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.