Elfyn Evans and co-driver Craig Parry are the winners of the Nicky Grist Stages this weekend (9/10 July) taking victory on round five of the seven round MSA British Rally Championship. The DMACK British Rally Team driver made it three wins from five and his second ‘home’ victory in Wales this season. Fellow Welshman Tom Cave equalled his season best with a fine second while Desi Henry completed the podium after a tough two-day encounter.
Based in Builth Wells, the Nicky Grist Stages is a unique event on the BRC calendar with the two days split into two surfaces. Biblical weather greeted the competitors on the opening day with crews slipping and sliding through 45 miles of forestry gravel stages before tackling the famous Tarmac on the Epynt Ranges on the second day. It wasn’t just the crews inside the car who were tested this weekend as the service teams had just two-and-a-half-hours on Saturday evening to convert the cars from mud-slinging monsters into Tarmac-hugging weapons.
Series leader Evans had a difficult start to the event, as the Ford Fiesta R5 driver was not to have it all his own way, with a spin on the opening stage and pop-off valve problems on the second. Undeterred by these early issues, the Welshman swiftly got back into his dominating stride, topping the time sheets on 12 of the event’s 15 stages to finish with a healthy 1 minute 11.4 second margin as the cars returned to Builth Wells for the Ceremonial Finish.
It was to be fellow countryman Cave in his Michelin-shod Ford Fiesta R5 who drew first blood, however, setting fastest time on the opening stage of the rally. Cave would lead the event until an inspired Evans snatched the advantage on the third stage. Thereafter Cave couldn’t live with Evans’ pace but showed his own improvement in speed by recording another second place and his third podium of the year – a result that has helped him to leap-frog Fredrik Ahlin into second place in the championship points standings with two rounds remaining on the calendar. Ahlin missed out on a points haul after retiring on the opening day.
Henry picked-up from where he left off in Scotland with another fine third position in his Skoda Fabia R5. The Northern Ireland driver started off cautiously but gathered pace as he flew through the gravel stages. It wasn’t to be plain sailing for the likeable Irishman, though, as he took a big cut on the opening day nearly sending the Skoda onto its roof. With the Fabia safely back on all four wheels, Desi pressed on – more so when the competition switched to his preferred sealed-surface. Eager to hold station, Henry chalked up a fastest time on stage 12, showing his asphalt form which, in turn, elevated him up the championship points table at the end of the mid Wales event.
Scottish star David Bogie in his Pirelli-backed Skoda Fabia R5 has had a disappointing run of bad luck with two retirements since his podium on the Circuit of Ireland. The Dumfries-based driver suffered turbo issues on the final day but was pleased to score points once again with fourth overall. Circuit of Ireland winner Josh Moffett moved through the order on the Epynt Ranges to place his Fiesta R5 in fifth while rounding out the top six in his Citroen DS3 R5 was Ulsterman Jonathan Greer who also claimed a fastest section time on the Nicky Grist Stages. Greer will be looking for a strong result when the series returns to Ireland for the penultimate round of Britain’s premier rallying series.
Young-gun Rhys Yates took one of his best performances to date in his striking Fiesta R5 with seventh while Jamie Anderson was sadly the biggest loser on the second and final day. Nestled in fourth at the overnight halt, the Englishman struggled with his limited Tarmac experience on the demanding, flowing stages – settling for eighth at the end of the multi-surface event. Ollie Mellors was the top S2000 runner in his Proton Satria while Thomas Preston rounds out the top ten in his Skoda Fabia R5.
In the DMACK Junior British Rally Championship, Vauxhall ADAM R2 driver Robert Duggan made it a hat-trick of victories this season. The Irishman drove a faultless event leading from start to finish, heading a Vauxhall Motorsport one-two as the cars returned to the Royal Welsh Showground. Teammate Mattias Adielsson struggled on his preferred gravel surface on the opening day, but woke up in inspired form with newfound Tarmac speed as he reeled in and overhauled Sindre Furuseth to take second. The Swede was playing his ‘Joker’ this weekend, thus doubling his points and putting him well into the title hunt.
Scotland winner Furuseth in his Renault Twingo R2 held a solid second overnight but his first event on Tarmac was to be his downfall as he slipped back into the final podium position. The Norwegian can take a lot of credit as he now has a day of asphalt experience under his belt as he heads into the final two Tarmac events.
Local driver Meirion Evans (Ford Fiesta R2T) made it four fourth placed finishes in a row while Josh Cornwell rounded out the top five among the Juniors in his Fiesta R2.
Matt Edwards took the spoils in BRC2, the Welshman produced another stunning performance to get himself into the top 12 overall as well as the class win. The Mitsubishi Evo 9 driver now has an unassailable lead in the BRC2 category and will be crowned champion at the season finale.
BRC3 competitors Chris Wheeler and Yan Griffiths in their Citroen DS3 R3T were looking for another strong finish to consolidate their class lead before a heavy impact on Epynt forced them into retirement. The pair had to be extracted from the car and taken to hospital but no serious injuries where incurred.
In BRC4 Tony Simpson was another driver to take his third win of the season in his Kumho-supported Ford Fiesta ST. Marty Gallagher who was competing in his first event outside of Ireland had a commanding lead at the end of the first day before a retirement early Sunday morning put paid to his event. National Rally Cup winner Robert Blomberg made it back-to-back victories as championship leader Donnie Macdonald retired with head-gasket failure and with it went his place on the summit of the table.
The winner of the SORT Oil Spirit of the Rally Award on the Nicky Grist Stages was DMACK Junior BRC competitor Blair Brown. Every team was under pressure during the two-and-a-half-hour change over from gravel to Tarmac specification. Blair and his small team only had three people including himself and it would be a race-against-time for them to get his R2T Fiesta into Parc Ferme – a feat which they achieved with time to spare. Brown also won the award for assisting a spectator who got stuck on the road section. The Scottish driver jumped out of his own car to help get the grateful spectator off a rock and on his way again.
The next round of the BRC is the Ulster Rally on the 19/20 August.
Quotes from the Nicky Grist Stages:
Nicky Grist Stages First Overall – Elfyn Evans – Ford Fiesta R5
“We are happy with how the event went and it wasn’t easy as the conditions were very challenging. We had a spin on the first stage and from there we had to bring it together. When we got the lead, and when things were difficult, I had spare capacity to keep it calm.
“In rallying anything can happen and with double points on the Isle of Man finale, this will leave it open until the last round, so we have to keep on it, keep pushing and keep winning.”
Nicky Grist Stages Second Overall – Tom Cave – Ford Fiesta R5
“I am very pleased with second as it is good for the team and for the championship. Things have progressed even more this weekend, more than we had hoped. Our pace on both surfaces was encouraging especially on Tarmac on the second day. We knew it would be difficult to beat Elfyn this weekend but I have learnt a lot from chasing him and want to be even closer on the Ulster next time out. Second in the championship is good but we will keep working hard and keep making progress forward.”
Nicky Grist Stages Rally Third Overall – Desi Henry – Skoda Fabia R5
“This isn’t a bad a bad habit to have. We may have to quit the day job and do rallying full time! We are trying to make improvements every rally and we are getting closer to the guys in front, in this very competitive championship. We are really looking forward to the Ulster, it’s a great rally and very close to home and we want to move up a few steps on the podium.”
DMACK Junior BRC First Overall – Robert Duggan – Vauxhall ADAM R2
“The car was perfect today and the Vauxhall team did a superb job. We pushed hard on the first day to get a lead coming off the gravel and onto the Tarmac, where we just kept our head and kept pushing as Mattias [Adielsson] kept us honest all weekend. The speed on Tarmac wasn’t as good as I had hoped but I am delighted to have won the event. I am pumped to be leading the championship but anything can happen in the BRC. It’s not over until it’s over. Looking forward to some proper Irish Tarmac now!”
MSA British Rally Championship
Round 5 – Nicky Grist Stages
Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Craig Parry (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 – 25 points
Tom Cave (GBR)/James Morgan (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +1:11.4 seconds – 15 points
Desi Henry (IRL)/Liam Moynihan (IRL) Skoda Fabia R5 +2:01.8 seconds – 10 points
David Bogie (GBR)/ James O’Reilly (IRL) Skoda Fabia R5 +2:48.5 seconds – 8 points
Josh Moffett (IRL)/John Rowan (IRL) Ford Fiesta R5 +3:05.9 seconds – 6 points
Jonathan Greer (GBR)/Kirsty Riddick (GBR) Citroen DS3 R5 +3:08.0 seconds – 5 points
Rhys Yates (GBR)/ Tom Woodburn (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +3:30.0 – 4 points
Jamie Anderson (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +5:38.2 seconds – 3 points
Ollie Mellors (GBR)/Ian Windress (GBR) Proton Satria S2000 +5:48.7 seconds – 2 points
Thomas Preston (GBR)/Jack Morton (GBR) Skoda Fabia R5 +5:58.7 seconds – 1 point
MSA DMACK Junior British Rally Championship
Robert Duggan (IRL)/ Ger Conway (IRL) Vauxhall ADAM R2
Mattias Adielsson (SWE)/ Andreas Johansson (SWE) Vauxhall ADAM R2
Sindre Furuseth (NOR)/ Jim Hjerpe (SWE) Renault Twingo R2
MSA British Rally Championship for Drivers points (after 5 of 7 rounds)
1: Elfyn Evans 110*
2: Tom Cave 71*
3: Fredrik Ahlin 65*
4: Josh Moffett 42
5: Jonathan Greer 36
6: Desi Henry 29*
7: David Bogie 26*
8: Jamie Anderson 16
9: Matthew Wilson 15
10: Rhys Yates 13*
* Drivers have played their double points ‘Joker’
The full results and championship points can be found at www.msabrc.com
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