SANDRA Price from Gorsley had a surprise birthday present when she was invited to the Hills Ford Stages VIP Day at South Cerney, reports PAUL WILLETTS.

Organisers of The Hills Ford Stages – formerly the 3 Shires Stages – invited guests from the community that help the rally take place each September within the three counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

But Sandra has gone that extra mile as she lives on part of the Shaw Common special stage, and has invited numerous family friends and spectators to stand on her property, with it now having a reputation as the go to place to watch the event pass safely.

Sandra Price and her son Neil at the VIP day
Sandra Price with Jamie Hedges, whose father Pete Hedges took her for a spin in his Escort at the VIP day. Photo: PAUL WILLETTS. (PAUL WILLETTS)

"When we first heard of the rally coming past our house we were unsure of what to expect given it's not a motorsport area, but we really enjoyed it.

"The motor club were great, they explained everything to us and the marshals on the junction were lovely." said Sandra

"So the following year, members of the family brought a farm trailer and we erected a bit of grandstand, got the BBQ going, then spectators asked if they could watch from the garden and it's escalated over the years.

"Now some of those people have become regulars each year and I've met drivers' and co-drivers' families. It's been brilliant, I really enjoy it."

Son Neil got in touch with joint Clerk of the Course Keith Richens to ask if she could have a ride in a rally car, so he invited Sandra and Neil to the VIP Day on what just happened to be her birthday.

"Sandra, like a lot of other residents along the route have embraced the event over the years and words can't express our gratitude to these people, as they are very much part of the success story of the rally," said Keith

"So it was our pleasure to invite them to the VIP Day, which was a tremendous success and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who gave up their time to support us.

"Thanks also to Andy and Holly from Gloucestershire Rally School for the venue."

Sandra said of sitting alongside rally drivers: "I absolutely loved it. I was greedy and got as many rides as I could.

"The rally is fabulous for the area, as it brings so much revenue to local businesses."

The Hills Ford Stages will take place over the weekend of September 14-15 based again at Much Marcle Showground.

A car makes a splash in last year's 3 Stages
A car makes a splash in last year's 3 Stages (Paul Mitchell)

More than 100 crews turned out last year to race the 60-mile event, when No 1 seed Mark Kelly and co-driver Dai Roberts took a fabulous start-to-finish victory in the Kelmore-backed Skoda Fabia R5.

Local honours from a host of local crews went the way of Herefordshire duo Roger Moran and Dan Petrie, who finished an excellent 10th overall in the Moran Motorhomes Skoda Fabia R5.

Monmouth farmer Ben Williams and Tony Edwards also took a fine 27th overall and seventh in class in their Escort RS

This year's event launch takes place at Ledbury Rugby Club on Sunday, August 11, with more details to follow.