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

Thorburn aims to clinch BTRDA Series title on the bumper 130 car Nicky Grist Stages

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

  1. Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton – Ford Focus WRC
  2. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson – Ford Fiesta WRC
  3. Connor McCloskey/Noel Sullivan – Ford Fiesta R5+
  4. Ian Joel/Shaun Hughes – Ford Escort Cosworth
  5. Conor McCourt/Caolan McKenna – Ford Fiesta R5
  6. Martyn England/Dawn England – Ford Fiesta R5
  7. Jason 
Pritchard/Phil Clarke – Ford Escort RS1800
  8. Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry – Mitsubishi Evo 9
  9. Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy – Mitsubishi Evo 9
  10. Pat Naylor/Patrick Walsh – Mitsubishi Evo 9