Tag Archives: Paul Bird

Edwards Dominates Rallynuts Stages to claim Maiden BTRDA Victory

With the Malcolm Wilson rally falling victim of the weather, the BTRDA contingent would instead head to mid Wales for round 2 of the championship, the recently re-branded Rallynuts Stages Rally (previously Severn Valley Stages).  And, after a month or two of less than pleasant weather, it was rather apt that one of the warmest days of the year so far would welcome the Midland Manor Motor Club Organised event to the championship after several years of association with Historic rallying.

Much like the Cambrian Rally, the entry list was filled with rapid machinery, including 4 WRC Ford’s.  But, also following a similar theme to the season opener, it was an R5 machine, more specifically a Fiesta R5 in the hands of Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod, that would take centre stage.

OVERALL

Edwards truly was in a league of his own on this event and with no protruding logs to halt his progress, would go on to record fastest time on all 7 stages and claim a maiden BTRDA victory by a mammoth 40 seconds from the WRC Ford’s of Luke Francis and Paul Bird;  the Welsh star clearly enjoying his home stages having now set fastest time on 12 of the Championship’s first 14 stages, all 12 of the stages completed by the Swift backed Fiesta man (missed stages 2 & 3 of Cambrian)!  With pace like this, there is little doubt Edwards will be at the sharp end of the British Rally Championship battle when the series kicks off later this month.

Behind, Luke Francis and John H Roberts had a much stronger second BTRDA championship outing in their Melvyn Evans Motorsport prepared Fiesta WRC.  Forced into retirement after clipping a rock on the Cambrian, the North Wales based duo registered second fastest time on every stage bar the last to finish the event in a very comfortable second.

Rounding out the podium positions, Paul Bird, with Jack Morton alongside, continued his strong start to the season after a 2 year lay off.  Locked in a tight battle with the Fiesta of Hugh Hunter throughout the morning stages, the North of England duo managed to snatch third in stage 3 before inching away from their rivals over the final 4 tests; thus ensuring they maintained their early championship lead.

CLASS RESULTS

Well inside the top ten, class B13 victory went the way of Tom Cave and Dale Bowen.  Cave, making a guest appearance in the family owned Subaru, was near untouchable over the classic Welsh terrain, finishing the event 1.5 minutes clear of his nearest class rival; his speed further rewarded with 7th position overall and the honour of first non Ford home.

With 11th overall, Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy claimed a comfortable class NR4 victory in their Mitsubishi Evo 9.  Their day was perhaps made a little easier when usual front runners Patrick Naylor and Ian Lawrence suffered a stage 1 mechanical, however a 40 second class victory over the similar machine of Tom Naughton is proof they would have been a match for anyone on the day.

A thrilling Silver Star battle produced a somewhat surprise result with Max Utting and Mike Ainsworth making a mockery of their seeding to claim category victory in their Ford Fiesta ST.  It was in fact a sensational come back by the Oxford based duo who, having  found themselves 14 seconds behind the Category leading Escort after SS3, completed the Radnor and second Crychan tests some 29 seconds faster than their rivals!  And with just the 2 short stages remaining, Utting and Ainsworth would maintain their advantage to record a very impressive top twenty finish.

B12 Class winners, Owen McMakin and Lee Taylor had lead the Silver Star category through the first 3 stages, however the remainder of the event did not go so well;  The Irish / Welsh pairing not only losing the lead to Utting in stage 5 but also falling behind the Class B11 Escort of Rob Dennis and Andrew Boswell.  McMakin’s strong early pace was however rewarded with his second BTRDA class win of the season and third overall in the Silver Star Category.

Class B10/R2 honours went the way of Josh McErlean and Aaron Johnston in their Fiesta R2; the pairing having snatched the lead from the similar machine of George Lepley in Radnor before gradually pulling away over the afternoon stages to record a 9 second class victory with 24th overall (4th in the Silver Star Category).

Rounding out a very successful day for the blue oval marque, James Giddings and Sion Cunniff claimed class N3 victory in their Fiesta ST with 46th position overall; the 4th class win of the day for a Fiesta crew!

In the 1400 category, round 1 winners, Chris Powell and Jim Lewis exploded into a 31 second lead after the first 3 stages only to find themselves condemned to the retirements list just one stage later.  This left the door wide open for Dave and Toby Brick, this time in a Vauxhall Corsa, to take a commanding 3.5 minute victory with 37th position overall.  Meanwhile Perry Gardener and Steve Link would take the 1400C honours with 78th position overall in their Vauxhall Nova.

By the end of SS4, two of the leading Historic contenders, Nick Elliott (engine issues in SS1) and Rudi Lancaster (Gearbox) were out of the event, which left the Escort’s of Ernie Graham and Terry Brown to battle it out for category victory.  There was absolutely nothing to choose between the two cars over much of the morning before a slow time in Radnor for Brown and co-driver Den Golding put pay to their challenge; the 18 seconds lost allowing Graham and co-driver Robin Kellard to go on and record their second BTRDA Historic victory in as many events.

Behind, Tom Coughtrie and Baz Green seemed to have the H4 spec, ex works, Mitsubishi Galant running well and duly claimed class honours with 4th in category and 47th overall.  Whilst, just one place further back in 48th, Gareth Lewis and Mark Crisp dominated class H1/H2 in their MK2 Escort, claiming class victory by nearly 2 minutes from the similar Ford of Jeff Wincott.

After a day long battle with Bart Lang, Andrew Wheatley made it two Rally First victories out of 2 in his Ford Puma.  He and Ian Nichols finishing the event in a very commendable 62nd position overall.

FULL RESULTS

Next up, the BTRDA contenders head further North for another Welsh outing, this time for the Knutsford & District Motor Club organised Plains Rally on 12th May.  A rally in which Stephen Petch will be hoping to repeat his 2017 success and keep himself at the forefront of the title battle.  If the in-form Edwards should make an entry however he and co-driver Michael Wilkinson may well have their work cut out!

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Nicky Grist Win Blasts Bird into Title Contention

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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RESULTS

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

FULL RESULTS

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 …

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Thorburn Triumphant in the Lakes

Euan Thorburn and Richard Cooke put in a sensational afternoon drive on the Lake District based Malcolm Wilson Rally to convert a 15 second deficit into a 46 second winning margin.

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A 2.30am alarm was required for the long journey up to the Cumbria for round 2 of the BTRDA rally series.  The 40th anniversary running of the Malcolm Wilson Rally would see 118 cars leave the M-Sport based start to attempt 8 stages, covering 44 competitive miles, within the Whinlatter, Grizedale and Greystoke forests.

High winds and occasional showers greeted our mammoth climb to junction 7 of Comb for stage 2 and it was Paul Bird and Aled Davies who made the most of the tricky morning conditions; opening up a 5 second lead over Thorburn and Cooke on completion of the undulating Whinlatter forest tests.

Bird then continued his excellent start to the event, making full use of his local knowledge to register fastest time in both Thornsgill and Greystoke to complete a clean sweep of morning stage victories.  Thorburn was however able to keep the Cumbrian man in sight, and by the time the cars reached the first Penrith service halt the reigning Scottish champion was just 15 seconds adrift with more than half of the rally remaining.

Thorburn was using Paul Benn’s 02 Focus WRC for this event and maybe the Scotsman just needed the morning to re-acclimatise with this particular car, having used a similar model to claim the 2013 BTRDA and 2014 Scottish titles.  This seemed to be the case as an excellent drive through Grizedale North saw him take stage victory by 15 seconds before going better still in Grizedale South and registering a time that was a whopping 29 seconds quicker than anyone else to now lead the event by the same margin from Bird and Davies.

Stephen Petch and Ian Windress meanwhile had found a good rhythm in their Fiesta R5+ and joint second fastest time in stage 6 promoted them 3 places up the overall standings to 4th overall; now just 11 seconds behind the very rapid B13 Subaru of Jim McNeil and Tony Bassett.  Conversely, David Weston’s strong morning display, which had seen the WRC Subaru lying in third place overall, unravelled with a puncture in stage 5.  He and Kirsty Riddick however remained just 12 seconds behind the final step of the podium in fifth following the completion of the Grizedale loop of stages

While Bird’s victory hopes had faded, second appeared to be safe having secured a mammoth 1 minute and 17 seconds gap to third with just 8.5 miles left to run.   The fight for the final step of the podium however was most definitely on; now between Petch and Weston following the unfortunate retirement of Jim McNeil’s Subaru with an electrical gremlin.

Heading into the wet final stage, the WD40 backed Ford held a slender 2 second lead.  But try as they might, Petch and Windress could not quite match the 7 minute 30 second marker laid down by the Subaru of Weston and Riddick; eventually missing out on third place by a mere 4 seconds.  Weston on the other hand will have been pleased with third as even without the puncture, the top two would have been difficult to catch.

Upfront, Thorburn continued his total afternoon domination by claiming another impressive stage victory with a time that was 17 seconds faster than Bird to end the rally with a winning margin of 46 seconds.   His time in the wet afternoon running of Greystoke was a whole 21 seconds quicker than the morning test!  This had been some drive by the Berwickshire man.

There was little that Bird could do to defend his lead with Thorburn in this sort of form and so his search for a fifth Malcolm Wilson Rally victory will have to wait another year.  However the Cumbrian will be consoled by the fact that he has a healthy BTRDA championship lead after adding 28 points to the 30 earned from his Wyedean Rally victory.

CLASS B13

Luke Francis and Jim McNeil locked horns early on in the battle for B13 honours; Francis setting third quickest time overall in Revellin Moss, only for McNeil to go quicker in Comb and then Greystoke to take an 8 second class lead into the first Penrith service, with the Mitsubishi of Wayne Sisson and Fiesta of Andrew Gallagher lying 12 and 16 seconds further back respectively in 3rd and 4th position in class.

McNeil then dominated the two Grizedale stages setting 3rd and 5th fastest times overall to take a commanding 42 class lead into the final 2 stages.  Meanwhile, Andrew Gallagher, with Jane Nicol on the notes, had managed to haul in Francis and was now six seconds in front of the Welshman; a battle that would prove key given the demise of McNeil before the start of stage 7.

Indeed, Francis may have been able to cut the gap to just 2 seconds heading into the Greystoke finale, but 5th fastest time overall for Gallagher would ensure that he and Nicol would head back North of the border with class victory and a fine 5th place overall.

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In fact a slow time for Francis on the final test cost him second in class too; Wayne Sisson and Neil Shanks putting in a strong final stage performance to take the runner up spot in B13 with 6th place overall.

CLASS N4

Russ Thompson and Thomas Naughton were again the front runners in the top production class; the pair each taking 2 class stage wins on the morning stages, but with Naughton and Andi Mort holding a 9 second margin over Thompson and Andy Murphy at the first Penrith service.

As in other classes though it was the Grizedale tests that proved decisive; Thompson coming out on top and taking a 17 second lead into the final 2 stages.  While Naughton was quicker in both, the gap was just too big to close, leaving the Clitheroe man to wrap up his second BTRDA class win of the season with 7th position overall.

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CLASS H3

Matthew Robinson, with Kim Baker on the notes this time, put in yet another stellar performance to claim both the Historic and Silver Star honours on the Cumbrian event.  The Escort crew were kept on their toes early on by the evergreen Steve Bannister.  The infamous red striped MK2 however suffered from a puncture in Grizedale North, causing them to take a stage maximum as a result and ending any hopes of class victory.  That aside the Ripon man would have taken some beating; finishing the day in 10th position overall to take Silver Star honours by 1 minute 28 seconds and H3 by a massive 2 minutes 55!

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CLASS B11

You would not have believed Boyd Kershaw had been away from the sport for 2 years after he and co-driver Mark Fisher opened up a 29 second class lead after the first four stages.  In fact the Escort crew went on to set fastest time in class on all eight stages to take a comfortable 1 minute and 14 second victory over the front wheel drive Astra of Stuart Egglestone and Brian Hodgson; ending the day as second 2 wheel drive crew home in 14th position overall.

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The much anticipated pre-event duel between Yorkshire rivals Mat Smith and David Bennett unfortunately ended on the morning loop of stages.  Bennett, with Alistair McNeil alongside, had been lying 16th overall with a 10 second class lead before incurring event ending damage in the short Thornsgill stage.  This left Smith and Giles Dykes to take a comfortable 1 minute and 15 second class victory in their newly liveried Proton; but more impressively ending the day as third 2 wheel drive crew home, claiming 15th position overall in the process.

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Meanwhile victory in the 1400C class was again claimed by Keith and Mairi Riddick in their MG ZR, giving them a large championship class lead at this early stage of the season.

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CLASS B10

Class B10 was settled sensationally on a tie break after both Greg McKnight and Barry Lindsay registered the same overall time after 44 competitive stage miles.  In a fantastic battle that saw the class lead change 4 times throughout the day, Greg and Chris McKnight finally ended the day as class winners courtesy of their quicker stage 1 time.

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CLASS H2

Andy Kelly and Roger Herron came out on top of the all Escort affair that was class H2.  David Dobson had however been leading the class in his MK2 before an off in Grizedale South ended his hopes of victory.  Instead Andy Kelly picked up his pace as the day went on to take class honours by 47 seconds with 36th position overall.

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CLASS N3

Tony Simpson and Ian Bevan were guaranteed class victory with an event finish by virtue of being the only car entered in N3.  However a solid performance by the Fiesta crew was rewarded with 43rd overall.

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CLASS H1

Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith were holding a near 4 minute class lead when the only other H1 crew in the event, the Escort of David Thirlwell and Graham Reader, retired in Grizedale South.  Jordan and Gratton-Smith however beat several more powerful cars on their way to an excellent 44th overall.

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RALLY FIRST

Mick Quinn and Neill Cameron in their Nissan Micra got the better of Phil and Chris Spilsted’s similar machine to take RF1.0 class victory with 80th overall.

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Nick Carr and Joe Sturdy claimed RF1.4 victory with a winning margin of 2 minutes and 33 seconds to finish the day in a very respectable 55th position overall.

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While James West and Steve Eggington put in a strong performance to claim RF1.6 honours by over 3 minutes with 49th position overall in their VW Polo.

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RESULTS

1. Euan Thorburn / Richard Cooke | Focus WRC 02 (B14) | 0:45:55
2. Paul Bird / Aled Davies | Focus WRC 07 (B14) | +00:46
3. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick | Impreza WRC (B14) | +02:27
4. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress | Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) | +02:31
5. Andrew Gallagher / Jane Nicol | Ford Fiesta (B13) | +03:12
6. Wayne Sisson / Neil Shanks | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) +03:29
7. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) | +03:38
8. Luke Francis / John H Roberts | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) | +03:40
9. Thomas Naughton / Andi Mort | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) | +03:48
10. Matthew Robinson / Kim Baker | Ford Escort MK2 (H3) | +04:50

FULL RESULTS

IN SUMMARY

To be honest I didn’t think anyone would have the beating of Paul Bird in his own back yard but Thorburn’s afternoon charge was simply breathtaking and hopefully he will be making a few more appearances south of the border in 2015;  a major highlight from a great day following yet another well run BTRDA event.

We just about made it to three stages, having almost been turned away from Greystoke due to the car parks being jam packed.  I am not sure I have ever seen so many people in there and for the first time ever I actually enjoyed the stage.  A significant amount of tree felling and surface changes since our last visit has completely transformed the viewing.  Clearly charging a mere £5 for parking works and is most definitely the right way to get spectators to park where you want them to.

After a full days action it was gone Midnight before I arrived back in Birmingham; the 21.5 hour day probably the longest period of time I have gone without sleep since last years Le Mans.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!

The next rally for me is most likely to be the Pirelli in late April although I may yet be tempted by Rally North Wales …

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Bird Storms to 40th Anniversary Wyedean Win

Paul Bird and Aled Davies put in a dominant Wyedean Forest Rally performance; winning five of the eight stages to claim victory on the opening round of the BTRDA rally championship season.

BirdA huge entry had been assembled for the 40th anniversary Wyedean Forest Rally including 4 previous winners.  However with both the 2013 and 2014 victors missing from the list it was last years BTRDA championship runner up Paul Bird, together with title winning Co-driver Aled Davies, who lead the crews away from the Chepstow rally base.  The organisers had done a great job in finding an 8 stage, 43 mile competitive route with zero double usage.

Speech House and Serridge were our destinations for the day; leaving extra time for the journey turned out to be a wise decision as the car parks filled quickly.  The early start also allowing time to reach the very entertaining open 90 left at junction 16 of stage 2.

While a ‘suspect’ time for Charlie Payne saw the previous winner take an 11 second margin into stage 2, it was Paul Bird who emerged from Speech House with a 15 second overall lead; the Cumbrian registering a time on the longest stage of the event that was 12 and 22 seconds faster than the chasing WRC imprezas of David Weston and Hugh Hunter respectively.

The Focus WRC pilot continued his early domination with another fastest time in stage 3 before David Weston, with Kirsty Riddick on the notes, was able to match him in Chepstow Park, pegging the lead at 21 seconds as the crews arrived at the halfway service halt.  The Scotsman’s time also quick enough to leapfrog Charlie Payne into second position overall.

The trends of the morning appeared to be carrying on after lunch as Bird and Davies were quickest again in the short Yorkley stage.  However, unlike earlier in the day, Weston struck back straight away and claimed his first outright stage victory with a good run through Sallowvallets.

Hugh Hunter and Andy Marchbank meanwhile, in their Melvyn Evans Motorsport S11, were gradually re-acclimatising to the gravel; their increased speed as the day went on rewarded with fastest time on stage 7 by a full 6 seconds.  In fact they were 19 seconds quicker than Payne and Williamson in the Focus engined Fiesta which moved them up to 3rd overall, just 41 seconds off the overall lead.

After 2 stages without victory normality was then restored as Bird took the rally win in style by registering his 5th fastest time of the day on the Mailscot finale.   The winning margin ending up at 34 seconds after Weston lost 12 seconds in Serridge and a further 1 in Mailscot.  The Subaru man was however still quick enough to maintain second overall from the slightly older specification machine of Hunter and Marchbank.

Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson were the second Blue Oval crew home in 4th.  The Yorkshireman had started well but gradually slipped back as the day progressed, ending the event 1 minute and 6 seconds behind the eventual winners.

Nik Elsmore and Matt Edwards had a great run to claim B13 victory in the Matt’s ME Rallysport Evo.  The previous event winner was never outside the top ten in terms of stage times and claimed a mammoth 2 minute and 29 second class victory; moving ahead of Damian Cole and Jack Morton on stage 6 to end the day in a fantastic fifth overall.

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The immense group N battle of 2014 continued across the first 4 stages of the day with Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy trading times with the similar Evo 9 of Thomas Naughton and Andi Mort.  However a damaged crank sensor in Yorkley ended the latter crews day, leaving Thompson and and Murphy to claim a 45 second class victory over Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence.

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Nick Elliott and Dave Price were in top form on their local event to take an incredible 12th overall, beating 4 WRC cars in the process!  The Cheltenham duo claimed both the Historic and Silver Star victories whilst even more impressively setting the 9th quickest time overall on stage 1!

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Just as impressive were David Bennett and Alistair McNeil in their 1400 Corsa.  After a difficult 2014, the Yorkshire crew started the year in the best possible manner; registering category victory and ending the day in an excellent 18th overall.  Ian Evans and Justin Brooks had been keeping them on their toes until Bennett went 12th fastest overall in both Serridge and Mailscot to claim top spot by a whopping 58 seconds.

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19th overall represented a great return to the event for 3 time overall winner Graham Elsmore.  Together with Stuart Harrold on the notes they ensured that the Elsmore family would need plenty of room in the trophy cabinet after claiming class B11 victory in their Rob Smith Rallying prepared MK2 Escort.

Elsmore Senior

Fellow local crew, Mark Griffiths and Will Rogers, were actually quicker on 5 of the 8 stages, however slow times in Speech House and Chepstow Park cost them a shot at class victory but still came home in a more than respectable 24th position overall.

While Elliott took overall Historic and H4 victory, further back, Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds claimed H2 with a brilliant 27th position and Peter Lewis took class H1 in his Mini.  The 240Z of Easson and Reynolds seems to be getting quicker and quicker with this result representing a great follow up to their 7th overall on last years RAC.

H3 meanwhile turned into a good battle between the Ford Escorts of David Dobson and David Lloyd Roberts and the RX-7 of Jake Scannell with just 4 seconds separating Scannell and Dobson at the half way point.  However the unique sounding Mazda was able to ease away over the afternoon stages to take class victory with 42nd position overall.

Scannell

Elsewhere, B10 was a good old front wheel drive vs rear wheel drive battle with the Ford Escort of Robert Smith and Frankie Hillman leading the Peugeot 205 of Thomas Lloyd and Sherryn Roberts at the halfway mark following quick times in Trelleck Common and Chepstow Park.  However Lloyd and Roberts dominated the afternoon leg to take class victory by 24 seconds with 48th position overall.

Lloyd

N3 was not a well represented class on the Wyedean but Geno Cook and Daniel Robinson put in a solid performance to claim class victory with 53rd overall.

Cook

Tim Phelps and Elwyn Manuel were the first B12 crew home in 55th position aboard their MK2 Escort, while Keith and Mairi Riddick claimed 1400C victory with 56th.

Riddick

And finally the 3 Rally First categories were claimed by Mick Quinn and Neill Carman, Morgan Handford and Richard Davies and Mick Smith and Calvin Houldsworth.

I have to say that this was probably the most enjoyable Wyedean Rally of recent years with committed crews throughout the running order, reasonable weather and for once good choice of locations.  Masses of fans flocked to this 40th anniversary event, in fact I have never seen so many people lining the stages of a national rally, which given some of the places onlookers were stood could be seen as both a positive and a negative!  And although the overall fight for victory was not as close as we have become accustomed to in recent years, the driving talent on display made this celebration event a more than worthy spectacle.

Next up is the Malcolm Wilson Rally in early March where Cumbrian, Paul Bird, will be looking to increase his Gold Star championship lead.  The 2014 winner will be a clear favourite for the win and the other crews will need to be on top form to beat the Focus pilot in his own back yard.  If the Malcolm Wilson and the remaining 2015 BTRDA championship events can attract an entry somewhere near the quality of the Wyedean then we are in for one hell of a national rallying year!

RESULTS

1. Paul Bird / Aled Davies | Ford Focus 07 WRC (B14) | 0:42:25
2. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick | Impreza WRC (B14) | +00:34
3. Hugh Hunter / Andy Marchbank | Impreza WRC (B14) | +00:43
4. Charles Payne / Carl Williamson | Ford Fiesta (B14) | +01:06
5. Nik Elsmore / Matt Edwards | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) | +01:36
6. Damian Cole / Jack Morton | Ford Focus WRC (B14) | +01:49
7. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress | Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) | +02:01
8. Peter Taylor / Andrew Roughead | Fiesta S2400 (B14) | +02:12
9. Bob Ceen / Andy Bull | Subaru Impreza WRC (B14) | +02:29
10. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy | Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) | +02:36

Full Results

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Cambrian Win for Weston as Perez Secures Title

David Weston and Kirsty Riddick put in a stellar performance to claim victory on the Llandudno based Cambrian rally.  Second place was also enough for Steve Perez to land the BTRDA Gold Star championship crown.

Weston

Wet and slippery conditions faced the crews as they headed for the forests surrounding Betws-y-Coed for 8 stages which would ultimately decide which of the 2 championship contending Focus WRC pilots would walk away with the 2014 BTRDA Gold star championship title.

Paul Bird and Aled Davies got off to the worst possible start, losing 58 seconds to their rivals following an off in the tricky opening Crafnant stage.  This was a monumental blow for the Superbike team owner as the time deficit would be almost impossible to claw back without issues for the other drivers.  Steve Perez, co driven by Paul Spooner, meanwhile could breathe a little easier, knowing that as long as he beat Bird the title would almost certainly be his.

It was however David Weston and Kirsty Riddick who managed to pull away from the pack in stage 2, their first run through Llyn Elsi being 5 seconds quicker than anyone else.  And by half way it looked like the Scottish crew were on their way to a first BTRDA win of the season as they held an 11 second lead over Perez.  In fact only Bird seemed able to go quicker than the Subaru pairing; the Ford driver winning every remaining stage bar the second running of Llyn Elsi.   The Llyn Elsi stage most definitely belonging to Weston as the S12 Impreza was yet again quickest through this test.

By the finish Bird and Davies had managed to get within 32 seconds of Weston and just 12 seconds shy of rivals Perez and Spooner. While second and third for the Focus crews left them completely tied on points, it would be the Chesterfield man who took the crown based on his 22 point haul from the Plains Rally in May.  I doubt anyone imagined the title would be decided on 7th best scores when the championship kicked off last February!

Perez

After struggling to get to grips with the S12 Impreza on the Woodpecker and then finding his feet on the second half of the Trackrod it was pleasing to see Weston on the pace from the start of the Cambrian.  He was visibly quicker than anyone else in Crafnant 2 and a deserving victory was also rewarded with 3rd place in the BTRDA Gold Star points table.

Behind the front three, Matt Edwards, with Will Rogers on the notes, showed his class by taking 4th overall in his B13 specification Evo 9.  The local man improved his pace thoughout the day, but saved the best till last; just one second slower than Bird in Penmachno North and then matching the much quicker machine on the final Penmachno South test.  Suffice to say the North Wales man took B13 victory but it would be interesting to see what he could achieve behind the wheel of a WRC machine.

Edwards

Like Bird, Welsh Championship contenders, Alex Allingham and Chris Williams endured a terrible start to the event in their Group N Subaru, losing three minutes in Crafnant following a roll which left them in 123rd position!  An excellent drive through the field however saw them climb to 13th overall, claiming the Welsh Championship in the process as main rival Luke Francis hit problems.

Allingham

In fact Luke Francis’ retirement, caused by a holed fuel tank in Penmachno South, turned out to be very costly indeed as their fourth DNF of the year meant they would also miss out on the BTRDA B13 championship honours.  A title which instead went to the Evo 6 crew of Simon Rogers and Andrew Sankey.

Cambrian Group N victory went the way of Thomas Naughton and Andi Mort in their Evo 9.  The Mitsubishi crew were regularly fastest in class and were rewarded with a fine 6th place; over a minute clear of nearest rivals Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence.  The 20 points gained from taking class victory was also enough to leapfrog Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy to take the 2014 BTRDA Production Cup title.

Naughton

Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis rounded off their year in style by taking 7th overall in the H3 spec Ford Escort.  Even more impressive when you consider that Welsh legend Gwyndaf Evans was second in class, some 42 seconds in arrears.  It has been a phenomenal year for the Escort crew, adding BTRDA H3 and overall Historic honours to the Silver Star crown which was theirs by July.  Incredibly they also finished 6th overall in the final Gold star standings; a fantastic performance given some of the machinery they were up against.

Robinson

The other big championship battle heading into the final round was the 4 way tussle for the 1400 crown.  With just 2 short stages remaining, title favourites Mat Smith and Giles Dykes held a near 2 minute lead over the rest of field.  However the little Ka had suffered radiator damage on the second running of Llyn Elis as well as beginnings of a clutch problem.  Remarkably they somehow made it through to the end, finishing fourth in class.  And a further 2 minute time penalty was not enough to stop them taking a well deserved 1400 title.  This had been an up and down rally to end an up and down season for the Yorkshire based crew.

Smith

Instead rally honours went the way of fellow championship challengers Marcel Freling and Karen Robinson in their MG with a commendable 17th overall.  By the halfway point they found themselves behind the Peugeot 106 of Dan Gray and Matt Rogers but were able to improve their pace over the afternoon loop of stages to take victory by 26 seconds.

Freling

The wet and slippery conditions had taken their toll on the silver star field with 5 of the top ten seeded cars, and 11 in total, finding themselves on the retirements list by end of the second stage!  There were however some stand-out performances behind the already mentioned Robinson and Evans.  Indeed third 2 wheel drive crew home were Rex Ireland and Adrian Scadding with 15th overall in their H2 Ford Escort who were clearly enjoying themselves in the process …

Ireland

While the Fiesta R200 of Kit and Tim Leigh was the second front wheel drive car home in 19th overall.  This also represented top spot in class B10, beating Gary Pearson and Dave Robson’s Peugeot 208 by just 5 seconds.

Leigh

B11 class honours went the way of Simon Tuckman and Shaun Hughes in yet another Ford Escort.  26th overall was enough to claim the class victory by 40 seconds from the similar machine of Jeff Wincott and Kevin Booth.

Tuckman

Meanwhile Steve Ellis and Steve Mcphee’s BMW 325i ended the day in 29th place and top of class B12 while Saleh Hijazi and Tom Bishop were class N3 victors in 75th position.

BMW

Hijazi

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to the Crafnant stage and the tricky conditions were a suitable platform to end what has been a fantastic series.  After starting the season in the Stratos, the BTRDA title must have been completely unexpected for Steve Perez.  However the Chesterfield man has been on top form throughout the year, and although he may not always have been the fastest, he did take three outright wins and was able to keep the car on the road when it mattered most.

And that is it for my 2014 national rallying year.  I expect to see many of the crews competing on Rally GB next month and maybe a few on the RAC as well.  With Perez likely to be back in the historic class in 2015, it will be interesting to see who will be in the fight to take his title.  Roll on the Wyedean in February ….

RESULTS

1. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Impreza WRC (B14) – 0:49:52
2. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00:20
3. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00:32
4. Matt Edwards / Will Rogers – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) – +01:05
5. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) – +01:39
6. Thomas Naughton / Andi Mort – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02:41
7. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis – Ford Escort MK2 (H3) – +03:10
8. Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +03:48
9. Gwyndaf Evans / Dale Furniss – Ford Escort MK2 (H3) – +03:52
10. Ian Joel / Graeme Wood – Ford Escort WRC (B14) – +04:25
13. Alex Allingham / Chris Williams – Subaru Impreza (N4) – +06:17
15. Rex Ireland / Adrian Scadding – Ford Escort MK2 (H2) – +07:41
17. Marcel Freling / Karen Robinson – MG ZR (1400S) – +08:04
19. Kit Leigh / Tim Leigh – Ford Fiesta R200 (B10) – +08:23
25. Mat Smith / Giles Dykes – Ford Ka (1400s) – +08:49
26. Simon Tuckman / Shaun Hughes – Escort MK2 (B11) – +08:50
29. Steve Ellis / Steve McPhee – BMW 325i (B12) – +09:06
75. Saleh Hijazi / Tom Bishop – MG ZR (N3) – +22:05

 Full Results

 

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Trackrod Trophies end up in Chesterfield

Steve Perez and Paul Spooner ensured the BTRDA title fight will be settled on the final round of the series with victory on the Trackrod Forest Stages.  Meanwhile fellow Chesterfield man Richard Hill, co-driven by Steffan Evans, was able to claw back all of the previous day deficit to take top spot in the Historic event.

Winners

HistoricWinners

The Trackrod rally, based in the forests of North Yorkshire, represented both the final round of the RAC Rally Championship and the penultimate round of a very tightly contested BTRDA season.  The slightly longer Historic event starting on the Friday evening with two night stages in the Dalby forest complex.

BTRDA

First up was the longest stage of the event with 10.5 miles through the infamous Langdale test.  And it was Steve Perez and Paul Spooner who shot out of the blocks and opened up an 8.4 second lead over championship rivals Paul Bird and Aled Davies.  Local man Jim McNeil also put in a stellar first stage performance in his B13 Subaru, splitting the two Fiesta R5s of Stephen Petch and Charlie Payne.  It would not last long though as a stage 2 off caused the York driver to take a stage maximum, sending himself and co-driver Tom Hughes tumbling down the order.

Meanwhile in the 1400 section a much anticipated tussle between David Bennett and Mat Smith was over before the cars reached Gale Rigg as Smith, co driven by Giles Dykes, broke a drive shaft following a trip into a Langdale ditch.  They would manage to carry on but lost 8 minutes to their rivals as a result.

David Weston and Kirsty Riddick, having lost a significant amount of time to their rivals in stage 1, jumped 4 positions to 4th overall with stage victory in Gale Rigg (Stage 2); more than 5 seconds quicker than anyone else.  It was a good stage for Steve Perez also as he increased his overall lead to 12.9 seconds.  A 4.5 second increase in margin that was then effectively reversed following Bird’s first stage win of the day in neighbouring Cropton.

As in previous rounds, the Fiesta’s just don’t seem to have the outright grunt of their elder siblings and Stephen Petch, try as he might, could not keep up with the two foci in front, or the now charging S12 Impreza of David Weston; Weston claiming third overall from the SGP Motorsport machine following the Cropton test.

Bird found his rhythm as the day went on, taking his second stage win in Staindale to leave a 5.9 second margin heading into the Dalby finale.  But whilst the Cumbrian took his third consecutive stage victory, Perez had done just enough to hold onto top spot, taking victory by a mere 3.4 seconds.  David Weston rounded off a solid performance with 3rd overall, 25 seconds behind the leader.  A what might have been story given the Scotsman lost over 23 seconds in stage 1.

GroupN

Group N honours went the way of Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy who had the edge on Thomas Naughton and Andi Mort’s similar machine throughout the day, eventually taking class victory by 21.3 seconds and finishing a very credible 6th overall.  Fellow Mitsubishi crew, Thomas Preston and Jamie Forrest claimed the B13 class victory with 9th overall while Martyn Hawkswell and Benjamin Cohen were the first rear wheel drive competitors home with 14th overall in the B11 MK2 Escort.

B11

David Bennett, with Alistair McNeil alongside had set a blistering pace throughout the day in the 1400 category, eventually taking class victory by over 3 minutes with a mighty impressive 12th overall.  Justin Lawson had been challenging early on but lost a wheel in Staindale causing retirement whilst also ending his title hopes.

1400_winners

15th overall was enough for Paul Street and Clive Hilton to take the historic class victory in their Ford Escort, with B10 victors, Kit and Tim Leigh, finishing one place further back.  The Porsche Boxster of Ian Jemison and Dean Kellett was going better than ever on home soil, finishing 17th overall and claiming B12 honours in the process.

Championship wise, the gold star title is now a purely Ford Focus WRC affair with just the Cambrian Rally remaining.  Perez currently has 167 points banked and can improve to 175 with a victory while similarly Bird can tally 176.  Essentially whoever wins the final round will take the crown with various complicated outcomes should neither be on the top step of the podium.  Luke Francis, David Weston and Stephen Petch are now all out of the running courtesy of the 167 banked total of Steve Perez.

It is mathematically a 4 way battle for the 1400 crown; Ryan Weston and Marcel Freling still in with a chance if Dan Gray and Mat Smith fail to finish well on the Cambrian Rally next month.  Realistically though it is a dual between Dan Gray and Mat Smith; the odds stacked heavily in Smith’s favour with Gray needing to take maximum class points and have 3 cars between his 106 and the little KA to take the title.  Smith’s impressive fight back on the Trackrod, resulting in a 21 point haul, may just be enough to take top spot.

BTRDA RESULTS

1. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – 41:08.0
2. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00:03.4
3. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Subaru Impreza (B14) – +00:25.4
4. Stephen Petch / Ian Windress – Ford Fiesta R5+ (B14) – +00:36.8
5. Charlie Payne / Andrew Roughead – Ford Fiesta (B14) – +01:14.2
6. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +01:58.4
7. Tom Naughton / Andi Mort – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +02:19.7
8. Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence – Mitsubishi Evo (N4) – +03:31.3
9. Thomas Preston / Jamie Forrest – Mitsubishi Evo (B13) – +03:51.2
10. Steve Petch / John Richardson – Mitsubishi Evo (B13) – +04:19.7

Full Results

RAC

There may have been no Stratos in the Yorkshire forests this year but this was more than made up for by an entry list boasting Ryan Champion in a Porsche, Julian Reynolds in a Fiat 131 and Ben Mellors in a Toyota Celica RA40; enough to wet the appetite of any enthusiast.  With the early morning sun shining on a recently felled section of Gale Rigg there really was no better place to take in the action.

In similar fashion to the 2013 event, Matt Edwards, co-driven by Paul Morris, had been able to build a healthy lead of 14.9 seconds after the two friday night stages.  Many competitors suffered problems however including local hero Steve Bannister, who went off the road and out of the rally in Staindale.  Champion also had issues but was able to restart on Saturday morning under Super ‘Rally rules’ where he and Craig Thorley managed a stage victory on the Cropton test.  Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were another front running crew to lose time; an off in Staindale causing a time loss of over 2 minutes.

Unlike last year however Edwards was not able to maintain the top spot throughout Saturday’s four stages.  Instead Richard Hill and Steffan Evans, having taken time out of them on every stage, snatched the victory on the very last test, winning the rally by just 7.4 seconds.

Behind, Tim Pearcey and Neil Shanks recorded some solid stage times on their way to a well deserved third overall with Category 2 victors, David Stokes and Guy Weaver finishing 4th in their Mk1 Escort.  An impressive result given vastly experienced local man and class runner up, Warren Philliskirk, was over a minute behind.

Cat2

Meanwhile category 1 victory went the way of Bob Bean. The evergreen MK1 Cortina pilot securing a winning margin of over 25 seconds by the end of the day.

Cat1

Nevertheless, second in class was enough for Ray Cunningham to wrap up the title; greatly deserved as it is a long time since the UK rally scene has been treated to a Mini driven like that!  I for one hope they return in 2015.

RESULTS

1. Richard Hill / Steffan Evans – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – 54:41.3
2. Matt Edwards / Paul Morris – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +07.4
3. Tim Pearcey / Neil Shanks – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +01:10.9
4. David Stokes / Guy Weaver – Ford Escort MK1 (C5) – +02:17.0
5. Tim Freeman / Paul Williams – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +02:19.6
6. Warren Philliskirk / Nigel Hutchinson – MK1 (C5) – +03:23.3
7. Charlie Taylor / Steve Bielby – Ford Escort MK2 (D5) – +03:48.7
8. Chris Browne / Ali Cornwell-Browne – Escort MK1 (C5) – +03:49.9
9. Tim Mason / Graham Wild – Porsche 911 (C4) – +4:01.3
10. Andrew Siddall / Carl Williamson – Escort MK1 (C5) – +04:11.6

Full Results

And so a big well done was in order for the Chesterfield rally community having produced both winning drivers.  The annual trip to the North Yorkshire stages had been as enjoyable as ever, with the irritation of Midge bites and a split pair of jeans more than made up for by a fish and Chip tea at the one and only Thompsons!  I really have no idea which way the Gold Star title pendulum will swing, but I am thoroughly looking forward to finding out on next month’s Cambrian Rally finale.

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Bird is the Word in Shropshire Forests

Paul Bird, ably assisted by Aled Davies, became a serious title contender after taking his third BTRDA victory of the year on last weekend’s Woodpecker Stages Rally.

Car_2

Round 7 of the BTRDA championship saw the crews head to Ludlow for six stages in the forests of Shropshire.  The 2014 event would see the teams tackle Bringewood, Wigmore, Haye Park and Radnor with local knowledge usually key for a strong performance.

The stage of two halves that is Bringewood was where I headed; it being the only stage used in recent years that I had yet to visit.  Having decided that the tight and twisty start of the stage was just too slippery, it was the very fast latter part where I elected to take in the action.

As the well known proverb suggests, it is the early ‘Bird’ that catches the worm and the Cumbrian driver most definitely made the best of the unexpected dark and damp morning conditions; noticeably quicker passed me and leaping into a 7 second lead over the B13 specification Evo 9 of Luke Francis and John H Roberts.  Francis meanwhile maintained his exceptional start to the event by managing to hold onto second place through the 6 miles of High Vinnals; keeping the super high traction WRC machines of Steve Perez and David Weston at bay.

Perez, co driven by Paul Spooner, was back on the pace in stage 3 however.   Fastest time through Radnor ended Bird’s monopoly of stage victories and allowed him to climb to second overall, in turn narrowing the lead margin to just 10 seconds.  Weston on the other hand seemed to be struggling with the S12 Impreza and remained 4th, some 50 seconds behind Bird at the mid event service.

Behind, Alex Allingham and Chris Williams were leading an intense battle for Group N honours, with Tom Naughton, Roland Llewellin, Jamie Anderson and Russ Thompson all within 21 seconds of the class leading Impreza.  This would be some battle over the remaining three stages.

Allingham

The infamous full length Haye park test was first on the agenda after lunch followed by a single visit to Wigmore and the Radnor finale.  All three stages gave ample opportunity for crews to improve their positions especially as the weather had improved significantly.  Bird and Davies however carried on where they had left off and went on to win all three tests, taking a convincing 27 second victory over the similar Focus WRC of Steve Perez and Paul Spooner.  Weston, co driven by Kirsty Riddick was much closer to the leading pace after service, but was unable to claw back all of the time lost to Luke Francis, leaving the Evo 9 pilot to take a fantastic third overall.

3rdPlace

The group N battle continued to be hard fought.  Jamie Anderson, with Jon Scott alongside, set a fast time in Haye Park to leap frog both Naughton and Llewellin.  He was then able to take 5 seconds out of Allingham in Wigmore cutting the lead to 21 seconds as the crews headed back to Radnor for the final stage.  And after taking a massive 18 seconds out of the the long time class leaders over the 10 mile finale they must have been left wondering what might have been.

In the 2WD section, local man Joe Price, re-united with Chris Brooks, made his long awaited return to competition in the newly built historic spec MK2 Escort.  His flamboyant style had most definitely been missing from the stages as they sought yet another Woodpecker class victory.  On the day however, already crowned champions, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis proved just too quick for the Ludlow crew claiming the historic and silver star class victories by more than 1 minute.

Car_101

In the 1400 category, the rapid duo of Mark Gamble and Steve Link made a one off appearance in their Suzuki Swift, hoping to take the fight to the BTRDA regulars.  Although championship front runners Mat Smith and Giles Dykes took an early lead, Gamble was able to improve his pace as the day went on.  And after Smith lost time with a puncture in Wigmore the two crews went into the Radnor finale tied on exactly the same time.  Indeed momentum was with the Japanese machine and the little Ka could not keep up with the the now flying Swift leaving the Wolverhampton man to take a well deserved victory.

Car_203

Smith and Dykes would still head back to Yorkshire with the maximum category score however as Gamble and Link were not registered for championship points; thus keeping their title hopes alive but needing healthy tallies on both remaining events.

Car_202

Class-wise, Opel Manta man Jon Ballinger, paired with Mike Wilding, claimed B11 with 24th overall, whilst also winning the award for most sideways passed me in Bringewood.

Car_107

Joe Price’s old ride came home 35th overall in the hands of younger brother Harvey.  He and co-driver George Gifford claiming class B12 in the process.

Car_143

Three places further back in 38th, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith put in a strong performance to claim class H1 victory in their immaculate Hilman Avenger.

Avenger

John Baker and Ian Jones would take the class H2 honours with 45th overall while B10 went the way of Vauxhall Nova crew James Hutchings and James Hood with 47th.  And Sacha Kakad and Andrew Price would yet again claim top spot in N3 with 50th overall in their Fiesta ST.

Car_134

On reflection it was nice to have a Woodpecker rally without the dust, but I would like to put in an early request for more sunshine next year!  Whilst it was also good to tick Bringewood off the ‘to do’ list, it won’t be a stage that I rush back to.  The second half of the stage must be great to drive but doesn’t present the same spectacle for the onlooker due to the over hanging trees that line the hillside route.  The final couple of corners in Haye park on the other hand were great to watch, with Robinson being particularly impressive around the fast open right hander at Junction 18.

Rallying wise, next up for me is the Trackrod which just happens to be the next round of the BTRDA championship.  Paul Bird now has 4 very strong points scores but must score well in the two remaining rounds to take the Gold Star crown.  Chesterfield man Steve Perez is potentially in a better position as he could in theory afford a none finish while Petch, Weston Jnr and Francis are all still in with a chance of top spot.  This title race could go all the way to the final stage of the Cambrian Rally in October…. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 RESULTS

1. Paul Bird / Aled Davies – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – 0:41.33
2. Steve Perez / Paul Spooner – Ford Focus WRC (B14) – +00.27
3. Luke Francis / John H Roberts – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (B13) – +00.59
4. David Weston / Kirsty Riddick – Impreza S12  WRC (B14) – +01.01
5. Alex Allingham / Chris Williams – Impreza N10 (N4) – +02.02
6. Jamie Anderson / Jon Scott – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02.05
7. Tristan Bailey / James How – Mitsubishi WRC 04 (B14) – +02.12
8. Tom Naughton / Andy Mort – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02.18
9. Wayne Sisson / Neil Shanks – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +02.39
10. Russ Thompson / Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N4) – +03.01
11. Matthew Robinson / Sam Collis – Escort MK2 (H3) – +03.08
23. Mark Gamble / Steve Link – Suzuki Swift (1400S) – +05.38
24. Jon Ballinger / Mike WIlding – Opel Manta (B11) – +05.41
35. Harvey Price / George Gifford – Escort MK2 (B12) – +07.27
38. Barry Jordan / James Gratton-Smith – Avenger (H1) – +08.15
45. John Baker / Ian Jones – Ford Escort MK2 (H2) – +09.12
47. James Hutchings / James Hood – Nova (B10) – +09.12
50. Sacha Kakad / Andrew Price – Ford Fiesta ST (N3) – +09.28

FULL RESULTS

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Bird Flies to Nicky Grist Stages Glory

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.

PB&AD_NG2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

RESULTS

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

Full Results

Standard prints available HERE.

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)