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