HUSBAND and wife duo Nigel and Karen Jenkins start the defence of their BTRDA Bronze Star 1400 championship when they take the NJ Autos-backed Nova 16v North to the Lake District for the Malcolm Wilson Rally this weekend, reports PAUL WILLETTS.

The BTRDA opener changes format this year with two Friday night stages in Comb and Hobcarton.

The Lakes stages are notoriously difficult, but in darkness it adds a whole new dimension.

Saturday will then see further stages in Wythop, Greystoke and the vast Grizedale complex for the Coleford couple before returning to the finish in Cockermouth.

The following week will see a rally treble with Saturday’s Get Jerky Rally North Wales round two of the Fuchs British Historic Rally Championship and opening round of the Pirelli Welsh championship

The events got a new base at Welshpool Livestock Mart ,but will follow its usual tried and tested format with stages in Dyfnant and the Dyfi forestry complex.

The Historic section sees Ben Friend together with regular Monmouth-raised co-driver Cliffy Simmons in the Allglass Anglia Escort RS1800. The duo will be looking to build on their recent third place on the championships opening round in North Yorkshire.

George Lepley and Dale Bowen from Abergavenny will be looking for more honours in the 4wd Mitsubishi Gallant, and although not eligible for championship points they can take rally wins.

It also sees the long-awaited return for Ross garage owner Steve Bennett together with Osian Owen in the Bennett Tyres Escort RS1800.

Joining them in the Interclub section of the rally will be the Hartpury Farms Escort RS1800 of Newent’s Geoff Phelps with Colin Jenkins alongside.

Geoff and Colin did the recent East Ridings Stages based in East Yorkshire in the beautiful MK1 Escort RS1600, but unfortunately they rearranged some scenery on stage two damaging the radiator and retired.

Geoff’s brother Tim is also there with Elwyn Manuel in his Escort RS1800.

Jonathan Brace from Newport will have Abergavenny’s Paul Spooner calling the notes in the Braces Bread Escort RS1600, while the awesome sounding TR7 V8 of Goytre’s Graham Thatcher and Tim Samuel will also be looking for championship points.

The following day will see the Owen Motor Clubs LE Land Estate Maintenance Agbo Stages taking place at the beautiful Weston Park near Telford, which as always has a full entry for the 30 miles on offer.

A triple Mini line up from Ross Motor Club sees veterans Eric Davis and Russ Joseph in the Dennis Motorsport Mini GT, former Mini Cup champion Ryan Taylor with a new co-driver in the shape of Leon Carter, and the father and daughter team of Paul and Jemma Taylor.

Ian Skipp is another Ross Motor Club member in the hot seat with Kevin Lane in the Escort RS1800.

One of the pre-event favourites will be the ever flamboyant Steve Harkness with Dan Petrie from Hereford onboard the Harkness Competition Tyres Escort RS1800.

Dukeries Motor Club-organised Donington Park Stages will also take place the same day with young Harry Pinchin taking the Gotherington Cross Garage Peugeot 106 with the Forest of Dean’s Colin Jenkins alongside, plus the BDA-engined Escort RS1800 of Tim Freeman and Paul Williams on their first event since an engine fire on the Wyedean Stages in November.

Going off to sunnier climbs later this year will be Coleford’s Nik Elsmore and Pauline Nash when they head to the Sol Rally Barbados in May in the CDS Taxis-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. It’s the first time the duo will have been to this Caribbean classic and they have an entry in on the Legends Fires North West Stages at the end of March as they build up to the three-day event.

Joining them on the Myerscough College based event will be the beautiful Skoda Fabia R5 of Herefordshire’s Roger Moran and Dan Petrie with the Nissan Sunny F2 of Newport’s Chris Butcher and Abergavenny’s Jonathan Hawkins also present.

There will be news shortly on the Weir Rally Teams programme for 2024 with Tom Llewellin and the RS1800.