A mixed surface event that proves without doubt that rallying is a team sport. The driver and co-driver may have to cover the special stages in the least time possible but on Saturday night it is down to the team to change the suspension, brakes and roll-bars over in under 180 minutes to keep the crew in the rally. One event where really, the best team wins.
This will be the second year running the unique mixed surface format of the event. Saturday will be the usual high class gravel stages using the Crychan Forests and Military roads. Sunday will start a bit later this year and full plans on the stages and service venue are still to be announced before a mid-afternoon finish back in Builth Wells.
What happened in 2016
The Nicky Grist Stages provided an exciting challenge for teams, with the first day on gravel and the second on the famous Tarmac Epynt roads. Tom Cave led the early charge, capturing the first stage win ahead of David Bogie and Fredrik Ahlin. A spin on the opening test for Elfyn Evans saw him languish in fourth momentarily, before a fightback on the second and a stunning time on the third elevated him into the rally lead, with Cave hanging onto his coat tails throughout the event. Making an early charge were Jamie Anderson and Ross Whittock, who ran as high as third on the first day in their Fiesta R5 – enjoying a scrap with Desi Henry and Jonathan Greer along the way.
Matt Edwards had shown some giant-killing exploits in BRC2 on the opening four rounds, and on the Nicky Grist Stages, all the Mitsubishi Evo 9 driver had to do was finish to be crowned champion – a feat he achieved alongside navigator Will Rogers.
At the front of the field on the second day, Evans and Cave were comfortable out front with Henry in third, as the trio replicated the Scottish Rally podium at the finish in Builth Wells. Drama was to unfold behind, however, as Anderson dropped from a fine fourth to an eventual eighth, allowing David Bogie, Josh Moffett, Jonathan Greer and Rhys Yates/Tom Woodburn to move ahead of him on the timesheets.
2016 BRC front-runner Tom Cave talks us through the two-day format on the Nicky Grist Stages:
“The gravel stages formed part of the Wales Rally GB route for many years, and they’re renowned for being very quick with a very hard compact surface. The Halfway stage is really tricky and Route 60, which runs over the top of Epynt, usually catches a few people out.
“The run over Epynt is unique, with the roads very smooth and narrow. They’re not very forgiving either – very tricky. They’re very slippery in the wet, which is another challenge. It’s a very specialised place with plenty of jumps and crests. If you get it right, it’s a pleasure. It’s nice to have a different challenge – to have mixed-surface events adds in the factor of setting the car up for each day and it makes the job that little bit harder for both driver and co-driver. The spectacle was entertaining for the fans.”