Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series leader Callum Black is aiming for victory on the Nicky Grist Stages – and after contesting the all-gravel qualifying round on Saturday 8 July, the 586 Sports-prepared Ford Fiesta R5+ driver will remain in mid-Wales for the following day’s Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally (Sunday 9 July); giving him invaluable Tarmac rally practice and a chance of more points over the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship ‘double-header’ weekend event.
The talented 25-year old DMACK Tyres and PFC Brakes supported driver from Brackley in Northamptonshire is enjoying a great first full season in a four-wheel drive car, with a fourth, third and two second place finishes in the BTRDA Rally Series. After four rallies, he holds a 10 point lead at the top the Gold Star drivers’ standings heading into the Builth Wells-based event, with Ruthin’s Hugh Hunter (Fiesta R5) second and Bishop Auckland’s Stephen Petch (Fiesta WRC) a further seven points behind in third. The closeness of the battle for the overall title is echoed in all the classes, with a total of 124 drivers having scored points in this year’s BTRDA Rally Series.
Black knows the forest sections of the Nicky Grist Stages quite well, having contested the event before in a Citroën DS3 R3T Max (finishing first in class in 2015) and in a MG ZR 1400S. With the all-gravel BTRDA Rally Series qualifying round on Saturday 8 July, Black and co-driver Elliott Edmondson will stay on to contest the asphalt Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally the following day. Black has rallied over the famous Epynt military range Tarmac stages just once before, finishing a very impressive 12th overall on the 2011 Harry Flatters Rally in a Suzuki Swift S1600.
Both days will offer Black a unique opportunity to compare his pace against the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship regulars – as well as scoring points in the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship. He is currently fifth in the English series after two rounds, and the two Quinton Motor Club organised events count as a ‘double-header’, with full championship points awarded at the end of each day.
Black said: “We’ve had some very good results in this year’s BTRDA Rally Series, but we’d like to get a few wins in to help with our end-of-season score when dropped scores come into play, so we’ll be pushing for the top step of the podium on the Nicky Grist Stages. I’ve done the event before, but this is the first time we’re going to tackle the stages in a four-wheel drive car. All-wheel drive suits my driving style better than two-wheel drive, so I’m looking forward to returning to the classic Monument, Route 60, Halfway and Crychan stages in the Fiesta R5. Whilst scoring BTRDA points is our main objective, it will also be a great opportunity to compare my pace with the British Rally Championship crews, as that’s the series we’ll like to move up and contest next year.
“It’s brilliant that there is a Tarmac rally the following day, and we’re going to stay on and contest the Acropolis Rally on the Sunday. I’ve only ever rallied a four-wheel drive car on Tarmac for six miles, and that was on the asphalt section of this year’s Somerset Stages, so it will be very good practice. Once again, we’ll be able to match our times directly with the cream of the BRC crop, as well as trying to strengthen our position in the English Rally Championship. The Nicky Grist Stages should be a fantastic couple of days of competition, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “It’s fantastic to see the enthusiasm from Callum for the Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally, and we hope that more of the BTRDA competitors join him and take on the challenge of the infamous Epynt asphalt roads. This year’s event is shaping up to be an epic, and with the likes of Damian Cole entered in his stunning Escort it will be interesting to see how they’ll fare against the BRC runners. Could we be in for a few surprises?”
Regulations and entry forms are available in the Competitors’ section of www.nickygriststages.co.uk