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Over 100 crews from across the UK will head to Minehead this weekend as the Somerset Stages Rally returns to the seaside resort for its annual event on Saturday 8th April.

Organised by Burnham-on-Sea Motor Club and Minehead Motor Club, the event forms the second round of the RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the opening round of the Maxxis Tyres MSA English Rally Championship which once again brings some of the best rally drivers to the region.

Crews from the national championships are joined by contenders in the Reis Motorsport Insurance ASWMC Loose Surface Rally Championship and FMP Rally Challenge; ensuring spectators are in for a real treat during the day in the Exmoor forests.

Wearing the coveted number one on the door this year will be 2016 event winners Luke Francis and co-driver John H Roberts from North Wales who bring their potent Mitsubishi E9 to the South West.

The duo will be hoping to repeat their dominant performance from last year and boost their BTRDA title chances.  Northumberland’s Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson follow at number two in their Ford Fiesta WRC. Petch admits to be still getting used to the powerful machine but will certainly be looking for outright victory in Minehead.

Callum Black and Elliott Edmondson start the event at number three seed in their Fiesta R5. The newly formed duo have impressed so far this season and will be looking for a podium spot at the weekend.

Karl and Guy Simmons have swapped their Citroen DS3 R5 for a WRC for the event and start the event at four. David Wright and Steve Pugh lead a duo of crowd pleasing Ford Focus WRC’s and are seeded at five with Hugh Hunter and Rob Fagg just behind at six in a similar machine.

2013 event winner Connor McCloskey and John Rowan will return to the event at seven and make the trip over from Northern Ireland in their Fiesta WRC. Scotsman Fred Milne makes the long drive south to Somerset in his Mitsubishi E9 to start at car eight with co-driver Jamie Edwards alongside.

Tom Preston starts at nine in his Skoda Fabia R5 with co-driver Andrew Roughead; the Somerset Stages saw the debut of the car last year.

Rounding off the top ten are local crew Martyn and Dawn England from Illminster. The husband and wife team were another to debut their Ford Fiesta R5+ on the event last year and recorded an impressive set of times, finishing fourth overall in the process.

Other local entries include Michael Threlfall and Mulberry Threlfall-Eyres from Taunton who will compete in their Mitsubishi Evo X. Threlfall last contested the Somerset Stages in 2013 and will be looking to go one better than the retirement sustained that year. They start the event at car 22.

Look a little further down the list and you will see another Threlfall name, this time sons Harry and Alfie in a Renault Twingo R1. Harry was once a regular in the British Rally Championship, but returns to the sport after two years away to complete his University degree.

The event also plays host to the Army Land Rover team who bring six of the impressive machines to Somerset.  A favorite with spectators, the crews often put other more suitable cars to shame and are worth staying to the end of the field to watch.

The bulk of the event mileage takes place in the Exmoor forests and The Beach Hotel will house Rally Headquarters during the event. Teams will base themselves along the Minehead seafront for the scheduled services throughout the day.

The field will be flagged away from the ceremonial start on Warren Road Seafront bright and early at 08.00 on Saturday 8th.

For something a bit more fast paced, the spectator stage in the Kennisham forest complex is the place to go, offering the chance to see the action twice during the day. The first run through the stage kicks off at around 09.45 and provides around an hour and a half of action with the second run of the stage at 14.00.

Those fortunate enough to complete the event will get the chance to celebrate at 15.45 with the ceremonial finish on the Minehead Seafront (Warren Road), with the winning crews spraying champagne to celebrate victory.

More information is available at http://www.somersetstagesrally.com and you can keep up to date with all the latest news on the event Facebook and Twitter feeds.

http://www.facebook.com/somersetstages
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Images courtesy of Gasmark Media

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