Scottish rally driver Euan Thorburn continued the perfect start to his 2019 rallying season at the Rallynuts Stages today (13th April 2019) by taking a start-to-finish victory in his Ford Focus WRC with Paul Beaton on the notes.
Thorburn, from Duns in the Scottish borders, stunned his rivals by taking fastest stage time on each of the event’s six special stages, to win the Builth Wells based event by winning margin of 59 seconds. This victory ensures the duo maintain their 100% winning record this year, winning each of the four events contested.
Northern Ireland driver Mark Donnelly made an impressive return to the sport after two years away by taking second place with Welshman Dai Roberts alongside in their Fiesta R5+, dropping Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson to third on the final stage in their Fiesta WRC.
Over 130 crews would start the 46th running of the popular rally, one of the biggest in the history of the Midland Manor Motor Club-organised event. Over 44 miles of competitive driving lay ahead for the crews in the dry and dusty forests of Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Coed Sarnau, mixing classic tests with rarely used stages, challenging even the most experienced of crews.
Not only would the event start with a healthy number of competitors, but the quality was also an enviable prospect thanks to the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Championship joining the event once again.
Mark Donnelly impressed on his return to the sport with 2nd
– Image credit: RallySport Media
The event was also a qualifying round of the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship, West Wales Rally Spares HRCR Stage Masters, Brian Dennis Motorsport / Jelf Motorsport Welsh Historic Rally Championship and the FMP Rally Challenge.
Stopping the clocks with the fastest time over the opening Hafren South stage was perhaps unsurprisingly Thorburn, but he was joined at the head of the leader board by 2017 event winner Connor McCloskey, another to make the trip across the Irish sea with Noel O’ Sullivan alongside in their Fiesta R5.
Ian Joel and Graeme Wood were second fastest in their Escort Cosworth but would not make that stick throughout the remaining tests. Thorburn picked up the pace on the next three tests to end the opening loop with a 29-second lead heading into service and well in control of the rally. That lead would do nothing but grow, and the Scotsman blasted through the remaining two stages of the day to win by almost a minute to his nearest rival.
Thorburn was delighted with yet another rally win and maximum BTRDA points.
“It’s great to have taken the win here today and maintain such a great winning record, I really didn’t expect that after taking a year out last season,” he said.
“I was expecting to perhaps get a win at the end of the year, not the start so four on the bounce was a bit unexpected, but we will take it nevertheless. The stages have been brilliant down here today and the weather has played ball, Paul has done a great job on the notes so all round its been an excellent day’s rallying.”
Behind him however, the battle would certainly be on for the remaining podium places with Petch taking second place on the Sweet Lamb stage, a place he would hold onto until the final test.
McCloskey resumed third but would drop into the clutches of Donnelly by the mid-point, the two Northern Irishmen locked in a battle over the closing two tests of the day.
Donnelly would bed in nicely to his new surrounds and as the miles progressed, he became quicker.
Stephen Petch scored a much needed podium– Image credit: RallySport Media
Edging away from McCloskey, he had his sights set further up the leader board and on the final 13.4 mile Hafren North stage, launched himself into second spot, demoting Petch in the process.
McCloskey netted fourth with Charles Payne and Carl Williamson rounding out the top five in their Fiesta WRC with a handful of top five times throughout the day.
Phillip and Simon Morrow were another crew to return to the sport after several years away, beating much more powerful machinery throughout the day in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. They would be heading for a potential top-five result, only to roll on the final corner of the final stage and having to retire on the spot.
Sam Bilham and Patrick Walsh recovered from an early puncture to secure sixth in their Fiesta R5 with Scott Faulkner and Gareth Parry leading a line of four Mitsubishi’s home, taking seventh place to win the BTRDA NR4 battle and taking maximum points in the Welsh Rally Championship to boot. Matthew Hirst / Declan Dear, Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence and Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor rounded off the top ten in their Evo IX examples.
Despite the challenging stages on offer during the day, 102 cars would make it to the ceremonial finish at Builth Wells Showground.
What they said:
Mark Donnelly – 2nd place
“I`m very surprised at the result to be honest. We were just coming here for a finish and make sure we didn’t damage the car, but to finish second was great. It was getting better the more miles we did in the Fiesta and its fantastic to be back.”
Stephen Petch – 3rd place
“A podium result is certainly what we needed to do today, and we delivered that. We had an anti-roll bar link snap on the final stage which cost us some time, but to be fair we are happy with the result, and we have both really enjoyed it.”
Full results can be found at www.rallynutsrally.co.uk
Vital Equipment are the official refuelling partner to the BTRDA Rally Series.
ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT RallySport Media