Bishop Auckland based crew Stephen Petch/ Michael Wilkinson will lead the field away from the Hexham start on this weekend’s Kielder Forest Rally, the 4th round of the MRF Tyres / BTRDA Rally Series but with the competition poised behind them and the series having produced a different winner on each of the preceding rounds it is anybody’s guess as to which crew will emerge as winners from the almost 100 entries.
With the exception of Rallynuts Stages winners, Matthew Hirst/ Declan Dear, all the leading contenders will be pitching up in Hexham and, given the challenge that the gravel tracks in the legendary “Killer” Kielder can throw up, there are sure to be some surprises and disappointments in store. Behind Petch/Wilkinson, winners of the Malcolm Wilson Rally, will come the other in-form crews, Border Counties winners Elliott Payne/Patrick Walsh, series leaders Perry Gardiner/Jack Bowen and Russ Thompson/Steve Link while Tom Llewellin/Ross Whittock cannot be discounted after leading the Border Counties at the halfway point.
West Cumbrian crew Rob Wright/Mark Fisher are currently the leaders of the BTRDA Silver Star Championship but this also has seen different winners on each round with Nick Dobson’s Escort just behind them in second spot and other potential challengers such as Andy Davison/Tom Murphy and former Silver Star Championship winner Allan McDowell in the field.
Close competition can also be expected amongst the Jordan Road Surfacing Historic Cup contenders, current points leaders, Grant Inglis/Gavin Chisholm retired on the Border Counties but are back to see what Kielder holds, they will be pushed all the way by the likes of the quick BMW 325 of Ernie and Patricia Lee, Keith Hopkins TR7 V8 and James Lepley/Arwel Jenkins in their Ford Escort.
The rally is also a counter for the BTRDA R2 Cup, the Fuchs Lubricants Bronze Star and the MRF Tyres Rally First up so there will be intense action and fierce rivalry right throughout the field.
The Kielder Forest Rally leaves from Hexham Auction Mart at 08:30 prior to a ceremonial start from Chipchase Castle (09:00) before heading for the special stages in the giant Kielder Forest Complex. The cars return to Hexham Auction Mart for a service halt (12:30) then it’s back to the forests for more action before the rally finishes back at Hexham Auction Mart at 5 o’clock.