Author Archives: Howard Wilcock

Preview of Round 4: Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages

Following a delayed start caused by the cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson Rally due to the effects of the ‘Beast from the East’ in early March, the MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship is now in full swing and, as a class-based series, winners can come from any one of the eight different performance classes. The Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages on Saturday 1st September is now the third event of the Championship.  

After the opening encounters there are always multiple leaders (from each class) and it’s only as the championship progresses that further success brings individuals to the fore. Having said that, after just two events, Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Escort Cosworth) have wasted no time in stamping their authority on proceedings and lead George Lepley (Fiesta R2), Matt Edwards (Fiesta) & Ernie Graham (Escort Mk2) by two points, with Tommi Meadows (Ka) a further one adrift in the overall standings.

In the classes it is Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod who, give their recent results, have a clear lead in Class 8 WRC derivative cars whilst Ian Joel / Graeme Wood are ahead on Matthew Hirst / Decaln Dear in Class 7. Class 6 is a continuation of the Russ Thompson v Pat Naylor battle whilst Class 5 is currently been led by Damian Pratts in a 2.4 litre engine Escort.

Class 4 for cars up to 2000cc is numerically the largest class which provides greater competition but does guarantee some bonus points if you do well. Currently it is Ernie Graham / Robin Kellard who are leading the class ahead of three of the Fiesta ST crews but with Max Utting, Rob Dennis, Andy Davison and Barry Jordan also in this class it is only likely to be settled on the Wyedean.

<  Ernie Graham & Robin Kellard on the recent NG Stages

Class 3 for cars up to 1600cc is unsurprisingly being dominated by George Lepley and Tom Woodburn (Fiesta R2) who have already won the BTRDA R2 Cup and with it a free entry into Wales Rally GB National Rally. 

In class 2 for cars up to 1400cc it already looks as if it will be a contest between Tommi Meadows, Chris Powell, Dave Brick and Kieran Darrington, whilst Sam & Liam Johnson currently lead Class 1 for the smaller engine Rally First cars.

                                                                                                                                                         Tommi Meadows on the Carlisle Stages  >

It is good to see that all the leading MAXXIS MSA English Rally Championship competitors are among the 140 crews entered in the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages. The full entry list can be viewed at    Following the MSA’s relaxation of the rules in respect of the running order on rallies, the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages, will see all the two-wheel drive cars in the entry traversing the stages first, in reverse order, before the four-wheel drive element leave the start ‘in the order of anticipated performance’. The Woodpecker is based at Ludlow Racecourse which will be the location of the Scrutineering, Start, two Service halts and the Finish.

(Photographs courtesy of Kevin Money & Malc Almond)

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.