Monday, 16 July 2018

High Flying Hughes takes top spot in Builth Wells

Six crews headed for the Builth Wells showground for Round 6 of the MRF ST Trophy. The previous few weeks had been sunny, hot & dry and despite a heavy shower on Friday lunchtime the stages were still going to be dry and dusty.

Zak Hughes & Tom Wood led the field away and into the first stage. This was a new stage for the event and Zak threw caution, literally, to the wind over a crest and topped the leader board at the flying finish, as well as achieving a new high jump record for a Fiesta ST in Wales.
James Gddings & Sion Cuniff matched times with Ewan Tindall & Paul Hudson over the opening 5 miles with Kalvin Green & Osian Owen just 6 seconds behind. Mat & Tim Tordoff were in 5th with Martin Laverty & Phil Kenny rounding off the Trophy crews.
The pace stayed tight at the top over the next couple of stages with the top 4 behind split by only a handful of seconds.
Mat & Tim Tordoff suffered a puncture in Stage 3 and dropped some time but were determined to push on in the afternoon to claw back the lost minutes.
Green & Owen had upped their pace and were getting closer to Tindall & Hudson, the gap only 2 seconds after stage 3 and with Tindall only 6 seconds adrift of Giddings in 3rd who was 6 seconds shy of the leading Hughes it was going to be an epic fight for honours ahead.

Sadly the stage 4 start line was as far as the popular crew of  Laverty & Kenny were going to get, a snapped shaft grinding their event to a halt.

The five remaining crews came into service back at the Royal Welsh Showground, all having enjoyed the close battle a one make series brings, the stages were fast and in good condition so it was all to play for in the afternoon loop.

Zak kept pushing hard and despite suffering a little front end damage was still leading the way. James started the afternoon stages 5 seconds behind but dropped a couple of second over the next 2 stages until disaster struck in Halfway 2 when they suffered a puncture. The crew tried to push on but under steered off the stage and hit a rock ending their rally. Ewan had been dropping a few seconds each stage to the 2 crews ahead but seeing the stricken Giddings on Stage 7 they knew they just needed to keep their noses clean for the final 2 stages for a podium position. Another crew to drop by the way side was Green & Owen, a fuel issue after stage 7 making them the 3rd ST on the retirement list.
Mat & Tim Tordoff's day went from bad to worse, they were trying to claw back some of the lost time with the puncture when they lost their power steering after a heavy impact, Mat needing to manhandle the car through the final 2 stages, but having seen the retirements around him knew he had to dig deep and struggle on for some important championship points.

The final 3 crews made it back to the ceremonial finish on the banks of the river Wye with Zak Hughes & Tom Wood getting to spray the Champagne in 1st place. Ewan Tindall & Paul Hudson took the 2nd spot and the Tordoff's managed to nurse their car home to a well deserved 3rd.

James Giddings still leads the championship with Mathew Tordoff only 3 points behind. 9 points adrift is Zak and with Kalvin only 2 points behind in 4th and Ewan Tindall only 2 points behind that in 5th it is still all to play for over the next 2 rounds.

The championship now has a short summer break before the excitement continues in Ludlow for the Woodpecker Stages on 1st September.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Rough going in Killer Kielder

Nine ST Trophy crews headed north for round 5 of the championship, the Carlisle stages. The event was based at the popular H&H Auction Mart in Carlisle just off the M6. The 5 special stages lay 30 miles to the north east in the Kielder complex. The weather had been good leading up to the Rally so dust could be an issue on some stages.
The first loop of stages before service seemed to be cutting up badly and all crews reported how rough it was with lots of loose rocks on the stage surface. Several crews arrived back to Carlisle having suffered punctures and this theme was to continue throughout the day.
Steven Brown & Russell Fair were the first casualties retiring on Stage 2 after clipping a rock and a gatepost and damaging the front suspension. Brown had complained about an ill handling car up to that point.
Wesley Gilford and Sam Colman sadly found one of the deep Kielder ditches in the Kershope stage. There had been a torrential down pour mid way through the stage and the surface had become so slippery according to the new crew.
Kalvin Green & Rhys Stoneman also retired on the Kershope stage with mechanical issues.

The rest of the crews battled on through the rain and the rough conditions to make it back to the finish in Carlisle with Ewan Tindall & Paul Hudson topping the time sheets, this being only Ewan's second forest rally making the result that much more impressive. It's clear Ewan is going to be one to watch in the future.
 Mat & Tim Tordoff's controlled drive paid off with 2nd place and Zak Hughes & Tom Wood rounded off the top 3 after a fraught day.

The crews head to mid wales again for the next round, The NG stages, on July 14th.

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Monday, 21 May 2018

Not all 'Plains' sailing in Welshpool

Seven crews arrived in Welshpool for round 4 of the ST Trophy. There had been some rain on the lead up to the event but the sun had managed to show itself for the Saturday, even resulting in dusty conditions as the day progressed.
8 Stages lay ahead of the crews in the classic Dyfnant & Gartheiniog forests.

Zak Hughes & Tom Wood led the crews away, Zak had fitted a new engine after his incident with a log pile on the Severn Valley Stages. Following crews had reported seeing smoke from the car early on and sadly for Zak & Tom the new engine cried enough during stage 2 so their rally ended with an early bath.

James Giddings & Sion Cunniff were next away at set the early pace, pushing hard to arrive at service after stage 4 with a 13 second lead over Martin Laverty. Unfortunately some mileage had been lost due to a bad accident on Stage 3.

Kalvin Green & Osian Owen were third Fiesta away and despite their best efforts were off the pace in the opening stages arriving at service in 6th place and needing to gather their thoughts ready for a much needed attack of the afternoon stages.

Mat & Tim Tordoff were next into the stages and were gaining more and more confidence in the new car with each mile. Mat had a steady first stage but then increased the pace and they arrived at mid point service still holding 3rd place and only 1 second behind 2nd place Laverty.

Martin Laverty & Phil Kenny seemed to have left their bad luck behind them and were rewarded with 2nd quickest time on the opening Dyfnant stage. They kept up the pace and arrived at service in 2nd place 13 seconds down on Giddings but with Tordoff only 1 second behind them it was going to be an interesting afternoon.

Ewan Tindall & Paul Hudson were the next away, a new crew to the Championship, Ewan only having past his driving test 2 weeks before the event. Ewan & Paul had moved up from the Junior leagues and this was to be Ewan's first outing in the forests and gravel. Luckily for Ewan, Paul Hudson has plenty of experience and would be a good guide for the youngster. This mix of young and old experience seemed to be paying off and the crew settled in to a quick pace which was getting quicker with each mile, arriving at service in 4th place but with only 4 seconds up to Laverty in 2nd they had a chance of a podium in their sights.

Final ST crew over the start ramp were straight talking Yorkshire crew of Neil Fewlass & Stephen Varey. Neil still getting used to left hand drive and front wheel drive. Neil & Steve arrived at the service halt in 6th pace 29 seconds behind Kalvin Green with just one thing on their mind, eurovision!

The crews all attacked the afternoon stages which was a re-run of the morning loop and despite a hold up all the mileage was there for them to fight it out. Green & Owen went on a rampage, throwing caution to the wind and aiming their sights high they managed to claw their way back up the leader board and with a bit of luck overhauled the leaders to come home as victors taking some well earned Championship points.
Giddings & Cunniff were comfortably leading until their gearbox mounting broke, they stopped on a road section and strapped the engine up, sensibly dropped their pace in the remaining stages to make sure they got to the finish. Their lowered pace handed the victory to Kalvin & Osian but they fought to the end finishing only 7 seconds behind but took valuable points with their 2nd place overall.
Ewan & Paul had settled into a good rhythm and kept upping their pace stage by stage to slowly move up the leader board, with veteran Hudson on the notes and keeping Tindall in check they came home with a very respectable 3rd overall just 5 seconds adrift of  second place Giddings.
Martin Laverty & Phil Kenny had slowly slid down the leader board as the afternoon went on and came back to Welshpool in 4th place just 2 seconds ahead of Mat & Tim Tordoff, the 2 crews had been within a hand full of seconds all day.
Fewlass & Varey came home in 6th place and with more experience under their belts will be hoping to improve on the next round. Sadly with the late finish of the event Neil had to miss The Eurovision Song Contest!

The Championship moves to the fast stages of Kielder for the Carlisle Stages on June 9th.

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Monday, 16 April 2018

Giddings takes top spot in Builth Wells

Seven crews arrived in Mid Wales for the 3rd round of the Championship, the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages. This was a new event for the series but the popular stages were in good condition and the crews were looking forward to a high speed event. The sun was shining and air and ground temp was high so the wet stages after the recent rain were drying nicely.
As Championship leaders Zak Hughes & Tom Wood led the field away from the events Builth Wells base. They struggled through the first few stages with an intercom issue and also reported tricky conditions in the opening stage only managing 3rd fastest in the ST's.
James Giddings & Sion Cunniff were next on the road and with no problems settled immediately into a good pace topping the stage times after the first pass of Crychan.
Kalvin Green & Osian Owen were also on the pace from the word go and set a respectable time on the opener, only 4 seconds behind the leader Giddings although Hughes was only 3 seconds behind them.
Fourth away of the Championship registered ST's was Martin Laverty & Phil Kenny. Martin and Phil were hoping for better luck than on round 1 after gearbox and power steering issues but sadly lady luck passed them by again and they suffered a front wheel puncture in the long opening stage so were forced to stop and change to avoid damaging the car. This dropped the crew to the bottom of the ST time sheets.
Fifth on the road and holding a comfortable 4th place in the standings after Stage 1 was father and son team Matt & Tim Tordoff. They had moved up to an M-Sport car this season after several outings in the Club spec ST last year. Unfortunately they had retired early on in Round 1 so this event was the beginning of their learning curve and the plan was to get those all important miles under their belt.
Neil Fewless & Stephen Varey were next on the road and were making their rallying return after a lay off, Neil having previously competed in bigger cars such as Mitsubishi's, Toyota's, Cosworth's and Mk2 Escorts. The crew chose the ST Trophy for their return as a cost effective championship, however Fewles had never driven FWD or LHD so SS1 was an definite eye opener and their inexperience of the car and pacenotes showed in their stage times.
Wesley Gilford & Ryan Griffiths rounded off the field in their Club spec ST. This was Wesley's first ever rally in his new car, the ex John Goff machine. They took it steady through the first few stages getting used to this new experience, Gilford only ever having done Stock car Racing 20 years ago. Luckily co-driver Ryan was not new to the sport so he was able to help Wesley with his experience and they headed to service in 6th place.

Zak managed to up the pace, even without an intercom and with Tom giving him hand signals instead of pacenotes they moved into the lead with a very slender 3 second over a still pushing Giddings. Green was 15 seconds behind in 3rd place with Tordoff settling in nicely 47 seconds further back. Fewlass & Varey were in 5th ahead of Gilford & Griffiths with Laverty & Kenny rounding off the crews in 7th after their time consuming puncture.

The crews left service and headed out to the very popular Radnor stage followed by a second service. The positions were the same as they headed back out after service for a further loop of 3 stages.

Drama hit Zak & Tom on the second run through Crychan, hitting a log pile which holed the radiator and damaged the gear linkage. They continued to the end of the stage but were forced to retire on the road section to SS6 due to the damage. This left Giddings & Cunniff with a comfortable lead and they kept their nose clean and made it back to the Builth Wells showground as round 2 winners. Green & Owen came home in 2nd place just under a minute behind the leaders with The Tordoffs  a minute and a half behind to round off the podium positions in 3rd. Neil & Stephen came home a respectable 4th after their long lay off from rallying with Martin Laverty having to push all afternoon after his morning puncture woes to overhaul Wesley & Griffiths for 5th. Gilford coming home in 6th in the club spec car and was very happy with his first experience of rallying.

The next round is the Plains Rally in Welshpool on 12th May 2018

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Monday, 12 March 2018

Hughes holds on to take victory in Llandudno

7 ST Trophy crews headed to the seaside town of Llandudno for the opening round of the 2018 BTRDA championship & ST Trophy.
Richard Wells & Calvin Houldsworth lead the field away hoping to improve on their bad fortunes of 2017. They initially set the pace but newcomer Zak Hughes & Tom Wood, who had stepped up from the Suzuki Swift for 2018, settled into the Fiesta ST and started to match the pace of Wells. Also pushing hard were another new crew Kalvin Green & Osian Owen who had settled into 3rd place with a slender gap down to 4th over James Giddings & Sion Cunniff. Giddings had lost his front bumper in the opening stage and it still remains a mystery as to how!
Returning contenders Matt & Tim Tordoff sadly had an off in stage 1 which didn't cause too much damage but unfortunately took them OTL and into retirement.
Another 2017 crew who had returned for a second year in 2018 were Martin Laverty & Phil Kenny. Sadly the popular Irish driver suffered a puncture and then lost 2nd gear followed by power steering issues so decided to call it a day and retired at service not wanting to cause further damage to the car. Brynmor Pierce & Alan Jones, another new crew to the championship using the ex Guy Butler 'sheep machine' were another crew to  retire in stage 1 when they lost a wheel in a particularly rough section!
The remaining crews made their way to the service halt at the North Wales Surf Centre near Betws-y-coed.
The afternoon stages didn't prove any easier for the ST Trophy crews. Wells & Houldsworth retired form the lead with a broken driveshaft which left Hughes & Wood with a comfortable lead.
James Giddings and Sion Cunniff found some new pace and managed to overhaul Green & Owen to take 2nd place and held that position the remaining stages.
There was drama in the final stage when Zak Hughes snapped a driveshaft. The crew managed to limp the car out of the stage and effected repairs on the road section back to Llandudno. Luckily for them the time buffer to Giddings & Cunniff in 2nd was enough and they took the opening round victory.

The 2nd round of the Championship, The Malcolm Wilson Rally, has been postponed due to the adverse weather so the next round will be the Rally Nuts stages on 14th April.

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