Arron Newby claimed his second victory of 2023 on Saturday (15 April) as he took his Skoda Fabia R5 to a convincing Rallynuts Stages Rally win.
The 28-year-old driver from Carnforth in Cumbria took control of a hotly contested event on the fifth test when early leader Matt Hirst picked up a puncture, and from then on Newby and co-driver Jamie Edwards threaded their way through the tricky world-class stages with precision, to take the win by an impressive 30 seconds.
It would be 2021 winner Elliot Payne and co-driver Tom Woodburn who were their nearest challenger by the finish, taking their Ford Fiesta Rally2 to second spot, but only by one second over the wounded Hirst who salvaged third after an afternoon to forget.
Sponsored by established racewear and accessory firm Rallynuts Motorsport, the Builth Wells-based event would take place for the 49th time. Organised by Midland Manor Motor Club, around 120 crews would tackle seven world-class stages in mid-Wales in the Myherin, Sweet Lamb, Hafren and Sarnau forests.
It would be last year’s winners Matt Hirst and Declan Dear that set the pace from the outset, setting the fastest time on all four of the morning’s stages to head back into the mid-day service with a mighty 20-second lead. However, the hard work would be undone in the afternoon, losing over 30 seconds with a puncture on the fifth test, before suffering another on the final stage of the rally.
This allowed Newby to take advantage of the ailing Fiesta, setting the pace on the Myherin Main test and again in Cwmysgawen to storm to the win, adding to his Malcolm Wilson Rally Interclub victory last month, taking maximum MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series points in the process.
“That was totally unexpected,” said a shocked Newby at the finish.
“It’s been a phenomenal day and there isn’t a mark on the car. The pacenotes were brilliant and the stages are just fantastic down here, it’s absolutely mega. You know of course we have a little bit in the back of our minds with Craig [Breen] obviously, our thoughts are still going towards him, but in terms of the pace today, I absolutely loved it, I couldn’t be any happier”.
Last week, World Rally Championship driver Craig Breen lost his life in a testing accident for the forthcoming Croatia Rally and the Rallynuts Stages Rally held a one-minute silence ahead of the start as a mark of respect. The winners also didn’t take part in the traditional champagne spray in his honour.
Payne was thankful for his second place after a difficult day behind the wheel. Issues with the setup of the Fiesta hampered progress in the morning loop and despite changes in service, couldn’t make inroads on Newby’s lead. The runner-up spot would offer some consolidation in his second BTRDA title quest which remains firmly alive.
Hirst limped back to the finish with little left of the transmission, to round out the podium but would do enough to secure maximum Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship points.
Russ Thompson and Steve Link hurled their Mitsubishi Evo IX to an impressive fourth spot on the opening stage and remained there for the remainder of the event. Whilst they would always struggle to match the pace of the R5 machinery in front, the pairing produced a faultless run.
The Fiesta Rally2 of Alistair Ginley rounded out the top five with Craig Thorley on the notes, whilst Robert Wilson and Richard Crozier took sixth in their Mitsubishi Evo VII.
The Rallynuts Stages Rally also attracted a healthy two-wheel-drive battle and it was the stunning FIAT 131 Abarth of Nick Elliott and Dave Price who took the honours. But they snatched that marker from the grasp of Robert Gough and Paul Morris on the final stage, who had control in the afternoon in their Ford Escort MKII, losing out by just one second.
Builth Wells driver Jason Pritchard had the honour of first local driver home in 13th overall in his Ford Escort MKII and was only a handful of seconds behind the leading historic crews.
The Bowler Defender Challenge was won by the Finnish crew of Jorma and Janne Jokela, enjoying over a minute gap to the second place Vanessa Ruck and Chris Cumming.
For full results, head to www.rallynutsrally.co.uk
Images courtesy of Malcolm Almond