By Paul Evans
Over 120 crews are gathering in Builth Wells for tomorrow’s (Saturday 14 July) Nicky Grist Stages, with the very best competitors from the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship and Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series set to battling it out over 45 classic Welsh forestry stage miles on the Carmarthenshire and Powys border.
The Quinton MC-organised event will be the first in Wales to run to the new split-seeding rules, whereby lower-powered cars will run first on the road and in reserve order – followed, after a short gap, by the more powerful four-wheel drive cars. With all four separate stages – Llyn Login, Route 60, Halfway and Crychan – (which are ran twice) in excellent condition, it should be a fantastic event for all.
Tom Cave/James Morgan are seeded at number one in their Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage R5, but it’s Paul Bird/Jack Morton who arrive at the event leading the BTRDA Rally Series, with the Focus WRC driver aiming to score his third win of the 2018 season – and a hat-trick of victories on the Nicky Grist Stages, having won in the same car in 2014 and ‘15. He’ll have a tough fight on his hands against the likes of Llandudno’s Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod, who have also won two BTRDA rounds in their Fiesta R5.
Last year’s Nicky Grist Stages winners Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson contest the event in their Fiesta WRC, while 2016 Gold Star Champions Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson arrive fresh from their recent victory at Brawdy Airfield in Pembrokeshire in their Fiesta WRC.
Dylan Davies/Llion Williams will be aiming to extend their lead in the Welsh Rally Championship in their Subaru Impreza, while former Welsh champions and 2016 Nicky Grist Stages winners Luke Francis/John H Roberts appear in their Melvyn Evans Motorsport-tuned Ford Fiesta WRC.
Kalvin Green will be aiming to continue his great season. Co-driven by Osian Owen, the Treorchy driver leads the Welsh Junior standings and is well up in the Group N points in his Ford Fiesta ST.
Tom Llewellin enjoyed a good pre-event test his yellow Peter Gwynne Motorsport Suzuki Swift, ahead of his first ever gravel rally. The 17-year old Haverfordwest driver is the son of double British Rally Champion Dai Llewellin, and is the reigning MSA Junior Rallycross Champion.
This weekend marks the 38th running of Quinton Motor Club’s forest stage rally and the eighth year of title sponsorship from Nicky Grist Motorsports. The event will start from outside Strand Hall (the newly-renovated Edwardian building having been officially opened by HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall just 10 days before) in the centre of Builth Wells at 09.01, when the lower-powered cars will be first away in reserve order, followed by the more powerful four-wheel drive cars.
Crews will head to the brand new 5.02 mile Llyn Login stage, which will be used for rallying for the very first time. Route 60 (5.10 miles), Halfway (5.11 miles) and Crychan (7.25 miles) follow, before mid-day service at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd. Then, in the afternoon, the 22.48 mile loop of four stages will be repeated – before the most successful crews will attend the champagne-spraying finish ceremony in Groe Park, on the banks of the River Wye, with the landmark 18th Century bridge in the background. The party atmosphere will be enhanced with local DJ Mark Weller on the decks, together with VIP guests and well-known faces. The finish ceremony will take place from approximately 16.00 onwards.
Spectators are welcome in designated areas with car parks manned by local charities and all monies raised going directly to the Tirabad Village Hall and the Brecon Rotary Club. Full spectator information is available at nickygriststages.co.uk.
“We are delighted with the depth and quality of the entry for this year’s Nicky Grist Stages,” said Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course. “The top twenty is amazing and predicting a winner will be very difficult indeed. The changes in running order have had a very positive impact on the event. To have thirty cars in the first field is incredible, and a positive step to bring back some of the lost competitors.”
2018 Nicky Grist Stages – top 10 starters
1. Tom Cave/James Morgan….Mitsubishi Mirage R5
2. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson….Ford Fiesta WRC
3. Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod….Ford Fiesta R5
4. Paul Bird/Jack Morton….Ford Focus WRC
5. Luke Francis/John H Roberts….Ford Fiesta WRC
6. Charles Payne/Carl Williamson….Ford Fiesta
7. Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge….Ford Fiesta
8. Rory Young/Allan Cathers….Ford Fiesta R5
9. Martyn England/Dawn England….Ford Fiesta R5+
10. Martin Cairns/Gary McElhinney….Ford Fiesta WRC