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
Event regulations for the 2021 Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally will be available on 21st July.
Entries will open online on 28th July at 7pm.
The entry list will open at 7pm on Wednesday 28th July and close for normal entries as per programme. All
entries must be made on line using the rallies.info service, there is a link on the Woodpecker web site
(www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk), under the Competitors tab. Payment can only be made by bank transfer.
The website will automatically issue an e-mail acknowledgement of receipt, which will provide the Woodpecker bank
account details, this e-mail is NOT an acceptance of your entry. Your entry will only be accepted once payment
has been received and will be confirmed by a further e-mail. Entries will be accepted in order of receipt with
preference given to fully completed entry forms, except that 80 entries will be reserved for registered competitors
in the championships listed in SR5 until 7pm on Friday 30th July (D14).
One of the most popular events on the British rallying calendar, the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally will see a major shift in format in 2021 to secure the best possible chance of the event going ahead on 4th September 2021.
Organised and promoted by Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club, the event will see each of the competitive stages take place entirely within the Radnor Forest complex in Powys, Wales, whilst the event service moves from its traditional Ludlow base to a new location near Kinnerton.
As a round of the the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship and Seacon UK English Rally Championship, the event will still provide over 44 stage miles of competitive action spread across five tests within Radnor as forest stages in England remain out of bounds for motorsport events until at least October.
Having been forced to cancel the 2020 running of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stage rallying has seen a staggered return since the easing of some restrictions across the UK. However, many local government limitations remain and the event organising team have been working hard to secure the running of the 2021 event.
Clerk of the Course Graham Hopewell said “We have been looking at all options available to us to ensure we can run an Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally worthy of our traditionally top-quality event. With the likes of Haye Park unusable due to Forestry England restrictions, we had to look at alternatives and of course moving entirely into Wales was the logical choice. We have completed a recent route and venue survey and are delighted to be able to confirm that this year’s competitive stages will be held entirely within the Radnor forest complex”.
This significant but necessary change offers the best possible chance of the event going ahead.
“We had to think outside of the box and creating a single-venue style event within Radnor was the logical step” continues Hopewell.
“Of course, September is a long way away and we are very much hoping many restrictions would ease by then but there are still a huge amount of uncertainties with venues and access so moving quickly to develop a structured plan would be the best proposition for ensuring the event could run. Ludlow Racecourse is currently a vaccine centre and of course, we have a responsibility to the local community to reduce travel and the impact of sporting events at the moment.
“We will offer over 44 miles of special stages and after a recent route survey, they look in superb shape having been rested for over 12 months. Of course, it’s very different to the ‘Woody’ we all know and love, but we truly believe this is the best possible outcome to ensure the event can go ahead as planned. Sadly we cannot permit spectators this year due to restrictions but we will be working towards a more traditional event in 2022.”
The Eventsigns Woodpecker Rally is a qualifying round of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship, Seacon UK English Rally Championship, Welsh Historic Rally Championship supported by Brian Dennis Motorsport and Marsh Commercial, the RACRMC Rally2 Championship and ANWCC Forest Rally Championship.
Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club regret to announce the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally, scheduled to run on 5th September 2020 will not go ahead due to uncertainties surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Ludlow based event is a qualifying round of a host of national championships including the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship and Seacon UK English Rally Championship and is regarded as one of the most popular events on the British rallying calendar.
The event organising team have been closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation and had been in the advanced stages of planning for the event, with many tasks completed by officials from home due to the restrictions on travel and movements in Wales.
However, following the latest advice from the Welsh and UK Government and Motorsport UK, the sport’s governing body, the event committee has further reviewed the situation going forward.
With the sport posing a challenge when adhering to social distancing guidelines, and with the uncertainty of any other restrictions like access to forestry and venues, the decision has been made to cancel the rally for 2020.
Clerk of the Course Graham Hopewell said “It’s certainly with a heavy heart that Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club have to announce that the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally will not run this year.
“We have always said, that we would only proceed with this year’s event if, before the middle of July, we could be confident that the Covid risk had passed and we could be certain of running with no risk of cancellation, and with no risk to the health of competitors organisers and the local communities.
Although we are not quite at the middle of July, it has become increasingly evident that we are not going to be in that position, it is therefore with regret that we have reluctantly decided that we cannot proceed with the 2020 Woodpecker and will instead look forward to a stronger return in 2021. We would like to thank our sponsor Eventsigns for their unrivalled support, our partners and Championships for their understanding and we look forward to seeing everyone in Ludlow next year”.
Organisers have issued a provisional date of Saturday 4th September 2021 for next year’s running of the rally.
Organisers of the 2020 Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally would like to wish everyone the very best of health in these unusual times for us all.
Just a quick note to bring you up to date with our current position in regards to the event, planned for the 5th September.
The organising team are pressing ahead with the planning for September as normal, carrying out as many of the tasks that are possible from home.
The team have put together a route which will largely be based on popular stages used on recent Woodpeckers, this is in order to prevent the need to carry out surveys and site visits during these difficult times.
In order to mitigate any financial impact of a late cancellation on both the event and competitors, and to give all competitors, volunteers and officials suitable time to plan, the organising committee will make a final decision on running the event around 6 weeks prior to the rally, this will be based on the advice of Motorsport UK and the relevant authorities at the time.
We believe this would give us suitable time to be able to carry out the necessary groundwork, PR and site visits to run the rally effectively.
Our overriding concern is to protect the safety and well-being of all involved in the rally as well as the communities through which we run.
We will update our social media feeds and website with more information closer to the event.
In the meantime, please stay safe, stay home and look after yourselves.
The Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally Organising Committee
Ollie Mellors and Ian Windress gave the Proton Iriz R5 it’s first rally victory since the Cambrian Rally in 2018, dominating the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally to win by 20 seconds after five tough stages in the Welsh Marches and Shropshire forests on Saturday (31st August).
Mellors set the benchmark on the opening test, setting equal fastest time with Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson’s Ford Fiesta WRC, before breaking away on the second and never looked back. Mellors’ win gave the Proton it’s first ever rally win since being fully after being homologated by the FIA for international use.
Despite running number 15 seed, a stunning drive from youngster George Lepley in his Mitsubishi Lancer E10, saw him storm to a very impressive second place overall with co-driver Tom Woodburn alongside, netting maximum Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA points.
Petch salvaged the final podium spot, unable to add to his 2016 event win. Two-wheel drive honours and first Ludlow driver home went to local ace Henri Grehan in his Ford Escort MK2, with Jack Bowen alongside. He also scooped maximum Race and Rally – Rally 2 Championship points in the process.
The biggest entry in British rallying during 2019 headed to Ludlow for the 36th running of the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised event as 160 cars headed into forests such as Haye Park and Radnor for an arduous day of motorsport.
Mellors was last behind the wheel of the Proton at Goodwood Festival of Speed but showed no sign of needing to bed into the Haye Park stage, setting a joint fastest time with Petch on the opener. The forest was the scene of his departure from the rally in 2013 but his rapid return was impressive. However, stopping the clocks on the same time was Petch with Sam Bilham just four seconds adrift in his Fiesta R5.
A run to Radnor forest across the border in Wales saw Mellors stamp his authority well and truly on the leaderboard, going 16 seconds faster than anyone else and ensuring a comfortable lead heading into the second loop. The stage sadly saw the retirement of Bilham, with Lepley making his mark yet again thanks to second fastest and closing in on Petch. A repeat order in the following Haye Park test followed which enhanced Mellors’ lead, but Lepley didn’t relent over the remainder of the day, chasing the Proton driver down to the wire.
However, it wouldn’t be enough and Mellors was delighted to secure a Woodpecker win.
“It’s been a fantastic day with no dramas at all really” he said, “we clipped a bale on stage two but aside from that its been trouble free which is always a bonus.”
“The car has been fantastic and it’s great to be give the Proton its first rally win since its homologation. The stages have been great which helps, it’s nice to be back”
Just outside the podium spots, Ian Bainbridge quickly got to grips with his new Skoda Fabia R5 to set some top three times during the day on his way to fourth spot. Co-driven by Jamie Edwards, Bainbridge adapted well from his old Subaru to take his best result of 2019.
Rounding out the top five, Pat Naylor and Ian Lawrence brought their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX home with the Production Cup honours in the process ahead of Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship winners Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy in a similar machine.
Local lad Grehan was the star of the show in the two-wheel-drive category, but the result does not tell the full story as an epic local battle between Ludlow’s Grehan and Hereford’s Roger Chilman developed during the day. It would only be decided on the final test when Chilman’s Ford Escort MK2 lost a wheel, giving Grehan a much-deserved victory.
Andy Davison and Tom Murphy were third, with Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell making the trip from Draperstown in Northern Ireland worthwhile to take fourth.
Image : Rallysport Media – Lepley impressed on 4wd debut to take second
– Click to download high resolution version –
“Its been a difficult day to be honest” said Grehan.
“It started off well and we had a good time through the opening stage which helped us throughout the day. We have been hanging on for the rest of rally to make it through and here we are spraying the champagne.
Clerk of the Course Graham Hopewell was delighted with the day.
“We have to say a huge thank you to all our volunteer marshals and officials who had a long day in the forests to ensure the event ran as smoothly as possible” he said.
”With such a big entry, its inevitable that some delays can happen but each and every one of the team were true professionals. It’s been a fantastic days motorsport and great to see such a diverse entry in the forests around Ludlow and the thousands of spectators who were out enjoying the action. We will have a few weeks off now before the planning for the 37th Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally gets underway”.
The award-winning rally was a qualifier for the popular Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series, the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Stage Rally Championship, the Maxxis Tyres Motorsport UK English Rally Championship, the Brian Dennis Motorsport & www.jelfmotorsport.com Welsh Historic Rally Championship the ANWCC Forest Rally Championship and The Race and Rally – Rally 2 Championship.
Image : Rallysport Media – Petch
– Click to download high resolution version –
Image : Rallysport Media – Local ace Grehan took 2wd honours
– Click to download high resolution version –
More information on the event, including full results, visit
One of the biggest entries in British rallying will head to this weekend’s Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally on Saturday (31st August), with over 160 cars expected to start the Ludlow based event.
A bumper entry has attracted crews from across the UK, Ireland and beyond for the 36th running of the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club, 44-mile all-gravel event which uses classic forests in the Welsh Marches and Shropshire forests such as Haye Park and Radnor.
Sponsored once again by Midlands-based signage specialists Eventsigns, the award-winning rally will once again be a qualifier for the popular Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series, the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Stage Rally Championship, the Maxxis Tyres Motorsport UK English Rally Championship, the Brian Dennis Motorsport & www.jelfmotorsport.com Welsh Historic Rally Championship and the ANWCC Forest Rally Championship. The Race and Rally – Rally 2 Championship joins the event for the first time.
After technical checks and documentation on Friday at the Ludlow Racecourse rally base, leading the huge field away from the ceremonial start on Saturday morning will be 2016 event winners Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson in their familiar WD40 backed Ford Fiesta WRC. The duo missed out on a win last year, finishing second to a very on-form and current British Rally Champion Matt Edwards but will be aiming to etch their names on the trophy for a second time.
However, behind them is a very strong list of competitors all eager to upset Petch’s plans. Ollie Mellors and Ian Windress will give the International specification Proton Iriz R5 its Woodpecker debut at car two. The Mellors Elliott Motorsport built machine has already won the Cambrian rally in the hands of the Derbyshire driver, but will be aiming for its first national rally win after being homologated by the FIA.
Charles Payne and Carl Williamson will be hunting them down in their Fiesta R5 at car three, but Ian Bainbridge and Jamie Edwards could well take the focus off the Ford thanks to debuting their newly acquired Skoda Fabia R5 at car four. Sam Bilham and 2018 and 2019 British Rally Champion co-driver Patrick Walsh round out the top five in their Greenlight Sport and Entertainment backed Fiesta R5.
Sean Devine and Niall Burns lead a gaggle of crews making the trip across the Irish Sea in their Fiesta R5, as well as Martin Cains and Peter Ward (Fiesta WRC), Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell (Ford Escort Mk2) and Noel Lappin and Will Atkins (Ford Escort MK2) to name but a few.
Local crews are also well represented as always on the Woodpecker Stages, with many names edging out for the two-wheel-drive battle. Running first on the road in a reverse seeded order, the two-wheel-drive crews often provide some of the best action in the forests with Herefordshire’s Roger Chilman and Welshman Llion Williams alongside as one of the favorites.
Also from Herefordshire, Chris Powell and Jim Lewis are frontrunners in the 1400 category with fellow county men Henri Grehan and Jack Bowen one of the Race and Rally – Rally 2 contenders. Alan Walker, Neil Weaver and Perry Gardner all hail from near to Ludlow and will battling at the sharp end of the two-wheel drive category during the day.
The event will also see a large contingent of previous winners tackle the event. Three-time winner Richard Gough was the last driver to win the rally in a two-wheel-drive car and returns to the event after his 1992, 93 and 1996 wins.
Ludlow-man John Perrot brings a Ford Escort MK1 just a few miles up the road for the rally but would be the first to admit he won’t be repeating his 2004 and 2005 victories. Leominster’s Theo Bengry will be in charge of a Proton Iriz R5 this time out and will be aiming to repeat his 2001 win, whilst Graham Middleton brings his Mitsubishi Mirage R5 after winning in a Manta in 1990.
Spectators will be well catered for once again, with four chances to catch the action during the day in the forests – parking costs just £10 per car including a programme. The ceremonial start kicks off the rally at Ludlow Racecourse from 8.30am before the opening stage of the rally at 08.55 at the nearby Haye Park.
The second stage of the day in Radnor Forest offers another chance to view the rally at around 10:00am. The Racecourse service halt will be busy all day giving an up-close chance to view the cars free of charge, before a repeat of Haye Park (13:05) and Radnor (14:55). The ceremonial finish and champagne spray back at the Racecourse will begin at around 16:45.
More information on the event, including spectator information and a full entry list