AS they crossed the finish line of the final 13-mile Langdale stage of the weekend’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire the realisation set in that Forest husband and wife duo Nigel and Karen Jenkins were the 2023 BTRDA 1400 Bronze Star champions, and they did it in style with yet another 1400 category win, reports PAUL WILLETTS.
The duo have dominated this category for over 12 months and after many years of trying, especially for Berry Hill motor mechanic Nigel, there was no denying them this year and a throughly deserved success.
They weren’t the only local rallyers celebrating with Karen’s son Luke Watts and new co-driver Mark Twiname in the Ian Watts & Son MG ZR taking 1st in class and 3rd 1400 home, while Monmouth’s Cliffy Simmons and driver Ben Friend secured the Siver Star & BTRDA Historic category and
Going into the event Nigel and Karen only had to finish to claim the title, but 45 miles in the fast forests of North Yorkshire lay ahead, so strategy was to go as quick as need be and take no risks.
“I just can’t drive to finish as it will effect my concentration levels, so I’m going to go the safe side of quick and see where we are,” said Nigel prior to the start.
The event, a round of British Rally Championship, the British Historic Rally Championship and BTRDA series, Mini Cup attracted an 180-car field to the beautiful seaside resort of Filey. Ahead lay the forests of Cropton, Gale Rigg and Staindale before the last two 13-mile tests in Dalby and Langdale.
But the NJ Autos Vauxhall Nova hit the front from the word go and built up a 30-second lead after three stages and were then never really challenged, taking a comfortable win and with it the 1400 crown.
“Absolutely brilliant, Nige has driven so well this year and we decided before the start to drive our normal rally, but not to take any risks, so thanks to everyone who’s helped and supported us all year, and also well chuffed for Luke, it’s been a really good day,” said Karen.
Making it a double celebration was Luke who had a new co-driver in the shape of the experienced northerner Mark Twiname in the Ian Watts & Son MG ZR, who took 35th overall and 1st in class and 3rd 1400 home on his first visit to the Yorkshire forests.
Despite finding the grip levels very changeable, the new Questmead competition brake pads worked well despite some brake fade in Cropton, where the discs boiled the brake fluid.
Having to change back to standard pads for the long afternoon stages, this caused some excitement on the last stage with loosing the brakes, but they made it to the finish unscathed.
Luke said: “My first BTRDA podium, and I’m really chuffed. Thanks to Mark for stepping in for Matt, he was spot on.
“I’d never been up here before but ran out of top end speed. Apart from some brake issues, it’s been a really good day, and congratulations to mum and Nige.“
It’s been an excellent year for the youngster whose confidence grows with every event and now goes to the final round, the Cambrian at the end of October, with an outside chance of getting onto the 1400C championship podium.
More silverware came the way of Cliffy Simmons and Ben Friend in the Allglass Anglia-backed Escort RS1800 with a fine run to 13th overall and 1st Siver Star and BTRDA Historic home.
But it wasn’t straight forward, as a misfire plagued them on the opening four tests, which is far from ideal on those fast stages, then the car had to be push-started at the start of stage four.
Frantic work in service with a change of coil, plugs and rechecking the timing, meant the cat was perfect for the final two long tests, so it was a maximum attack and it was enough to take both category wins.
Old Monmothian Cliffy said: “A big push on the last two stages with the car now working fine paid off, although those high speed dips and bumps were rough which made for some interesting lines, but game on now for the Cambrian.”
They go to there with a good chance of becoming both BTRDA Silver Star and Historic champions if they can repeat the success of this weekend.
In the Mini Cup which opened up with the 12-mile Friday night test in Dalby Forest in darkness followed on Saturday with tests in Cropton Gale Rigg and Staindale, was only on this loop totalling some 22 miles.
Tidenham’s Keith Bounds together with Lydney’s Kevin Watkins in the First Choice Vans Mini had a excellent run to fourth overall and a good haul of points.
The BTRDA Championship moves to North Wales for its finale yet again at the end of October it all to play for in various championships.