Motorsport News



On his first outing of the year, Callum Black showed no sign of rustiness as he took his brand-new Ford Fiesta Rally2 to victory on the Woodpecker Stages.

Partnered by Jack Morton, he overcame an early challenge from Mathew Hirst before finishing the day with a 46-second winning margin.

Local crew Perry Gardener and Jack Bowen finally took a podium finish with an excellent second place in their Fiesta

R5, as Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh finished third in another Fiesta Rally2.

After running to a revised format in 2021, the Woodpecker returned to its traditiona­l home at Ludlow Racecourse and the bumper entry faced six stages in Haye Park and Radnor forest.

Apart from a brief shakedown, stage one in Haye Park would be the first drive in anger for Black in his immaculate car but it didn’t show as he emerged from the test two seconds quicker than Mathew Hirst and Declan Dear in their Fiesta R5.

Gardener/Bowen were third quickest in their Fiesta R5, followed by the tying Fiesta Rally2s of Stephen Petch/ Michael Wilkinson and Payne/Walsh.

Any thoughts that Black would have it all his way were quickly dispelled when Hirst fought back in Cwm Y Gerwyn 1, moving into a one second lead as Black admitted to overshooti­ng a chicane. Gardener tied for second with Black, with a happier Payne third fastest ahead of Petch.

A seven-mile run through Stanlo Tump followed and despite a half-spin, Black set another fastest time, returning to the lead as he got used to his new car. “We’re getting there, just making a few stupid mistakes,” was his summary at service.

Also happy with the event so far was Hirst, who confessed that he was lucky to get away with a big moment on stage three. With a one-second gap to Black, he said his plan was to keep it neat and not worry about the others.

Payne, meanwhile, said he was starting to find his pace again as he edged out Gardener for third-fastest time by a second. “We need to carry more speed and commitment in the faster corners,” said Gardener.

Behind fifth-placed Petch, there was a good battle going on between the Mitsubishi Lancers of Richard Hill/Pat Cooper and Russ Thompson/ Stephen Link with the former holding a five-second advantage despite going wide on a deceptive stage-three hairpin.

As he prepared for the afternoon’s tests, there was no doubt in Black’s mind on what he wanted to do. Having finished second on the event twice previously, he was out for the win. His task was made easier following the second run through Haye Park, where he was 14s quicker than Payne.

“I knew that was a good time, I put the pressure on,” Black said as Hirst retired after damaging a control arm on his Fiesta.

With Hirst out of the running, Black now held a 39s lead over Gardener who couldn’t relax as Payne was just 10s further behind and would no doubt push hard over the final tests.

In Cwm Y Gerwyn 2 Black was fastest once again, setting a time three seconds quicker than Payne, who was now six seconds behind Gardener.

Setting a cracking fourthfast­est time here was Thompson, who overtook Hill for fifth, the latter’s Lancer cutting out briefly on a fast section.

There would be no dramas for Black/Morton who completed the event with fastest time on the final test to finally get a Woodpecker win. “It’s been a comfortabl­e drive, fairly controlled, but there’s much more to come,” was Black’s reflection of the day.

Despite being beaten by a second by Payne on the final test, Gardener/Bowen didn’t crack and took a positive runnerup spot.

“I’m pleased with our day,” Gardener said. “We haven’t put a foot wrong; we’ve been in the groove and fast, just not fast enough.”

There was a quick departure for third-placed Payne as he set off to compete on Rali Ceredigion, while fourth-placed Petch had enjoyed his day, even if he wasn’t on his expected pace. “We’ve not been at the races today,” he reflected, feeling that he had picked the wrong event to try new gear ratios.

“I’m always the bridesmaid,” said Hill, who, despite beating Thompson on the final stage, was still one second behind his Mitsubishi rival as

Thompson admitted to pushing hard to take fifth.

Taking a career-best BTRDA finish of seventh were

Rob Wilson/Richard Morton Crozier in their Mitsubishi who were followed by locals John Caine/Andrew Sankey in a Subaru Impreza.

Turbo problems and a broken handbrake hampered the ninthplace­d Ford Escort Cosworth of Ian Joel/Graeme Wood, while Pat Naylor/Ian Lawrence were pleased to finish in 10th position, despite their Lancer suffering a final-stage puncture.

 ?? ?? Black blew away the cobwebs in style
Black blew away the cobwebs in style
 ?? ?? Gardener held his nerve at the end...
Gardener held his nerve at the end...
 ?? ?? Russ Thompson won the battle of the Mitsubishi­s
Russ Thompson won the battle of the Mitsubishi­s

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