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Woodpecker16 Petch1stStephen Petch took his first rally victory in around 12 months last weekend as he dominated the Event Signs Woodpecker Stages Rally in his Fiesta R5+. After taking second fastest time on the opening stage, Petch with co-driver Michael Wilkinson moved into top spot after the second test and was never headed for the remainder of the event. Petch finished just eight seconds in front of pre-rally favourite Jamie Anderson in his similar Fiesta, with Charlie Payne completing the top 3 in third, taking the Ravenol BTRDA Rally series title in the process.

Sponsored once again by Midlands based signage specialists Event Signs and supported by Hills Ford, the event enjoyed an impressive start list of over 160 crews who assembled at Ludlow Racecourse on Saturday (3rd September). There would be a tough challenge ahead for competitors in the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised event as heavy rain greeted competitors at the start ramp early on Saturday morning. The inclement weather continued throughout the day in the Shropshire and Powys forests making it tough going for even the most experienced drivers in the Ravenol BTRDA National Rally Series and Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championships.

Woodpecker16 Anderson2nd2015 event winner Jamie Anderson with co-driver Ross Whittock led the field away but became one of the first victims of the event, losing power steering on the opening test of the day and forcing them down the order on the first loop. Stepping into the frame were Welsh Championship frontrunners Luke Francis and John H Roberts in their Mitsubishi E9, topping the time sheets on the opening test by three seconds from Petch. But Francis failed to make it back to service, rolling out of the event on the second test and handing the lead to the Fiesta pilot which was never relinquished.

Despite Francis’ early exit from the event, his strong run of form this year has enabled him to clinch the Welsh Rally Championship title on the penultimate round of the series.

Having fixed his earlier power steering issues in service, Anderson began his chargeback up the leader board and fired in a string of fastest times over the closing stages of the event. Moving from fourth to second, Anderson did everything he could to overhaul Petch over the final loop but missed out by just eight seconds, taking a well-deserved second in the process. On top of the leader board, things would remain static for the remainder of the day and Petch admirably held off any challenge to take the overall win and maximum BTRDA championship points to boot.

“This has been a long time coming” said Petch at the finish.  “We haven’t won a round of the BTRDA since 2013 and we missed out on victory at this event that year by just two seconds so it’s nice to come back and finish the job off really.  It’s been a tricky day out there for us all and we lost out on some of the faster stuff in Radnor.  Our tyre choice was better this afternoon but we haven’t been able to back off at all. It’s been a good battle.”

Woodpecker16 Payne3rdThe fight for the remaining podium spots was nowhere near as straight forward with Payne in second after the opening loop and Black third. Both however would be shoved down the order by Anderson’s comeback with Payne taking third as they crossed the finish line of the final stage.

Black was on track to take an impressive fourth place but on the final stage local driver Shaun Gardener and co-driver Ben Innes had other ideas. Settling into their aging Mitsubishi, the duo managed to grab fourth on the final test. Gardener, from Ludlow has made only his second rally of the year and was pleased to take a top five position and maximum Welsh Rally Championship points on his home event.

Black took fifth on his Fiesta debut and was overjoyed at the finish ramp to have finished his first event in the car and with co-driver Edmondson. Overcoming several spins throughout the day, they had achieved their goal of a finish in the new machine.

Making the trip from Cumbria and Scotland respectively, Wayne Sisson and Neil Shanks enjoyed a clean run to sixth their Mitsubishi X. Dylan Davies and Llion Williams bagged some much needed Welsh Championship points to take seventh in their Subaru Impreza with Richard Hill and Steffan Evans taking the Production Cup win in their Mitsubishi E9 in eighth. Karl Simmonds and Mark Glennerster were ninth in their Impreza WRC with Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy overcoming an early morning “paperwork issue” to round off the top ten in their Mitsubishi E9.

The event also played host to a raft of regional championships including the Jelf Motorsport 2WD Welsh Clubmans Rally Championship, FMP Motor Factors Rally Challenge, ASWMC Rally Championship and ANWCC Forest Rally Championship.  The Defender Challenge by Bowler Motorsport also returned to the event for the first time since 2014.

Woodpecker16 Gardener4thPete Wood, Clerk of the Course for the event believes the success of this year’s rally has been down to the organisers and volunteer marshals’ efforts. “The weather was certainly against us today but thanks to all the hard work from the marshals, the event ran perfectly” said Wood. “They stood out in some terrible conditions and we really do extend our thanks to everyone who braved the rain. We look forward to seeing all the competitors and marshals once again next year”.

More information including full event results can be found at http://www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk

Images courtesy of Gasmark Media – Mark Chappell.

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