This year’s Nicky Grist Stages (8-9 July) proved to be a huge success, with spectators enjoying great weather and spectacular high-speed action, competitors rising magnificently to the challenge of a two-day mixed surface event, the event organisers Quinton MC running an incident-free rally and Builth Wells hosting fantastic town centre start and finish ceremonies.
With three rallies in one and competitors battling for points in 10 different championships, the mid-Wales event attracted 147 starters – all of which were flagged away from outside the magnificent Strand Hall in the heart of Builth Wells on Saturday morning.
Swapping his Wales and Scarlets Rugby shirts for Stilo helmet and P1 Advanced Racewear suit was Scott Williams – who unveiled his new and immaculate Scott Williams Motorsport built Escort, which he drove as course opening car on the Sunday’s asphalt stages. It was a stunning sight and sound enjoyed by all – including fellow Welsh Rugby Union star George North and double Olympic medal winning cyclist Becky James, who were on Epynt to support their good friend.
The importance of the Nicky Grist Stages internationally was highlighted when Sweden’s Fredrik Åhlin and his Norwegian co-driver Torstein Eriksen claimed overall victory in their Škoda Fabia R5. Welsh favourite Osian Pryce had made the most of running first on the road to lead after day one by 19.3 seconds, but a fuel pump problem with his Ford Fiesta R5 side-lined him and co-driver Dale Furniss early on day two. Åhlin took the lead and held onto it superbly, winning the event by 47.5 seconds and retaking the lead in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship.
Llandudno’s Matt Edwards finished an excellent second on his Ford Fiesta R5. Co-driven by Darren Garrod, the result moves him into third in the BRC standings, behind Åhlin and Pryce, with two rallies remaining. Rhys Yates/Carl Williamson (Ford Fiesta R5) took third place – with the Nicky Grist Stages finish ceremony held in the beautiful Groe Park, on the banks of the River Wye.
Callum Devine/Keith Moriarty (Opel Adam R2) won an exciting Junior BRC battle, after the lead changed hands six times. Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (Peugeot 208 R2) led initially, before a puncture saw them tumble down the order. Norway’s Oscar Solberg/Patrik Barth (Ford Fiesta R2T) seized the advantage before turbo problems intervened. Cameron Davies/Michael Gilbey (Peugeot 208 R2) led overnight, but retired on day two with engine problems. Irish driver Devine was unstoppable once the event moved onto Tarmac, eventually winning Junior BRC by 18.6 seconds. William Creighton and Liam Regan (Peugeot 208 R2) came home second, with west Wales pair James Williams/Dai Roberts (Fiesta R2T) claiming third.
In the battle for Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series points, which was played out over Saturday’s eight gravel stages, it was Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson who took the Nicky Grist Stages victory after a well-judged run in their Ford Fiesta WRC. Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead set six fastest stage times, but lost time when their Ford Fiesta WRC’s rear spoiler came off and then they suffered a puncture. They couldn’t quite make up all the time lost and finished second, just 8.1 seconds behind. Callum Black/Elliott Edmondson also lost time when they overshot a hairpin early on, yet still finished a strong third in their less powerful Ford Fiesta R5+.
Sasha Kakad/James Aldridge won the BTRDA Production Cup category in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 and finished an impressive fifth overall. A misfiring Fiesta R5 led to the retirement of Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg, while another top BTRDA crew to retire was Dylan Davies/Llion Williams with power steering problems in their Subaru Impreza.
Black/Edmondson also scored maximum points in the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, with husband and wife pairing Martyn and Dawn England (Fiesta R5) finishing second and Peter Stephenson/Will Rogers (Fiesta WRC) third. Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe have taken the lead in the Welsh series, after a fantastic Group N victory in their Subaru Impreza.
Damian Cole/Den Golding won the Spencer Sport Acropolis Rally, which was played out over the 12 Tarmac stages on Sunday. They showed their class by winning the stand-alone event by a comfortable 1min 48.5secs in their Ford Escort WRC. Black/Edmondson completed a magnificent weekend by scoring maximum points MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship on their first Tarmac event in the R5 car.
Nicky Grist said: “Quinton MC has really upped the standard on this year’s event and as an organising team they are getting better and better – and that’s been reflected in the success of the 2017 rally. We were blessed with beautiful weather, which keeps the marshals, spectators and everyone happy, but it also throws up other challenges for the competitors, especially on the dusty gravel stages on day one. The dry Tarmac roads of Epynt on day two certainly offered a great challenge, and we’ve had a fantastic event. I’m delighted. We’ve learnt a little bit more, so there are more improvements to be made, but as an event we are moving, most definitely, in the right direction.”
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “We were very pleased by the big entry we received and the quality of the field – the three events certainly made for great competition and produced very worthy overall and class winners in all ten of the championships that we hosted. We’re always looking to make improvements, and everyone at Quinton MC is delighted with the way this very complex two-day mixed surface event is developing. We’d like extend our enormous thanks to all the marshals and officials who worked tirelessly to ensure the safe running of the event, and also to all the competitors, teams and spectators who were a credit to our sport last weekend.”
All those who attended this year’s Nicky Grist Stages – officials, spectators, marshals, competitors, support teams, everyone! – are kindly reminded to fill out the Welsh Association of Motor Clubs economic benefits survey, which can be done on-line at: http://rallydata.co.uk/484245
Nicky Grist Stages – Top 10 Overall
- Fredrik Åhlin/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia R5): 1hr 45mins 50.2secs
- Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod (Ford Fiesta R5): +47.5secs
- Rhys Yates/Carl Williamson (Ford Fiesta R5): +2mins 08.0secs
- Martin McCormack/David Moynihan (Ford Fiesta R5): +2mins 11.7secs
- Jamie Anderson/Ross Whittock (Ford Fiesta R5): +3mins 16.7secs
- Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan (Ford Fiesta R2): +5mins 04.9secs
- Callum Devine/Keith Moriarty (Opel Adam R2): +8mins 48.0secs
- William Creighton/Liam Regan (Peugeot 208 R2): +9mins 06.6secs
- James Williams/Dai Roberts (Ford Fiesta R2): +9mins 13.8secs
- Marty Gallagher/Dean O’Sullivan (Peugeot 208 R2): +9mins 45.7secs