IT’S all systems go for this year’s Wyedean Forest Rally.
The 39th running of the event, organised by the Forest of Dean Motor Club (FODMC), takes place on Saturday when top crews from across the UK and the very best locals will be thrashing it out in the Forest of Dean... weather permitting.
Weather conditions play a massive part in the Wyedean Rally and the saturated forests mean it will be very wet and treacherous so spectators can expect plenty of thrills and spills.
The FODMC will be hard pushed to better last year’s rally, with a record turnout of spectators, very tricky conditions, an attrition rate of 40 per cent which was greater than the Dakar Rally.
An incredible finish saw only 12 seconds separating the leading crews as they entered the final stage with eventual victory going to Northern Ireland's, Connor McCloskey and Francis Regan in their Subaru Impreza S9.
A full entry list of 165 crews is expected, so if spectators view from the first car, a running time of two hours 45 minutes for each stage should give provide plenty of action.
The first class on the road will be the 1400s – these 'pocket rockets' rev to nearly 10,000rpm.
Sixty crews battle it out this year and Gloucestershire interest will centre on former champions Darren Pinchin and Kaz Jenkins in a Proton Satria.
They have massive experience of this event but there will be plenty of competition from the up-and-coming young guns.
Dave Bennett and Alistair McNeil will be competing in a Vauxhall Corsa; Mat Smith and Giles Dykes will be driving a Ford Ka; Ash Slights has experienced co-driver Patrick Walsh in the Toyota Yaris while the experienced Dave Brick and Rob Woodhouse are competing in a Vauxhall Nova.
The Historic class are next on the road with 22 crews taking part.
Spectators can expect plenty of sideways action from the rear wheel drive Ford Escorts, so watch out for the flying stones.
A big old Volvo Amazon leads the way with Ken Davies and Alan Jones, and they will be chased by the flying Escorts of Mark Griffiths, Matt Robinson, Theo Bengry and Gloucestershire legends Rob Dennis and Roger Mathews.
Steve Perez and Paul Spooner will bring their successful East African Datsun 260 Z to add variety.
The big guns then run in the Open class (about one hour 30 minutes) after the first car on the road.
It’s great to see the BTRDA Gold Star champions Ewan Thorburn and Paul Beaton return. The Scots were flying in their Ford Focus WRC in last year’s event before retiring.
Also from north of the border and seeded at two are multiple Scottish champions Dave Bogie and Kevin Rae.
They are followed by Steve Petch and Ian Windress and former runners-up Paul Bird and Aled Davies – all in Ford Focus WRCs.
Bird is taking time out from his Moto GP & BSB duties. The overall winner should come from one these teams and it is sure to be a great battle. One to watch out for is young Ollie Mellors in the development Proton Satria. He impressed last year.
The WRC Focus's will be chased by Mitsubishi Evo’s and Subaru Impreza’s in the top 10 and nearly 80 crews round up the class.
A full entry list and event details can be seen www.wyedeanrally/com.
...and here's the route
THE event starts from rally HQ at Chepstow Racecourse, first car away (08.01) and heads straight into the Forest of Dean Mailscott Wood (SS.1. 08.47) above the banks of the river Wye. so a slippery start is assured.
It is a very compact rally with 44 miles of seven competitive special stages which means a busy day for the FODMC.
However, with no double usage of any stage it's hoped that delays can be kept to a minimum. Sallowvallets (SS.2. 09.11) is a fast flowing stage with open hairpins and ski-like turns, always cover-
ed in rotting leaves which
can prove treacherous and costly.
After a short service break the crews then head back south although rally
enthusiasts must note that SS.3 is strictly no go and
is not accessible to spectat-
That stage is followed by a visit to Chepstow Park Wood (SS.4. 10.36), where long straights and difficult junctions can catch out the unaware or over-committed.
A mid-rally service break at rally HQ Chepstow Racecourse will see teams repair and re-charge before returning to the heart of the forest.
The re-introduction of special stage Yorkley (SS.5.), a special stage not used for 10 years and a no go for specatators, could surprise a few before the longest stage of the event – the famous Speech House (SS.6. 12.54) .
It is 13.5 miles long and will go a long way to determining the winner before the final stage Serridge (SS.7. 13.35), which has a mix bag of surfaces, is narrow in places and wide and fast in others.
The later runners will tackle this in fading light, so this could provide some fun as well.
Those remaining then head back to the finish control at Rally HQ.
Check out www.wyedeanrally/com. for car park details. With five stages within a five-mile radius of Speech House Hotel the car parks will offer you great viewing. Do not park on the verges as you can be removed by the police.