14/03/2024 Off By admin

The BTRDA Rally Series would return to action at its opening round The Malcolm Wilson Rally (March 9/10) with a new title sponsor on the sun strip for the 2024 season. The UK’s premier Gravel Rally Championship joins its sister Asphalt Rally Championship with welcomed backing from ProTyres this year.

From the picturesque Lake District region in Cumbria, the Malcolm Wilson Rally once again signalled the start of another eight event long Championship, offering some of the finest gravel rallies the country has to offer. With its RallyHQ at the M-Sport World Rally Championship team home, Dovenby Hall, Cockermouth and servicing in Penrith; the season curtain raiser would offer up the ideal way to kick start the new season with seven tests covering 43 competitive stage miles.

However, there was a change in the schedule this year, the rally and season would begin under the cover of darkness on Friday evening. With two tests in the Whinlatter Forest, the Championship competitors would have to strap on the lamp pods and get their season underway with a couple of night stages, Comb followed by Hobcarton was on offer.

Returning and hoping to defend his crown, was two times GoldStar Champ, Elliot Payne; Payne was the youngest-ever BTRDA champ in 2022 and followed that up last year adding a second title to his CV. Payne lined up at the season-opener sporting the No1 on the doors of his Amigos Tequila sponsored Ford Fiesta Rally2 car; could 2024 be a record-breaking year for him?

Last year’s GoldStar runner-up Arron Newby, unfortunately, did not manage to put the budget together in time for the event, it remains to be seen if he returns to the stages this year. Multiple Welsh National Champion, Matthew Hirst would be targeting that elusive GoldStar title this year. If he is to hit the mark, he would not only have to chase down Payne but would also have to contend with the likes of Perry Gardener, Ireland’s Vivian Hamill and perhaps also worth keeping one eye on the 2023 Asphalt Championship runner-up Neil Roskell, who was out on the Wilson for only his third-ever Gravel event.

One can also not discount last season’s B13 winner and third-placed finisher in the GoldStar, Russ Thompson, who also returned to do battle at the Wilson; hoping for a repeat performance in the class battle with Pat Naylor, Thompson would also be looking to mix it up with the B14 class crews.

As darkness fell, the rally got underway with a 5.29 miles test in Comb; the stage which was run in the opposite direction to recent years saw reigning GoldStar champ Payne alongside Co-Driver Patrick Walsh quickest out of the blocks. The pair were three seconds quicker than Perry Gardener & Jack Bowen, whilst Irishman Vivian Hamill popped his Malcolm Wilson cherry with a surprisingly good start in his VW Polo, stopping the clocks a further three seconds short of Gardener. 

A quick 2.22-mile blast across the road in Hobcarton would see Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear finally get their eyes used to the darkness. Having taken the opening test “a touch steady”, the pair stopped the clocks on identical times to Hamill; both drivers would therefore record the joint fastest time for the GoldStar registered crews in here.

Hirst’s efforts in SS2 lifted him to third in the GoldStar overnight, a single second ahead of Gardener behind him in fourth, but four seconds down on the VW Polo of Hamill, who had settled in well in the darkness. Hamill who had a couple of BTRDA outings back in 2021 was “Pleasantly surprised” at where he and Co-Driver Lorcan Moore found themselves at the first service halt. The pair holding second in the GoldStar overnight and just three seconds off the pace of leaders, Payne & Walsh was a mighty impressive start.

Photos: Elliot Payne & Patrick Walsh | Vivian Hamill & Lorcan Moore | Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear | By Andrew Scott

The rally resumed the next morning with another short test in Wythop Woods; situated alongside Bassenthwaite Lake, its steady climb up the side of the hill offers some rather pleasant panoramics. However, there was no time for the crews to take in those scenic views, there were a further five stages ahead of them which began with 3.25 miles of Wythop.

Photo: Elliot Payne & Patrick Walsh | By Andrew Scott

Payne set about continuing on from where he left off the night before, adding another second to his lead over Hamell, but behind them, there were issues for Hirst and Dear. After a troublesome season last year, Hirst would have been hoping for a clean start to his season this time around, however, that was not to be. A faulty handbrake master cylinder led to a handbrake release issue, although it was only short stage, Wythop was a far from ideal start to his day. Hirst lost a chunk of time and fell down the leaderboard, handing the third spot over to Perry Gardener & Jack Bowen as the crews headed for the first pass of the M-Sport test roads in Greystoke Forest.

Photo: Vivian Hamill & Lorcan Moore | By Andrew Scott

Greystoke gave the crews a chance to stretch their legs out a bit, the 7.5-mile test was pretty much identical to previous years, Hamill and Moore stopped the clocks three seconds quicker, securing their first outright stage win. This allowed them to close the gap down to leaders Payne and Walsh to just a single second before the service halt at Penrith.

In Greystoke, the troubles went from bad to worse for Hirst & Dear, those handbrake issues had taken its toll on the Ford Fiesta R5 car and sent the machine into front-wheel drive mode. The additional load resulted in a busted drive shaft. The pair limped through the stage and onto service where the team got it sorted, but the time loss incurred had dropped them way down to 24th OA and well and truly out of contention.

Photos: Perry Gardener & Jack Bowen – By Nigel Pratt (Black Mountains Media) | Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear – By Andrew Scott

Gardener & Bowen were holding on to third and a tad over half a minute off the pace of Hamill & Moore but, Scott Beattie and Peredur Davies were beginning to climb the leaderboard. After four stages, Beattie and Davies were now just eight seconds short of Gardener & Bowen, with Daniel Sigurðarson rounding out the top 5 of the GoldStar crews.

After the service halt, there was a pleasant drive south down to the Grizedale Forest. Situated between Lake Windermere and Coniston Water, this popular stage would offer a further two tests, with the Forest complex split into two stages, the South side followed by the North. 

SS5 Grizdale South at 8.5 miles saw Payne return to the top of the time sheets once again, with a blistering fast time here which was some nine seconds quicker than Hirst, who now had a healthier machine with a working four-wheel drive system beneath him. Irish crew, Hamill & Moore gave it their best in trying to keep the leaders Payne & Walsh honest but the pace needed perhaps contributed to them having a spin in Grizdale South. 

Heading into the penultimate and longest test of the rally, the 9 miles of Grizedale North, Payne & Walsh again stamped their authority over the rally by adding the stage to their tally of now four stage wins, having stopped the clocks five seconds quicker than Hirst. 

Unfortunately, we lost Perry Gardener & Jack Bowen at the end of this test, their Ford Fiesta R5 car suffering “a lack of brakes” with just the final stage remaining, they could therefore go no further and were forced into retirement from that podium place. The demise of Gardener promoted Scott Beattie & Peredur Davies, who found themselves some 35 seconds behind Vivian Hamell & Lorcan Moore heading into the final stage. 

Photo: Elliot Payne & Patrick Walsh | By Andrew Scott

Rally leaders, Elliot Payne & Patrick Walsh would return to the final test of the event, the second pass of Greystoke with a lead of some 48 seconds over second-placed Hamill and Moore. The pair were able to ease off a little bit and would indeed emerge from the final stage victorious. Taking the opening round glory with a margin of 38 seconds, the pair took to the top step of the podium getting their title defence off the to perfect start.

“Pretty damn good weekend in the Lake District for the Malcolm Wilson Rally. Awesome stages, pretty decent weather, and a very competitive field to battle with. Quick out the blocks last night [Friday] with a joint fastest time on SS1 set the playbook for the event; a neat and tidy run over Saturday’s stages kept us in prime position to secure the top spot through the demanding Grizedale complex, and maximum BTRDA Rally points. Credit to EP [Elliot Payne], that was probably one of the most enjoyable events I’ve done in a while; hard work, but fun. Thanks as always to our service crew, think we kept the work to a minimum this time. And gratitude to the organisers, officials and marshals for their efforts so we can enjoy our sport.”

Patrick Walsh – Co-Driver to Elliot Payne

Perhaps it was a little unsurprising that the number one seed and two times reigning champ would take the win, but what was surprising was the crew who came in behind them in second. Irish crew, Vivian Hamill and Lorcan Moore showed some amazing pace on the gravel at the Wilson, bringing their VW Polo home in the runners-up spot was not only a nice surprise for them but came as a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for the rest of the field.

Photo: Vivian Hamell & Lorcan Moore | By Nigel Pratt (Black Mountains Media)

“Finally made it to the Malcolm Wilson Rally as it was something I had wanted to do for a while but it never really worked out with work and family commitments. I was confident with taking the Polo over for a run, as I’ve owned it now for about 18 months and have done 7-8 rallies over the past year and believe we have found a good gravel setting that suits my style of driving.

Settled in quite well on the Friday night stages and were pleasantly surprised where we found ourselves at first service, amongst the strong local crews. Saturday we pushed on as best we could in the morning stages but unfortunately had a spin on SS5 on a tightening medium-speed corner and got wedged between two ditches. It felt like 30-40 seconds getting the car turned and going again but was I able to reset and take a more measured approach on SS6. A final push on Greystoke saw us come away with 2nd place which I was very happy with.”

Vivian Hamell

Rounding out the GoldStar podium were Scott Beattie and Peredur Davies in their Ford Fiesta R5; it was a rally of steady progression and climbing the leaderboard for them. Having begun their rally with fuel pressure issues on the opening night stages, their efforts from then on were rewarded with the third step on the GoldStar podium at the opening round.

Photo: Scott Beattie & Peredur Davis | By Andrew Scott

Awesome day today. After the fuel pressure issues we had last night on SS1 and 2, the car ran spot on today [Saturday] and I’m getting used to the new Michelin tyres. Peredur Davies doing a fantastic job on the notes all day. Thanks to David Coutts and the team for running the car and taking the pressure off of me. Very clean day with no risks taken. Punctured on SS5 but was my fault for going offline over a crest.

What next….? Not sure… BTRDA, SRC…”

Scott Beattie


Last years SilverStar produced an epic season-long battle between Ben Friend and Boyd Kershaw; going to the wire at the final round, the Championship ended with just a single point in it between first and second. This year, however, both of those protagonists were not returning, which leaves the SilverStar wide open; with some old and new faces and some familiar names stepping up in class this year, the ultra-competitive SilverStar is anyone’s for the taking.

One such newcomer to the SilverStar, Sam Mason, was the one to set the initial pace on the opening night stage through Comb. Alongside Co-Driver James Seymore, the pair recorded a time in their Ford Fiesta R2 that was five seconds quicker than last year’s fourth-place SilverStar finisher, Andy Divison.

Davison, alongside Co-Driver Tom Murphy in that VXR-powered Sunbeam, is a quick lad, so for Mason to take five out of him over that opening 5.25 miles in the dark was something to sit up and take note of. Behind Davison and in third, was another newcomer to the series, Ben Jemison. Jemison who first set foot inside a rally car back in 2019 had signed up to the series this year, bringing his Vauxhall Chevette HSR out for a play with Co-Driver Dave Jackson calling the notes. Jemison & Jackson were a further twelve seconds back heading into the second-night stage, Hobcarton.

Photos: Sam Mason & James Seymore | Andy Davison & Tom Murphy | By Andrew Scott

Hobcarton was a short and sharp test at a little over two miles in length, however, it was long enough to see the demise of the early pacesetters Mason & Seymore. Forced to retire their Ford Fiesta R2 car from the rally with failed front suspension, the pair were heading home prematurely and would not return to super rally the next day.

Davison who was nearly a non-starter, seized the lead of the SilverStar with a stage win adding three seconds, he and Co-Driver Murphy would end the opening night’s antics with a lead of 28 seconds, but that was not over Jemison! Jemison and Jackson had picked up a one minute time penalty for early arrival at TC2, which dropped them out of the top three.

In stepped, Lewis Hooper; having campaigned a Nissan Micra in the BronzeStar in recent years, Hooper alongside Co-Driver Rhys Edwards is making the step up, contesting with a Ford Fiesta R2 car this season. Hooper found himself second in the SilverStar and some twenty seconds ahead of the MKII Ford Escort RS1800 of Steve Korky Ward & Philip Sandham, who rounded out the top three SilverStar crews heading into the overnight night pause.

The battle resumed the next morning in Wythop Woods, Davison fresh-eyed and possibly sensing an opportunity, bolstered his overnight lead by a sizable nine seconds over that 3.25 miles. Hooper continued his good pace, getting the better of the Chevette driven by Jemison by three seconds to maintain his second place. However, in the very next stage through Greystoke, Hoopers Malcolm Wilson’s story would sadly come to an early conclusion. The Ford Fiesta R2 car was suffering from an electrical issue and cut out mid-stage, despite frantic efforts, Hooper and Edwards would go no further, resulting in a disappointing blow to start their season off with.

Photo: Ben Jemison & Dave Jackson | By Andrew Scott

The unfortunate demise of Hooper offered some reprieve for Ben Jemison & Dave Jackson who had been handed back that second place ahead of Steve Korky Ward & Philip Sandham, in what was not only shaping up to be a battle for second in the SilverStar but also the Historic Cup honors.

SilverStar leaders, Andy Davison & Tom Murphy reached the mid-day service in Penrith with a healthy lead of 46 seconds before trekking down to Grizedale Forest for the two longest tests of the event.

Those two stages in the Grizedale Complex were perhaps where Davison & Murphy set their sights firmly on the first win of the year. The pair picked up their fourth stage win in Grizedale South, bolting on another nine seconds to their margin over Jemison.

Jemison & Jackson reacted in the penultimate stage, coming out quickest in Grizedale North by just three seconds, but by now, with just one stage remaining, the writing was already on the wall and it was all a bit late in the day to even consider mounting any sort of challenge for the win.

Photo: Andy Davison & Tom Murphy | By Andrew Scott

Andy Davison & Tom Murphy entered the final 7.5 miles of Greystoke Forest with ample time in their back pockets, and although the pair recorded identical times to Jemison & Jackson, they had done it. The opening round of the season had delivered them maximum SilverStar points and was the ideal way to mount their bid for the title this year, but it did not come without its drama, Davison reveals:

“We had an interesting event… always is with our lot.

On the way into service, pre-start the half shaft broke on our diff. Luckily we had a fresh axle but the downside was it was back in Boro, so a couple of our team headed back to base for it whilst we got the damaged unit out and towed the car through scrutineering. 

After the stresses of the day, Friday was disappointing and we struggled to find a rhythm, which was a shame as were looking forward to the night stages.”

“Woke up with a fresh approach to Saturday and had a great day, setting a fastest 2WD OA stage time along the way. Really can’t beat the stages down in Grizedale. We had a bit of a moment on the final Greystoke stage when the steering wheel got ripped from my hands, luckily it just bloody hurt and we made it through to take the SilverStar win.”

“Tom was on top of things in the nav seat pushing me on when I quite fancied lifting the throttle, luckily he’s better at navigating than drinking as we had quite a celebration in Cockermouth after. Couldn’t do it without the great bunch of mates who travel from the far ends of the country to help both on and between events so the result really belongs to them.”

Andy Davison
Photos: Ben Jemison & Dave Jackson – By Nigel Pratt (Black Mountains Media) | Steve Korky Ward & Philip Sandham – By Andrew Scott

Crossing the finish line in a solid second place, series newcomers Ben Jemison and Dave Jackson secured a decent points haul in their first attempt at a BTRDA event. Second in the SilverStar on the opening round in their Vauxhall Chevette HSR was more than a great result, the pair also picked up the Historic Cup honors ahead of Steve Korky Ward & Philip Sandham who also rounded out the SilverStar podium.

“What a couple of days away in the Chevette, ending up 33rd overall. We came away 2nd in the BTRDA SilverStar and first historic”

“A massive thanks to the organisers and all the people who helped before and during the event on the car! A shout out to Dad as always for his continued help and guidance! Thanks, Dave Jackson for a mint job on the notes!”

Ben Jemison


Reigning BronzeStar champs, Nigel and Karen Jenkins would line up at the opening round with perhaps a last-minute slight thorn in their side?
In the run-up to the off, Steve Black who was down to contest the Wilson in his 1400S Suzuki Swift, unfortunately, fell ill, a last-minute offer of a drive for son Callum would give the Jenkins pairing an unexpected run for their money in the BronzeStar.

Black is no stranger to the BronzeStar, having won the title himself back in 2019, although the reigning Asphalt Rally Champ hasn’t competed on the gravel since this very rally last year. Nonetheless, Black alongside regular Co-Driver Jack Morton wasted no time in getting to grips with the gravel on the opening night stage in Comb. However, from that initial 5.29-mile test, Black was already having issues with his old man’s ride. The power steering was playing up, but alas that did not seem to hamper him too much, as he caught the car in front and was still able to record the fastest 1400 time, beating Jenkins by two seconds in the darkness.

Photos: Callum Black & Jack Morton | Nigel & Karen Jenkins | By Andrew Scott

Luckily for Black, there was just one more very short stage in Hobcarton to tackle, and he was able to manhandle the Swift through to the overnight service halt where the crew swapped out the Power Steering pump. Black & Morton added another second to their lead in Hobcarton and ended the opening leg with a small lead of three seconds over Nigel & Karen Jenkins in the Vauxhall Nova. BronzeStar returnees, Dylan Fowler-Bishop & Dan Evans in the Nissan Micra rounded out the top three BronzeStar crews a further sixteen seconds off the pace.

With the morning came the first of five stages to contend with, unfortunately for Black, the replacement power steering pump did not appear to have solved the problem. Black and Morton pushed on in the Swift securing the fastest times in SS3 Wythop and SS4 Greystoke and no matter what Nigel & Karen Jenkins did, they just couldn’t quite match Black’s pace.

Photo: Callum Black & Jack Morton | Nigel & Karen Jenkins | By Andrew Scott

Outside of the top three BronzeStar positions, Ashley Francis-Adams was also fighting some issues with his Nisan Micra, he and Co-Driver Mark Ammonds limped out of SS4 Greystoke with their hazards on. The pair lost a lot of time and dropped out of 4th position, but continued on making it to service. This promoted the Alfasud of Dale Glover & David Smalley into 4th, with Matthew & Dan Evans rounding out the top 5 of the BronzeStar heading into service.

Again, Black’s service crew were not able to get to the root cause of the power steering issues the Swift was suffering from, this was making things a little hard work for Black and the two longer stages in Grizedale Forest were up next. Black and Morton boosted their lead over Jenkins by a further ten seconds in Grizedale South but, Black’s mechanical gremlins would escalate in the penultimate and longest stage of the rally, through the northern stretch of Grizedale. To add to the intermittent power steering, the clutch on the Swift was on its way out, Black’s father had kindly lent him the car for the rally, it was a bit rude of him to return it broken!

Photo: Callum Black & Jack Morton | By Andrew Scott

Black and Morton had 28 seconds in hand heading into the final stage of the rally, all they had to do was nurse the pesky little Swift through the remaining 7.5 miles and they would be home and dry. The pair eased off, allowing Nigel & Karen Jenkins to take the final stage win, but the top step on the BronzeStar podium would belong to Callum Black & Jack Morton. Having pushed his fathers Suzuki Swift to past braking point, the pair had secured the win on their return to gravel having won all but the final stage.

“It was a last-minute decision to do the rally after Dad hadn’t been feeling too well, he kindly offered me the car to use. It was a bit of a no-brainer as I hadn’t been on gravel since the Malcolm Wilson in 2023, so 12 months ago! 

We had power steering pump issues from the first stage until the end, meaning we had intermittent power steering all rally, making it hard work. We then lost the clutch on the second Grizedale stage. 

It was quite an adventure for us all at 586, but I enjoyed doing something different and having a drive of the Swift.”

Callum Black

We are unlikely to see Black & Morton in the BronzeStar again this season, so although Nigel and Karen Jenkins had to settle for second place, they effectively still walk away from the season opener as the true Championship leaders, so all in all the Wilson was a great start to their title defence.

“Fab stages enjoyed doing the night stages something a bit different. Nigel drove the little green machine maximum attack. Good start to the championship for us” 

Kaz Jenkins
Photo: Nigel & Karen Jenkins | By Nigel Pratt (Black Mountains Media)

Behind those leading contenders, there were movements going on throughout the day for that final BronzeStar podium place, which delivered a final stage sting for one of those would-be contenders.

Whilst Ashley Francis-Adams fell away with his issue over the morning loop, Dale Glover unfortunately then retired his Alfasud in SS5 Grizedale South, in addition to the list of retirements there was further last-minute drama for Dylan Fowler-Bishop.

Bishop and Co-Driver Dan Evans entered the final Greystoke stage holding third, however, mid-stage their Nissan Micra dropped a drive-shaft. They limped out of the stage and back to the finish, but the time loss resulted in a loss of that podium place and a 9th-place finish, which is such a shame for last year’s BronzeStar third-place finishers. One man’s misfortune was, however, another’s gain, Bishop’s final stage woes cleared the way for Will Banks & Matthew Baddeley to scoop up that final podium place in their Vauxhall Nova.

Photos: Dylan Fowler-Bishop & Dan Evans | Will Banks & Matthew Baddeley | By Andrew Scott


Elliot Payne takes up the top spot of the GoldStar leaderboard, with Vivian Hamill and B13 winners Russ Thompson tied on points for second; behind them, Scott Beattie is ahead of Danial Sigurdsson who rounds out the top 5 of the GoldStar points table.


Andy Davison also stands proud at the top of the SilverStar standings taking maximum points over Ben Jemison, closely followed by Stephen Korky Ward. Agnar Sigurdsson and Micheal Jenkins round out the top 5 of the SilverStar leaderboard.


As mentioned, although Callum Black tops the BronzeStar points table after Round 1, it is unlikely that he will return to contest further rounds, Nigel Jenkins in second effectively leads Will Banks in real terms.

Ben Jemison’s efforts also earned him maximum points in the Historic Cup leading Steve Korky Ward. Steve Ward who peddled the stunning Historic Spec GPR A Legacy RS, sporting the Camel livery in a nod to Swedens Per Eklund on the 1992 RAC Rally [Credit due to all-around Rally Nerd Paul Woodford for that nugget of Top Rally Nerdery], rounds out the top three in the Historic Cup.

Photo: Steve Ward & Mike Crawford | By Andrew Scott

The ProTyres BTRDA Rally Series will return to the stages of Wales for the second round of the Championship, where World Class gravel stages such as Myherin, Sweat Lamb and Hafren await the crews at the Rally Nuts Severn Valley Stages (April 13th). This 50th running of the event will offer up a meaty 60 stage miles and has attracted an oversubscribed entry list of 180+ crews.