Edwards wins closely fought Nicky Grist Stages

Matt Edwards and co-driver Darren Garrod won a very closely fought Nicky Grist Stages in their Swift Group Ford Fiesta R5, after turning a two second deficit at halfway into a 58 second winning margin at the finish. Victory on the Quinton MC organised event sees them take the lead of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series.

The Mayor of Builth Wells, Cllr. Paul McNiffe, flagged the large field away from outside Strand Hall, in the centre of Builth Wells, with two loops of the super-smooth Llyn Login (5.02 miles), Route 60 (5.10 miles), Halfway (5.11 miles) and Crychan (7.25 miles) stages awaiting competitors.

Edwards was immediately in a titanic battle with Tom Cave/James Morgan (Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage R5) as the lead swapped three times in six stages, with just a few seconds separating them as they traded fastest stage times. A big push on the final two stages gave the Llandudno driver what he thought was a 14 second victory, but that winning margin was substantially increased when a very rare co-driving mistake contravened event regulations and saw Cave disqualified from the results.

Luke Francis hurt his back after hitting a big compression at speed on the bridge in Route 60, and then picked up a front puncture on the last stage. Co-driven by John H Roberts, the 2016 event winner was therefore pleased to finish second in his Melvyn Evans Motorsport-tuned Ford Fiesta WRC to keep his Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship title hopes alive.

Rory Young’s first attempt at the Nicky Grist Stages resulted in an excellent third place finish overall. Co-driven by Allan Cathers, he recovered from two overshoots on SS2 to move from fifth at the midday service halt at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd to a podium finish in his Fiesta R5.

Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson couldn’t repeat last year’s Nicky Grist Stages win after suffering a puncture on SS1 and, more frustratingly, rear differential problems throughout the day, which made their Fiesta WRC very difficult to control. It was amazing they only encountered two spins and did well to finish fourth.

Martyn England/Dawn England enjoyed another great run in their Fiesta R5+, but dropped two places to fifth after sliding off the road on the final stage – which was their only mistake of the day. Former BTRDA Gold Star Champions Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson finished sixth in their Ford Fiesta after struggling to find the right settings to give them the grip and confidence they wished for.

Ian Joel/Graeme Wood were happy with seventh overall and first in class B13 in their Ford Escort Cosworth, while Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy finished first in the Production Cup NR4 class and eighth overall in their Mitsubishi Evo 9. They are now equal on points at the top of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, with only rally wins separating them from Edwards.

Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh had to fix and oil pump issue with their Fiesta at service and were pleased to finish ninth overall, while Keith Parry/Eryl Evans survived a big moment on the last stage to complete the top 10 in their Subaru Impreza.

Class winners included Sam and Liam Johnson (RF1.4 – SEAT Arosa), Guy Butler/Jamie Mactavish (RF2.0 – Toyota Corolla), Chris Powell/Jim Lewis (1400S – Talbot Sunbeam), Joe and Michael Evett (1400C – MG ZR), Baz Jordan/Paul Wakey (H1/2 – Hillman Avenger), Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard (H3 – Escort RS), Zac Hughes/Tom Wood (N3 – Fiesta ST), Max Utting/Mike Ainsworth (B11 – Fiesta ST Max) and Allan McDowall/Gavin Heseltine (Escort Mk3). George Lepley/Tom Woodburn won the B10/R2 class and in doing so clinched the BTRDA Rally R2 Cup title in their Fiesta ST, while Geoff Cottrill (Mitsubishi Evo 9) and Abi Haycock (Escort Mk2) were the top placed Quinton MC driver and co-driver respectively.

Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence were hoping for a good result in their Mitsubishi Evo 9, but they punctured a tyre in Route 60 in the morning and again right at the start of the same stage when it was repeated in afternoon, dropping them to 35th at the finish.

Tom Llewellin, the 17-year old son of double British Rally Championship Dai Llewellin, enjoyed an excellent first gravel rally. Together with Dale Bowen, he finished fourth in the B10/R2 class, only missing out on a podium after hitting a bump on SS6 and suffering a loss of power when it upset the ECU connection on his Peter Gwynne Motorsport Suzuki Swift. He still finished a magnificent 46th overall, out of 113 starters.

There were 40 non-finishers. Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge rolled their Ford Fiesta on SS4, Layton Waters/Tudor Jenkins broke the differential on their Proton Satria on SS1 and Bob Morgan/Adie Williams suffered a fuel tank leak with their Winner Garage ŠKODA Fabia vRS. Emma Morrisson started first on the road in her first rally as a driver, but a snapped wishbone in her VW Lupo GTi on SS1 forced her and co-driver Jon Quintrell into retirement. Fancied 1400 runners Perry Gardener/Steve Link (Vauxhall Nova) and Steve Black/Paul Morris (Suzuki Swift) both retired with engine related problems, while Steffan and Claire Williams (Nissan Micra) went off on SS2.

Dylan Davies/Llion Williams continue to lead the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, despite retiring their smart self-built Subaru Impreza when a ball joint broke on the penultimate stage. They are, however, now tied on points with Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe, who finished 13th overall in their Impreza N12b.

Matt Edwards said: “We made a steady start but soon got back into the rhythm and took a pair of fastest stage times before being caught up in dust on stage four, after the car in front of us unfortunately spun. We decided to have a go and push hard to see what we could do in the afternoon, and with our Pirelli K4s hanging on well, we were able to set some good times on the following stages to take a twelve second lead into the final stage. Again dust was causing us some issues throughout, but our pace on the clear sections was enough to limit the damage and take victory! The stages were fantastic, loose in places but that adds to the challenge, and well done and thanks to the organisers for running a slick event despite the heat.

Cllr. Paul McNiffe, Builth Wells Mayor, said: “It’s the second time I’ve been involved with the Nicky Grist Stages – last year as Deputy Mayor and this time as Mayor, and it’s great to see the event come into the town centre and for the people of Builth Wells to come out and see the rally cars and drivers. The start ceremony outside Strand Hall and the finish in Groe Park, on the banks of the River Wye, show what a beautiful place Builth Wells is, and it’s another major event for the town. Having flagged the cars away, I went up to the Epynt stages to watch the cars in action and saw many people from Builth Wells who were enjoying the rally, so hopefully the Nicky Grist Stages will come back to Builth Wells next year.

Nicky Grist said: “What a great weekend – close competition, wonderful weather and a nice breeze that helped to clear the dust away. The pace at the front of the rally was fierce, with Matt Edwards showing his class with some stunning stage times in the afternoon to win the event comfortably. Many thanks to Neil Cross, the Clerk of the Course, to Quinton Motor Club and to all the many volunteers without whom we would not have been able to run the rally. See you all next year!

Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “Quinton Motor Club would like to congratulate Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod on a fantastic win and all those who finished a tough day of rallying. The event ran very well and we dealt with a few incidents over the day that caused a few delays. We would like to thank our army of volunteers for all their efforts in the hot and dusty conditions. I’d like to thank Nicky Grist for his continued support of the event and for also supplying the much appreciated water to the crews and officials.

2018 Nicky Grist Stages – Top 10 Finishers

  1. Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod (Ford Fiesta R5): 42mins 09secs
  2. Luke Francis/John H Roberts (Ford Fiesta WRC): +58s
  3. Rory Young/Allan Cathers (Ford Fiesta R5): +1m 39s
  4. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC): +1m 47s
  5. Martyn England/Dawn England (Fiesta R5+): +1m 59s
  6. Charles Payne/Carl Williamson (Ford Fiesta): +2m 22s
  7. Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Ford Escort Cosworth): +3m 06s
  8. Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Mitsubishi Evo 9): +3m 15s
  9. Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta): +3m 22s
  10. Keith Parry/Eryl Evans (Subaru Impreza): +3m 33s

Never used before gravel stage joins Crychan, Halfway and Route 60 in exciting new Nicky Grist Stages route

This summer’s Nicky Grist Stages (Saturday 14 July) will be the only event in 2018 to run on the classic Welsh gravel roads in Halfway and Route 60 – while the Crychan stage is in prime condition and a brand new smooth, fast and flowing stage, which has never been used for rallying before, replaces the rested Monument test.

This year’s Quinton MC-organised event returns to its traditional one-day all-gravel format. The stages will be in excellent condition, as the Army has re-graded parts of the route after recent logging and other sections of the route will not have been used since Rally4Wales re-graded the roads following last year’s rallying.

The much loved and challenging Crychan, Halfway and Route 60 stages will be joined by a brand new five and a half mile stage to the north of the Epynt military range. In total, there will be 45 stage miles.

The event will be based at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd, and with 180 cars allowed to start the Nicky Grist Stages will once again been a major boost for the economy of Builth Wells and the nearby Powys and Carmarthenshire towns and villages.

This year will celebrate the 38th running of Quinton Motor Club’s forest stage rally and the eighth year of title sponsorship from Nicky Grist Motorsports. It’s also the 31st consecutive year of it hosting a round of the BTRDA Rally Series and therefore the event will play host to the 2018 Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series, incorporating the BTRDA Gold Star, BTRDA Silver Star, BTRDA Production Cup, BTRDA 1400, BTRDA Rally First, BTRDA Historic Cup, BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup and the Fiesta ST Trophy. The 2018 Nicky Grist Stages is also proud to host a round of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, FMP Rally Challenge and the all-new Swift Shining Stars Rally Series.

After a second stint of 10 years, making 24 years in total, Susan Butcher has stepped down from her role as Secretary of the Meeting. Helena Mayall, who for the past two years has been the Entries Secretary, is the new Secretary of the Meeting.

Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “After two successful years running as a mixed-surface two-day event, we are reverting back to our traditional one-day gravel rally in 2018. We are planning a great event, and using the knowledge gained over the last few years to enhance the reputation of the Nicky Grist Stages. All the stages are in prime condition and are smooth, challenging, fast and flowing. We are the only rally to run in Halfway and Route 60 this year, and we have introduced a brand new five and a half mile stage to the north of the ranges that has never been used for rallying before. That stage replaces the Monument stage, which we are resting for 2018. The route has now been finalised, and we are extremely happy with it – it will be a truly great challenge for competitors come July 14. And on a personal note, Susan’s contribution to the event is unquantifiable and I’d like to thank her for all her efforts over the years.

Nicky Grist said: “A new year, but not exactly a new rally, but we do have a brand new stage that no-one will have used before! Add this to the other three near perfect condition stages in Crychan, Halfway and Route 60, which are some of the best stages in Welsh rallying, and the crews will have a great time. I am delighted to be involved with the event again this year, although I am sad to see Susan leave us. After all the years she has been our Secretary of the Meeting we cannot complain, she has been a tremendous asset to the rally and I would like to thank her for all her hard work and effort over the years. I look forward to seeing you all on the Nicky Grist Stages in July.

Winners from home and abroad celebrate Nicky Grist Stages success in Builth Wells

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

  1. Fredrik Åhlin/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia R5): 1hr 45mins 50.2secs
  2. Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod (Ford Fiesta R5): +47.5secs
  3. Rhys Yates/Carl Williamson (Ford Fiesta R5): +2mins 08.0secs
  4. Martin McCormack/David Moynihan (Ford Fiesta R5): +2mins 11.7secs
  5. Jamie Anderson/Ross Whittock (Ford Fiesta R5): +3mins 16.7secs
  6. Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan (Ford Fiesta R2): +5mins 04.9secs
  7. Callum Devine/Keith Moriarty (Opel Adam R2): +8mins 48.0secs
  8. William Creighton/Liam Regan (Peugeot 208 R2): +9mins 06.6secs
  9. James Williams/Dai Roberts (Ford Fiesta R2): +9mins 13.8secs
  10. Marty Gallagher/Dean O’Sullivan (Peugeot 208 R2): +9mins 45.7secs