The unfortunate cancellation of the Millbrook National Rally in May has given rise to an unplanned lengthy break in the Richard Egger Insurance BTRDA Asphalt Rally Series calendar.
However, that is all set to change with the running of the Hinckley-based Trinity Hyundai Rally of the Midlands on 19/20th June and, with everyone raring to go once more, the series is responsible for almost 20 per cent of the entry.
Defending champions, and maximum points scorers on both the opening two rounds of the BTRDA Series, Chris Jones/Richard Williams are giving this one a miss and, consequently, there are a number of crews hoping to take advantage of their absence. Most notable of these will be Mark Welch/Andy Wynn who finished runners-up on the event last year in their Ford Escort Cosworth. They missed the opening round of the 2009 season and could do with a hefty points haul as they bid to make up the lost ground.
Gary Le Coadou/Paul Hollingham were third in their Toyota Celica GT4 in 2007 and, after one of 'those' events last year, still managed a top six finish. Their experience of the stages will hold them in good stead and they can reasonably expect to improve on that this time. As they arrive in Hinckley, they occupy second place in the points table and, without wishing to tempt fate, could have just moved up that all-important one place before they return home!
2007 BTRDA Series winners Adrian Spencer/Mark Hewitt (Subaru Impreza) were fifth in the Midlands on their way to the title and, having scored well on both rounds so far, are also in a position to challenge for the top spot.
Southampton milkman Ray Read and co-driver Stuart Anderson-Peters are in the only other registered 4WD car – their fearsome Audi Quattro. Their first finish of the season came on the Tour of Caerwent and a similar run would do their overall and class positions a power of good.
Fourth-placed Graham Watkins/Mark Powell lead the 2WD contingent in the overall classification in their Ford Escort MkII after a class win on Caerwent. However, the Peugeot 205 of Paul Boxall/Teresa Butler got the better of them over Epynt before failing to finish last time. MSA Asphalt Championship regular Paul Harewood has opted for a season of BTRDA Series events in his Vauxhall Astra GSI and Tim Daltry/Paul Ohren-Bird (Peugeot 205) are also in the same class. With four events – including Rally of the Midlands – still to run, no-one can afford to relax.
After an inauspicious start to the season on Epynt, series sponsors Richard & Pat Egger return with their Vauxhall Nova and, having only to make the short journey from Leicester, will be hoping for a change of fortune on their 'home' event.
In the up to 1600 class, Paul Price (Peugeot 106) will be looking to maintain his 100 per cent finishing record and to put behind him the disappointment of running as high as 5th overall on last year's Midlands co-driving in John Harland's Darrian T90 before power-steering failure put them out. Price's nearest rivals are Stuart Bliss/Richard Marsh in a Honda Civic, while Chris Gravestock/Mark Harmer will be hoping for a less eventful run in their new Peugeot 106. Having joined the series for the Tour of Caerwent, their event came to a very violent end on the opening stage when steering failure launched them into a barrel-roll and instant retirement. Fortunately, both crew members escaped unscathed, which is more than can be said for the car. Much midnight oil has been burned in the interim whilst the replacement has been completed and it will make its debut at the weekend.
Having had the small-engined class all to itself so far, Alison Lock's Austin Mini Cooper is about to be joined by the Vauxhall Nova of Chris Daykin/ Stephen Lloyd, but good healthy competition is what the BTRDA Asphalt Series is all about.
The first car leaves the start of Rally of the Midlands at 6.00pm on Friday 19th June for the special stage through Nuneaton town centre and then, following an overnight halt, competition resumes at 8.05am on Saturday. Cars then begin arriving at the finish in Hinckley town centre from 4.30pm that afternoon.