Elliot Payne spun backwards into a ditch on stage four of the Nicky Grist Stages (Saturday 8 July) but still went on to win the Quinton Motor Club-organised event for the first time in his Mango Go Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Co-driven by Tom Woodburn, the young Harrogate driver took a jump in the Monument stage flat-out and couldn’t slow down enough for the following corner – but despite the time loss, Payne won the event by 7.9 seconds to extend his lead in the MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star Series.
In a big field of 127 starters, Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear finished second in their Delta Salvage/Witham Group Ford Fiesta R5 to maintain their BTRDA title challenge and also extend their lead in the Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship.
Arron Newby/Jamie Edwards completed the 2023 Nicky Grist Stages top three after a good run through the challenging Llyn Login, Crychan, Halfway and Monument stages in their Tatham Tyre Services-backed Škoda Fabia R5.
Local driver Jason Pritchard and co-driver Phil Clarke were the top placed two-wheel drive finishers, coming home a magnificent 10th overall in their Trailhead Get Jerky Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2.
Robert Gough/Paul Morris (Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2) won the BTRDA Silver Star and BTRDA Historic awards, Nigel and Kaz Jenkins (Vauxhall Nova) came out on top in the BTRDA Bronze category, Barry Stevenson-Wheeler/John Pickavance (Ford Escort RS1800) won the HRCR Rally Master Challenge section, David Tomlin/Keith Ashley (Ford Fiesta R5) were the top-placed ANWCC Rally Championship crew, Kristjan Kajakas/Ari Tiukkanen (Land Rover Bowler Defender 90) triumphed in the Bowler Defender Challenge and Rob Wilson/Richard Crozier (Mitsubishi Evo 7) were the first IPS Paint Rally Challenge registered crew home.
There was a magnificent atmosphere in the host town of Builth Wells, with the start ceremony on Strand Street, the service area on the Builth Wells RFC pitch and the podium ceremonies on the Groe – on the banks of the River Wye, with Builth Wells’ 18th Century bridge and surrounding rolling hills in the background. All this was made possible thanks to the magnificent support of Powys County Council, Builth Wells Town Council, Builth Wells Rugby Football Club and the businesses and residents of Builth Wells.
Local Toyota dealership North Road Garage kindly provided a hi-tech workshop for scrutineering.
“This year’s Nicky Grist Stages has gone really well, and everything has run to plan,” said Nicky Grist.
“It’s been a bit of a change this year, because normally we have hot dry weather and we’ve had a bit of rain thrown in this time to make the challenge a little greater for the crews. That said, all the competitors that I’ve spoken to have had a wonderful time.
“As event organisers, the Nicky Grist Stages sets itself a challenge to provide good roads and we want competitors to enjoy themselves. I was watching at the end of one of the stages and seeing all the smiling faces coming out is testimony to what the event is trying to achieve.
“Having one hundred and twenty-seven starters shows how popular the event is. Although we keep on hearing that rallying is dying in the UK, this event proves that rallying isn’t dying but in fact it is thriving and vibrant – and you can see on this event that we’ve had depth and breadth right the way through our entry. This event proves that rallying is a very positive thing in the UK still.”
“Quinton Motor Club would like to thank everyone who has supported this year’s event, from Nicky Grist, the landowners and local authorities, the championships and competitors, the marshals and officials, the local businesses, and the local residents,” said Clerk of the Course Neil Cross.
“Without their support we could not put on such a spectacular event.”
The 2024 Nicky Grist Stages will take place on Saturday 13 July.
2023 Nicky Grist Stages – top 10 finishers 1. Elliot Payne/Tom Woodburn (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….43mins 04.4secs 2. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5)….43mins 12.3secs 3. Arron Newby/Jamie Edwards (Škoda Fabia R5)….44mins 23.2secs 4. Russ Thompson/Stephen Link (Mitsubishi Evo 9)….44mins 46.1secs 5. Alistair Ginley/Craig Thorley (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….44mins 56.4secs 6. Ian Bainbridge/Will Atkins (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….45mins 15.2secs 7. Rob Wilson/Richard Crozier (Mitsubishi Evo 7)….45mins 18.3secs 8. Bob Morgan/Ade Williams (Škoda Fabia R5)….45mins 59.6secs 9. Gavin Edwards/Caron Tomlinson (Ford Fiesta R5)….46mins 19.7secs 10. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2)….47mins 02.7secs