Having visited the Forest of Dean, the Lake District and Exmoor National Park so far, the REIS BTRDA Rally Series® now takes contenders to Welshpool on 17th May for the start of Round 4, the Plains Rally. Finishing 3rd overall in 2012, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton returned last year to take victory in their Ford Focus WRC on their way to clinching the BTRDA Gold Star® Championship and now, as the defence of their title moves up a gear, they have earned the No.1 spot on the event.
However, as is always the case, there will be plenty with other ideas as to the direction of the winners’ trophy!.... Championship leaders prior to the Somerset Stages, Paul Bird/Aled Davies, are taking a break from their BTRDA campaign (tough call - they’ll be on their way to contest Sol Rally Barbados!), but amongst those who will be vying for top honours are the Focus WRCs of Wyedean Forest Rally winners David Bogie/Kevin Rae and Steve Perez/Paul Spooner who claimed the Somerset Stages on a tie-break from Stephen Petch/Ian Windress who are still using their particular example while a recently-acquired Fiesta R5 is readied for later in the season.
Then Dave Weston Jnr, who took his Impreza WRC to an impressive 3rd in Somerset, is back for more while, having been upgraded from N4 to B13 over the winter, the Lancer EVO9 of Luke Francis/John Roberts has upped its pace considerably and is well capable of mixing it with the World Rally Cars.....
With three rounds down, all of the above have scored on either one or two events and currently find themselves scattered throughout the points tables. However, maintaining a 100% finishing record has put the Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 of Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy into the Gold Star Championship lead at one-third distance. Unsurprisingly, they lead the Production Cup as well but, also yet to record a DNF, Toni Carannante/Martin Auskerin’s Impreza isn’t far behind.
In turn, they have Tom Naughton/Andi Mort, whose Lancer EVO9 has taken maximums on both events it’s finished, breathing down their necks while, inseparable at 4th=, there are another couple of EVO9s in the hands of Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence and Roland Llewellin/Jamie Edwards. They are joined on the Plains Rally by Alex Allingham/Chris Williams whose Impreza finished 2nd in class on the one event it has contested so far this season.
Leaving no-one in any doubt that he means business, defending REIS BTRDA Silver Star® Champion Matthew Robinson (Ford Escort MkII), with Sam Collis along for the ride this season, has scored two maximums and a second to give them the lead in the table. Jon Ballinger/Mike Wilding have manoeuvred the former’s Opel Manta into 2nd place, while front- wheel drive is currently the preserve of Sacha Kakad/Andrew Price in their Fiesta.
As ever the Morris Lubricants BTRDA 1400 Championship® is shaping up into a hotbed of competition - three events, three different ‘winners’ and, on this occasion, they will be led away from the start by the Ford Ka of Mat Smith/Giles Dykes who were victorious on the Wyedean. Having started its season in Somerset, the Proton Satria of Roger Priestnall/Jamie Forrest will be following directly behind them, with Joe Evett/Calvin Houldsworth (MG ZR) next.
After the Somerset Stages, Justin Lawson (Vauxhall Nova) is ‘top dog’ in the 1400 Championship points, from Dave Brick’s similar car and Marcel Freling (MG ZR). However, that order could well have changed by the time cars begin arriving at the final control on the Plains.
Prior to the trip down the M5 to Somerset, Neil Andrew/Dom Adams (VW Lupo) were cutting a dash in the BTRDA Rally First Championship® after maximums on both the Wyedean and the Malcolm Wilson. However, what a difference a day makes! Retirement on Exmoor changed all that and they now find themselves relegated to 3rd behind Rory Jones/Tom Hughes (MG ZR) & Carl Davies/Richard Jones (Nissan Micra). There is still plenty of mileage in this battle, but Andrew can take some comfort in the knowledge that, once dropped scores come into play later in the season, nothing can trump a maximum!
The first car leaves the start of the Plains Rally at 8.00am on Saturday 17th May and returns to the finish in Welshpool at 4.00pm that afternoon. In the interim, approximately 45 miles of stages await competitors in a total route of 175.