Woodpecker Stages 2023
One thing was for sure, if you competed on the Woodpecker Stages this year you would undoubtedly have dehydrated and ingested large amounts of dust! The conditions on this, a scoring round of the West Wales Rally Spares HRCR Stage Masters Challenge, were quite extreme for September with bright sunshine and temperatures approaching 30 degrees. The stages used were different too which meant quite a bit of road mileage, Cwmysgawen and Ceri being used due to some usual stages not being available. The start was as ever at Ludlow racecourse, a venue perfectly suited to the rally giving ample room for scrutineering, documentation and servicing.
Of the intrepid Challenge crews Gareth James and Steffan Evans dipped back in and were very fast in the Blue Sky Engineering class D5 Escort RS1800. They mixed it with the best on the day and also walked away with maximum points. Class C5 is usually the domain of Jonathan Brace and Paul Spooner’s Escort RS1600 but a late family commitment meant late withdrawal and the opportunity for Andy Stokes and Jonny ‘Tad’ Evans to capitalise. This they duly did in their RS1600, only one major incident was reported despite all the dust as they overshot a junction in the Ceri bowl, Evans commenting that he couldn’t press the foot rest any harder as the driver suffered brain fade! Second in the class after another neat and tidy performance was Gloucestershire stone magnate Jeremy Wells who was no doubt spurred on by the presentation of the Exol Oil award for his Nicky Grist Stages performance. Bob Gibbons and Jon Harris came into the event with some trepidation after recent misfire issues with their RS1600 and all went well until stage four when more engine issues intervened and curtailed their involvement.
In class D3 Hywel Davies and Ian Jones had a satisfactory day after a slow start. Their times in the afternoon were much improved and they were surprised to be matching some quicker car and driver combinations. Their only problems all day were a puncture on a road section and being delayed by dust when a car in front of them spun.