THIS Sunday’s (September 17) Hills Ford 3 Shires Stages will be a battle royal in the lanes of South Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

And trying to predict a winner from such a high quality entry is very difficult, with 12 demanding tests within the three counties making up over 60 miles of competition, reports PAUL WILLETTS.

Especially when you have the likes of Melvyn Evans on one of his rare outings in one of his all conquering VW Polo R5s – the Welshman who runs a very successful Motorsport hire and preparation business, with Mark Glennister calling the notes.

Hugh Hunter just recovered from a big accident on May’s Manx National in his Ford Focus WRC if his confidence is back, then he will be up there.

And there are also two guys carrying very good pace on recent events who are potential rally winners – Mark Kelly will have the experience of Dai Roberts guiding him in the Skoda Fabia R5, and Steve Wood who equally has experience in the co-driving seat with Protyre Asphalt Rally Championship co-ordinator Paul Morris.

Paul and his counterpart Paul Wakely have taken the Asphalt Rally Championship to another level this year. Add to this Rob Swann in his ex Ott Tanak Fiesta WRC and Damian Cole with his Citroën C3 R5, who are two more potential winners.

Former Motoring News road rally star Roger Moran brings his immaculate Moran Motorhomes Skoda Fabia R5 with Hereford’s Dan Petrie on the notes, alongside the likes of Michael Igoe, Roger Duckworth and Andy Davies

The 2 wd battle will be no less competitive with the likes of the very quick Brad Cole with local boy Jamie Vaughan calling the notes in the 2.5 Escort RS1800.

Quick West Walian youngster Tom Llewellin is in another Escort ,this time an historic spec car, while Oliver Davies is in a 2.5 Escort, and if it’s dry watch out for the Darrians of Andy Fraser and Chris Simmonds.

There are also a host of very quick local crews down the entry list.

Two of the event’s stage sponsors will also be there – Geoff Phelps will have Colin Jenkins alongside in the Hartpury Farms Escort RS1800 (pictured, photo Paul Mitchell Photography), while Roger Matthews and Tom Marrott go in the RJ Matthews Transport 2.5 Escort, and look out for the quick Mini of Ryan Taylor, the awesome TR7 V8 of David Kynaston and event sponsor Tim Hill with the veteran co driver Paul Spooner alongside in the Hills Ford Fiesta R3 .

He will be joined by brother Richard and Rich Crozier in the older Fiesta R200 but the list goes on and on.

The rally gets underway with the very popular ceremonial start in the picturesque market town of Ledbury on Saturday afternoon (September 16) from 4pm.

The event has one superb spectator area with lots of parking and an excellent viewing area. Access is via just off junction 2 of the M50 or A417 (What 3 Words Code...Pelting Eggplants Scramble), and follow the green arrows. Gates open 8am, and admission is £10 per car, with refreshments and toilets available. You will see the cars three times during the day

A rally spokesperson said: “We ask everyone on the event to please be courteous and respectful to all the local residents and farmers, please park carefully and do not obstruct any access roads as these could be needed for emergency and safety vehicles access. Take all litter home or dispose of it properly.

“And please always obey the marshals instructions they are there to keep everyone safe and remember they are volunteers also. The organisers would like to say yet again sincere thanks to the local residents, local authorities,Hills Ford, all the stage sponsors ,officials,medical and safety crews and all marshals, without you this event couldn’t happen.”