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
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“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
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Image : Rallysport Media – Local ace Grehan took 2wd honours
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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