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A new format for this years EventSigns Woodpecker Stages Rally has attracted an almost capacity field ahead of this weekend’s event, when around 150 cars will take to the stages around Ludlow on Saturday 2nd September.

Now in its 34th year, the Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised event is one of the most popular on the UK rallying calendar and has always attracted a top-quality entry list to Ludlow. But a new format in the Welsh and English borders will offer crews some of the best quality stages in the country and coupled with contenders from the Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series and Pirelli MSA Welsh Stage Rally Championship, the event will see one of the biggest entry lists so far in 2017.

As in previous years, the rally will be based at Ludlow Racecourse and heading the field away from the start ramp on Saturday morning will be last years event winners Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson in their WD40 backed Ford Fiesta WRC. With three overall wins to his name so far this season, Petch will be aiming to make it a fourth and edge closer to the BTRDA title in the process.

But fighting hard will be Callum Black and Elliott Edmondson in their Fiesta R5 at number two. Black currently heads the BTRDA standings but with drop scores coming into play, will need to take his inaugural overall event win in Ludlow to remain in contention.

2015 rally winner Jamie Anderson makes a welcome return to the event in his stunning Mitsubishi WRC04 with Ella Flynn alongside. The pairing cant be discounted after Anderson’s runner up spot last year in a less powerful Fiesta R5.

Another previous Woodpecker winner Paul Bird, starts at car four with Jamie Edwards in the co-drivers seat. Bird makes his return to the BTRDA series after several years away and will be hoping to repeat his 2014 win in his Ford Focus WRC. Luke Francis and John Roberts will pilot their Mitsubishi Evo IX at fifth seed and will be looking for their first “Woody” win.

Sadly local hero Shaun Gardner from Ludlow and Ben Innes have withdrawn from the event, leaving Charlie Payne and Carl Williamson at seven in their Fiesta. Hugh Hunter and Rob Fagg will bring out the big guns at eight, hiring a Fiesta WRC from Melvyn Evans Motorsport for the rally. Martyn and Dawn England continue to improve their pace in the Fiesta R5+ at nine with Karl and Guy Simmons rounding out the top ten in their Subaru Impreza WRC.

Other notable entries include Shropshire Ford Escort MK2 ace Henri Grehan with Chris Ridge from Ludlow alongside. Heading up the rear wheel drive contingent, the duo will use the event for practice ahead of November’s Roger Albert Clark Rally.

Right behind on the road will be Leominster’s John Perrott and Daniel Petrie. Perrott won the event in 2005 in a Mitsubishi but has recently switched to Ford Escort MK2. Expect an intense battle between the local lads.

Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 contenders Dave and Toby Brick , also from Ludlow will head up the lower capacity field at car 43 in their Vauxhall Nova. Be assured however, they are just as impressive to watch as the front runners.

Spectators will get plenty of opportunity to grab the action both on and off the stages.

The Racecourse rally base will play host to the pre-event scrutiny, documentation and Rally HQ during Friday 1st, as well as the start and finish ramps and service area throughout Saturday 2nd September.

Crews will cross the ceremonial start at around 08:30 on Saturday, returning throughout the day for service at the venue. The first car is expected back over the finish ramp around 15:00 later in the day.

Out on the stages, there are spectator locations at both Radnor Forest and Haye Park. Radnor forest is located on the A488 between Knighton and Penybont and the stage is used twice, firstly at 09:30 and again at 14:35.

Haye Park, just outside Ludlow on the minor road between Ludlow and Wigmore takes place just once and cars are expected at around 12:05. Catering, toilet facilities and a commentary will be available at this location.

Sponsored once again by Midlands based signage specialists EventSigns, the event is joined by an abundance of national and regional rally championships. As well as the BTRDA and Welsh Championships, the event is a round of the Maxxis Tyres MSA English Rally Championship, http://www.jelfmotorsport.com Welsh Clubman’s 2WD Forest Rally Championship, ANWCC Forest Rally Championship and the Reis Motorsport Insurance ASWMC Loose Surface Stage Rally Championship.

More information on the event, and further spectator information and entrylist can be found at http://www.woodpecker-rally.co.uk

Images courtesy of Gasmark Media and RalliPhotos Wales

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