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Rally championships finely balanced as 180 crews look forward to the Nicky Grist Stages

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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

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