Next year’s Nicky Grist Stages will host no less than six of the UK’s top national rally championships when the Builth Wells-based event takes place on Saturday 10 July 2021, with crews from the prestigious British Rally Championship (BRC) joining the likes of the hugely popular MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series and Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship.Continue reading
The move into the centre of Builth Wells proved a huge success, as the Quinton MC-organised Nicky Grist Stages produced a carnival atmosphere, a great sporting spectacle for the town and a significant increase in footfall and trade on the high street – which had welcomed the event with open arms. On the stages, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton won the event in their Ford Focus WRC to clinch the 2019 Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series title.
The Scottish duo, who had won the previous four rounds of the BTRDA Series, lost their initial Nicky Grist Stages lead on SS2 after losing time with a gearbox problem that affected the launch control and handbrake. However, a good time on SS3 saw them retake the lead from Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC), who were themselves slowed by a wrong tyre choice and hanging patches of dust.
After the first 21.5 mile four-stage loop of Crychan, Halfway, Monument and Llyn Login forests had been completed, Thorburn led Petch by 21 seconds entering the mid-day service in Builth Wells (located on the town’s famous rugby pitch), with Brendan Cumiskey/Liam Moynihan (Ford Fiesta WRC) and Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Mitsubishi Evo 9) tied for third.
A faultless Thorburn increased his lead to score an impressive 1 minute 02 seconds victory after the four fast and smooth stages on and around the Epynt military range were repeated in the afternoon. It’s the second time the Duns driver has won the event, after victory in 2013. While Petch held onto a strong second, there was a fantastic battle for third – with Sam Bilham/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5) setting the fastest time on the final stage to clinch the final podium spot, finishing just three seconds ahead of Cumiskey after all 43 stage miles had been completed. Former BTRDA Cup champion Naylor finished fifth, with Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Mitsubishi Evo 9) finishing sixth overall and top-placed Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Forest Rally Championship crew.
Local hero Jason Pritchard made a wrong tyre choice for the first loop and suffered a half spin on SS2 and then went off backwards and into a ditch on SS4. But after that the triple British Historic Rally Champion flew in his North Road Garage-backed Ford Escort RS1800, setting some great times with co-driver Steve McPhee to finish first Historic crew home in 15th place overall.
Tom Llewellin/Russ Whittock were delayed behind a car that had rolled and then had come back on to the stage just ahead of them, but they still scored a very good result to keep their overall, junior and two-wheel drive Welsh Forest Rally Championship, as well as the RAVENOL Welsh and FMP Rally Challenge, title aspirations very much alive.
Bobby Mitchell/Shannon Turnbull scored victory in the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy category, after series leaders Zak Hughes/Tom Wood broke the bottom arm on their Fiesta ST on SS6.
Tommi Meadows/Osian Owen won the R2 class and finished an excellent 20th overall in their Fiesta R2, Ireland’s Ruairi Maguire/Grace O’Brien won the B10 class in their Vauxhall Corsa and finished an impressive 30th overall, while other class winners included Andy Davison/Tom Murphy (B11 – Talbot Sunbeam VXR), Owen McMackin/Lee Taylor (B12 – Ford Escort), Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (B13 – Mitsubishi Evo IX), Hywel Davies/Simon Jones (H1/2 – Ford Escort), George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (H3 – Hillman Avenger) and Tom Coughtrie/Baz Green (H4 – Mitsubishi Galant VR4). Jayne Auden-Row (MG ZR) was the highest placed lady driver in 87th position, Dawn England (Fiesta R5) was the highest placed lady co-driver in 11th, and Steve Deeley/Alan Proudman were the highest placed Quinton MC crew home, finishing 88th overall in their Peugeot 205 1.6 GTi.
There were 101 finishers, and those that didn’t make it to the end included Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry (Mitsubishi Evo – rear differential at TC6), Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook (Proton Iriz R5 – retired after SS1), Damian Pratts/Jonny Tad Evans (Ford Escort – clutch after SS5), Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Subaru Impreza – differential before SS5), Ian Bainbridge/Jamie Edwards (Subaru Impreza STi – broken propshaft in SS1) and Steve and Martyn Loomes who stopped their Escort Mk1 with clutch failure just 200 yards from the finish of the last stage!
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “This year’s Nicky Grist Stages ran to time throughout, the competitors enjoyed the stages and I have to give a very special thanks to the marshals, who have all been fantastic in the hot and dusty conditions. The town of Builth Wells have welcomed us with open arms and we hope we have repaid them by bringing a lot of business onto the high street. The new Service Area on the Builth Wells rugby pitch worked well – all the competitors servicing together created a great atmosphere, and there were a lot of people, many of whom were enjoying their first experience of rallying, walking around and enjoying seeing the cars and meeting the drivers and co-drivers. I’m delighted that all our innovations for 2019 worked so well and that we delivered a very successful event for the competitors and the town of Builth Wells.”
Nicky Grist said: “We implemented a lot of changes for this year’s event, the biggest one being moving the home of the event into Builth Wells town centre, and it’s been a great success. The aim was to introduce rallying to a new audience and to bring trade into Builth and it seems to have done the trick. There was a great atmosphere in the Service Park and all the competitors and spectators that I spoke to really enjoyed it. The event itself ran to time and everything ran very smoothly, so full marks to Quinton Motor Club for putting on another fantastic event. We are looking forward to doing more of the same in 2020.”
Euan Thorburn said: “We did the Nicky Grist a few years ago and the stages are always amazing down here – really smooth, really fast, and it’s just been another great day. We had a small issue with the gearbox on stage two, which affected the handbrake and the launch of the car, but apart from that everything has been perfect. To win five out of five BTRDA rounds hasn’t been done before and I certainly wasn’t expecting to achieve it at the start of the year, but it’s a great feeling.”
Next year’s Nicky Grist Stages will take place on Saturday 11 July.
2019 Nicky Grist Stages – Top 10 Finishers
- Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) – 44mins 10secs
- Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC) – 45mins 12secs
- Sam Bilham/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5) – 45mins 38secs
- Brendan Cumiskey/Liam Moynihan (Ford Fiesta WRC) – 45mins 41secs
- Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Mitsubishi Evo 9) – 46mins 03secs
- Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Mitsubishi Evo 9) – 46mins 08secs
- Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Mitsubishi Evo IX)- 46mins 18secs
- Conor McCourt/Brian Hoy (Ford Fiesta R5) – 46mins 40secs
- Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) – 46mins 45secs
- Stephen Simpson/Mark Glennerster (Hyundai i20 R5) – 46mins 55secs
The forthcoming Nicky Grist Stages (Saturday 13 July) has received a bumper 130 car entry, with top seeds Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton hoping that a good result on the eight stage Mid-Wales forestry event will clinch them the prestigious 2019 Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series title.
The Scottish duo has been unstoppable so far this year, with four wins out of four in their Ford Focus WRC. But securing the final championship winning points are often the hardest ones to find – and they’ll have plenty of top quality competition trying to deny them the Gold Star trophy on the Builth Wells-based event.
And as if Thorburn needed reminding of that fact, in his rear view mirror will be number two seeds and 2017 champions Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC), with Connor McCloskey/Noel Sullivan (Ford Fiesta R5+) starting at number three. The quality field continues with Ian Joel/Shaun Hughes (Escort Cosworth) at four, Conor McCourt/Caolan McKenna (Ford Fiesta R5) at five and Martyn and Dawn England (Ford Fiesta R5) at six.
Local hero Jason Pritchard, the triple British Historic Rally Champion, will start his very first Nicky Grist Stages at number seven – partnered by Phil Clarke in his North Road Garage-backed Ford Escort RS1800. Having never completed against the cream of the BTRDA Historic crop before, it will be fascinating to witness Pritchard battling with the likes of reigning BTRDA Silver Star champions George Lepley/Tom Woodburn, who lead the BTRDA Historic Cup and who are an incredible third overall in their flying Hillman Avenger.
Tom Llewellin will be another Historic Escort Mk2 driver to watch. The son of double British Rally Champion David Llewellin arrives at the Nicky Grist Stages leading the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Forest Rally Championship in the overall drivers’ standings, the Junior series, the two-wheel drive category and the RAVENOL Welsh Challenge. The Pembrokeshire teenager also leads the FMP Rally Challenge, which has over 100 competitors and helps raise the profile of the Wales Air Ambulance. Co-driven by Russ Whittock, Llewellin is seeded at number 19.
Matthew Hurst/Declan Dear, Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy and Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry (who also lead the BTRDA Production Cup) are currently second, third and fourth in the Welsh series, and their close rivalry will continue in a trio of rapid Mitsubishi Evos.
Others crews to look out for include Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook in the new Proton Iriz R5, former BTRDA Cup champions Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Mitsubishi Evo), Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe (Subaru Impreza N12), Terry Brown/Angharad Williams (Escort Mk2), Richard Hill/Steffan Evans (Subaru Impreza), Tommi Meadows/Osian Owen (Fiesta R2), former 1400 champion Ed Fossey/Will Rutherford (Peugeot 208 R2), Callum Black/Michael Gilbey (MG ZR S1400), Steve Black/Paul Morris (Suzuki Swift 1400), Dan Evans/Jess Hockly (Suzuki Swift), Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (who lead the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA 1400 Championship in their Talbot Sunbeam) and Noel Lappin/Will Atkins, who will lead the field away in their Escort Mk2.
The event is also a round of the MRF Fiesta ST Trophy, with series leaders Zak Hughes/Tom Wood aiming to extend their healthy 25 point lead over Bobby Mitchell/Shannon Turnbull.
No fewer than 18 manufacturers and over 40 different models are represented on the entry list. The vast array of rally-prepared cars competing on the event include a Porsche 911, a BMW 325, Compact M3 and E30, a Toyota GT86, an Opel Ascona, Talbot Sunbeam VXR, Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Galant VR4, Vauxhall Chevette HSR, a Ford Ka and a SEAT Arosa – to name but a few!
This year’s Quinton MC-organised Nicky Grist Stages will be based in the centre of Builth Wells for the first time. Scrutineering takes place on the eve of the event at North Road Garage, while the trailer park and a re-fuelling zone will be located at the town’s Cattle Market car park. On Saturday (13 July), the Start (08.30) and Finish (15.16) ceremonies will take place in Groe Park and the Service Area will be on the Builth Wells RFC pitch, in a stunning venue on the banks of the River Wye. Rally Headquarters is based a few steps away in Strand Hall on Strand Street, with the hub of the rally all within a stone’s throw away from the town’s main high street, which is full of wonderful independent shops, cafes and hardware stores.
The 2019 Nicky Grist Stages is the only rally to use Crychan forest this year, with a fantastic opening stage that is just over nine miles long. A short test through Halfway forest is next, followed by the popular Monument stage and then a revised Llyn Login stage. Following a mid-day service halt (from 11.30) in Builth Wells, the 21.5 mile four-stage loop will be repeated in the afternoon, giving a stunning 43 miles of competition in total.
Following the success of last year’s format, the 1400, Rally First and H1/2 Historic cars will once again run in the first batch of cars in reverse order, followed by the rest of the field in a second batch, running in number order.
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “We are really pleased with the depth and quality of this year’s entry throughout the field and we are looking forward to another classic Nicky Grist Stages. The battles for the championship titles are on a knife edge and the event could be the deciding factor.”
2019 Nicky Grist Stages – Top 10 Seeds
- Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton – Ford Focus WRC
- Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson – Ford Fiesta WRC
- Connor McCloskey/Noel Sullivan – Ford Fiesta R5+
- Ian Joel/Shaun Hughes – Ford Escort Cosworth
- Conor McCourt/Caolan McKenna – Ford Fiesta R5
- Martyn England/Dawn England – Ford Fiesta R5
- Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke – Ford Escort RS1800
- Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry – Mitsubishi Evo 9
- Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo 9
- Pat Naylor/Patrick Walsh – Mitsubishi Evo 9
Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series leader Paul Bird is aiming to make it three wins this season – and a hat-trick of victories on the Nicky Grist Stages (Saturday 14 July) – when he contests this year’s event in his Dom Buckley Motorsport/IRS-prepared Ford Focus WRC08.
The Cumbrian driver has won the Nicky Grist Stages twice before, in 2014 and 2015 with Aled Davies co-driving, and in the same Frank Bird Poultry, Be Wiser Insurance, Hager, Fuchs Titan Race and Loco Energy Drink backed car that he’ll drive again next month. Bird is also the Team Owner of the Be Wiser Ducati British Superbike Championship team, and with his rider Shane Byrne side-lined after a big testing crash at Snetterton, it’s now down to Bird himself to win a title for the team. And having won two rallies and finished second twice this season, Bird will arrive at the Nicky Grist Stages 18 points ahead of Russ Thompson in the BTRDA Gold Star Driver standings. Matt Edwards is third in the points table, having also won two events.
Bird will be co-driven by Jack Morton, in what will be their tenth event together since teaming up for the first time on the Pokerstars Rally on the Isle of Man last November. Morton has contested the Nicky Grist Stages twice before, finishing 28th overall in 2015 with Damian Cole in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 and 10th overall in 2016 with Tom Preston in a Škoda Fabia R5. Morton, who leads the BTRDA Gold Star Co-driver standings by 17 points, was also a member of the MSA Academy in 2015 and 2016 and worked with co-driver coaches Nicky Grist and Paul Spooner throughout his time at the Academy.
Paul Bird said: “After our wins on the Cambrian and Carlisle Stages rallies, the intention is to make it a third win of the season on the Nicky Grist Stages and to increase our lead in the BTRDA Rally Series. I’ve won the event the last two times I’ve contested it, so I know the stages well and they suit my driving style, so I’m looking forward to it. We have a test beforehand and a few improvements planned for the car also. After my BSB rider Shakey Byrne was ruled out through injury last month, it looks like the onus is on me to deliver a championship this year, so the pressure is on!”
Jack Morton said: “I’ve always enjoyed the Nicky Grist Stages every time I’ve done it, especially Route 60 and Crychan stages. They are so much fun and great to co-drive on. I’m very much looking forward to returning to these areas. We come into the event with a good lead in the championship. One of our nearest rivals, Matt Edwards, also has two wins this year, but we have the better consistency record – but it will be tough, as Matt will have good knowledge and experience of the stages, after he’s competed on the BRC version of the event over the last two years. We will have to be on top of our game to come out on top again, but if we don’t we’ll have to make sure we get another good points haul, as points make prizes! I’m really enjoying my year so far alongside Paul; we are now really starting to gel in the car, as proven by our last two results in Barbados and Carlisle, so I think we can go from strength to strength from now on. Having a great team around us like the Dom Buckley IRS lads, who produce an faultless car every event for us, is only helping us every time. It was also a great experience to be in the MSA Academy, especially as I grew up watching Colin McRae and listening to Nicky’s voice for so many years – it was quite surreal that I was working with him, and that he was my mentor, at the Academy.”
Organised by Quinton MC, this year’s Nicky Grist Stages takes place over 45 stage miles in the forests of Halfway, Route 60, Crychan and a brand new smooth, fast and flowing stage which has never been used for rallying before. The event will be based at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd, and with up to 180 cars allowed to start the event, it will once again be a major boost for the economy of Builth Wells and the nearby Powys and Carmarthenshire towns and villages.
Regulations and entry forms are available in the Competitors’ section of www.nickygriststages.co.uk
This summer’s Nicky Grist Stages (8-9 July) will play host to no less than 10 different rally championships – highlighting not only what a major sporting attraction the event now is, but also a major boost for the economy of Builth Wells, Llanelwedd and the nearby Powys and Carmarthenshire towns and villages.
Organised by Quinton Motor Club, this year’s Nicky Grist Stages is, for the second year running, the only event to host a round of both the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship and Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series – meaning that Britain’s best rally drivers will be coming to the region. It is also a round of eight other championships too, including the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, MAXXIS MSA English Championship, BTRDA Rally First, Fiesta ST Trophy and FMP Rally Challenge – attracting the best regional and young up-and-coming drivers to mid-Wales.
The event will be based at the Royal Welsh Showground, with around 45 loose-surface stage miles planned for Saturday (8 July) in the forests of Crychan, Halfway, Route 60 and Monument. Only around a quarter of the forest stage miles will be held on Natural Resources Wales land, helping to keep the cost of running and participating on the event down. Sunday (9 July) will see a further 75 asphalt stage miles over the famous fast, undulating and spectacular Epynt military ranges.
To accommodate all 10 rally championships over the two day rally festival, there will be effectively three rallies in one. The split is as follows:
Nicky Grist Stages BRC (two day Saturday and Sunday event)
- Prestone MSA British Rally Championship
- FMP Rally Challenge
Nicky Grist Stages (one day Saturday event)
- Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series
- Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship
- MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship
- BTRDA 1400 Championship
- BTRDA Rally First
- Fiesta ST Trophy
- MG ZR Rally Challenge
- FMP Rally Challenge
- ANWCC Forest Rally Championship
Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally (one day Sunday event)
- MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship
- FMP Rally Challenge
The Sunday rally will be sponsored by Llandysul-based rally team Spencer Sport, and will be known as the Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally – which pays homage to one of the very earliest events ever organised by Quinton MC. Soon after the club was formed in 1959, Quinton MC ran (amongst others) the Acropolis Rally from the mid-1960s onwards. It became a hugely popular Welsh Championship night road rally, however it has not taken place in this format since 1986. The club last used the name for a single venue stage event at Wheaton Aston for three years in the late 1980s. So, after an absence of over 25 years, the Acropolis Rally name returns to Quinton MC’s events calendar for 2017.
For the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship crews, this year’s Nicky Grist Stages will be a challenging two-day mixed surface event. For the MAXXIS MSA English Championship competitors, the event will be a double-header, with points awarded after day one and day two.
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “Having so many of the top championships wanting the Nicky Grist Stages to be included in their calendar is a great honour for the event and a testament of the challenge the event will pose. We learnt a great deal from last year’s event and we are planning a truly fantastic experience for all our competitors, regardless of championship. On a personal note it is pleasing that we can bring back an iconic name in Quinton MC’s rallying history. As an organiser I started with both the D’Isis and Acropolis Rallies, and to bring back the Acropolis Rally name evokes many wonderful memories.”
Nicky Grist said: “When I started sponsoring the Nicky Grist Stages, I did not imagine that we would become a qualifying event for ten different championships. This is testimony to the hard work of all the main officials and Quinton Motor Club, who work really hard to make it, what it is fair to say, the biggest rally in the UK behind Wales Rally GB. The Sunday format has change to accommodate the Acropolis Rally, and twelve stages in a day will offer a real challenge.”
Next year’s Nicky Grist Stages (8-9 July) will host round five of the 2017 MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) – and whilst that will be a two-day mixed surface event, there will also be one-day rounds of other major championships, including the Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series, run on both the Saturday and Sunday next summer.
Organised by Quinton Motor Club, the date of the 2017 Nicky Grist Stages had been published as 15-16 July, but owing to MOD activities on the Epynt military range, the event will take place one week earlier on 8-9 July – the corresponding weekend to 2016, which saw 162 cars start from the Royal Welsh Showground.
Next year’s event will follow a similar format to 2016, with a mixed-surface two-day rally for the BRC crews. Saturday’s forestry gravel stages, run in the spectacular Carmarthenshire and Powys border region, will also host a round of the BTRDA Rally Series and include the MSA Welsh Rally Championship and the FMP Rally Challenge. Sunday’s stages will be held over the challenging asphalts road of Epynt for the BRC crews, plus at least one other National B event.
Builth Wells will play host to the ceremonial start and finish, the main service area will be in the nearby Royal Welsh Showground and there will be a new remote service area on Epynt on the Sunday.
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “Whilst the popular two-day gravel on Saturday and Tarmac on Sunday format of next year’s Nicky Grist Stages will be similar to 2016, the event has acted on the excellent and positive feedback received from competitors and will have a slightly different feel to it. We’ve worked closely with Natural Resources Wales and Rally4Wales to introduce some fresh gravel stages, whilst we’re looking at extending the Tarmac stage mileage on day two and also run a National B event on the Sunday as well.”
Nicky Grist said: “The gravel route of next year’s Nicky Grist Stages is pretty much all confirmed, and we are truly blessed to have some of the very best forestry stages in Wales right on our doorstep. We’ll have a different route layout for the Sunday’s asphalt stages, which will allow the event to breathe. We’ll have a later start and a later finish, and we hope to run as much as seventy stage miles on the Sunday. Cars will still start at thirty-second intervals on the Tarmac – this makes it action-packed for the spectators, and has proven to keep the roaming sheep off the road, which is an important safety consideration.”
Iain Campbell, BRC Championship Manager, said: “The Nicky Grist Stages proves once and for all that rallying is a team sport. The driver and co-driver may be the stars out on the stages, but the mixed-surface challenge from this rally means that the mechanics are the stars on Saturday night when they only have 180 minutes to change the complete suspension parts, brakes and roll bars on the cars. This year there were a lot of anxious faces around the service park as the end of day service began that were exchanged for high-fives and applause all around each competitor’s area as they all completed the set up change in time. A unique challenge on an event that offers stages with the unique terrain of Eypnt – the Nicky Grist Stages is somewhere the BRC is looking forward to going back to in 2017.”
2017 MSA British Rally Championship calendar
4-5 March: Mid-Wales Stages (Newtown)
29-30 April: Pirelli Carlisle Rally (Carlisle)
19-20 May: RSAC Scottish Rally (Dumfries)
23-24 June: Ypres Rally (Ypres, Belgium)
8-9 July: Nicky Grist Stages (Builth Wells)
18-19 August: Ulster Rally (Derry/Londonderry)
14-16 September: Rally Isle of Man (Douglas)
2017 Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series calendar
11 February: Cambrian Rally (Llandudno)
11 March: Malcolm Wilson Rally (Cockermouth)
8 April: Somerset Stages (Minehead)
13 May: Plains Rally (Welshpool)
10 June: Carlisle Stages Rally (Carlisle)
8 July: Nicky Grist Stages (Builth Wells)
2 September: Woodpecker Stages (Ludlow)
30 September: Trackrod Forest Stages (Pickering)
This year’s Nicky Grist Stages (9-10 July) is the only event to host a round of both the MSA British Rally Championship and Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series – together with the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship and a host of other top class British championships.
Quinton Motor Club has organised 45 stage miles on gravel for Saturday 9 July, over the magnificent loose-surface roads of Crychan, Halfway, Route 60 and Monument. The only mixed-surface round of the BRC continues on Sunday 10 July, with a further 60 miles over the fantastic Tarmac stages of the Epynt military range.
With a capacity entry of 180 crews, along with team personnel, rally fans and officials now preparing to travel to the event’s host town of Builth Wells, we take a look how the various championships stand, and who are likely to be the key players at this year’s Nicky Grist Stages.
MSA British Rally Championship
Elfyn Evans has retaken the lead in the MSA British Rally Championship, after the DMACK British Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 driver won round four of the series, the RSAC Scottish Rally, last weekend. The Welshman arrives in Builth Wells, just down the A470 from his home in Dolgellau, 20 points ahead of Fredrik Åhlin in the drivers’ standings. All the BRC events are new to the Swedish driver, who has been a revelation in his CA1 Sport-prepared Fiesta R5 and who led the series after taking victory on the Pirelli Carlisle Rally. However, a second retirement of the season in Scotland leaves Åhlin promising to “push like hell” on the Nicky Grist Stages, as he aims for nothing less than wins. Tom Cave is third in his Spencer Sport Fiesta R5 – the Welshman’s last appearance in the Epynt forests ended at the bottom of a ravine after a pre-BRC season accident on the Red Kite Rally, but he’s been on great form ever since and returns full of confidence. Monaghan’s Josh Moffett is Ireland’s top placed BRC driver in fourth, while the first non-Fiesta R5 is the Citroën DS3 R5 of Jonny Greer, who brings to Builth Wells a great deal of gravel and Tarmac rally experience. After retiring from his Joker-playing home round, Scotland’s David Bogie will be out to make amends in his ŠKODA Fabia R5 – a car that Desi Henry, Neil Simpson and Tom Preston will also be piloting. There is a great battle in the under 26-year old DMACK Junior BRC category, with the Vauxhall Motorsport Junior Rally Team Adam R2 pairing of Robert Duggan and Mattias Adielsson fighting with the Ford Fiesta R2s of Gus Greensmith, Josh Cornwell Meirion Evans, Adam Bustard and Blair Brown – although it was Sindre Furuseth who won last time out in his Renault Twingo R2. Matt Edwards leads the BRC2 production series in his Mitsubishi Evo 9.
Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series
Another good result on the Nicky Grist Stages would make it extremely difficult for anyone to stop Charlie Payne becoming 2016 Ravenol BTRDA Gold Star champion. Co-driven by Carl Williamson, the Fiesta driver has posted two wins, two seconds and one fourth, and with six scores from eight rallies to count, that run of success puts him in a very strong position. After five rounds Andy Davies is second in the overall drivers’ standings, and after an excellent season so far the Lampeter man is also leading the Production Cup category in his Group N Subaru Impreza. Steve Simpson (Fiesta S2000) is third, Paul Benn (Focus WRC02) is fourth and Luke Francis (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) is fifth – although with two wins, one second and two DNFs, a good run on the Nicky Grist Stages could see the Rhuddlan driver launch a late challenge for the title. Likewise, with two DNFs to his name, Stephen Petch (Fiesta R5+) needs a strong run of points-scoring finishes from now on to keep his title hopes alive. The race for the BTRDA Silver Star title is wide open, with Caernarfon’s Gavin Edwards (Escort), leading Llandovery’s Cameron Davies (Fiesta ST), while defending champion Boyd Kershaw (Escort Mk2) is third. In the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship, Neil Andrew leads Karl Davies (both Nissan Micra), while Dominique Hodge (Micra) leads the Rally First category, five points ahead of top lady driver Emily Retallick (Peugeot 205)
Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship
Luke Francis and co-driver John H Roberts lead the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, after recording their fourth maximum points score of the season on the Severn Valley Stages in their Mitsubishi Evo 9. Dylan Davies (Subaru Impreza) finished second on the most recent event to maintain second in the points standings, 30 points behind the leader. Andrew Jones arrives in Builth Wells third overall and leading both the Vital Equipment Junior Welsh Championship for drivers’ and the two-wheel drive category in his Ford Escort. Andy Davies slipped from second to fourth in the overall standings after retiring from the Severn Valley with fuel pump problems on his Subaru Impreza, although he continues to lead Group N. Brecon’s Sara Williams claimed Group N honours last time out, on her first rally in nearly seven months. Just three points separate fifth place defending Group N champion Paul Davy (Subaru) and Wug Utting (Subaru), while New Zealander Boyd Kershaw (Escort) is seventh. Luke Francis also leads the Ravenol Welsh Challenge from Andrew Jones, while four drivers are tied on points in third place.
HRCR Stage Masters Challenge
The Nicky Grist Stages marks the mid-way point of this new challenge for historic cars, which allows competitors to pick and choose their favourite gravel and Tarmac events and which has a points scoring system that gives everyone a chance of becoming overall champion. It’s proven to be a big success, with 20 registered crews and a fantastic mix of cars including Minis, Hillman Avengers, Datsuns, Opel Asconas, Porsches and of course Escort Mk1s and Mk2s. Northern Island’s Stanley Orr (Escort Mk1) currently leads the standings, having scored maximum points in all three previous rounds. Business commitments forces Orr to miss the Nicky Grist Stages, but his co-driver Guy Weaver hopes to maintain his lead in the navigators’ table as he partners Rudi Lancaster (Escort Mk1). Quinton MC members Peter Barlow/Mark Dillon will be aiming for Escort Mk2 honours, having recently finished repairing their car. Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride will be ones to watch in their Porsche 911, while Rikki Proffitt/Graham Wild will be aiming to end a run of bad luck on gravel with a good run in their Datsun 240Z.
ANWCC Forest Rally Championship
At the halfway point in the 2016 ANWCC Forest Rally Championship, Dolgellau driver Siôn Ellis holds a commanding lead in his Nissan Sunny – and regardless of the result on the Nicky Grist Stages, he will continue to be ahead of the closely grouped pack. Matthew Jackson is currently in the runners-up position, having led for a time in his Nissan Micra. 2015 champion Jayne Auden-Row is just one point behind Jackson, having forsaken her championship-winning MG for a Lancer for most of this year’s events. Small cars dominate with Paul Ellis fourth in his ŠKODA Favorit that has been returned to competition after a few years parked in his back yard! Scotsman Richard Crozier heads the co-drivers’ table, having contested all six qualifying rounds in a variety of cars, while North Walian Caron Tomlinson is second and Ian Jones third. Ladies take up the next two co-drivers places – fourth overall is currently Heather Merrison in her first season, whilst Jackson’s co-driver Claire Williams is close behind. The championship includes awards for best front- and rear-wheel drive competitors as well as novice, junior and senior awards.
FMP Rally Challenge
With three sealed surface and two forestry rallies having taken place, crews who just compete on gravel will be looking to redress the balance with 48 FMP Rally Challenge contenders already entered. Company Director Nev Jones brings his Vulcan Fasteners Subaru S7 WRC from Staffordshire and is aiming to take the FMP Gravel Cup from Cardiganshire’s Dylan Davies this year. Nev’s co-driver Chris Davies is in the running to win the FMP Junior title. BTRDA Production Cup leader Andy Davies with Max Freeman will be their closest rivals. A certain top 10 current position in the standings was thwarted when Chepstow’s Sacha Kakad retired on the Lawrence Landfill Stages in Dale in a hired Evo 10. He scored a class win on reserve round, the Severn Valley Stages, and he and Chesterfield driver Rhys Yates could still potentially become overall victors. Current junior and overall leader, 22-year old Siobahn Pugh from Newton, hangs on to the co-driver’s lead despite missing the last round, the Midsummer Stages at Caerwent. She has entered with fellow contender Siôn Ellis in a Nissan Sunny. Siobahn is hoping to emulate inaugural FMP Champion Claire Williams who took both titles in 2013 and who is competing with John Easson award winner Matthew Jackson. Claire is currently the leading BTRDA female co-driver. After an outing on the Red Kite Stages, current leading driver Wynne Watkins has vowed to stick to Tarmac and a 3rd in class on his optional nominated overseas round, the Manx Trophy Rally, gives him a four point lead. In a bid to help raise the profile of the championships chosen charity, the Wales Air Ambulance, Elfyn Evans and Osian Pryce have registered and will carry FMP colours on selected rounds which coincide with the BRC.
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “We welcome each of the championships that the Nicky Grist Stages count towards to Builth Wells. With a capacity entry the battles that have developed so far this season will continue on the classic gravel and asphalt stages we have put together. It has become a tradition that class and sometimes overall championships will be decided on the Nicky Grist Stages, and we wait to see how things unfold this year. What ever happens Quinton Motor Club has worked hard to put the event on for you all.”
Regulations and entry forms are available in the Competitors’ section of www.nickygriststages.co.uk
This summer’s Nicky Grist Stages (9-10 July) is the only event to host a round of both the MSA British Rally Championship and BTRDA rally series – and with other major championships like the MSA Welsh Rally Championship and the Stage Masters Historic Stage Rally Challenge taking place too, it promises to be a truly super rally weekend for fans.
While Formula 1 supporters will be at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix the same weekend, British rally fans will be heading to the famous Epynt military ranges, bordering Carmarthenshire and Powys, for two days of outstanding rally action, organised by Quinton Motor Club. The first day (Saturday 9 July) will be run over 45 miles of challenging gravel roads, while the second day (Sunday 10 July) will take place over 55 miles of fast and undulating Tarmac.
The MSA British Rally Championship crews will contest the full two days – with drivers such as Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta R5), David Bogie (ŠKODA Fabia R5) and Keith Cronin (Citroën DS3 R5) competing on gravel and Tarmac. On the Saturday, centralised servicing will be located at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, while on the Sunday there will be a remote service on the Epynt ranges. All stages will be run in daylight.
All other championships, including the BTRDA rally series, will run on the Saturday (9 July) only, with four gravel stages run twice. The Nicky Grist Stages has been consistent in the top three BTRDA events for the last five years, winning the BTRDA ‘Rally of the Year’ award twice, and last year it was nominated as the best Pirelli Welsh National event. Quinton Motor Club is committed to giving the BTRDA competitors the same level of excellence that they have become accustomed to, and therefore it is retaining its 2015 stage mileage and increasing the entry fee by only £10.
Entries will open on 16 May – the Monday after the Plains Rally – when registered championship crews will be able to confirm their place on the starting list. Non-championship registered crews will be able to enter from 13 June. The closing date for entries is 5 July and the maximum number of entries is 180.
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “Value for money, we believe we are offering the BTRDA competitors something really good in keeping the entry fee to within £10 of its 2015 level and maintaining a stage mileage of as near to 45 stage miles as we can get it. We are very proud to be a round of the British Rally Championship, but we remain fully focused on giving the BTRDA competitors a fantastic event too. The Nicky Grist Stages is the only event to be a round of both the BRC and BTRDA, and with other top championship contenders taking part, it should also be a wonderful event for spectators too.”
Nicky Grist said: “This year’s rally will be an exciting challenge for all crews, but more so for the BRC competitors. The split of two different surfaces over the two days could possibly give us a different outcome to the overall results, but will also be a challenge for the service crews, as they will have a full suspension change after Saturday’s gravel stages. This event format is certainly a break from the norm, and is a throwback to events in the early eighties.”
Entry forms will be available in May on www.nickygriststages.co.uk