BTRDA / RD4 / KIELDER FOREST RALLY 202324/06/2023
The MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series remained in the North for the fourth round of its 2023 Championship season at the Kielder Forest Rally. The Cumberland Sporting Car Club laid on a compact one-day event, utilising three (repeated) tests in the southern part of the legendary Kielder Forest Complex.
Photos By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Covering approx 44 competitive stage miles from its Rally HQ in the market town of Hexham; the event which on paper was “The ideal rally”, sadly, only attracted a low entry for which we struggle to understand why; maybe the crews were put off by the local midges?
Last time out on the Border Counties Rally, Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn netted their second victory of the season and would arrive in Kielder sporting the no 1 on the doors of their Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Photo: Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
The Championship leaders would be the ones to chase down but would face stiff competition from regular GoldStar protagonists in Arron Newby (Round 2 winner) and Matthew Hirst, who would be hunting down his first win of the season.
The event got underway just south of Falstone with a 7.5 miles test (Yarrowmoor) where Matthew Hirst now with his regular Co-Driver Declan Dear back beside him in the Ford Fiesta R5, got his day off to an ideal start. The pair stopped the clocks 8 seconds quicker than Arron Newby & Jamie Edwards in the Skoda Fabia R5, whilst Payne & Woodburn would be caught knapping with a time that was 14 seconds down already on that opening test of the rally.
Photo: Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear | By Andrew Scott
Payne, however, got up to speed in the very next stage, the slightly shorter Muckel Dodd Hill stage at 7 miles in length, but his efforts were still not enough to get the better of Hirst & Dear, about 6 seconds was the time deficit here.
Payne continued to improve and was able to match Hirst’s pace in the final stage of the morning loop, SS3 Shepardshield where the pair both stopped the clocks on identical times, which was 6 seconds quicker than the now third-place man, Arron Newby.
Photo: Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn | By GF Rally Images
Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear headed back to the service halt in Hexham with a margin of 20 seconds over Elliot Payne and Tom Woodburn, and there was just a single second separating Payne in second to Arron Newby & Jamie Edwards who rounded out the top three at the halfway point.
Photo: Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Last time out on the Border Counties, Robert Gough and Paul Morris picked up their second SilverStar win of the season, the Rallynuts Stages and Border Counties were back-to-back victories for the pair which meant that confidence heading into Kielder would surely have been high.
Photo: Robert Gough & Paul Morris | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
It was however, Boyd Kershaw who was to be on it from the get-go in his MK2 Ford Escort and the Kewi was going to have put in a strong performance being up against the likes of Robert Gough and Rob Wright, to name but a few.
But Kershaw and Co-Driver Keegan Rees set off on the right foot by being the quickest SilverStar crew out of the blocks on the opening test in Yarrowmoor. Kershaw was some 14 seconds quicker than Gough on SS1, with Andy Davison in the Sunbeam VXR the third quickest just a further 3 seconds slower.
Photo: Boyd Kershaw & Keegan Rees | By GF Rally Images
Again, Kershaw got the better of Gough in the second stage which boosted his lead by another 12 seconds but behind the battle for the SilverStar lead, Andy Davison was unfortunately out and into retirement with mechanical issues before even reaching the start of SS2.
The loss of Davison promoted Rob Wright and Mark Fisher into third. In SS3, the final stage before the end of the morning loop, Gough lost a bit more time which meant that our SilverStar leaders, Kershaw and Rees were heading back to the mid-day service halt with a decent lead of more than half a minute.
Following their second win last time out on the Border Counties, Nigel and Karen Jenkins arrived in Kielder leading the BronzeStar standings. The pair started their morning strong in their Vauxhall Nova, picking up a 20 seconds advantage on the first stage alone over Chris & James Greenall (also in a Nova).
Photo: Nigel & Karen Jenkins | By Andrew Scott
The Greenall boys did, however, up their game in the second test of the morning through Muckle Dodd Hill and were just 3 seconds down on Jenkins here. But again in the final stage of the morning loop, Jenkins got the better of the Greenall boys, this time by 4 seconds and the BronzeStar leaders would end their morning loop with a healthy 26 seconds lead at the mid-point in the rally.
Photo: Chris & James Greenall | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Rounding out the top three of the BronzeStar crews were Lewis Hooper & Rhys Edwards in their Nissan Micra. Following on from their retirement at the previous round in Jedburgh at The Border Counties Rally, the pair would need to deliver a result this time around but were some 44 seconds down on second-placed Greenall at halftime.
Photo: Lewis Hooper & Rhys Edwards | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Back out after service for the repeated runs the crews now enjoyed a 2-minute gap to help with the lingering dust. Round 2 winners Arron Newby & Jamie Edwards needed to make their move in what was shaping up to be a close ding-dong battle for second with Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn.
Photo: Arron Newby & Jamie Edwards | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Newby who changed tyre tactics in service, opting for a harder compound for the afternoon’s loop, stopped the clocks on identical times to Hirst and Dear in the repeated pass over Yarrowmoor. Newby’s efforts here were not only good enough to match the rally leader but was also some 5 seconds quicker than Payne, which meant that he had now moved up into second place.
Photo: Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn | By Andrew Scott
Payne reacted straightway to Newby in the very next test, the penultimate stage through Muckle Dodd Hill, but the clocks stopped on the exact time for both of them. The big question heading into the final 6.45 miles stage of the rally was not whether rally leaders Hirst & Dear could bring it home for the win, but more so about that battle for the runners-up spot between Newby and Payne.
Photo: Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear | By GF Rally Images
Hirst and Dear headed into the final stage SS6 Shepherdshild with a margin of 19 seconds in hand and would indeed emerge victorious in their Ford Fiesta R5 for their first MRF Tyres BTRDA rally win of the season “Our first ever win outside of Wales” Hirst also confirmed and the pair were “Absolutely Delighted” with the result.
But what about that tooth ‘n’ nail battle for the runners-up spot behind them between Newby and Payne?
Newby & Edwards had just four seconds over Payne & Woodburn heading into the final test and had no option but to just put the hammer down and hope that it would be enough. Arron Newby & Jamie Edwards signed off their Kielder Forest Rally with the final stage win, which secured them the runners-up spot.
Photo: Arron Newby & Jamie Edwards | By Andrew Scott
“Absolutely made up with today’s result”, Newby expressed, “Fastest & joint fastest on the last 3 stages shows how hard we went and it paid off with the final result. So so happy!”.
Bringing their Skoda Fabia R5 home 14 seconds behind the winners but crucially 9 seconds ahead of Elliot Payne and Tom Woodburn who rounded out the GoldStar podium in their Ford Fiesta Rally 2.
Photo: Elliot Payne & Tom Woodburn | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Payne who had begun his BTRDA Campaign with a win at the opening round, followed by a second and another win last time out on the Border Counties, admitted that it was a “Tricky day” for himself and Co-Driver, Woodburn.
“I struggled on the opening stages with lacking confidence on the loose stages”. After altering the set-up slightly to his Ford Fiesta Rally 2, the improvements came in the afternoon’s loop of stages; however, it wasn’t enough to real in Hirst or Newby who both showed fierce pace all day.
After the dust had settled on those legendary Kielder Forest Stages, Elliot Payne continues to lead the GoldStar standings and is three points ahead of Arron Newby in second. Matthew Hirsts first win of the season edges him a big step closer and he is now just a single point behind Newby in third.
Fifth-place finisher on the Kielder Forest Rally, Russ Thompson in the Mitsubishi EVO 9 holds forth and is also just a single point behind Hirst. After four rounds in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, the top of the standings is so close, in fact just 5 points separate the top 4 positions.
Photo: Winners – Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
After their mornings efforts and with a decent lead to protect, SilverStar leaders Boyd Kershaw and Keegan Rees set about securing that first win of the year. Second-place man, Robert Gough, perhaps feeling a little refreshed after service was on the pace for the first of the repeated stages, SS4 Yarrowmoor 2. However, try as he might, his time would still fall short by a single second to leader Kershaw.
Photo: Robert Gough & Paul Morris | By GF Rally Images
Kershaw sent a clear message to Gough in the penultimate stage by securing his five stage win, as if to say … “forget it buddy, this one’s mine!”
Kershaw and Co-Driver Rees would head into the final 6.45 mile stage through Shepherdshild with 44 seconds stashed in the glove box of their MK2 Ford Escort and would emerge victorious.
Photo: Boyd Kershaw & Keegan Rees | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
With a full house of SilverStar stage wins, the pair crossed the finish line back in Hexham with 46 seconds in hand and would take to the top step of the SilverStar podium for the first time this year.
“Over the moon to have produced our first BTRDA Rally Silverstar win of the season on the Kielder Forest Rally. Big big Thank you to The Flying Kiwi Rally Team and Boyd Kershaw for a fantastic effort, not without its issues with Black Beauty taking a hammering! But a superb drive!Keegan Rees (Co-Driver to Boyd Kershaw)
Having had back-to-back SilverStar wins on the previous two rounds, Robert Gough and Paul Morris would have to settle for being bridesmaids on this occasion. However, they would not leave Kielder without a winners trophy, having secured the top Historic Cup honours ahead of Ernie & Karen Graham (H1/H2 Class winners).
Photo: Robert Gough & Paul Morris | By Andrew Scott
Rounding out the SilverStar podium, Rob Wright alongside Mark Fisher were the best of the rest in their MK2 Ford Escort and were some 37 seconds down on Gough following their steady progress over the afternoon loop.
Photo: Robert Wright & Mark Fisher | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Kershaw and Rees lead fifth-place Kielder finishers, Niel Andrew and Dominic Adams by 13 points in the SilverStar standings, with Robert Gough and Paul Moris rounding out the top three.
Nigel and Karen Jenkins continued their pace into the afternoon’s loop of stages. Following their strong morning run, they had a 27 second lead over Chris & James Greenall at the halfway point and were already looking good for glory, barring anything untoward happening.
Photo: Nigel & Karen Jenkins | By GF Rally Images
Just as the pair had done in the morning, they took the win in Yarrowmoor by a good margin of 10 seconds and then followed that up with yet another stage win in the penultimate test, SS5 Muckle Dodd Hill 2. They were now poised ready to claim their third BronzeStar victory of the season with just a final run through Shepherdshild to tackle.
Photo: Nigel & Karen Jenkins | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media
Without any shadow of a doubt Nigel and Karen Jenkins successfully navigate the Kielder stages with a full complement of stage wins to take to the top step of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series BronzeStar podium for the third time this year. Bringing their Vauxhall Nova home 47 seconds quicker than their closest rivals in Chris & James Greenall who secured their second and back-to-back SilverStar runers-up finish, the Greenall lads were simply outpaced on this one.
Photo: Chris & Jamie Greenall | By Andrew Scott
Rounding out the BronzeStar podium was the Nissan Micra of Lewis Hooper & Rhys Edwards, who were no doubt glad to secure a decent points haul this time out.
Photo: Lewis Hooper & Rhys Edwards | By Andrew Scott
Yes, they were more than a minute down and couldn’t match the speed of those two Vauxhall Novas ahead of them but they themselves showed good speed and commitment out on these tough and challenging gravel stages in that plucky little Micra.
The Jenkins pair continue to lead the BronzeStar standings and their three out of four wins see them 28 points clear of Luke Watts in the Drivers standings, and Rhys Edwards in the Co-Drivers.
NEXT TIME …
Next up for the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, is a return to Builth Wells in Wales for the Quinton Motor Club organised Nicky Grist Stages (July 8), where those infamous Forestry and Epynt Military gravel roads await the crews for Round 5 of the Championship.