History of the Rally
Quinton Motor Club was given a forest allocation in 1980 , following many years of organising successful road and stage rallies, including a stage rally over Epynt in 1975. 92 crews tackled a 35-mile event in a very icy Radnor Forest for an entry fee of just £42! Alan Edwards was declared the winner by 18 seconds from Richard Iliffe, both in Escort RSs.
1981 saw the event run 35 miles of stages in the Royal Forest of Dean with sponsorship from Nicolet Instruments Ltd for the first time. 115 crews were headed by Tony Pond with Mike Nicholson in a works’ DTV Chevette, but local lad Graham Elsmore took Pat O’Brien of Nicolet along as co-driver, an experience he never forgot, beating Tony Pond to the winner’s spot in their Escort.
1982/83 saw the event use the Ceri complex of stages, with Richard Gough winning in ’82 and Mike Stuart in ’83, both driving Escorts.
In 1984, there were 40 miles of stages in Hafren, when Alec Cannon took a hired Ascona to victory and thus broke the Escort domination.
Then in 1985, the event moved to North Wales and the forests of Penmachno and Clocaenog, with Malcolm Wilson, driving a Metro 6R4 for the first time, bringing out the spectators in their hordes. Malcolm won the event by 3 minutes, which was the first win ever for the Metro, and the spectators went home talking about the new car.
1986 saw the event move to July from early November and used the Sarnau and Ceri forests. Nicolet were now in their fifth year of sponsorship and Chris Mellors won the event in a Sierra Cosworth, the first outright victory for that type of car.
In 1987, the BTRDA Clubman’s Championship was reborn and the event was invited to be a round of this popular championship. Using the same forests as in the previous year, Ian Roberton beat off the challenge of the Metro 6R4s in his Nissan 240RS.
1988 saw the event run for the last time with Nicolet as sponsors and a move to the more southerly forests of Crychan and Esgair Dafydd, along with Sarnau. Ian Roberton came back and defended his title in fine style, winning the event for the second year running.
In 1989 and 1990, the event was sponsored by Competition Car Magazine, using the same forests as in 1988. Both events were won by Metro 6R4s, Rob Lawrence’s win in 1989 being all the sweeter as he was a Quinton MC member. Furthermore, his co-driver, Pete Bowles, was subsequently to become the event’s Clerk of the Course for a number of years. Stewart Robinson won in 1990, this being the first year that the event ran in the BTRDA Gold Star Championship.
1991 saw Ian Roberton return to the newly-named Quinton Stages Rally to win once again, this time in a Sierra Cosworth 4×4.
In 1992 another Sierra Cosworth was victorious, this time driven by Brian Bell, having been near the top of the leaderboard from early in the day. Brian returned in 1993, co-driven by a certain Phil Mills, and they successfully regained the winner’s spot in an event which contained the Caeo stage – a brand new addition to forest stage rallying and much enjoyed by the competitors.
1994 saw many of the early runners go off the road at the same bend in Crychan, with Mark Perrott finally winning by less than a minute from Quinton regular Jon Ballinger.
In 1995, Andy Burton was leading in the fabulous Alfa-Ferrari until the last stage when the car slid off, giving a surprise but well-deserved victory to long-time Quinton regular Richard York in his G3 Escort. Ricky Evans, co-driven by Ian Butcher, one of the founders of the Quinton Stages and now returned to the Organising Team as Deputy CoC, wrapped up the Gold Star Championship on this event with yet another clear victory.
In 1996, Andy Burton brought out the Alfa-Ferrari for possibly its last appearance and made up for his ‘off’ in ’95 by winning outright – a very popular victory with the spectators and many followers.
1997 saw Warren Philliskirk, co-driven by Eurig Evans, taking top honours in the Open class. They didn’t have it all their own way, only beating Jim Carty and Ken Bills, also in a MG Metro 6R4, by 34 seconds. Pete Littler and Chris Jones took the Gold Star Championship in a Vauxhall Astra, from Phil Morgan and Dave Taylor in a Peugeot 306 S16 by 48 seconds.
1998 saw the return of Andrew Burton, again co-driven by Rob Morgan, to the top step of the podium as they took the overall title in their spectacular Peugeot 306 Special.
The 1999 victor was Gary Smith, co-driven by Phil Clarke, taking their Escort Cosworth round in style to take the overall title and their first-ever outright win. Martin Meadows took the F2 title in his Proton Compact SRi.
The 2000 event was a very popular one that was well received by all the competitors. The event finished at the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth Wells, where a well-attended awards’ presentation saw honours go, once again, to Andrew Burton and Rob Morgan as they repeated their 1998 victory in the Peugeot 306 Special. Rory Galligan and Jonty Bolsover took the Formula 2 title in their Peugeot 106 Gti.
2001 was a year of disrupted motorsport, with many events having to be postponed or cancelled due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak. The Quinton Stages was no exception, the situation in the Welsh forests leading to the reluctant decision to cancel the event.
The 2002 event came back with a bang when a full 150-car entry tackled eight stages in the Crychan area. The July heat was matched on the stages with the closest-ever finish in the event’s history. After a day-long battle, 1999 winner Gary Smith, with new co-driver Paul Spooner, pipped Mick Jones and Andy Morgan by just 2 seconds.
2003 was the year that Wales was invaded by the Scottish Celt, Barry Johnson, who came and conquered the eight stages, having never seen them before. The speed of the Scottish Champion was awesome and he dominated from start to finish to win by 55 seconds from Ian Joel, with 2002 runner-up, Mick Jones in third.
2004 saw a young, up-and-coming driver conquer all in a Ford Focus – Matthew Wilson, co-driven by Scott Martin, following in his father’s footsteps to the top step of the podium.
In 2005, Andrew Burton, in his self-built Peugeot Cosworth, took the honour of having won more Quinton Stages events that anyone else with another victory, bringing his total of wins to four. The event was awarded the prestigious BTRDA ‘Rally of the Year’ award.
The 2006 event, as two years earlier, was privileged to witness the start of a promising rally career, when 17-year old Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen became the youngest-ever winner of a British rally in his Ford Focus WRC 02, along with co-driver Ola Floene. This was the first of a number of victories on British events before Andreas moved on to World Championship rallies, but he retained his connection and membership of Quinton MC, having joined the club to enter the 2006 event.
2007 saw Andrew Burton record his fifth victory on the Quinton Stages, this time with co-driver Shelley Rogerson, overcoming the challenge from Steve Perez, who almost knocked the front corner off his Focus WRC hitting a bush-obscured rock on Route 60. Damian Cole took 2nd, just 3 seconds ahead of Will Nicholls, who was finally to take the year’s BTRDA Gold Star Championship. Neil Weaver was in a class of his own taking the 1400cc championship, whilst James Wozencroft took the Silver Star title by an impressive margin. A small field contested the first-ever ‘Quinton Forest Experience’ event.
In 2008, Perez secured victory with Quinton member Stephen McCauley in the co-driver’s seat, ahead of Damien Cole, whose tie for 2nd place with Hugh Hunter’s Focus was only resolved by dint of his quicker first stage time. Nevertheless, this was sufficient for Hunter to grasp the lead of the BTRDA Gold Star Championship, which he finally secured later in the season. Neil Weaver led home the 1400cc class in increasingly atrocious and unseasonal conditions, whilst Frank Kelly took another Silver Star title in his Escort, although was actually beaten on time by the historic-spec Escort of Terry Brown and Quinton’s Arwel Jenkins, who were the inaugural winners of the Classic Motor Show Trophy. A pleasingly large field of Rally First competitors were mentored through the event by sponsor Nicky Grist and The Andreas Mikkelsen Trophy was awarded for the first time – to Quinton members James and Simon McLean.
The 2009 event saw a new Clerk of the Course in Neil Cross, having served in that capacity for some years on the Club’s popular Horiba d’Isis Stages Rally at MIRA, with the highly-experienced Ian Butcher as his Deputy and Ian’s wife Susan as Secretary of the Meeting. With Caeo not being available due to logging work, the Team devised a compact route, utilising Epynt’s gravel roads and those in the nearby forests. The format of low road mileage proved popular with competitors and entry numbers were far higher than had been feared with the country in the depths of economic recession. Hugh Hunter was again pipped into 2nd spot, this time by 2007 BTRDA Champion Will Nicholls, who was a mere 15 seconds ahead at the finish. The eventual 2009 BTRDA Champion, young hot-shot David Wright took 3rd in his much less powerful EVO9. Popular with the spectators for his dramatic driving style, Henri Grehan took the Silver Star honours, whilst Martyn Lewis took the 1400 class. Terry Brown retained the Classic Motor Show Trophy for the Historics’ class and Yorkshire’s David Bennett dominated the Rally Firsts and was selected by Nicky Grist to receive the Andreas Mikkelsen Trophy.
Steve Perez charged to his second QSR win in 2010 as his rivals succumbed to the pressure on and around the Epynt Ranges. The victory also moved Perez into the lead of the BTRDA Gold Star Championship – a position he was to hold until the year end. After leading the event over the first three stages, Andrew Burton’s iconic Peugeot Cosworth succumbed to engine maladies and his retirement at the end of Stage 5 took away any real challenge to Perez’s win, James Belton’s Impreza finally taking 2nd place ahead of Patrick Naylor’s Group N Mitsubishi. A largely unchanged Organising Team had laid on a route very similar to the previous year. However, the first stage of the event took in both Halfway Forest and Route 60, with a road closure allowing crews a competitive crossing of the infamous Dixies. This 11.36 miler really sorted the men from the boys and no less so than in the 1400 class where Matt Edwards established a lead on this stage and sat on it until the finish. He was delighted to lead home both George Thomas and Darren Pinchin. In the Silver Star category, Dylan Davies and Dale Furniss lost what seemed like certain victory to a puncture on the last stage, leaving the way clear for the Escort of Boyd Kershaw to claim the honours ahead of championship leader (and final winner) Jon Ballinger. Ashley Slights took his third Rally First 1.4 victory in a row, ahead of Dave Town. Phil Pugh, substituting on the day for Nicky Grist, chose Slights and his co-driver Thomas Hughes as ‘Stars of the Day’ and awarded them the Andreas Mikkelsen Trophy. Steven Brown and Paul Stringer took the RF1.0 Class in their Nissan Micra. With Terry Brown away in the Isle of Man, it was left to Ammanford’s Neal James and Kevin Jones in their 1997cc Escort to grasp the Classic Motor Show Trophy for the Historics’ class. Weary but elated crews arrived back at the Llandovery finish, heaping praise on the Quinton organisers for a superb event held in mixed weather conditions over the challenging stages. Further accolades were later laid on Neil and his team, with the BTRDA presenting the QSR with the award as the ‘Best Event of 2010’.
The 2011’s event title of the ‘Nicky Grist Quinton Stages Rally’ signified the increased commitment, involvement – and financial backing – of our Club Vice-President as part of a long-term development plan. A move of HQ (back) to the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells provided more spacious accommodation and, with both the start and finish controls on the Ranges, a road mileage considerably less than the 45-mile stage distance attracted some 116 starters, who were also intrigued by the Skoda-backed Power Stage initiative on the infamous Route 60 stage. A nail-biting, day-long battle between Charlie Payne’ Focus WRC and Roger Chilman’s Impreza finally saw the former take victory by a mere 8 seconds, but the star of the day was undoubtedly Andy Burton who, with his iconic Peugeot Cosworth making its swan-song appearance before being outlawed due to revisions in the MSA’s technical regulations, grasped the BTRDA Gold Star Championship by taking a carefully calculated 3rd place. A fitting climax to the career of the spectators’ favourite car that had previously won the event on three occasions. David Young took Silver Star honours after impressive runs by both Boyd Kershaw and Allan McDowell finally came to nought. High up in the two-wheel drive category as well as winning back the Clarion Events’ Award for the top Historic car was Terry Brown in his RS1800. In the 1400 class, Darren Pinchin’s early charge gave him an impressive lead before an off in Halfway handed victory to Marcel Frieling. However, the former’s recovery to 5th place secured the 2011 Millers Oils Championship. Whilst Dave Town took the overall Rally First award ahead of Chris Hellings in the smaller capacity class, it was Harry Morgan and James Ford who took the Andreas Mikkelsen Trophy as Nicky Grist’s ‘Stars of the Day’. To popular acclaim, they also took the Skoda Power Stage prize. Competitors were full of praise for the Organising Team’s efforts in producing another highly-successful rally and Nicky Grist’s inspiration in moving things on to an even higher level. Again, the event figured in the top three of the BTRDA’s ‘Rally of the Year’ award considerations.