Callum Black will be aiming to extend his early lead at the top of the 2021 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship when Round 2 of the series, the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages, takes place on Saturday 4 September, writes Paul Evans.
Black and co-driver Jack Morton won the opening round, the Nicky Grist Stages, in their 586 Sports team-prepared Ford Fiesta R5. They go into the next round three points ahead of Ian Bainbridge/Will Atkins, who will be out to turn the tables in their Škoda Fabia R5.
George Lepley/Tom Woodburn finished third on the opening round in their AMS-tuned Mitsubishi Evo X and arrive at the Woodpecker also leading the Welsh Junior Championship. With the top Junior driver end-of-season prize of a test in a PCRS Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 R5, courtesy of OnThePaceNote, up for grabs, Lepley will be keen to extend that advantage – although he will be chased hard by the likes of Jason Black/Karl Egan (Toyota Starlet), Gethin Price/Matthew Baddeley (Nissan Micra), Maxx Bradshaw/Liam Andrew Whiteley (Mitsubishi Evo III) and Aoife Raftery/Dylan Doonan (Ford Fiesta).
Former Welsh Junior champion Tom Llewellin (above) had a great run on the Nicky Grist Stages to come home fourth on his rally debut in a four-wheel drive car. Co-driven by Ross Whittock, he’ll be keen to once again get maximum mileage in his Mitsubishi Mirage.
There will also be a number of crews aiming to kick-start their title assaults after a difficult start. These include the 2019 Pirelli Welsh National Rally champions Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear, who finished 11th on the Nicky Grist after an engine misfire and a broken driveshaft in their Mitsubishi Evo IX.
The 2019 championship runner-up Russ Thompson has already dropped a score, courtesy of snapping a pair of driveshafts on his Mitsubishi Evo IX. Partnered this time by Stephen Link, good results from here on in are essential if he’s to challenge for the title this year.
Bob Morgan/Adrian Williams will be hoping that their Škoda Fabia’s brake issue which forced them to non-score last time out are fixed, while the 1990 Woodpecker Rally winner Graham Middleton, co-driven by Steven McPhee, is set to make his first appearance of the season in his Mitsubishi Mirage.
David Crossen will be aiming to extend his lead in the Restruct-sponsored Two-Wheel Drive category, as well as closing in for the lead of the RAVENOL UK Welsh Challenge category. This time the Comber driver will be partnered in his rapid Escort Mk2 by Darren Curren.
Ron Morgan will also contest the event in his newly built Escort Mk2. He’ll be co-driven by Marc Clatworthy.
Having blown the cobwebs off on the Nicky Grist by contesting his first event since the 2015 Wyedean Stages Rally, expect Nik Elsmore to be back on the pace in his Mitsubishi Evo IX. He had only done three rallies in the last 12 years but, together with co-driver Craig Drew, was quickly into his stride – and will be one to keep an eye on this time for sure.
Wug Utting is likely to be more up to speed too. He’d only had a replacement hip operation a month before the Nicky Grist, so expect him to be back to his old self when he and co-driver Bob Stokoe hit the Woodpecker stages in their Subaru Impreza STi N12.
Organised by Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club, this year’s non-spectator Woodpecker Stages will take place entirely within the Radnor forest complex in Powys, and contain 44 stage miles on roads which are in superb condition.
Further details on the 2021 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, together with registration information, can be found online at: wnrc.wamc.org.uk
© Images Chris Huish, RallySport Media