BTRDA / 2024 Season Preview

BTRDA / 2024 Season Preview

04/03/2024 Off By Andrew Scott

Entering its 71st year, the 2024 Protyre BTRDA Gravel Rally series springs into life this coming weekend (8th/9th March) at its traditional season-opening round amongst the stunning “lakes and mountains” scenery of Keswick and Coniston in Cumbria.

The Malcolm Wilson Rally, HQ’d at Msports Dovenby Hall takes in 43 stage miles throughout the Lake District, including a new for 2024, Friday night leg around Whinlatter forest, before moving further south and east on Saturday with stages in Graystoke forest and the Grizedale complex.

A new championship season also brings a new sponsor, with Protyre extending their BTRDA Tarmac championship sponsorship of over 5 years to cover the Gravel series. With a 2-year agreement and the potential to add a further year the future of the series is secure.

‘The BTRDA Rallies Committee is delighted to welcome Protyre as its title sponsor for the 2024 BTRDA Rally Series’, said Committee Chair Neil Cross, ‘and looks forward to working with them to bring you some of the best gravel rallying in the UK. Their support ensures that we can continue our hugely popular live streaming of all rounds of the Championship’.

Neil Cross – BTRDA Committee Chair.

The wider championship consists of 8 rounds, a choice of 6 of which are scoring in each of the main 3 categories, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Star along with Historic and Rally First awards.

The Wilson is followed by the Severn Valley Stages (Rallynuts) in April over the traditionally quick mid-wales stages in the Myherin, and Hafren/ Sweetlamb Complex. This round dovetails with 3 other major UK championships, the BRC, Welsh, and BHRC which should guarantee a strong entry for this popular event.

May and June see rounds 3 and 4 as the crews travel north for the always scenic and spectacular Border Counties Rally and Kielder Forest Rally.

Border Counties, based in Jedburgh, typically run a diverse range of stages as far north as the central belt (Cardrona, nr Peebles) and as far south as the English border (Riccarton, and Blackburn Rig). Its near neighbor, Kielder Forest rally, recently voted 2023 rally of the year at the 2023 BTRDA awards, includes classic RAC rally and Pirelli international stages such as Falstone, Pundershaw, and Roughside in the forest from which the rally takes its name.

July Sees the series move back to Mid Wales and Builth Wells for the summer dust fest that is the Nicky Grist stages in Crychan and Halfway before a two-month break over the Summer.

September’s Woodpecker Rally sees a major reshuffle with the rally forced to relocate from its home in Ludlow and stages around the English/Welsh border to Newtown in Mid Wales. Having moved out of the Radnor complex a couple of years ago and with stages in Haye Park and Hopton no longer available, “The Woody” will be utilising world-famous stages, previously used on the Severn Valley in April, such as Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Ceri, although with drier weather over the summer and dust likely to be a factor, the event may take on a slightly different nature.

The season begins to wind down with the seventh round, the Trackrod Rally, based out of Filey on the East Yorkshire coast. A rally which in recent years has seen good entries and dovetailed as a round of the British Rally Championship, this year sees only BTRDA and BHRC championships compete. With stages in the North Yorkshire Moors such as Dalby, Cropton, and Gale Rigg this always well-supported event will potentially set up an exciting season climax as the series moves to the final round, the Cambrian Rally based in Llandudno and encompassing stages in Clocaenog forest, and around Llyn Brenig in North Wales at the end of October.

Gold Star Championship

Perennial championship contender and multiple (3x) Welsh Champions Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear will try to win their first BTRDA Gold Star in the Delta Salvage Fiesta R5. After a mixed season in 2023 which was punctuated by some bad luck and unreliability around the middle to end of the season, Hirst will be hoping to hit the ground running on the Wilson after a successful tarmac outing on the East Riding Stages in February.


Also out on the East Riding was 2023 Gold Star champion Elliot Payne, the first man in 30 years to take back-to-back Gold Star titles (Ricky Evans and Ian Butcher 1994/5). 2024 potentially sees Payne shift his focus to the increasingly competitive-looking British Rally Championship, so despite having an entry on the Wilson and with only two complimentary rounds between BRC and BTRDA (Rallynuts and Cambrian) it remains to be seen whether Payne does a full season in BTRDA.

“After 2 years concentrating on the BTRDA series we as a team felt it was time to give the British Rally Championship a full assault and the new calendar fits in better with my work commitments”

Elliot Payne via the BRC website

However, with the potential to be the first person ever to become a 3x gold star champion, we suspect that Payne may dovetail a BRC campaign with BTRDA. Perhaps more importantly the question remains whether he will use a 32mm restrictor and do the Recce on Rallynuts and Cambrian – this decision pertaining to whether his focus remains on BRC or shifts to BTRDA.

With 2022 runner-up Arron Newby also absent from the Wilson entry list, this leaves many questions about how the 2024 championship may pan out. Talking to Xlerate, Hirst commented that he was hoping for a bit more competition and to see some previous protagonist return this season, but sighted Perry Gardner as one to watch out for.

Despite this, ever-rapid Cambrian winners Russ Thompson and Steven Link will be returning for a full season in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, Russ was quoted as saying:

“The plan is BTRDA again for us. The car has had a rebuild to freshen everything up. So will be trying our hardest to get as high up the overall standings as we can. Looking forward to the two stages in the dark on the Wilson to get the season underway”

Russ Thompson

Despite the potential changes at the top end of the Gold Star leader board, as alluded to by Hirst, Perry Gardener, and Jack Bowen return after a quiet 2023 in their attractively liveried Orange and Sliver fiesta R5. Jack was quoted as saying: “Not sure on our plans, just doing the first couple of rounds and see how we go” – Jack Bowen


And there are some further entries of note on the Wilson with multiple Icelandic champion (2020 and 2021) Gunnar Karl Jóhannesson entering in a Ford Fiesta R5. Having previously competed predominantly in Iceland with a couple of sporadic appearances in Ireland and the UK (Rallynuts/Cambrian 2021/22) over the past few years, it remains to be seen how often we see the Icelandic duo out in 2024.

Vivian Hamill and Andrew Purcell also appear on the entry list, both in Volkswagen Polo R5s. Hamill returns to the Wilson after a year or more in Ireland and following an impressive top 10 finish on November’s Gruelling Roger Albert Clark Rally in an Escort Mk2, and Purcell after 4 UK events in the second half of last year.

Silver Star for 2wd Cars

The BTRDA Silver Star award for 2WD cars follows a similar theme to that seen in Gold Star, with change being the operative word here too. 2023 Champion Ben Friend shifts his focus back to BHRC in 2024. With 2023 contenders Boyd Kershaw and Keegan Rees also deciding to take a sabbatical in 2024 it leaves Silver Star wide open. “Boyd is taking a year out to focus on a bigger and better come back” – Keegan Rees.

Previous (2022) Trackrod Winners Andrew Davison and Tom Murphy are seeded first in their Talbot Sunbeam and 2022 Champions Robert Wright and Mark Fisher also return on the Wilson after only contesting the 3 rounds in the first half of 2023 but whether they plan a full season title assault remains to be seen as currently they are only registered to score on the MotorsportUK English championship and The S.G.Petch ANECCC Stage Rally Championship (on the Wilson).


2023 Bronze Star runner-up Lewis Hooper moves up to Silver Star replacing his Nissan Micra with a Ford Fiesta and 2023 Welsh Forest W4 class Champion Samuel Mason is also out in the same model.


Another notable entry into Silver Star is BHRC regular Ben Jemeson in his works liveried Vauxhall Chevette.

“After participating in the BHRC and RAC in 2023, I wanted to try a different championship with events I’ve not done before.”

Ben Jemeson

Ben has also registered for the historic award along with Steve Corky Ward and namesake Steve Ward in a Legacy. Along with Ben’s Chevette and Andrew’s Sunbeam, this will provide some much-needed variety in a field normally dominated by Escorts.


Bronze Star for 1400cc cars.

Unlike the Gold and Silver star, the BTRDA Bronze Star feels a lot more familiar with the entry closely reflecting that seen in 2023.

2023 Champions Nigel and Kaz Jenkins return in their Green Nova, after achieving a full house of scoring rounds in 2023 by taking 6 wins from 8 events. “yes we are back out defending our title doing the full BTRDA season. Starting off with this weekend.” – Kaz Jenkins

After a quiet couple of years with sporadic outings in his son’s Fiesta R5, Jenkins’ main competition looks to be coming from returning 2021 Champion Steve Black (father of tarmac ace Callum) who returns to Bronze Star in his Suzuki Swift.

With 2023 runner-up Hooper moving up to Silver Star, 2024 sees the Alfasud of Dale Glover along with Will Banks and Chris Greenall in their Novas and the double-barrelled Micra pair of Dylan Fowler-Bishop (2023 Woodpecker rally winner) and Ashley Francis-Adams all returning to bronze star.


So, all set for what might be a significantly different-looking season in the BTRDA Gravel Series in 2024 and it all kicks off in the Lake District this coming Saturday. Can Matthew Hirst break his duck in the Gold Star, can anyone stop the Jenkins’ in Bronze, and who will take up Ben Friend’s mantle in Silver Star? Keep a watch out as we will be covering the full season here on Xlerate with our team of writers and photographers out on the stages this season.