Builth Wells celebrates successful Nicky Grist Stages as Euan Thorburn claims BTRDA Rally Series title

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

  1. Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) – 44mins 10secs
  2. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC) – 45mins 12secs
  3. Sam Bilham/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5) – 45mins 38secs
  4. Brendan Cumiskey/Liam Moynihan (Ford Fiesta WRC) – 45mins 41secs
  5. Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Mitsubishi Evo 9) – 46mins 03secs
  6. Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Mitsubishi Evo 9) – 46mins 08secs
  7. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Mitsubishi Evo IX)- 46mins 18secs
  8. Conor McCourt/Brian Hoy (Ford Fiesta R5) – 46mins 40secs
  9. Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) – 46mins 45secs
  10. Stephen Simpson/Mark Glennerster (Hyundai i20 R5) – 46mins 55secs

Nicky Grist Stages moves to the centre of Builth Wells

This year’s Nicky Grist Stages (Saturday 13 July) will move into the centre of Builth Wells, with the Rally Headquarters located at the fully renovated Strand Hall on Strand Street and the Service Area based at the Builth Wells RFC at Groe Park, a stone’s throw away from the town’s main high street.

Organised by Quinton Motor Club (which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year), since 2011 the Nicky Grist Stages has been based at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd. In 2017 it moved its ceremonial start to Strand Street and its podium celebrations to Groe Park, on the banks of the River Wye. Such has been the support from local traders, Builth Wells Town Council and Powys Country Council, that the event will now move into the town – with the Start, Finish, Service Area and Rally Headquarters located all within sight of each other.

The trailer park and a re-fuelling zone will be located at the town’s Cattle Market car park, while extra marshals will be brought in to manage the Service In and Out controls, as well as the rally car exit route. Auxiliary service vehicles, officials and media car parking will be located adjacent to the Service Area.

This means that the busy hub of the Nicky Grist Stages will be within sight of Builth Wells’ main high street, which is full of independent coffee shops, cafes, bars, hotels, B&Bs, hardware stores and a multitude of other outlets – meaning that team personnel and all rally visitors will have quick and easy access from the Service Area to everything the town has to offer. The event is working closely with Builth Wells Town Council, the Builth Wells Chamber of Trade and Powys County Council to make sure all the local business opportunities are maximised and all rally personnel are catered for.

The Nicky Grist Stages will begin to set up in Builth Wells on Thursday 11 July, with a site clearance operation returning everything to the way it found it concluding on Sunday 14 July.

The organisers predict a large number of visitors to Builth Wells, as the event hosts a round of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series for a 32nd consecutive year – as well as welcoming crews from the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Forest Rally Championship, FMP Rally Challenge and the HRCR Old Stagers Championship.

Jeremy Pugh, Powys County Council Councillor and Chairman of Builth Wells RFC, said: “We are delighted to welcome a major sporting event like the Nicky Grist Stages into the centre of Builth Wells. The extra trade it will bring into the town is exactly what the local businesses need, and it will be a fantastic sight for everyone to enjoy. The rugby pitch sits on a very large grass area that has previously held a wide variety of family events, and it will easily accommodate more than a hundred and forty service crews and rally cars. We are confident that what we have planned together with Quinton Motor Club will be of maximum benefit and minimum inconvenience to the town.

Gwyn Davies, Builth Wells Deputy Mayor, said: “We are very excited to have the Nicky Grist Stages come into Builth Wells town centre. We are situated in a very beautiful part of the world and on the major north-south link through Wales, so as a town we do well out of tourism and passing trade. To have a big event based on the Groe, within sight of the main high street, will be great for the people and businesses of Builth. We have a new generation of shopkeepers in the town who will be very keen to welcome the Nicky Grist Stages, and we’re looking forward to making this the start of a long-term relationship with the event.

Jo Jones, owner of The Owls B&B, said: “As a catering business, we personally do well out of the Nicky Grist Stages as we always have rally guests staying at The Owls. This year we are really excited to have the event based at the Groe, as all the businesses on the high street can benefit from the increased trade. Builth is such a lovely little town, a real Mid-Wales gem, full of wonderful independent shops and a real community spirit. It’s lovely to share the town with visitors, who we hope go home happy and tell their friends to come and find us!

Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “This is a fantastic and exciting move for the event. Crossing the river and bringing the rally to the heart of Builth Wells will showcase the event to the local population and hopefully bring welcome business to the cafes, coffee shops and takeaways. Both the Builth Wells Town Council and Powys County Council have been instrumental in this move and we thank them for all their support and encouragement.

Regulations and entry forms will be published in the Competitors’ section of www.nickygriststages.co.uk on Monday (13 May).

Builth Wells town centre to host Nicky Grist Stages start and finish parties – and everyone’s invited!

Builth Wells will, for the first time, host both the start and finish ceremonies of the Quinton Motor Club organised Nicky Grist Stages, with a big motorsport celebration on the morning of Saturday 8 July and the afternoon of Sunday 9 July – to which everyone is invited. And what’s more, both events are completely free for spectators!

Strand Street will be the place to be for the new rally start on the Saturday– where the top seeded cars will be on display from 08.00 and where fans will be able to meet their rally heroes. All the competitors from 10 different championships – including the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship, Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship and MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship – will then be flagged away at one minute intervals from outside Strand Hall by local dignitaries and rally celebrities from 08.30 onwards.

Spectator areas, giving the best and safest vantage points to view the high-speed action, will be set up and well signposted as crews tackle first the gravel sections on Saturday and then the Tarmac stages over Epynt on the Sunday – with all proceeds raised from car parking charges and programme sales going to local charities. Spectators will also be able to see the rally cars close up when they come into the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd for service – and Saturday evening is the best time to come, as teams have two hours to transform their gravel spec cars into Tarmac trim. Full spectator information is available at nickygriststages.co.uk.

After all 20 special stages have been completed the most successful crews will attend the champagne-spraying finish ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Following the success of 2016, this will once again take place in Groe Park, on the banks of the River Wye, with the landmark 18th Century bridge in the background. The party atmosphere will be enhanced with local DJ Mark Weller on the decks, together with VIP guests and well-known faces. The finish ceremony will take place from approximately 16.00 onwards.

Keep an eye out on social media for a fantastic SPOT THE RALLY CAR competition – with some great rally prizes!

Councillor Meryl Prynne, Mayor Builth Wells Town Council, said: “We give a warm welcome to all who are connected with the Nicky Grist Stages as once again we see the rally being brought into Builth Wells but this time we are actually having the start of the rally in the middle of town. Staging the start of the rally in Strand Street and then ending the rally on the Groe will increase the profile of Builth Wells locally and nationally. The increased number of visitors it will bring into the town will give a much needed boost to the economy and we hope that this event might become an annual feature in our town.

Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “We are particularly pleased to be bringing the start of this year’s Nicky Grist Stages into the heart of Builth Wells, giving residents and visitors the opportunity to get close to the cars and drivers before they head off to the stages.

Ian Butcher, Nicky Grist Stages Rally Manager, said: “We would especially like to thank Jeremy Patterson and all at Powys CC for their support in this venture. It is down to Mr Patterson’s personal intervention that we have been able to proceed with closing Strand Street. We hope he can join us at the Ceremonial Start to flag the cars away.

Spectators can also enjoy Nicky Grist Stages VIP Hospitality packages, as these are not reserved for only corporate guests and sponsors! It will be a sell-out experience this year and only a few places are still available for Saturday and/or Sunday – with exclusive car parking, stage-side viewing area, marquee, breakfast, lunch, unlimited refreshments and guest speakers. For information on availability and cost, please contact Sarah Williams from Spencer Sport on 01559 371534.

Regulations and entry forms are available in the Competitors’ section of www.nickygriststages.co.uk