overshoots in route 60, however 4th and 5th quickest times in stages 7 and 8 were enough to re-gain 5th by the time the cars arrived back at Builth Wells.
Further back, 10th overall would secure Dylan Davies and Llion Williams top spot in class B13, beating the older specification Subaru of Sara Williams and Mark Glennerster to class honours by 51 seconds.
All this leaves David Weston and Kirsty Riddick sitting pretty at the top of the BTRDA points table with a whopping 173 points from their first 6 events of the season. However it is not over yet as three wins for Bird over the final three events would guarantee the Gold star crown.
HYUNDAI GENPOWER PRODUCTION CUP
Ever a close battle, the Nicky Grist Stages proved no different with the Mitsubishi Evo 9s of Roland llewellin, Tom Naughton and Patrick Naylor fighting it out for event honours in the top show-room class.
While regular front runners, Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy appeared off the pace, Roland Llewellin and Jamie Edwards were most defintiely not; recording 10th and 11th quickest times overall on the opening two tests to open up a 2 second class lead over the chasing pack. And while Naughton was able to fight back in Halfway, Llewellin and Edwards were faster in Crychan leaving them returning to Builth Wells with a 3 second lunch time lead.
Llewellin was again quicker on stage 5, but Naughton took stage 6, leaving the pair separated by just 2 seconds with 13.5 miles remaining. The great battle would however come to a premature end in stage 7 as Llewellin and Edwards left the road in Halfway, sadly bringing to an end what had been a great performance.
As a result the path was clear for series stalwarts Tom Naughton and Andi Mort to claim victory by 11 seconds from the chasing Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence. Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy meanwhile made up for their slow start to the event, recovering to claim third in class by the finish.
After a morning battle with Tony Simpson, Ben Crealey and Phil Hall dominated class N3 in their Fiesta ST, climbing 22 positions over the afternoon loop to finish the event in 61st overall, taking class honours by 1 minute and 17 seconds.
RAVENOL SILVER STAR
In a packed 2 wheel drive field it was the front wheel drive Citroen DS3 of Callum Black and Paul Wakely who got the better of their rear wheel driven rivals to claim the Nicky Grist Stages Silver Star honours.
Rudi Lancaster had started the event well and found himself leading the Silver Star category after stage 1. However a quick time for Black in Crychan left the DS3 driver with a 10 second lead at the the Builth Wells service halt. In fact Lancaster, accompanied by George Gwynn, had an up and down day in terms of stage times but ended on a real high to jump from 4th to 2nd on the final stage of the event; claiming top historic honours in the process with 24th position overall.
Meanwhile Black and Wakely were consistently the quickest 2 wheel drive machine over the second half of the event, taking 19th position overall and extending their Silver Star lead to almost 1 minute by the end of the rally.
Fourth place in the Silver Star section went to Max Utting and Mike Ainsworth in their Fiesta ST. After a day long battle with the MK2 Escort of Boyd Kershaw, Utting and Ainsworth claimed class B11 honours after turning around a 27 second deficit on the final stage; Kershaw and co-driver Bryan Hull unluckily suffering from a double puncture on the longest stage of the event.
It was all Ford affair in class B10, as Mike Harris and Steven Davey overturned a 10 second lunch time deficit to claim a 4 second victory over championship class leader Rhys Yates. 28th quickest time on the final stage, 7 seconds quicker than Yates, rounded off a great afternoons work for the Southern England based crew.
Meanwhile, within the Historic cup, David Lloyd Roberts and Dei Jones defeated the fellow Escort crew of Neal James and Kevin Jones by 16 seconds to claim class H2; a lead grasped on stage 2 and never relinquished although a slow time on stage 8 somewhat narrowed the final class margin.
And last but not least, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith claimed top spot in class H1, bringing their Hilman Avenger home in a very credible 63rd position overall, a result that would have been even better but for a slow time on the final stage.
KICK START 1400
Ash Slights and Alex Lee claimed a very well deserved first ever 1400 category victory on the Nicky Grist Stages, bringing their Toyota Yaris home in 30th position overall, 4th two wheel drive across the line.
David Bennett and Alistair McNeil would have been many observers pre event favourites, however the Vauxhall Corsa crew were out of contention before the event had really gotten started, suffering from drive Shaft issues as early as stage 1.
Instead it was Dave Brick and Ryan Weston who mounted the main challenge, with both crews in front of the Yaris after 3 of the morning stages. However, as with many of the classes, Crychan was the turning point as Slights leapt into the category lead with 24th quickest time overall.
From then on, the York man never looked back, setting fastest class time on all remaining stages to take 1400 victory by 26 seconds. Weston in his Proton meanwhile had the beating of Brick’s Nova over the afternoon loop to claim 2nd in class and cement his place at the top of the championship points table. This could yet turn out to be a very good year for the Weston family.
Fourth position overall in the 1400 class represented yet another fantastic result for Keith and Mairi Riddick in their 1400C specification MG ZR; the Scottish duo claiming class victory by a massive 2 minutes and 41 seconds!
VITAL EQUIPMENT RALLY FIRST
Nick Carr and Joe Sturdy claimed overall rally first victory in their 1400cc VW Lupo, beating 1600cc class victors, Matthew Thompson and Charlotte Banner by 24 seconds. Meanwhile John and Duncan Freeman claimed top spot in the 1 litre class with their Nissan Mica.
1. Paul Bird / Aled Davies | Focus 07 WRC (B14) | 0:46:14
2. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick | Impreza WRC (B14) | +00:14
3. Euan Thorburn / Richard Cooke | Focus WRC02 (B14) | +00:27
4. Charlie Payne / Carl Williamson | Fiesta (B14) | +00:41
5. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress | Fiesta R5+ (B14) | +01:01
6. Jamie Anderson / Jon Scott | Mitsubishi WRC05 (B14) | +01:01
7. Dave Wright / Michael Wilkinson | Focus WRC01 (B14) | +01:19
8. Desi Henry / Liam Moynihan | Skoda Fabia S2000 (B14) | +01:26
9. Bob Ceen / Andy Bull | Impreza S9 WRC (B14) | +01:27
10. Dylan Davies / Llion Williams | Subaru Impreza (B13) | +02:07
The Ludlow based Woodpecker Stages is next up for the BTRDA crews, where Bird must win again to keep the pressure on David Weston. Having claimed Woodpecker victory in 2014, the prospects look good for the Focus WRC man …
Standard prints are available HERE
For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)