While two of the younger guns in the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship fought out a thrilling battle to take maximum points on the penultimate round of the series, the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally, a slightly more measured approach from Malvern’s Bob Ceen was enough for him to clinch the 2015 overall drivers’ title.
From the Ludlow Racecourse start, competitors on the event organised by 60 and Worcestershire Motor Club tackled a total of six stages in forestry close to the town as well as on the classic Welsh gravel roads of Radnor Forest.
It was Abergele’s Luke Francis and co-driver John H Roberts from Colwyn Bay who took the early lead on the event in their new Mitsubishi Evo IX ahead of the Subaru Impreza of Ceen and co-driver Andy Bull from Birmingham.
Francis extended his advantage on stage2, but after a slow start to the event that included a puncture on the second stage, Ellistown’s Jamie Anderson dramatically upped his pace through the opening Radnor Forest stages ensuring he and co-driver Jon Scott from Ludlow were tied on time in their Mitsubishi World Rally Car with Francis and Roberts. The Welsh duo struck back on the next stage, however, to claim a two second advantage as the crews returned to Ludlow Racecourse for a service halt after four stages.
Long gone from the event by now, however, was the pre-rally championship leader Paul Davy. He had struck a rock on the second stage, breaking a ball joint on the Subaru Impreza and forcing him to retire with less than ten miles of the route completed.
The penultimate stage of the event saw Francis and Roberts extend their lead over Anderson and Scott by another second but a storming drive through the final stage was enough to give the English pair overall victory on the event and beat their championship rivals by just five seconds.
Meanwhile, just behind all the drama, third place was enough to ensure that Bob Ceen takes the 2015 drivers title and with it a free entry on the Wales Rally GB national rally, courtesy of the World Rally Championship round’s organisers IMS. Meanwhile, co-driver Andy Bull remains locked in a four way battle for that title as the series heads to its final round, the Llandudno based Cambrian Rally on 17 October.
Fourth place among the championship contenders went to Llanon’s Dylan Davies, who now lies third in the drivers’ standings and co-driver Llion Williams from Caernarfon who is now tied for the lead in that battle with Worcester’s Roger Allan.
Fifth place for Roland Llewellin enabled the Haverfordwest driver to close in on leader Paul Davy in the battle for Group N honours for less modified cars while co-driver Jamie Edwards of Caernarfon retains a chance of taking the outright co-driver’s crown.
Ford Escort driver John Baker clinched his class title but the Ellesmere driver remains locked in a battle with three other drivers for two wheel drive honours.
Another driver to assure himself of an end of season award was Morgan Handford. The Pontyclun driver clinched the junior under 25 driver title in his VW Polo after closest rival Jordan Horne, from Derry rolled his Nissan Micra on the final stage of the rally.
While the class 1 title for two wheel drive cars up to 1200cc goes to another Nissan Micra driver, Thomas Bayliss of Newtown, the fight for the Ravenol Welsh Challenge remains wide open with the top three drivers separated by just three points. Victory in the Challenge brings with it £3000 worth of the sponsor’s products ensuring there will still be plenty at stake when the competitors arrive in Llandudno next month.