By Paul Evans
The 2019 Rallynuts Stages Rally is set to be one of the biggest in its 46 year history as over 130 crews head to Llanelwedd this Saturday (13 April) for the popular annual forest stage rally.
A top-quality entry will assemble in Mid-Wales to tackle over 44 miles of competitive driving in the nearby forests, many of which have been made famous by Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, in the past. Names such as Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Coed Sarnau forests will offer an action-packed day’s motorsport in the region.
The rally is once again sponsored by established racewear and accessory firm Rallynuts Motorsport, who enter their fourth year as title sponsors. Their support, coupled with a progressive format helped to secure the event in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Championship calendar in 2018, returning after a long break.
The event is also joined by the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship, West Wales Rally Spares HRCR Stage Masters, Brian Dennis Motorsport /Jelf Motorsport Welsh Historic Rally Championship and the FMP Rally Challenge.
In a change to the format of previous years, crews with smaller engined cars and Historic Category vehicles will lead the crews away from Builth Wells Showground on Saturday morning in a reverse seeded order, followed by the main field in a “fastest first” running order.
This means Joseph Keen and Paul Barbet will be the first to be flagged away from the ceremonial start at the Showground in their MG ZR, followed by 30 or so two-wheel drive contenders all eager to make use of the prime road conditions ahead.
Undoubtedly though, all eyes will be on the main field of protagonists which will be led away by current Scottish Rally Champions Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton in their Focus WRC. Wearing the coveted number one on the door, the duo has won every event contested so far in 2019 and will aim to continue their winning ways at the Rallynuts Stages, despite having never contested the event previously.
Winning the event in 2017, Northern Irishman Connor McCloskey returns in a bid to engrave his name on the trophy once again this year, ably co-driven by Noel O Sullivan in a Fiesta R5+. His pace on the mid-Wales stages is proven, but such is the strength of the entry this year, a second win is far from guaranteed.
Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson bring their Fiesta WRC from Durham and will be aiming to put their three retirements this season behind them and gain some valuable BTRDA points.
Ollie Mellors will bring one of the latest FIA specification R5 machines to the event, as the Proton Iriz R5 heads to Wales. Co-driven by Max Freeman, the Proton is well proven with second place on the Riponian Rally already this year.
Rounding out the top five is Charles Payne and Carl Williamson in their Fiesta WRC. They are followed by a gaggle of front-runners who are all capable of taking overall rally victory.
Other notable names include British Historic front-runners Ben Friend and Cliff Simmons in their Ford Escort MK2 whilst George Lepley and Arwel Jenkins will vie for BTRDA Historic and Silver Star honours in their Hillman Avenger. Directors of event sponsors Rallynuts Motorsport, Paul Bonas and Craig Cameron will also contest the event together in their familiar Subaru Impreza.
Spectators will be well catered for this weekend and have plenty of opportunities to catch the action both on and off the stages. The Royal Welsh Showground will house all pre-event checks and documentation from 13:00 – 19:00 on Friday (12 April). It will also play host to the ceremonial start (08:30), finish (16:00) and mid-event service (12:00) halt during the day on Saturday (13 April).
Fans can head into the woods at two locations on Saturday, with the famous Sweet Lamb stage offering two opportunities to watch the field. This test located just off the A44 near Llangurig, gets underway at 10:05 and 14:46, whilst the Cwmysgawen stage runs once at 11:04 and is located off the A483 north of Crossgates.