The organisers of the Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally were grateful to event supporters Phil Price Rally School for they will be providing us with prizes for our marshals / radio person / signed on stage personnel draw for the 2023 event.
Two draws took place for a FULL DAY experience at the Phil Price Rally School and in addition, one marshal / radio person signed on stage personnel from each of the three stage venues could win a high speed rally car experience at the Phil Price Rally School.
These prizes were made possible by John Caine of Phil Price Rally School, and like Phil Price had been, he is a regular marshal on the Woodpecker himself.
Winners of the Full Day experience at Phil Price Rally School
Dan Timmins – Marshal – Haye Park
Volunteer A – Marshal – Post 5 – Ceri
Winners of the ride experience at Phil Price Rally School
Dylan Strong – Marshal – Hopton
Volunteer B – Marshal – Cwmysgawen
Volunteer C – Marshal – Post 5 – Ceri
All Rally School vouchers will be delivered by post to the lucky winners.
Thank you for all your continued support!
Arron Newby kept his MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series title hopes alive by taking a closely fought Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally victory on Saturday [9 September].
Newby and co-driver Jamie Edwards had been embroiled in a battle all-rally long with Elliott Payne and Tom Woodburn, but it was the Skoda Fabia R5 driver that would come out on top after eight intense stages, with just three seconds in hand over the second-placed crew. Rob Wilson and Richard Crozier rounded out the top three in their battle-scarred Mitsubishi EVO VII.
The searing late summer sun would add an extra dimension to the weekend’s action as the Ludlow-based event would see rising temperatures and hanging dust making the right forest stages on both sides of the English and Welsh border. Supported for a second year by Presteigne Tyre Services and Phil Price Rally School, the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised forest event ran for the 40th year and attracted an impressive list of contenders who would face tackle eight stages and around 44 competitive miles throughout the day.
A revised route for 2023 saw brand new stages introduced and offered the chance for some of the UK’s fastest gravel drivers to prove their pace and secure the overall rally win, whilst also keeping one eye on their championship hopes.
But it was an early drama for one of the pre-event favorites Matt Hirst who was forced to withdraw the night before the event with engine issues in his Fiesta R5, leaving the likes of Payne and Newby to battle it out.
Newby held the early lead but just for one stage as Ludlow’s Perry Gardener stamped his mark on the timesheets to go fastest on the second test, Ceri and move ahead. Gardener and Jack Bowen then set another scratch time on the Hopton stage, before a sad early bath in Haye Park – just a stone’s throw from the family business, their Fiesta R5 suffering suspension issues.
That promoted Newby back into the lead and after a slow start from Payne, he was just 12 seconds shy at the mod-point service back at the Racecourse. But the blistering heat would take its toll and Payne was evidently suffering as he returned Ludlow, and it would be a tall order to overhaul Newby over the remaining four stages.
But Payne gave it everything – winning three stages over the afternoon loop to eat into Newby’s lead; but it wouldn’t be enough and Newby was elated to secure the overall win, ensuring he could take the BTRDA title fight to the next round.
“That’s an unbelievable weekend,” said Newby.
“We have been really consistent all day and the car has been mega. We went on a hard tyre to make sure it lasted and we came to that last stage with Elliot just six seconds behind. I said to Jamie [Co-driver], let’s just give it everything but it was so difficult in the dust, we couldn’t see a thing for the first two miles.
“But honestly I didn’t expect to be stood here with the champagne in first, it’s a really surprising win”.
Whilst Payne took second, it was Wilson who took the maximum score in the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship, hauling his Mitsubishi to an impressive result despite the more modern machinery around him, and rounding out the podium in the process.
Russ Thompson enjoyed a day-long battle for the podium but was forced to settle for fourth in his Mitsubishi Evo IX with Steve Link on the notes, whilst Alistair Ginley and Craig Thorley rounded out the top five in their Ford Fiesta Rally2.
The National section of the event would house the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship contenders and it would be a victory for home hero Joe Price and Chris Brooks in their Ford Escort MKII. The lead swapped three times over the opening three stages with stage one winner and FIAT 131 driver Nick Elliott being shunted down the order by George Lepley’s Mitsubishi Galant on the next.
But by the third test Price moved into the lead and from there he had full control of the pack and despite a late charge from Lepley, Price held his own to take the National victory on home turf. Lepley grabbed the runner-up spot on the Galant’s full rally debut whilst it was Herefordshire’s Roger Chilman who took third with Patrick Walsh on the notes in their Ford Escort MKII. The podium was also enough to hand Chilman maximum points in the British Historic Rally Championship – his third BHRC win of the season.
The event was a qualifying round of the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship and the Seacon UK English Rally Championship. Other regional series included the Welsh Historic Rally Championship, IPS Paints Rally Challenge, ANWCC Forest Stage Rally Championship and HRCR Stage Masters Rally Challenge.
The Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally is ready to welcome around 130 crews to Ludlow this weekend [9 September] as the popular gravel rally returns with a brand-new look for 2023.
Supported for a second year by Presteigne Tyre Services and Phil Price Rally School, the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised forest event will see a top-quality list of contenders tackle eight stages and around 44 competitive miles in forests on both sides of the England and Wales border.
With a fresh new format this time around, the rally will take in stages never used previously by the event, as well as reigniting some old favourites and retaining the crowd-pleasing stages that both fans and drivers have come to enjoy.
And the lure of a new challenge has attracted a bumper entry to the Ludlow Racecourse rally base this weekend, bolstered by being a round of a host of top-drawer championships including the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship and Seacon UK English Rally Championship. Other regional series include the Welsh Historic Rally Championship, IPS Paints Rally Challenge, ANWCC Forest Stage Rally Championship and HRCR Stage Masters Rally Challenge making the trip.
And it will be last year’s podium sitter Elliott Payne who will enjoy number one on the doors of his Ford Fiesta Rally2 after taking third overall in 2022. Payne and co-driver Tom Woodburn are in the pound seat for the BTRDA title fight and a good result here will certainly boost their chances of a back-to-back title.
Also in contention are Matt Hirst and Declan Dear and the pairing starts at number two seeds in the Fiesta R5. Hirst hasn’t managed to finish the Woodpecker since 2018, so is hoping his luck will change this time around and is another to be looking at points in the championship fight.
Tackling his first gravel rally of 2023, Hugh Hunter brings his Ford Fiesta Rally2 to the event with Mark Glennerster calling the notes. Hunter has been out of action for much of the season but will use the rally as a reintroduction to the forests.
Arron Newby and Jamie Edwards break up the Ford chain with their Skoda Fabia R5 at car four and are another pairing to be concentrating on the BTRDA title chase. Wins at the Malcolm Wilson Rally and Rallynuts stages means they have impressive form already this year and another victory is on the cards.
The first local contender is Perry Gardner from Ludlow, who makes only his second outing of 2023. Gardner took the runner-up spot on the rally last year but with all new stages this time around, it could well be a tough ask to repeat that result. He wheels out his Ford Fiesta R5 with Jack Bowen in the co-driver’s seat.
Other notable contenders in the top ten include Northern Ireland’s Alan Carmichael who comes straight from his British Rally Championship campaign to Ludlow in his Hyundai i20 R5 and Ian Bainbridge who will tackle only his second event in his new Volkswagen Polo GTi R5.
And it’s not just the four-wheel drive machinery that will wow the crowds on Saturday. The British Historic Rally Championship contenders will also be battling for honours in the National section of the event and at the top of the field is last year’s category winner and local ace Henri Grehan who tackles his first event of 2023 with Emma Clarke alongside in the Escort MKII. The Ludlow driver is also the reigning Historic champion but could well need a few stages to get back into the groove.
Keeping Herefordshire hopes alive is Roger Chilman, who has Patrick Walsh on the notes as usual. The Escort MKII crew have won the first two rounds of the BHRC this season but have dropped away a little as the season progressed.
The FIAT 131 Abarth of Nick Elliot and Dave Price is another fan favourite and although they are series leaders, a win has eluded the pairing so far this year. More local contenders include Ludlow’s Robert Gough with Paul Morris in the co-driver’s seat and just a few cars back will be his father Richard in the ex-Ari Vatanen Escort, a multiple Woodpecker winner in his own right. Ludlow’s Joe Price also throws his hat into the ring in his Ford Escort, with Chris Brooks on the notes.
Spectators will get plenty of chances to see the cars at close quarters and in action during the weekend too, with opportunities to view the cars as they arrive at Ludlow Racecourse on Friday [8 September] from 14:00.
The Racecourse also hosts the start at 07:31 on Saturday [9 September], as well as the mid-point service halt from 12:05 and the ceremonial finish from 17:30 that day.
The action can be found in the Ceri stage, located just south of the Village itself and that test runs twice, at 09:52 and 15:17. The popular Haye Park stage returns just outside of Ludlow and is also run twice, at 11:38 and 17:03. Parking at each location is £10 per car including a guide and entry to Ludlow Racecourse is free of charge.
More information for spectators can be found on the event website www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk
The latest updates can be found on the event’s social media feeds.
We are sad to inform you that long-time Sixty & Worcs member, Woodpecker Entries Secretary and co-driver Roger Allan passed away today after a short illness.
When not helping with the “Woody”, Roger was often found in the co-driver seat of many national events, starting out in the 80’s with Nigel Wakefield and latterly alongside Paul Davy in his Subaru Impreza.
We ask you to respect the family, and ensure that no calls are made to the number given in the regulations.
We are delighted this year to be celebrating the 40th Woodpecker with the launch of a new book, The Famous Woodpecker Stages Rally. Written by Club historian Dood Pearce, there are over 300 pages packed with write ups of every Woodpecker Rally since 1983.
Plenty of photos, results and interesting facts. If you’ve ever competed on the Woodpecker,
you’re in the book! For details on how to buy this limited edition see below.
CELEBRATING 40 YEARS OF WOODPECKER RALLIES
- SOME NEVER BEFORE SEEN PHOTOS
- SPECIAL BOOK LAUNCH OFFER – £30 (RRP £35)
- 336 PAGES
- LIMITED EDITION
- FULL RESULTS
ORDER YOUR £30 COPY AND COLLECT FROM RALLY HQ OR ADD £7.50 POST & PACKING
E-MAIL YOUR ORDER TO PHIL MACDONELL: firstname.lastname@example.org
PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS
PAYMENT BY BANK TRANSFER TO:
SORT CODE: 20-98-61 ACCOUNT NO. 5099 3778
SIXTY AND WORCESTERSHIRE RALLY CLUB LTD
The Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally will have a very different look in 2023, as the 9 September event introduces a brand-new format for the popular Ludlow-based forest rally.
Supported for a second year by Presteigne Tyre Services and Phil Price Rally School, the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised loose surface stage rally will continue its theme of progression and diversification by revamping the entire route of the rally and utilising little-used forests on both sides of the Welsh and English borders.
As one of the most popular events on the British rallying calendar, many of the popular features have been retained, including its traditional Ludlow Racecourse base and eight special stages. But a radical shakeup in the route will see some new tests included on the roster, bolstered by the return of forests not used for decades by the rally.
Introduced to the Woodpecker Rally for the first time this year will be the Cwmysgawen forest complex, just west of Knighton in Powys. Only now used for one other event per year, the introduction of the test will be the opening stage of the event and like all others, used twice.
Another little used forest and brand new to the event will be the Ceri test. Situated just outside of Newtown, the stage will provide an exciting high-speed test for crews before they begin to return to more familiar ground in the shape of Hopton. Despite not being used for several years, the short blast is a firm favourite with drivers and makes a welcome return to the schedule.
The rally will also retain its highly popular double run through Haye Park, just outside of Ludlow. Traditionally attracting many spectators from the town and surrounding areas, the blast through the forest on the English side of the border provides a fitting climax to the event before the return to the racecourse for the champagne spray finish celebrations.
Clerk of the Course Graham Hopewell is excited to introduce the new changes to the rally for this year.
“We are delighted to reveal our new look for the Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally this September and believe that it creates one of the most exciting formats for many years,” he says.
“With some of the Radnor complex unavailable we have been working hard in the background to come up with an alternative approach and this new route utilises some Woodpecker classics as well as world-class stages across the region. It’s important for events to keep evolving whilst retaining some characteristics that are key to its success and we believe we have done just that this year. It’s an exciting phase of the Woodpecker Rally’s history and we would like to thank to continued support of our sponsors Presteigne Tyre Services and Phil Price Rally School”.
The event was renamed in 2022 in memory of the highly regarded rally driver and coach Phil Price, who sadly passed away in 2021 and will once again welcome a variety of top-line championships, including the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship, the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship, Seacon UK English Rally Championship, IPS Paints Rally Challenge, ANWCC Forest Stage Rally Championship and HRCR Stage Masters Rally Challenge.
More information on the event will be released in the coming weeks and can be found on the event website www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk
The latest updates can be found on the event’s social media feeds.
Callum Black ensured his first rally in nine months was a memorable one, by storming to the Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally win on Saturday [3 September].
The Brackley based driver had only just taken delivery of a brand-new M-Sport Ford built Fiesta Rally2 but settled into the new steed perfectly, as he and co-driver Jack Morton took five from six stage wins and secured victory by fifty-four seconds from Ludlow driver Perry Gardner in second. Elliott Payne rounded out the all-Ford podium in third.
After being forced to run behind closed doors in 2021, the Woodpecker Rally well made welcome return to full strength last weekend as spectators were welcomed back into the forests to witness the action in both Haye Park and Radnor Forest in the Welsh Marches.
Re-named in memory of the highly regarded rally driver and coach Phil Price, the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised event was supported by Presteigne Tyre Service and Phil Price Rally School for its return and had attracted a variety of top-line championships and a bumper entry to boot.
Black was on-form from the off, setting the fastest time by a slender two seconds from number one seeds Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear in their Fiesta R5. Local ace Gardener and co-driver Jack Bowen were third but already some 14 seconds shy after the opener.
The move into Radnor Forest offered two tests within the complex and Hirst retaliated on the first, taking back three seconds from Black to move into the lead. But the tide turned on the very next and Black headed into service with just one second in hand.
But a broken rear control arm in the second pass of Haye Park put Hirst out of the fight and Black was left to his own devices, taking the scratch time on each of the final three stages to seal an impressive win on his rallying return. His rally win also gave him maximum points in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series.
Gardener couldn’t quite live with the newer machinery of Black but was first Ludlow driver home and was a delighted second overall. He was also first in the Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship behind the wheel of his Fiesta R5, his father Shaun a two-time winner of the rally in 2006 and 2009.
British Rally Championship regular Elliot Payne enjoyed the final podium spot in his borrowed Fiesta Rally2 from Dad Charles, as his was already in Aberystwyth ready to start the next round of the BRC. With Patrick Walsh on the notes, he went on to finish fifth in Ceredigion after a busy weekend for the young ace.
The Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship would make its first trip to the event and with it, a titanic battle for top spot which thrilled the crowds during the day.
And there was more success for Ludlow as hometown hero Henri Grehan kept his title hopes alive by taking a thrilling BHRC and National event win.
Grehan and co-driver Dan Petrie would hurl their Ford Escort MKII into a gripping battle with the FIAT 131 Abarth pairing of three-time British Rally Champion Matt Edwards and co-driver Hamish Campbell.
Swapping seconds all day, the fight for the win went down to the wire as they headed into the final stage of the event tied for the lead. However, Edwards failed to emerge, breaking the rear suspension on the FIAT, allowing Grehan to claim a home victory.
Fellow Ludlow man Robert Gough took the runner up spot with Sam Collis on the notes in their Escort MKII whilst Nick Elliott and Dave Price upheld the FIAT honours with third and the final podium spot.
The event was a qualifying round of the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship, MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Ravenol Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship, Seacon UK English Rally Championship, Welsh Historic Rally Championship, IPS Paints Rally Challenge, ANWCC Forest Stage Rally Championship and HRCR Stage Masters Rally Challenge.
A capacity entry will head to Ludlow next weekend as the Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally blasts back into action on Saturday 3 September.
Supported by Presteigne Tyre Service and Phil Price Rally School, the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised loose surface stage rally is one of the most popular events on the British rallying calendar and has attracted a bumper entry as it returns to its traditional Ludlow Racecourse base.
Forced to run behind closed doors in 2021 due to COVID restrictions, the rally returns to full strength with stages in both England and the Welsh Marches, as over 160 cars tackle the one-day forest event, renamed for 2022 in memory of the highly regarded rally driver and coach Phil Price, who sadly passed away in 2021.
The event’s popularity has been boosted by a variety of top-line championships, including the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship which makes the trip for the first time. They will be joined by the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Ravenol Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship, Seacon UK English Rally Championship, Welsh Historic Rally Championship, IPS Paints Rally Challenge, ANWCC Forest Stage Rally Championship and HRCR Stage Masters Rally Challenge.
Carrying the coveted number one on the doors will be BTRDA series leaders Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear in their Fiesta R5 who have already taken two maximum scores so far this season. But the fight will be a tough one as British Rally Championship regular Elliot Payne embarks on a mammoth weekend of competition, kicking off at the Woodpecker.
Payne and co-driver Patrick Walsh will tackle Saturday’s event in a Fiesta Rally2, before hot footing it to Aberystwyth to take on the next round of the BRC which starts later that evening, aiming to score valuable points in both championships in the process!
Equipped with a brand-new Ford Fiesta Rally2, Callum Black and Jack Morton make a spectacular return to rallying, armed with the latest specification machine from M-Sport World Rally Team. Whilst they may take a few miles to get up to speed, Black pace is well proven and could well take a victory on his debut in the car.
Stephen Petch last won the event in 2016 and rounds out a trio of Fiesta Rally2’s at number four. He and Michael Wilkinson are adapting to the new car this year and will need to be on form to keep up with the leading pack.
Local hero Perry Gardner rounds out the top five in his Fiesta R5. The Ludlow driver has impressed onlookers with his pace in older specification machinery this year and with jack Bowen on the notes, could well use their local knowledge to secure a top result.
But you need to look well down the top twenty if you are betting on a winner this year with names like Russ Thompson/Steve Link and Richard Hill/Patrick Cooper sitting outside of the top five seed, it will be tough to predict a winner.
To enable all cars to enjoy the best road conditions, two-wheel drive crews will run first on the road in reverse seeded order before the heavy-hitting four-wheel drive’s and that’s where you will find the battle for the British Historic Rally Championship.
Heading that charge will be three-time British Rally Champion Matt Edwards in his FIAT 131 Abarth who has enjoyed a sensational return to historic rallying with Hamish Campbell on the notes. Edwards has hauled the FIAT to multiple event wins in 2022 and aims to continue that winning way at the Woodpecker.
Nick Elliot/Dave Price will be in the sister car aiming to hunt them down, whilst Hereford’s Roger Chilman leads the Ford Escort MK2 charge. The local honours could well be the strongest battle of the two-wheel-drive brigade as Ludlow’s Henri Grehan and Joe Price go head-to-head for top spot, both in Ford Escorts.
Ludlow is well represented outside of the Historic crews with Neil Weaver wheeling out his impressive Opel Corsa S1600 with co-driver Jamie Edwards alongside. Weaver is just behind Robert Gough on the road in his immaculate Ford Escort MK2 which was once owned by WRC ace Ari Vatanen.
Fans will have plenty of opportunities to catch the cars, crews, and the action over the weekend as they are welcomed back to the event for the first time since 2019. Ludlow Racecourse hosts pre-event technical checks on Friday 2nd September, from 14:00 to 19:00 and the venue will then host the Ceremonial Start [08:31], mid-event service [11:39] and ceremonial finish [from 15:58] during rally day itself.
Those looking to watch the cars in action can head to Haye Park just outside of Ludlow or Radnor Forest in Powys, with four chances to view during the day. Haye Park runs twice and takes place at 08:55 and 13:09 whilst Radnor also enjoys a double run at 10:10 and 14:24. Car parking is £10 per car with Spectator Information provided and can be used as a pass across any other event spectator car park.
More information can be found on the event website www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk and the latest updates can be found on the event’s social media feeds.
One of the most popular events on the British rallying calendar has seen its new name and format widely praised by the motorsport fraternity as the Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Rally launches ahead of the 3 September event.
Supported by Presteigne Tyre Service and Phil Price Rally School, the forest stage rally has been renamed in memory of the highly regarded rally driver and coach Phil Price, who sadly passed away in 2021.
Organised and promoted by Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club, the rally will also see a return to its popular base of Ludlow Racecourse in Shropshire after being forced to run behind closed doors last year due to the pandemic restriction in place.
Held entirely in the Radnor forest complex last September, the rally will now go back into the much-loved Haye Park forest and with the addition of Radnor, will offer over 44 miles of competitive action for crews.
Opening its doors last week, the rally has already seen the maximum number of entries received as a host of competitors strive to contest the ever-popular rally which can finally return to full strength for the first time since 2019.
The event has also attracted several top-flight championships in 2022, with the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship making the trip for the first time. They will be joined by the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Ravenol Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship, Seacon UK English Rally Championship, Welsh Historic Rally Championship, IPS Paints Rally Challenge, ANWCC Forest Stage Rally Championship and HRCR Stage Masters Rally Challenge.
Graham Hopewell, Clerk of the Course is delighted by the response to this year’s event.
“The organising team are very happy indeed to see such a positive response to the Woodpecker Rally this year, especially as we dedicate the event to the memory of Phil Price,” he says.
“Phil was well known for his Rally School which still runs today and along with Presteigne Tyre Services, wanted to commemorate his work by re-naming the Woodpecker in his honour, which of course we are delighted to do. I`d like to thank Vaughan Allcock at EventSigns for his support as title sponsor over the years and we are excited to see the rally return to its roots in 2022”.
Supporting the rally for the first time, Phil Price Rally School’s John Caine is honoured that the rally has taken Phil’s name.
“The legend maybe gone, but his legacy continues” he says.
“We have strived hard to continue the rally school to the highest standard, especially after such a hard couple of years for everyone! It’s great to see his spirit is still very much amongst us all in the rally community, now with the Woodpecker being held in his memory. I know his wife Sheila is thrilled to have such a tribute to Phil. I look forward to a growing relationship with the Woodpecker team! – I just hope I can do Phil proud on the day!”
Arguably the spiritual home of the Woodpecker Rally, Ludlow Racecourse will once again house the pre-event formalities on Friday 2 September, as well as hosting the rally start, mid-event service and finish celebrations the following day.
Spectators will also be welcomed back into Haye Park and Radnor Forest after a year away, with the chance to catch the action at a variety of locations during the day.
More information will be released closer to the event and updates will be posted on the rally’s social media and website feeds.
Scottish rally driver Garry Pearson secured a dominant victory at last weekend’s Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally [4 September], winning four of the event’s five stages outright in the process.
Pearson and co-driver Niall Burns took their Skoda Fabia R5 to the win with almost a minute in hand to their nearest challengers George Lepley and Tom Woodburn in their Mitsubishi Evo X. Ian Bainbridge and Will Atkins rounded out the podium places in third.
Organised and promoted by Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club, the event saw a shift in format for 2021 with all of the competitive stages taking place entirely within the Radnor Forest complex in Powys, Wales. The event base would also shift from its traditional Ludlow base to Badlands Farm near Kinnerton and 120 competitors would line up to take the start of the popular annual event with five stages and 44 miles of competitive action ahead.
Fresh from a category win at a British Rally Championship qualifier in Aberdeen just a few weeks previously, Pearson would show his hand early, stopping the clocks six seconds faster than number one seeds Callum Black and Jack Morton in their Ford Fiesta R5. However, stage two saw Pearson move into a class of his own with a 14-second lead heading into the first service of the day.
The second loop saw the chasing pack begin to close in on the Scots stage times but it would be too little, too late and Person was left to celebrate not only the event overall win on his first visit to the rally but also scooping maximum points in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series and Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship to boot.
“It feels really good to win here,” he said at the finish.
“I’m quite surprised in a lot of respects to be honest. This morning I didn’t feel fully at the races, but the times were there and then this afternoon it was a case of getting through and we did it; I`m very happy, over the moon.”
“It was a challenging day all round, of course, it was a shame for Callum [Black – to retire] but the stages were great, full credit to the organisers as the stages held up very well and they were really enjoyable. Delighted with the day to be honest”
Black was looking like the closest challenger to the Skoda driver over the morning loop and would sit in third spot after the third test. However, he would not emerge from the fourth, clipping a log pile and breaking the steering in his Fiesta.
Stepping into that position would be Lepley who was throwing his ageing Mitsubishi through the gruelling and super-fast Radnor tests in impressive fashion. His pace early in the day ensured he took a worthy second place overall.
Bainbridge struggled early in the day with set-up issues in his Skoda R5 but after changes in the first service halt, would start to make progress up the leader board to become Pearson’s nearest challenger towards the end of the rally. After finding himself in a lowly 17th overall after the opening test, he climbed through the ranks to finish a notable third.
Elliot Payne has only a handful of gravel events under his belt but set a blistering early pace to sit third after the opener. Payne and co-driver Cameron Fair were never outside of the top three times in their Fiesta R5 during the day, aside from the second test when they were stuck behind a slowing competitor’s dust, dropping well over a minute in the process. They fought back to fourth by the close of play.
Arguably the drive of the day came from local ace Perry Gardener and co-driver Jack Bowen. Gardener, from Ludlow and son of previous event winner Shaun, would make his four-wheel-drive debut in a Fiesta R5 and instantly took to the new machine; rounding out the top five.
Paul Barrett and Gordon Noble made the trip over from Ireland a worthwhile one, to take top two-wheel-drive and Historic in their Ford Escort Mk2. Herefordshire’s Roger Chilman would be fighting for Historic honours through the day, before succumbing to a double puncture on the very last test in his Escort MK2.
The Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally was forced to run behind closed doors in 2021, but it is hoped that the popular event will return to a more traditional format in 2022.
Image: Rallysport Media