OUT WITH THE OLD!….

As we bid a warm welcome to Protyre, headline sponsor of the 2024 BTRDA Rally Series, and Reis Motorsport Insurance for the Motorsport UK English Rally Championship – both of which start on the Malcolm Wilson Rally – Elliot Payne, the first driver to take back-to-back BTRDA Gold Star® Championship titles for nearly thirty years, returns in an attempt to extend his run of success still further.       The featured image shows Elliot Payne’s Fiesta Rally2 in the Grizedale forest snow! 

The entry list for the Malcolm Wilson Rally runs to around 100 cars and, even at this early stage, it’s quite obvious that the ‘pretenders’ to all the major categories in both the Protyre BTRDA Rally Series and Reis Motorsport Insurance Motorsport UK English Rally Championship will have their work cut out if, by the end of the year, their campaigns are to be deemed successful!  While Elliot Payne – who is reunited with Patrick Walsh, his co-driver for his 2022 Gold Star title, this year – will, undoubtedly, be a force-to-be-reckoned-with in the Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Gold Star® Championship, it would be reasonable to assume that he won’t have things all his own way. Enduring a disastrous end to last season which saw their Fiesta R5 fail to complete an event after the Nicky Grist Stages in July, proven winners at BTRDA level, Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear still finished in the Top Six Gold Star contenders!  Russ Thompson / Steve Link beat all-comers on last year’s season-ending Cambrian Rally in their Class B13 Lancer EVO9 and they are now joined by the similar car of former BTRDA Production Cup winners Pat Naylor / Ian Lawrence.

<<<   Russ Thompson/Steve Link (Lancer EVO9) – Outright Winners 2023 Cambrian Rally

Meanwhile, having also sat out 2023, Perry Gardener / Jack Bowen (Fiesta R5) return to the fold once more. Perry’s dad, Shaun, was BTRDA Gold Star Champion in 2006 and 2012, while Perry, himself, finished runner-up on his ‘home’ Woodpecker Stages last time he contested it – so, not only do the Gardener family attributes include the knowledge of what is required to be a winner, but also the wherewithal to produce the goods!…
While any discussions in respect of this year’s Gold Star could be loosely categorised as ‘possibilities’, we can definitely say that the Protyre BTRDA Silver Star® Championship trophy will have a new name on it. Current holders Ben Friend / Cliff Simmons are only undertaking a limited programme of events in 2024, leaving the way open for others to take up the cudgel. For example, 2022 Silver Star winners Rob Wright / Mark Fisher (Escort Mk2), from Whitehaven, are tackling their ‘home’ event, while Andy Davison and 2019 Silver Star Champion Co-driver Tom Murphy return in their Sunbeam VXR.

                                                                                               Andy Davison / Tom Murphy (Sunbeam VXR) >>>>>

Over the past couple of seasons, several front-wheel drive cars have graced the Silver Star podium on events, as have vehicles contesting what is henceforth to be known as the Reis Motorsport Insurance BTRDA Historic Cup. Endeavouring to maintain that tradition, Lewis Hooper / Rhys Edwards have forsaken their award-winning Micra in favour of a Fiesta to concentrate on the BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup and they will be joined by Liam Clark / Emily Easton-Page in an as yet un-named car.
Steve Ward / Phil Sandham are targeting the Historic Cup in their Escort Mk2, as are Ernie & Patricia Lee whose BMW 325i finished 2nd in class on last year’s Malcolm Wilson Rally.  Having made their intentions perfectly clear during the latter half of the 2022 Fuchs Lubricants BTRDA Bronze Star Rally Championship, Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) returned last season to claim the title with an unbeatable (even by them!) ‘full-house’ – six maximum scores! The husband-and-wife team from the Forest of Dean are back for more but, as is ever the case, they’ll be up against those out to de-rail their ambition – in the nicest possible way! – including, on this occasion, 2021 Bronze Star Champion Steve Black (Suzuki Swift) who has enlisted the help of Jack Morton,
Chris & James Greenall (Nova), Ashley Francis-Adams / Mark Ammonds (Micra), Chris Bush / Robert Bryn (Corsa) and Dale Glover / David Smalley (AlfaSud Ti). Brace yourselves!…

<<<<  Nigel & Kaz Jenkins (Nova) – Little (1400cc) Giant-Killers in 2023.  Shown here on their ‘local’ event, the Wyedean Rally 

For the first five events in its seven-round calendar, the Reis Motorsport Insurance MSUK English Rally Championship follows the BTRDA Rally Series and, as such, also begins on the Malcolm Wilson Rally. Anyone registered for the BTRDA Series is automatically eligible to score ERC points and, as it is class-based, it’s not necessarily the most powerful cars that come out on top. Not for the first time, this was graphically illustrated by Ernie Graham who was the 2023 English Rally Champion in his immaculate MkI Escort RS1600. For the new season, Ernie is pinning his hopes on a Lancer EVOX which, in addition to defending his ERC title, also puts him slap-bang in the middle of a very hotly-contested Class B13 in the BTRDA Series!…

For details of the Malcolm Wilson Rally: www.malcolmwilson.co.uk

All photos © Kevin Money and Malcolm Almond