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