By Paul Evans
A bumper 130-car field are beginning to arrive in Builth Wells for tomorrow’s Nicky Grist Stages, with Tom Llewellin looking to extend his lead in the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Forest Rally Championship.
Driving an Historic-spec Escort Mk2, the Pembrokeshire teenager and son of double British Rally Champion Dai Llewellin not only leads the overall drivers’ standings but the Junior series, the two-wheel drive category and the RAVENOL Welsh Challenge as well.
Co-driven by Russ Whittock, Llewellin also leads the FMP Rally Challenge, which has over 100 competitors and helps raise awareness of the Wales Air Ambulance.
Local hero Jason Pritchard, the triple British Historic Rally Champion, will start his very first Nicky Grist Stages in his North Road Garage-backed Ford Escort RS1800. Having never completed against the cream of the Welsh and BTRDA Historic crop before, it will be fascinating to witness Pritchard and co-driver Phil Clarke battling with the likes of Llewellin and the 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.
And the destiny of the 2019 Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series title could be decided tomorrow, with Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton only needing another good result in their Focus WRC to clinch the prestigious Gold Star award.
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, a Ford Escort Cosworth, Mitsubishi Galant VR4, Vauxhall Chevette HSR, a Ford Ka and a SEAT Arosa – to name but a few!
Tomorrow’s Quinton MC-organised Nicky Grist Stages will be based in the centre of Builth Wells for the first time. Scrutineering takes place this afternoon 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.
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