It seems we are a tad rally heavy so far this year, and for that I make no apologies as we’re well into the rally season! The elements may hamper most track based events, and car shows are a total no-no until at least the spring in the UK, but the one thing we can rely on are the forests being as busy as ever as the rally season springs into life!

Obviously the high profile WRC is well underway, and the British Rally Championship began last weekend with the Sunseeker, but for the BTRDA championship we’re already 2 rounds in and Garage Awesome have been at both bringing you fantastic coverage through our hardened rally specialist; Coop.

Hugh Hunter

If you put our round 1 and 2 reports side by side, it looks as though they could be months apart, with the Wyedean covered in snow and slush whereas for the weekend’s Malcolm Wilson Stages, although heavy rain overnight made the stages muddy, glorious sunshine and warmer weather greeted us over the Cumbrian landscape.

The action was immediately fantastic and it took just one special stage to kill off the chances of Charlie Payne making it 2 wins out of 2 as he put his Focus off the road deep into the stage. With Payne out, it left the other WR1 drivers to fight for position, Hugh Hunter and co-driver Andy Marchbank were quickest through the first stage in the Focus, chased by Roger Chilman in their Impreza with the pair split by the Class B car of David Wright. Stage 2 saw Hunter fastest again, although Davis Wright had climbed within 5 seconds of the leaders in his Evo. A further 15 seconds was all that separated the top 6 with Paul Bird, Steve Perez, Euan Thorburn and third overall; Roger Chilman all vying for the lead.

Hunter was also quickest through stage 3 making his gap over Wright now 9 seconds and the top 5 separated by 17 seconds. Thorburn had lost time placing him 8th overall after the Greystoke Stage. Jamie Anderson appeared to be the fastest Group N runner, just 41 seconds off the pace and heading into SS4 in 7th overall in the Evo.

Tripod

The famous Grizedale stage was the first of the day that didn’t go to Hugh Hunter, he lost 6 seconds to the storming David Wright, making the gap for the overall rally lead just 3 seconds. Perez appeared to be way off the pace, and trouble at the end of the stage meant his rally would be over, leaving Paul Bird closest to the leading pair with a 13second gap. Round 1 hero Julian Wilkes was heading the 1400 field again, and at the end of SS4 had over a minute over his nearest rival and was running 24th overall in the mighty Nova.

A disaster in SS5 saw front runner David Wright stop in the stage and join both Payne and Perez out of the rally leaving just Bird, who incidentally posted the quickest stage time and Thorburn, who had done well to make up for his SS3 mistakes, with a chance of the rally win. The second running through Greystoke saw Bird take another 7 seconds off of Hunter’s lead, meaning going into the last stage the pair would be separated by only 5 seconds, Jamie Anderson was now 5th in Group N, and Wright’s departure left Shaun Gardener leading the B Class and 5th overall. With only the final Cumbrian stage looming, it was too much for Thorburn and 4th place WR1 driver; Michael O’brien to make up.

In a dramatic run through Wythop and the final stage, Paul Bird drove the wheels off his car, desperate to make up the 5 second gap, but although he won the stage, Hunter was only 2 seconds down the road leaving a 3 second gap and enough to claim the Malcolm Wilson Stages rally win. Thorburn remained 3rd overall, just over a minute back from the leaders. Shaun Gardener remained the Class B winner and 5th overall, Anderson remained group N winner and 6th overall and Julian Wilkes climbed to 18th overall spot and taking his second 1400 class win of the BTRDA season.

Impreza

With 81 out of the 117 starters completing the rally, the Malcolm Wilson Stages gave the spectators plenty to see right through to the very last stages, and with 45miles of forest stage to have 2 drivers within 2 seconds of each other at the end, it really was a cracking show to watch and follow and has us really prepared and ready for the rest of the motorsport world to kick into life over the next few weekends!

As we have mentioned before, if you are into your rallying and want to find out when they are close to you or are next in action (21st April, Somerset Stages – Minehead) then head over to the BTRDA website www.btrdarally.com or for more specific news from the Malcolm Wilson Stages visit www.malcolmwilson.co.uk.

Words – Ollie / Pictures – Rich

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