The organisers of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship have welcomed news that the fifth round of their series, the Rallynuts Motorsport Severn Valley Stages, will go ahead as planned.
The news follows a temporary agreement being reached between National Resources Wales and the sport’s governing body, the MSA.
The current agreement over fees for using NRW roads for motorsport events is scheduled to end on 31 May and no new agreement is yet in place.
Welsh Championship co-ordinator Dave Evison commented, “It is to the credit of the event’s organising team have continued working on their rally plans this long without knowing what their costs will be. We are grateful to both NRW and the MSA for agreeing this one off measure to allow the event to happen.”
They are now urging championship contenders to submit their entries for the event as soon as possible.
Dave is also confident, after speaking with event organisers, that the three rounds of the championship remaining after the Severn Valley Stages will go ahead as planned.
“Only a small proportion of the route for the Nicky Grist Stages in July uses NRW roads”, he explained. “The same is true for the Woodpecker Rally in September while November’s Wyedean Rally runs on Forestry Commission roads.”
The Wyedean has previously been the opening round of the Championship running in February and following the date and other changes some within the sport have been questioning the viability of the event.
Dave is confident that it will go ahead. “I have been talking to the organising team and their plans are well advanced. This is the only opportunity that competitors get to tackle the classic Forest of Dean stages during the year and interest in the rally is extremely high.”
Despite his upbeat view on the remainder of this year’s Championship, Dave says there is no room for complacency about the longer term future of forest rallying within Wales.
“It is essential that NRW and the MSA reach an agreement that meets the needs of NRW but also enables rallying within Wales to remain affordable to competitors, many of them just hard working men and women competing on the tightest of budgets already.
“Anything else”, he added, “would be a disaster for competitors, spectators and those who make their living from the sport.”
“Beyond that, it would be a major blow for the many communities around Wales, a high proportion of them small rural communities, who enjoy significant economic benefits from having rallies in their area.”
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The 2016 Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship reaches its midway point Saturday with the Welshpool based Plains Rally.
After three events, it’s leading junior driver Andrew Jones who tops the overall drivers’ standings but with two outright wins, on the Cambrian Rally and Rally North Wales, Rhuddlan’s Luke Francis is just two points behind while his co-driver John H Roberts from Colwyn Bay heads the overall co-drivers’ standings. The duo will be keen to take their Mitsubishi Evo 9 to another victory this weekend.
Subaru Impreza duo Andy Davies and Max Freeman hold third place in their respective overall standings as well as leading the Group N category for less modified cars. Simon Thomas lies fourth in the drivers’ table driving his Mitsubishi Evo 6 while the co-driver in the South Wales based team, Mark Williams is in second place in those standings.
There is a tie for fifth place among the drivers with both Impreza pilot Nev Jones and Mark 2 Escort driver John Rowlands on 42 points. They are two points ahead of Dylan Davies, the Impreza driver claiming maximum points on the second round, the Mid Wales Stages but recording two non-finishes, on the Cambrian and on Rally North Wales where he suffered an engine fire.
Steve Simpson returns to Welsh Championship action this weekend in his S2000 specification Ford Fiesta after taking second place on the Cambrian but retiring from Rally North Wales with driveshaft problems.
Another driver looking to bounce back from a non-finish on the last round is Surrey’s Wug Utting. The Impreza driver picked up third place points on the Mid Wales Stages.
Reigning Group N champion Paul Davy and fellow Worcester man Roger Allan will be looking to get their title defence back on track after retiring from both of the last two rounds. They still remain in second place in the Group N standings
Andrew Jones holds a 26 point lead in the two wheel drive category but tied for second place are John Rowlands and Sion Ellis who finished the last round with substantial suspension damage to his Nissan Sunny.
Jones’s closest rival in the Junior driver category, Matthew Jackson also finished Rally North Wales with heavy damage to his Nissan Micra. He has been burning the midnight oil to ensure the car is fit for him and co-driver Claire Williams to defend their Class 3 lead this weekend.
The Championship contenders will also be battling it out for points in the Ravenol Welsh Challenge with the hi-tech lubricant manufacturer offering an end of season prize fund valued at £3000. With points awarded based on the driver’s performance within their class, Andrew Jones also leads the Challenge but by just five points from Nev Jones while the next six drivers are separated by only two points.
We may be witnessing the half-way point in the Championship but with competitors counting their best six scores from eight rounds at the end of the season it would take a brave person to predict the destination of any Championship award when the season ends in November. Of one thing we can be certain, however, as those competitors tackle the wonderful forest stages that the Plains Rally always offers they will have one thing in mind, whether it’s in their class, the Ravenol Challenge or overall, they want to win.
You can find out more about that event on their website, www.plainsrally.co.uk and about the championship on www.wnrc.wamc.org.uk, on the Championship Facebook page and on Twitter @WnRC.