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.