Friday, 8 July 2011

BTRDA Rally Round 6 Preview - Nicky Grist Quinton Stages

Having been involved with the sixth round of the Silverstone Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, the Quinton Stages Rally, for a number of years as an adviser to competitors in the 1400cc category, former World Rally Championship co-driver Nicky Grist has put his name to the event itself this year and already a number of innovations and changes are planned.

In BTRDA terms, having won four of the first five rounds of the Gold Star Championship so far outright in their Peugeot Cosworth, what leaders Andy Burton and Robin Kellard are hoping won’t change is that it will be their names at the top of the timesheets, once again, as the survivors begin arriving back at the finish of the event at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. Such is their lead at the moment that, whatever happens on the day, the Herefordshire pair will still be ‘kings of the castle’ by the close. However, The BTRDA Rally Series takes into account each competitor’s best six scores, from the eight events, and Burton is the only driver in the Top Five to have maintained a 100% finishing record thus far. So, as the season draws to a close, his rivals for the Gold Star title will seize the opportunity to attempt to catch and pass the current leader. Easier said than done? Time will tell!

Behind Burton, 2nd to 6th places in the table are separated by just five points, leading to some fantastic ‘scraps’ on the three remaining rounds as everyone involved attempts to further their own particular cause.

Late entries on the NG Quinton Stages, Roger Chilman and Andrew Sankey have stayed closest to Burton, even beating him on the Somerset Stages in their Subaru Impreza WRC.

With 30 points available for a win on each event, it’s amazing how quickly the look of the leaderboard can alter and, to that end, Chilman/Sankey, also from Hereford, must keep applying pressure. Newcomers to the BTRDA Rally Series this year, Yorkshiremen Charlie Payne/Craig Thorley are in a similar situation. Their season started badly with a retirement on the Wyedean Forest Rally but, since then, they have been beavering away and their Ford Focus WRC is now not only up close and personal with Chilman’s Impreza, but also within striking distance of the leaders.

2009 Gold Star Champion David Wright and co-driver Michael Wilkinson are mounting a serious challenge in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 with third-place scores on the Wyedean, Plains and Dukeries Rallies. As Wright heads down to mid Wales from his home in Lancaster, he has amassed an identical points tally in the overall category to Group N Production Cup leader Jamie Anderson.

The Ulsterman has brought his particular Lancer to the finish of every event so far which sets him apart from Tom Cave, who used various cars to take maximum class points on each of the first three rounds, only to come to grief on the fourth. Then the Lancers of Tom Naughton and James Grint have also registered one DNF apiece but are, nevertheless, strongly placed to come good by the end of the season provided, it has to be said, that some good results are forthcoming.

Warren Philliskirk maintains his lead in the two-wheel drive Silverstone Tyres Silver Star Championship – his Ford Escort MkII heads that of Boyd Kershaw, but it is Allan McDowall’s Opel Kadett that they should be keeping an eye on. Three maximums are balanced somewhat by a retirement on the Plains, but the Mauchline driver poses a significant danger to the Escort brigade as the season moves towards its conclusion!

Darren Pinchin/Karen Watts’ stranglehold on the Millers Oils BTRDA 1400 Championship has been loosened slightly, firstly by Justin Lawson whose Vauxhall Nova upstaged their Proton on the Plains Rally and then by Kieran Darrington whose Corsa did likewise on the Dukeries. Even so, Pinchin has a healthy lead over Clive Anstey whose own Corsa starts right behind the Proton which will lead the 110+ car entry away from the start at 9.30am on Saturday 9th July.

The first 2011 BTRDA Champions to be crowned were the Rally First crew of Ash Slights/Tom Hughes (Toyota Yaris) whose fifth consecutive maximum score, achieved on the Rainworth Skoda Dukeries Rally, ensured back-to-back titles for the Yorkshire teenagers. They are spending the rest of the year preparing for an attack on the full 2012 Millers Oils 1400 Championship, while Roy Gravestock/Tim Ball (Vauxhall Corsa) and Dave & Mick Town (Rover 214) will be present on the Quinton to squabble over the remaining podium places.

The first car is due back at the finish of the Nicky Grist Quinton Stages Rally in Builth Wells just before 4.00pm on the Saturday afternoon.