Former World Rally Championship driver Matthew Wilson headlines the entry for next weekend’s M-Sport Return to Rally Stages, driving the latest spec Ford Fiesta WRC at the Greystoke event.
Wilson, son of M-Sport managing director Malcolm, competed regularly in the WRC from 2006-11, with a best finish of fourth on 2007 Rally Japan. After rallying he went on to run Bentley’s sportscar racing program.
Just like his son, Wilson Sr will also get behind the wheel, driving his own Ford Escort Mk2 as the event’s course car.
“Over the past 20 years we’ve worked hard to ensure there is a competitive Ford at all levels of competition, and that’s something we continuously strive to achieve,” said Wilson Sr.
“I think it will be quite emotional seeing all these cars lined up in the service park – each representing what we’ve achieved over the past two decades.
“Of course it’s no secret that we’re going through a particularly tough time at the moment, but seeing all these cars and remembering how we have bounced back from tough times in the past makes me all the more determined to come out the other side and continue to deliver for Cumbria and for rallying.
“I have to say that I’m also looking forward to getting back behind the wheel myself, even if not competitively, and time what I’m sure will be some close fought competition throughout all the classes.”
M-Sport’s rally, being held on August 22, is to take place in its private Greystoke forest in conjunction with West Cumbria and Eden Valley Motor Clubs and being used as a potential blueprint for other organizing teams to copy in getting rallying back up and running in the UK.
While that objective appears academic following news that the majority of forest rallies won’t be able to go ahead this year, the event was also arranged as a mini celebration of M-Sport’s two decades of manufacturing Ford rally cars, with entries exclusively reserved for these machines.
Every single iteration of World Rally Car that has been built in Cumbria will therefore be competing next weekend, with nine private Focus and Fiesta WRCs on the entry list alongside Wilson’s latest machine.
Irish Tarmac Champion Josh Moffett and Bentley GT racer Frank Bird – who won a rally in Greystoke last year with his Focus WRC07 – are expected to be frontrunners.
M-Sport’s WRC2 pairing Adrien Fourmaux and Rhys Yates headline ‘Class 2’ for R5 machines. Fourmaux won the last stage rally to be held in the UK back in March which actually used parts of the Greystoke forest, so he will be on familiar ground. Yates meanwhile hasn’t competed since the British Rally Championship’s opening round in February.
In total, there will be 19 Fiesta R5s competing; five of those being the latest Mk2 variant. Sam Moffett, Cathan McCourt – who is currently competing in Rally Liepaja in a Hyundai i20 R5 – and former Junior WRC driver Tom Williams are names to look out for in this class.
There will also be a strong presence of two-wheel-drive cars, with Junior BRC contender Eddie Lewis piloting a Ford Fiesta Rally4. It’ll be an interesting gauge of the new car’s performance, with rivals Finlay Retson and Elliot Payne driving the older R2T version.
Six of the older Fiesta R2s will also be in action, with M-Sport’s WRC team principal Richard Millener wading into battle in this class. Four of the older Group N-specification Fiesta STs will also be present, completing the 43-strong line-up.
The full entry list for the event can be viewed here.
Craig Parry, who has co-driven for Elfyn Evans and Gus Greensmith in M-Sport cars, has done a recce of the stages as he is selling his pacenotes for crews to use.
For the very first time on a single-venue rally in the UK, a one-pass recce will be permitted on the Friday before the rally. Parry thinks it’s a great idea.
“It’s a nice touch just to get everybody back together and maybe have a bit of banter and just get the event going nice and gently on the Friday night. It’s a great idea that they’ve had,” Parry told DirtFish.
“Being cold turkey on the first stage in the morning, it would be a bit more of a baptism of fire I think.”
There will be six special stages in total, totalling 38 miles, and each will run a fairly similar configuration.
SS1 and SS2 are repeats of each other, with SS5 and 6 the same test but in reverse. SS3 and 4 differs slightly with a different start location.
“All the stages are just over six miles which is a nice length of a stage for a national event,” Parry added.
“It’s typical Greystoke, you’ve got everything you need in there and there’s some good fast sections in there, obviously some more technical stuff, there’s a good base surface in there.
“If it’s dry, there’s plenty of grip. Greystoke is renowned as a very grippy place anyway and the format that they have, it just suits all round really as a nice event to get everybody back into it.”