Hampshire’s MH Motorsport have been working flat-out to ensure every one of the five-car squad is ready to tackle the fifth round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship in Wales this weekend, the Nicky Grist Stages.
Just a fortnight after the Ypres Rally in Belgium, they have been working hard to ready not only the two Ford Fiesta 1.0litre R2T Junior BRC cars for the event but the three Cadet Ford Fiesta 1600cc R2 challengers too. They will also undoubtedly be aiming to repeat their 100 per cent finishing record from the European event.
Thanks to Josh Cornwell and Richard Bliss, the team currently lead the Cadet category thanks to a dominant performance all season long by the pairing in their Ford Fiesta R2. A win this time out in Builth Wells should seal the title for the duo with two rounds to spare.
A unique feature of the Nicky Grist Stages comes in the form of a tricky two-day format. Utilising both a gravel and asphalt surface, the event becomes the ultimate test for both crews and the team. With just a few hours to change the five-strong team of Ford Fiesta’s from gravel to asphalt trim on Saturday night, the pressure will be on for all to perform at their best during the weekend.
Nabila Tejpar will face one of the biggest challenges of the Cadet squad as she contests the event for the very first time. Having never competed on the notorious Epynt military roads before, Tejpar has recruited Steve McPhee for the codriver's seat, hoping that his rally-winning experience across the ranges will help her bag more points for the championship. She currently occupies third spot in the series.
“I’ve heard a lot about the Epynt stages and it’s pretty daunting going there for the first time to be honest,” said Tejpar. “But Steve’s experience will certainly help with that, especially with the recce and it will be more important than ever to stay in the middle of the road and out of trouble up there. The mixed format is great, but I think it will be hard to settle into a rhythm straight away. Like all events this season, the plan for me will be to build the pace as we progress through the event and as long as I get some decent points on the board, I`ll be happy.”
Alex Waterman in action. Image credit Jakob Ebrey.
Taking his first Cadet podium of the season last time out in Ypres, Alex Waterman is another of the MH Motorsport team never to have competed across Epynt before. He will be joined by regular co-driver Harry Thomas who was forced to miss the last two rounds due to work commitments but returns to the seat in Wales. Waterman believes the secret to a successful event will be the teamwork inside the car and his pace notes.
“I've been looking forward to the challenge of the mixed surface event from the start” says Waterman. “I think it's really going to take a lot team work for us to come out with a good result but I'm delighted to have Harry back in the car where we can continue to build our partnership. It's been great having Tom (WoodBurn) and Michael (Gilbey) (as co-drivers) and I have certainly learnt a lot over the last 2 events which I'm hoping to take forward and transfer into Harry and my own skill set. I have been speaking to lots of people to try and learn as much as I can (about Epynt) as it is a very specialist place. I hope that I can take all their experience into recce and produce a good set of pace notes as I think that will be the key to doing well. “
Fresh from victory in Belgium, Josh Cornwell and Richard Bliss will have their sights set firmly on securing the Cadet title at the weekend. Despite his Ypres Rally win on a sealed surface, Cornwell’s experience lies on gravel and the Nicky Grist Stages offers the last opportunity to sample the loose this season; the final two rounds take place on closed public roads.
MH Motorsport's Josh Cornwell & Richard Bliss. Image credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography - Click to download high resolution version -
“I really enjoyed Ypres to be honest, much more than I thought I would,” he said. “But staying out of the ditches was the priority for us and in the end, we built up a buffer to enable us to back off on the closing stages of the event. I don’t think the Nicky Grist will be anything like that and the pressure will be on from the word go. We will certainly approach this rally much like all the others this season and we know what we need to do to get the title wrapped up, so that’s the plan”.
The Nicky Grist Stages takes place on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th July. Saturday’s stages are contained within classic Welsh forests such as Crychan and Halfway before an overnight halt to change set up ahead of leg two. The Epynt Military Ranges play host to a full day of sealed surface rallying on Sunday, with the finishers returning to cross the finish ramp in Builth Wells on Sunday afternoon.