Not many people know Greystoke forest like Matthew Wilson knows it. He’s spent more hours, more days, than he can possibly remember in the place. So many hours and so many days, in fact, that you wonder whether it’s worth his co-driver Stuart Loudon bringing a book to read during today’s M-Sport Return to Rally Stages.
Wilson Jr has developed suspension, tires, cars, everything in his time in Greystoke. And all of that qualifies him to offer DirtFish the inside line on what competitors can expect from the six stages that lie in wait.
“Greystoke is unique in its character,” says Wilson. “When we first got the place, we did a lot of work in there on preparing the surface.
“We actually worked with the guys who do the roads in Finland to get the stabilization right to keep the base of the road quite hard. Because of this, you don’t tend to get many really muddy sections – even in the winter.
“When it’s warm and dry, the surface can be really quite abrasive and hard on the tire. We’ve had a few weeks of really good weather up here recently, but I think Saturday’s looking like a typical Cumbrian summer’s day with about 18 degrees and a couple of rain showers…
“Greystoke is actually quite high; in the winter you usually find it’ll be two or three degrees cooler up there and if you’ve had snow then you find it’ll hang around a little bit longer than down at the factory [in Cockermouth].”
One of the aspects which marks Greystoke out from most other British forest stages is the banks on the inside of corners.
Wilson explains the thinking behind them: “I think they came after dad was in there watching Marcus [Grönholm] testing. He saw him cutting the corner so much the car was almost completely off the road and thought: ‘Yeah, that’s not helping the drainage much!’
“The banks keep you out of the corner and away from the cut, they do give the place a unique feel, but it hasn’t changed the flow of the road. There are a couple of places in the quick stuff where you’d be tempted just to dip a wheel to ease the corner off, but I don’t think it spoils it.”
Much of today’s action is based around a six-mile stage which was put together by West Cumbria and Eden Valley Motor Clubs.
“Obviously we have the Greystoke Stages running every year,” says Wilson, “so the guys know how to put a stage together – but one of the key points here was being able to turn the stage around quickly.
“We run the first stage twice, then it’s turned and run in the opposite direction and then some link roads are used, it was important to be able to do this quickly. There’s some great variation in the roads and it’s fairly unique to be able to offer BTRDA-level of mileage [six stages and 38 competitive miles] from one forest.”
Back to the top of the story and how many miles has Matthew completed in Greystoke?
“Now that is a good question,” he says. “I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess, I will have it logged away somewhere easy into the thousands.
“Do I need notes on Saturday? I’ll be honest, probably not – but it’s a good idea for me to have a look around the recce to make sure I don’t come barreling into a junction and end up going the wrong way!”