Author Archives: Howard Wilcock

Preview of Round 3: Nicky Grist Stages

Preview of Round 3: Nicky Grist Stages – 14th July                                                           Photo is of George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Fiesta) – Joint championship leaders after Round 1.

Contenders for the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship are really only just getting into their stride. The unfortunate cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson Rally put the start of this year’s ERC back to the Carlisle Stages at the beginning of June, with the Quinton Motor Club-organised Nicky Grist Stages as the second round, and then there are still another three to complete after this weekend.

The MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship is a class-based series and not surprisingly a look at the points tables reveals multiple leaders after just one event.  It’s only now, as contenders have a second chance to exert their supremacy that the number of names with maximum points begins to decrease. Those drivers dining out on their success prior to the Nicky Grist include Ernie Graham (Escort Mk2), George Lepley (Fiesta R2), Paul Bird (Focus WRC), Tommi Meadows (Ka) and Ian Joel (Escort Cosworth). It goes without saying that all these good folk are preparing for a trip to Builth Wells on 14th July!

Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson won last year’s Nicky Grist Stages, on their way to claiming the BTRDA Gold Star® Championship crown and the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship – and have made no secret of their wish to repeat the exercise in 2018. However, their efforts have so far been somewhat upstaged by Matt Edwards/ Darren Garrod (Fiesta WRC) and current BTRDA Rally Series leaders Paul Bird/Jack Morton (Focus WRC).  Luke Francis/John H Roberts have changed their allegiance to a Fiesta WRC this season whilst Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson start behind them in their hastily-repaired Fiesta following its inversion last time out in Kielder. Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge continue to acquaint themselves with their new R5 Fiesta and Martyn & Dawn England (Fiesta R5+), who were 4th overall on last year’s Nicky Grist Stages return in an attempt to improve on that excellent result.  Meanwhile Ian Joel / Graeme Wood in their venerable Escort Cosworth will be hoping for a repeat of the their excellent 6th place finish on the Carlisle Stages which gave them maximum Class 7 points and the joint lead in the championship.

Away from the four wheel drive crews, George Lepley’s stranglehold on the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup has carried over into the English Rally Championship where on the Carlisle Stages he and Tom Woodburn came a remarkable 14th overall which earned them maximum points in Class 3 and a share in the championship leadership after the first event.  Class 4 includes  Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell, Owen McMackin/Lee Taylor and the the Sunbeam VXR of Andy Davison/Tom Murphy.  However they are joined by a gaggle of Fiesta ST’s including 17-year old Ewan Tindall who, on the grounds of his age, has only been able to contest two senior events. 

Contenders in English Championship Classes 1 and 2 will, along with crews in Historic Category 1 & 2 cars (+ Category 3 with single cam engines), start at the front of the field, following the MSA’s relaxation of the rules regarding the running order on events, but in reverse order.  Perhaps the people who need to be most aware of the situation are Emma Morrison, who has switched roles to take over the driving seat for this event, and Jon Quintrell who will be first away from the start of the Nicky Grist Stages in a Rally First Volkswagen Lupo GTI. The two Rally First 2.0 litre Toyota Corollas of Championship leader Matthew Baddeley and Guy Butler resume their friendly rivalry – on the Carlisle Stages, one didn’t start and the other didn’t finish!… Having also been absent last time, leaders after the opening round, Sam & Liam Johnson, will be hoping that their Seat Arosa will be in a position to give them a second maximum in mid Wales.

The ‘Historic’ Hillman Avenger of BTRDA Rally Series sponsor Barry Jordan and co-driver Paul Wakely, who also missed out on the finish celebrations in Carlisle, starts a minute in front of Tommi Meadows’ Ford Ka, who was class 2 winner in Carlisle. Then Steve Black’s Suzuki Swift is followed by Stuart Spyer (Corsa), Perry Gardener (Nova), Richard Cole (Escort Mk2), Kieran Darrington (Corsa), Chris Powell (Sunbeam) and Dave Brick (Nova). Fireworks in July?  You’d better believe it!…

The first car (Emma Morrison/Jon Quintrell) leaves the start of the Nicky Grist Stages at 8.31am on Saturday morning and on the menu are 45 miles of special stages in some of the classic mid-Wales forests. Cars then begin arriving at the finish from 3.30pm that afternoon. For further information on the Nicky Grist Stages, visit:

AH (Photographs courtesy of Kevin Money & Malc Almond)


The 2018 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship makes a rather belated start this year due to the unfortunate cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson Rally due to the extreme weather back in March. Seriously, the ‘Beast from the East’ has necessitated a re-jig of the calendar and we’re now looking at a five-round championship, with everyone’s four best scores to count.

Starting in Carlisle for the ATL Carlisle Stages, the action in an all-gravel format then moves to the Quinton Motor Club promoted Nicky Grist Stages six weeks later. After a similar gap, the Woodpecker Stages will welcome contenders to Ludlow Racecourse for some of the famous Marches special stages. The North York Moors play host to the penultimate round, the Trackrod Forest Rally, at the end of September before the finale, a welcome return to the Wyedean Stages, in the picturesque Forest of Dean on 10th November.

Revised 2018 Calendar
• ATL Carlisle Stages Rally    9th June    Kielder Forest West
• Nicky Grist Stages    14th July    Mid Wales Forests
• Woodpecker Stages    1st September    Shropshire and the Welsh Borders
• Trackrod Forest Rally    29th September    North Yorkshire
• Wyedean Stages Rally    10th November    Forest of Dean

So, this could be a second bite at the cherry so to speak, especially for those that have had a ‘difficult start to the JORDAN Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series.

The English Rally Championship is split into 8 classes with the scoring system reflecting achievement against other competitors in the same class.
• Class 1 BTRDA Rally First cars up to and including 1400cc and FIA R1A and N1
• Class 2 All cars up to 1400cc not eligible for class 1 and RF1.6 cars
• Class 3 Over 1400cc and up to and including 1600cc, including all FIA R2B cars
• Class 4 Over 1600cc and up and including to 2000cc
• Class 5 Over 2000cc 2 Wheel Drive
• Class 6 Current and former FIA Group N / NR4 cars over 2000cc
• Class 7 Over 2000cc 4 Wheel Drive
• Class 8 All WRC, RRC, R5 and S2000 cars and all derivatives
NB: The MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship registration is all part of the 2018 BTRDA Rally Series and BTRDA membership package.

The photo is Chris Powell / Jim Lewis (1400 Talbot Sunbeam) on the recent Plains Rally.  Courtesy of Malcolm Almond.  They are regular class leaders and so may be suited to the class based MAXXIS MSA Engish Rally Championship.

Stephen Petch & Michael Wilkinson are 2017 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Champions

The final round of the 2017 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship, the Trackrod Forest Stages, was this year based in Filey and included a visit to all the traditional Yorkshire forest stages. There were 52 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship crews who started the event.

Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) confirmed their 2017 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship title with another excellent performance on the Trackrod Forest Stages, eventually finishing just 0.2 seconds behind the event winners Charlie Payne/Carl Williamson (FiestaWRC).

The hotly contested E6 class for Group NR4 cars was a three-way battle between Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy, (Evo 9) Sacha Kakad/Simon Aldridge (Evo X) and Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence (Evo 9).  Thompson had the misfortune to retired at the end of the first stage but it still remained a very close contest throughout the day, with Naylor/Lawrence eventually coming out just 6 seconds ahead. This result earned them sufficient points to move up to second overall in the championship.

Ashley Davies and Sam Fordham (Escort RS) were the highest placed crew in class E5 just ahead of Richard Sykes/Steve Link (Citroen DS3 R3), whilst Daniel Beckham/Howard Pridmore in their RWD Fiesta were 15th overall and winners of the very large E4 class. However, Andy Davison/Tom Murphy (Talbot Sunbeam) still scored sufficient points on the Trackrod to confirm their class E4 championship.

In class E2 for cars up to 1400ccc, the pre-event favourites Dave and Toby Brick (Nova) were leading the class until the last stage when they succumbed to mechanical issues, allowing 19-year-old Ed Fossey accompanied by Chris Sharpe-Simkiss (Toyota Yaris) to take the class win on the event and in the final championship standings.

So, at the end of another very competitive season it is Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson who are crowned the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Champions.  The leading English Rally Championship Junior driver was Bart Lang whilst the leading Junior Co-driver was Tom Murphy.

A full list of all the award winners in the 2017 MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship can be found HERE  and a the final championship points table (113 drivers and 93 co-drivers) can be found HERE

In 2017 the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship was opened up to all types of rally car and included 8 championship classes but retained a scoring system which reflected achievement against other competitors in the same class.

The awards for the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship will be presented along with the BTRDA Rally Series awards at the 2017 Dinner and Awards Ceremony which will take place on Saturday 6th January 2018 at the RAMADA Penns Hall Hotel, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. B76 1LH.    Ticket Application forms will be available soon.

The photo above is of the 2017 MSA English Rally Champions Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson on the Trackrod Forest Stages (note the new Gold roof).     The inset photo is Pay Naylor / Ian Lawrence at the finish of the event.       Photos courtesy of ralliphotoswales