Saturday 28 February 2009

Rally girl Rachel's magnetism for mud

Carlisle’s Rachel Medich has a busy life. During the week she combines working at a local hospital and studying to be an Operating Department Practitioner, at weekends she’s often to be seen at car rallies either competing herself or in her role as a member of a rally rescue team. With her next rally outing, the Cockermouth-based Malcolm Wilson rally, a few days away Rachel reveals more about her rallying and rescuing in this interview.

You’ve been competing for a few years now, how did you become involved in motorsport?

Motorsport has always been a large factor in my family, mainly F1 and bikes, I decided, after speaking to my Grandad, to go and watch the 1998 Pirelli Rally in Kielder forest and I became obsessed. I knew I wouldn’t be much good at driving, seeing as I didn’t have a licence, but knew I was pretty good at map reading so I chose to be a navigator. Me and my mate decided to do our first event together, the Garstang and Preston Memorial Road Rally and we finished…. last, but a finish all the same!

You’re also a member of a rally rescue unit - which came first, the competing or the rescuing?

That would be competing, a good 5 years before I decided to mix business with pleasure, I’ll let you decide which way round they go.

Have you had any bad accidents yourself on the stages?

Ahhhh I’m afraid so, I am yet to finish the Jim Clark Rally after exiting spectacularly on both occasions of trying. The first time was a head on collision with a solid fence post, we hit it at 50mph and it didn’t budge. The second time was a fast way of totalling a Mitsubishi Evo 8. We took a bridge flat out that should have been taken with caution and managed to remove 150 metres of hedge and trees. It hurt. The poor car needed some refashioning after that. All the damage was on my side of course!

Have you ever been rescued by your own unit?

Almost! They were nearly the rescue unit at the midpoint when I had my second Jim Clark incident. Luckily they were elsewhere, although I don’t think I’d want to be attended to by anyone else. Not that the others would be rubbish, just it’s better the devil you know. To be fair I wouldn’t like to see any of them during a stage I was competing on and I’m not tempting fate!

You must’ve seen some scary or weird things while rescuing at rallies, are there any you can tell us about?

I can’t mention names and rallies for obvious reasons but I have seen many, many things that eat away at my confidence. The most spectacular has to be on a tarmac rally a few years ago, someone decided to take a crest flat that shouldn’t have been and literally flew his car. His pilot’s licence must have been in the post. He landed, broke the suspension, various car bits and also himself. We were called and saw him off to hospital with suspected spinal injuries. We saw footage of the incident later… good effort that man!

The weirdest thing I think is the people who come to rallies dressed totally inappropriately. You’re going to get muddy on a forest rally so it’s probably not a good idea to wear high heels and short skirts. This applies to the women as well.

Part of your rescue role includes attending tests for the Ford World Rally Team, do you get to find out all the gossip?

Gossip? I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you. It’s a secret, I’d get lynched. I met Marcus Gronholm (former World Champion) during one test, he was a lovely chap, up for the laugh all the time.

You’ve been competing more in the last couple of years on both tarmac and forest events, which events do you prefer?

This is quite difficult to call, I love forest stages, there’s something quite special about them, they offer a mega challenge because the light often varies and it’s hard to pick out corners and braking points. I also have a new fondness for tarmac after competing on the Tour of Mull. I have to say that is my favourite rally in the world ever. No question. If people haven’t been, I highly recommend it, even if just to watch.

Are you a front, rear or four wheel drive girl?

For sheer enjoyment it has to be rear wheel drive, I compete in a Mk2 Escort and a Talbot Sunbeam, both are fantastic fun. The Sunbeam is with a mad Irishman called Martin Lynch, who I am competing on the Malcolm Wilson rally with on the 7th March, he has a “flat out and sort it out” style that the spectators love. Unfortunately to be competitive these days you need four wheel drive, which is quick but very accurate, there’s not as much sliding around. All rally cars are fun though, regardless of where they power from.

We’ve decided to elect you as Big Boss of Rallying. How would you make the world rally championship more exciting? How would you get more people competing in the UK?

Get in! Firstly, I’d make Seb Loeb go to another team, the man is an amazing driver but unfortunately I don’t think he’s helping attract people to the sport as there is no competition - he’s won the World Championship five times in a row! I think the new Super 2000 cars are going to bring some of that competitive element back and give the sport an exciting feeling again. For Britain? I’d have to arrange something with the blooming government to back young drivers/co-drivers and reduce forestry and venue hire costs. I’d get it some major TV coverage and make sure there are teams with identities so people can show their support in team colours. I have a lot of good ideas but they’re mine, when I become minister for rallying I’ll make them happen.

Neil Cole’s hairstyle, yes or no?

Aw bless him, he needs a bit of a trim, it was starting to look a bit like a comb over. He suits his beanie hat from Norway.

So you’ve just found a million pounds down the back of the sofa to buy a car and compete with anyone on any event. What, who and where?

Ok, I know I’ve said Mull was my favourite rally in the world ever but it’s going to have to be one that I have little or no chance of doing. So, it would be Barry Clark, because if I say someone else I’ll probably get my butt kicked, in his new Evo 10 and we’ll be competing on Rally Norway. I really want to have a go on a snow rally in a car with a driver that will be competitive on that surface. He’s done it before so I’d expect a good result.

What are you rallying plans for the rest of the year?

I have an action packed year ahead, starting with the Malcolm Wilson on the 7th March. That will be with Martin Lynch in the Sunbeam, we’re doing it as part of the Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club stage championship. I’m doing Mira on the 4th April with Marcus Tinsley then Mull with Dave Edwards. Those are the confirmed ones, I’m sure there will be more! When I’m not competing I’ll be rescuing on most rounds of the British Rally Championship, busy busy! Just how I like it.

And your plans outside of rallying?

I need to set some time aside to complete my course to become an Operating Department Practitioner, I finish in 2010 and can’t wait. Other than that, if I get the chance, I’ll be going out and having a laugh.

There’s a rumour you do some modelling too?

Occasionally, I only do it because I love dressing up and wearing makeup. I love shoes and dresses. Of course these don’t mix with my rallying but I don’t care, I love both. If you see me on a rally I’m usually the one who looks like a mud magnet so you wouldn’t know that I get my picture taken sometimes!

Anything else you’d like to say?

I love chocolate ice-cream.

By Songasport

Bird heads up Malcolm Wilson rally entry

Paul Bird heads a quality 140 car entry for next Saturday’s Malcolm Wilson Rally. The Penrith man will leave the Cockermouth town centre start in his new Ford Focus WRC to head for seven competitive stages in the Lake District forests.

Behind Bird will be Chesterfield’s Steve Perez, also in a Focus. At car 3 is the popular Peugeot Cosworth which is crewed by current BTRDA championship leaders Andy Burton and Shelley Rogerson.

Graham Middleton and Ella Flynn start first in the 1400 category ahead in their Suzuki Ignis ahead of the Proton Satria of Darren Pinchin/Karen Watts.

The action gets underway from Cockermouth on 7th March at 8.30am and there are spectator car parks at all seven stages on the event. For more information on the event please visit

By Songasport

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Cookson and Wilkinson set for Rallye Sunseeker

Saltash driver Alan Cookson and London co-driver Julian Wilkinson will return to the stages when they contest their first event of the season, the Rallye Sunseeker, this weekend (27 – 28 February).

The crew will once again be out in their Robert Wiseman Dairies, Kick Energy,, Kumho Tyres, Riverside Property Services and supported Subaru Impreza World Rally Car (WRC) on the Bournemouth-based gravel event, one of Cookson’s and Wilkinson’s local rallies.

They are aiming for a top 10 finish in their TEG Sport-run Impreza but the Rallye Sunseeker has not been kind them in the past.

The pair have failed to finish on both the previous occasions that they have contested it, crashing out last year due to a mechanical fault whilst lying in 10th spot, and not making it out of service in 2007 after the gearbox broke.

But they are determined to put the misfortune behind them this year, hoping it will be third time lucky.

“We’ll be trying hard from the start and want to get a result inside the top 10, particularly after what happened last year,” Cookson said.

“We’ll be getting into the car for the first time since the Bulldog Rally in October as we haven’t had the chance to test as the snow the other week hampered our plans to visit Mark Higgin’s rally school, for a pre-season shakedown.

“Its not looking like there will be any snow in Bournemouth this year, unlike many of the rallies run recently in the Arctic conditions, which is a shame, as I believe the last time our car won a forest rally, was way back in 1997 on the WRC Swedish Rally with Kenneth Erikson at the wheel.

“We’re looking forward to the Sunseeker, it’s a local event for me and I’m hoping to get that elusive first finish on it. We were really enjoying the fast stages last year up until disaster struck when the front wheel sheared off mid corner, resulting in a big off.

“I also have a few SPAR stores in the area now, and I know many of our teams of staff are coming over to support us again this year, so I’m determined to not let them down in 2009.”

Cookson and Wilkinson have retained all their sponsors for the 2009 campaign.

“I’d like to thank all our sponsors for their continued support this year, particularly in these hard times, and to TEG Sport for their help with maintaining the car,” Cookson added.

They start the Rallye Sunseeker, which gets underway on Friday evening, at number 15.

By Amanda Cornforth
Image courtesy Songasport

Monday 9 February 2009

Fun in the Snow - Wyedean rally photos


The BTRDA rally championship got underway last weekend with the Chepstow based Wyedean Forest Rally.

Heavy snow in the days before the rally had made the stages very slippery and conditions were difficult for the 180 crews who started the event.

The rally consisted of six stages with the bulk of the mileage in the Forest of Dean.

Nik Elsmore won the event in his Mitsubishi Evo ahead of the similar car of Daniel Barry. Last years winning crew, Andrew Burton and Shelley Rogerson completed the top three.

Julian Wilkes won the 1400’s in his Vauxhall Nova with Theo Bengrey victorious in the historic section of the rally in an Opel Ascona. Mad Mick Jones in his Mk2 Escort won the Silver Star category.

With Elsmore and Barry not registered for points it is Burton and Rogerson who head the championship tables after round 1.

Shelley takes maximum points in BTRDA season opener

Rally co-driver Shelley Rogerson made a successful start to her 2009 BTRDA championship campaign when she took maximum points on the Wyedean Forest rally last Saturday (7th February). Shelley, from Lancaster, partnered Andrew Burton in his Peugeot Cosworth on the Chepstow based event which took place largely in the Forest of Dean.

Heavy snow in the days before the rally saw the forest stages look more like those in Sweden than Gloucestershire but the rally organisers worked hard to make the tracks passable. However, freezing overnight temperatures meant that ice was a big risk as the crews headed to the opening pair of stages, Sallowvallets and Serridge.

Burton and Rogerson were immediately on the pace, setting one fastest and one second fastest time to take the rally lead ahead of Nik Elsmore and Daniel Barry.

The longest stage of the rally, Speech House, followed and after a few moments on the ice the Peugeot crew backed off slightly to reduce the risk of going off for good. A short stage at Chepstow racecourse followed and, as the crews headed to the main service halt of the event, Burton and Rogerson were in third place overall behind Elsmore and Barry, although neither of these crews were registered for championship points.

“The conditions were very testing with snow and ice everywhere, Andy drove really well to keep the car on the road and maintain a competitive pace,” said Shelley.

“We were using some old tyres which weren’t ideal for the conditions so we were happy to emerge from the first loop of stages in third place”.

Two more stages followed the service halt, Chepstow Park and another stage in Serridge. Chepstow Park was particularly slippery and Burton and Rogerson slid to tenth place on the stage, dropping to fouth overall. A few seconds were gained on the final stage which saw third place regained.

“I’m very happy with third place, I wasn’t looking forward to the conditions but once we were on the stages I enjoyed it. It’s a great start to the championship and after some bad luck last year I’m pleased to get to the finish in one piece. I’d like to thank Co-ordSport, Legend Fires, AMG TV, Nicky Grist, Gilletts Spar and Songasport for their support.”

The next round of the championship is the Malcolm Wilson rally which takes place in Cumbria in March. Shelley has not yet confirmed her plans for the event.

For all the latest news please visit

By Songasport

Wright battles back to claim Wyedean finish

Bentham’s David Wright endured a difficult Wyedean Forest rally last weekend (7th February) suffering a couple spins on his way to 16th overall and 4th in class in a GPM prepared Mitsubishi Evo 9.

The Chepstow based event kicked off with the Sallowvallets stage in the Forest of Dean. Conditions in the stage were bad with plenty of snow and ice waiting to catch out the crews. Wright completed the stage in 35th place after a few scares on the slippery tracks.

A better time on the second stage, Serridge, saw Wright and co-driver Rob Fagg move up to 17th place before a top ten time on the third stage moved them up to 11th overall despite slightly damaging the rear of the car in a collision with a post. This position was retained as the crews headed to the main service halt of the event in Chepstow.

“We struggled on the first stage, the conditions were very difficult and I was pleased to get out of the stage in one piece,” said Wright.

“Our times on the other three morning stages were better and to arrive back at service in 11th was fairly satisfying”

There were two more stages to go to complete the event, Chepstow Park and another Serridge stage. Wright and Fagg suffered a big spin in Chepstow Park which resulted in them blocking the road and stalling the engine. Fortunately the car was restarted before the next competitor arrived but the spin caused around a minute of time loss, dropping the Evo crew down to 21st overall.

Serridge saw another spin which scattered the spectators but despite this Wright and Fagg moved up to 16th overall at the rally finish.

“It was disappointing to lose time with spins in the last two stage, they cost us any chance of going for a top ten placing. However, I’m pleased to have made it to the finish and we’ve got a few championship points in the bag. We’ll hopefully be out in a new Evo for the next round of the championship so I’ll be looking to get a good result there. I’d like to thank Kumho Tyres and Grove Hill Garage for their support”.

The result puts Wright in 11th place in the BTRDA championship. The next round is the Malcolm Wilson rally in March.

By Songasport

Success for Gemma on snowy Wyedean rally

Albourne’s Gemma Wheeler successfully battled against treacherous conditions on last Saturday’s Wyedean Forest rally to take fourth place in the Rally First class in a Peugeot 106.

After the organisers made a decision to go ahead with the event the rally started from a cold Chepstow racecourse with the crews heading for the first loop of stages, three in the forests and one at the racecourse itself.

The smaller engined two wheel drive cars, such as Gemma’s, run first on the road on these events which is usually an advantage but on the Wyedean it meant that they faced the toughest conditions with the forest stages covered in snow and ice. Gemma and co-driver Will Rogers managed to keep the car on the road and arrived back in Chepstow for the main service halt of the event in an excellent second in class.

“The organisers made a good decision to go ahead to run the event, the opening stages were extremely slippery but very enjoyable,” said Gemma.

“I was delighted to complete the first loop of stages in second in class”.

Following the cancellation of the Mailscot stage due to dangerous conditions the crews faced a further two stages after service. With the snow and ice thawing the faster cars were able to get the power down and Gemma dropped to fourth in class in the 106 but she was still very pleased with the result.

“The event was awesome, it was my second time driving on snow - the first time was this event two years ago. I didn’t enjoy it so much then but this time was fantastic. The car was brilliant, I did not get a chance to drive it before the event but I was pleased to get to grips with it quickly - thanks to for preparing it and to Will for stepping in to co-drive for me. Everything was a bit last minute but the end result was worth it!”

The Rally First championship moves on to the Minehead based Somerset Stages rally in April and Gemma will be looking to build on the experience she gained when she contested the 2008 event in a Ford Focus.

Please visit to keep up to date with Gemma’s rallying.

By Songasport

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Shelley aims for positive start on Wyedean rally

Lancaster’s Shelley Rogerson will return to the rally stages next weekend (7th February) when she contests the Wyedean Forest Rally with Andrew Burton in his Peugeot Cosworth.

After a run of bad luck in the second half of 2008 which saw two rally retirements, one through an accident and one through a fire, followed by a broken foot, Shelley is keen to get a good result on the Chepstow based event.

“I’m hoping to put the disappointments of last year behind me. It would be great if we could repeat the victory we took on last year’s event,” said Shelley.

“There are some quick crews doing the event though so I think it’s going to be very tight at the top of the leaderboard.”

The rally is the opening round of the BTRDA rally championship and it will take place over seven special stages which are based largely in the Forest of Dean.

“We’re registering for the BTRDA championship again this year and we will hopefully contest most of the rounds. We need a good haul of points from the Wyedean to get the championship off to a good start. I’d like to thank my sponsors Co-ordSport, Legend Fires, AMG TV, Gilletts Spar, Nicky Grist and Songasport for their support.” commented Shelley.

The action kicks off from Chepstow racecourse on Saturday morning.

Please visit for all the latest news and photos.

By Songasport

Wright to kick off rally season in Chepstow

Bentham based rally driver David Wright will kick off his 2009 rally season next weekend (7th February) on the Chepstow based Wyedean Forest rally.

Wright, who will be co-driven by Rob Fagg, is hoping to be out on the stages more frequently this year after limited appearances in recent years.

“I’m aiming to contest a few of the BTRDA championship rounds this year, it’s going to be good to get a few more events in,” said Wright, who is backed by Kumho Tyres and Grove Hill Garage.

“I’ve had some decent results in the last couple of years including finishing 5th overall on last year’s Cambrian rally and 2nd overall on the Grizedale Stages. I’m aiming to get a good finish on the Wyedean too although it’s going to be pretty tough with the standard of the opposition.”

Wright and Fagg will be using a GPM prepared Mitsubishi Evo 9 on the event, the same car that was used on the Cambrian and Grizedale events. It is hoped to have a new Evo ready for the Malcolm Wilson rally in March.

The Wyedean is the first round of the 2009 BTRDA rally championship and it starts from Chepstow racecourse on Saturday morning before heading out into the Forest of Dean for the bulk of the competitive mileage. For more information please visit

By Songasport

Gemma revs up for rally return

Albourne’s Gemma Wheeler will make her comeback to the rally stages next weekend (7th February) when she competes in the Wyedean Forest Stages rally. Gemma has been out of action since last April’s Somerset Stages where she finished 62nd overall.

For 2009 Gemma hopes to contest the Rally First championship which comprises seven forest rallies across England and Wales. The championship is designed to be a cost-effective route to rallying and is only open to two wheel drive production cars with engines of up to 1400cc.

“I’m aiming to do as best as I possibly can and to get a respectable championship result at the end of the year to give me something concrete to build on for the 2010 season,” said Gemma.

“I contested the Wyedean rally in 2007 and managed to battle through the treacherous snowy conditions to get a finish, I’m hoping that conditions will not be as bad this year.”

Gemma will be co-driven by Will Rogers on the event and will use a Peugeot 106 for the first time having used a Nissan Micra in 2006 and 2007 and a Ford Focus in 2008.

“I’ve not driven the car before, it’ll be a steep learning curve but I’m confident that I’ll be competitive.”

The rally starts on Saturday morning from Chepstow with most of the event mileage on the gravel tracks of the Forest of Dean.

By Songasport