Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship 


Matthew Hirst won the Get Jerky Rally North Wales (Saturday 16 March) for a fourth
time in a row, when he dominated the opening round of the Motorsport UK Pirelli
Welsh Rally Championship in his Delta Salvage/Witham Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5.
Co-driven by Declan Dear, the Doncaster ace set the fastest time through the
morning's loop of four stages through Gartheiniog, Dyfi, Dyfnant West and Dyfnant
East forests to reach mid-day service 1min 34sec ahead of his nearest rival.
He continued to push hard in the afternoon, and whilst heavy rain meant that he was
slower over the repeat run of stages, the reigning champion was still considerably
faster than everyone else - increasing his advantage to a magnificent 3min 05sec
winning margin.
It was their biggest win on the event, setting the defending champions on course for
what they hope will be a record-breaking fourth Pirelli Welsh title.
"Maybe from the outside this win might look easy, but it was far from it," said
"We decided right from the word go to push on and challenge ourselves and if we
were leading to not back off and manage the gap in the afternoon - which might
seem silly, but sometimes when you back off you lose concentration and make
"I love rallying in Gartheiniog, Dyfi and Dyfnant as these are classic Welsh forest
stages, and the weather made conditions all the trickier. It always seemed to rain
harder once we'd left the start line, and in the last stage there were rivers running
across the road - I had a bit of a moment when I aquaplaned, so that woke me up!
"Last but not least I'd like to thank the event organisers and the marshals who stood
out in some pretty awful weather to make sure the event ran like clockwork."


Despite not having rallied for well over a year (since the 2022 Visit Conway
Cambrian Rally in fact) James Giddings was Matthew's nearest rival for much of the
event. Co-driven by Aled Davies, the Carmarthen driver set a very impressive time
on his first ever visit to Dyfi forest, but he was less keen on the place in the afternoon
after a high-speed, flat-out, fifth gear spin! James' Fordpad/Enva/Sar Metals
Mitsubishi Evo 9 stopped facing the way he'd come, and over 20 seconds were lost
turning around - which turned out to be the difference between finishing third and not


That spin was to benefit former Welsh Junior frontrunner Dan O'Brien, who was
making a return to the Pirelli Welsh Championship in his O'Brien Group Ford Fiesta
RS WRC. He and co-driver Mark Glennerster were enjoying a very close podium
battle, with only a handful of seconds between him and James during the day -
although they were eventually able to take second by 19secs.

Peter Baylis had worked hard over the winter to fix the overheating problems that
had dogged him in 2023 - and was going well, despite whacking the rear end of his
Artificial Lawn Company-backed Mitsubishi Evo 9 on SS4. Fortunately, mid-day
service at the Welshpool Livestock Market followed and he and co-driver Paul
Godden had a very good afternoon to start the season with fifth-placed Pirelli Welsh

Simon Rogers had a day of irritating issues, starting with a puncture on SS2 and
brake problems on SS4 - and that was just the morning loop! He pressed on to pick
up seventh-placed Pirelli Welsh points in his MacWhirter Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo
6, which allows Jack Bowen to take the lead in the OnThePaceNote / Restruct Welsh
Junior co-drivers' standings - although it maybe wasn't a day last year's drivers'
vice-champion will remember with great fondness.

In the days of putting on sponsor caps and pointing logos in the right direction, it's
nice to see a driver meticulously rolling his moustache before an interview - but
that's how Wug Utting rocks and rallying is far richer for him! Few can match his
experience and he once again used it to good effect as Wug and co-driver Bob
Stokoe picked up eighth-placed Pirelli Welsh points in their Geoff Jones Motorsport-
prepared Subaru Impreza N12b. They finished on exactly the same time as Simon
Rogers, but the Mitsubishi driver was classified ahead having been two seconds
faster on the opening stage.

David Tomlin/Keith Ashley set the third Pirelli Welsh fastest time on SS1 and were
only eight seconds behind O'Brien after SS2 when a deep puddle of standing water
spun them off the road on SS3. They spent three minutes digging their Axon Ford
Fiesta R5 out of the mud - and whilst they recovered to take home 11th-placed
Pirelli Welsh points, it cost them a podium finish.


Colin Minton, co-driven by the reigning Welsh Junior champion Bonnie Papper, had
a solid run to 12th in his Ignition Motorsport-prepared Tutts Clump Fiesta R5.
On only his second event in his self-built Plant Speed Subaru Impreza STi, Paul
Lomas (co-driven by Mark Leader) got their season off to a good points-scoring start
by finishing 18th.

Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas retired after putting their Geoff Jones Motorsport-
prepared Green Paw Engineering-backed Subaru Impreza STi N11 into a ditch at a
downhill hairpin near the finish of SS3.

Steve Hollis/Tim Currie broke what they thought was a driveshaft leaving the start of
SS4 and retired their V6 Jaguar-engined Volkswagen Golf V R32 at mid-day service.
Keith Jones was out for the first time in 12 months in his Grooms Garage Subaru,
navigated by Motorsport UK Academy and Welsh Junior Robbie Sandford, who only
started co-driving last year. They were going extremely well until they went into a
ditch on a tightening right hander on SS4 and broke the steering.

Rob and Ashley Aslett were having a good run in their Rigfone Electric Contractors
Subaru Impreza until gearbox problems saw them skip the last two stages and begin
their journey back to Southampton a little earlier than planned.


One of the drivers of the day came from Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver. Despite not
being able to get enough brake bias to the rear of the car, and with the front wheels
locking up approaching tight corners, they finished a magnificent fourth in the overall
Pirelli Welsh Championship standings and won the highly competitive Historic W9
class in their Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks Escort RS18000 Mk2, which was
powered by a "nice and crisp" freshly rebuilt engine.

Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell finished second in class W9 in their Team Dennis Escort
Mk2, which was impressive enough to see them take 10th-placed overall points too.

Defending class W9 champion Lyn Davies got the defence of his class W9 title off to
a good start. Co-driven by Aled Richards, he finished third in his Jonesport-prepared
57 Tyres Escort RS1800 Mk2, despite a coil problem which caused an engine misfire
on SS3 and 4.


Ben Smith has moved up two classes this year, having fitted a more powerful 2-litre
Holbay Pinto engine into his Amigos-backed Escort RS2000 Mk1. Despite taking
time to acclimatise to the new gearing, he and his co-driving father Steven were on
sensational form - winning the Historic class W8, taking the lead in the 57 Tyres
Welsh Challenge and collecting sixth-placed overall Pirelli Welsh points.

Gary Smith/Clive Jones finished second in class W8 in their Escort Mk1, while
defending class champions Andrew Stokes/Jonny Tad Evans were third in their
Stokes Rally Team Ford Escort RS1600 Mk1 after losing time with clutch problems
on the final two stages.

Jonathan Brace received the David Stokes Historic Challenge award for drivers
before the event got underway - once again the top three finishers in each Historic
class at the end of the season will be put forward for the David Stokes Historic
Challenge award for drivers and the Guy Weaver award for co-drivers - but his
return to his Dave Jenkins Motorsport-run Brace's Bakery Ford Escort RS1600 Mk1
after a four month break didn't go as planned. Unfortunately, a burnt-out windscreen
wiper motor stopped him and Paul Spooner leaving mid-day service - and as the wet
weather deteriorated in the afternoon, it was a wise decision not to venture back out
and risk it.

Peter Hinton/Lewis Sim stormed to Historic class W7 victory in their Escort Mk2,
beating Graham Thatcher/Tim Samuel who had a "hairy start" to the event, but after
that a good run second time out in their Pembridge Vehicle Management TR7 V8.
Eddie Lewis, one of the leading challengers for the OnThePaceNote / Restruct
Welsh Junior drivers' title, and co-driver Sion Cunniff retired their Mechanical
Solutions Escort Mk2 on the opening stage.

Class W5 champions Julian Birley/Emyr Hall got their title defence off to a great start
with victory in their Talbot Sunbeam. 

Perhaps the event's star drive came from Chris Richmond Hand. In his first forestry
rally, the double Cilwendeg Rally winner said he was being cautious - but
nonetheless he and co-driver Pete Phennah set an incredible five top 10 Pirelli
Welsh Championship stage times in their two-litre DC Motorsport Escort Mk2, which
included fifth fastest overall on the eighth and final stage. Their amazing
performance puts them straight to the top in the Hockly Motorsport 2WD class, first
in the Road Rally class, and ninth in the overall driver and co-driver standings! And
straight after the finish of Rally North Wales they shot off to do a night event!

Geoff Phelps/Colin Jenkins won class W11 after a great drive in their Hartpury
Farms Escort Mk2 - although Geoff's brother wasn't so fortunate.


Tim Phelps was out in a new car that had been built for Irish asphalt rallying and had
only done one event before being turned in gravel spec. Disaster struck halfway
through SS3 when he slid wide at a corner and rolled the Britpart Escort Mk2 a long
way down a bank. Elwyn Manuel was taken to hospital for treatment to a cut finger,
and we wish him, and the car, a speedy recovery.

Scott Walton/Ryan Jones finished second in W11 in their Mid Glam Motorsport
Escort MK2.

Defending class W12 Andrew Fox/Jaime-Lee Fox suffered an almost unheard-of
retirement in their Xwatch Safety Solutions BMW 325. They'd started well and were
impressed with the OnThePaceNote route notes that they were using for the first
time. Unfortunately, the rear differential bolts ripped away from the car 500 yards into
SS2 and they retired on the following road section. Lost for an explanation as to why
it had happened, Andrew joked, "the car is only thirty-five years old!"

Dan Chester/Steven Davey retired after gearbox problems in their Dan's Action
Vehicles BMW E30, while Kevin Metcalfe/Ian Jones had an early bath in their three-
litre BMW E30.

This allowed Gareth Humphreys/Adam Burkill to score a somewhat surprise class
W12 victory in their BMW Mini - although overheating problems on the final stage
meant that they had to be towed over the finish line by Graham Thatcher!
Martin Walters/Marie Fletcher are aiming for a third straight class W10 Pirelli Welsh
title, and their season started well with victory in their Digger Parts Direct Honda

Michael Jenkins/Jordan Joines survived a big moment on SS1, followed by a
puncture on SS3 and SS7, to finish second in class in their Ignition Motorsport/Tutts
Clump Fiesta.

Greg Mills, who finished runner up in the 1999 Welsh Championship, returned to the
series for the first time since the 2000 Cambrian Rally. He and co-driver Andrew
Sankey were flying in the morning, but retired their Lake Vyrnwy Hotel-sponsored
1.6-litre Toyota-engined Escort Mk2 with ignition problems on SS5.
Dave and Freddy Brick looked on course for maximum points in the Hockly
Motorsport-supported 1400cc class, but their Vauxhall Nova stopped on the road
section to the last stage with fuel pump problems.

The live streaming coverage from Rally North Wales remains available to view on
the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship and Special Stage TV Facebook pages.
Round 2 of the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship is the Rallynuts Severn Valley
Stages on Saturday 13 April, which is based in Llandrindod Wells and has stages in
Myherin, Hafren and Sweet Lamb.

During the 2024 season, the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship will be raising
awareness of its official charity partner The Osborne Trust (
Further details on the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship can be found online at:


2024 Get Jerky Rally North Wales - top 10 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally
Championship finishers:
1. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5+).......47mins 05secs
2. Dan O'Brien/Mark Glennerster (Ford Fiesta RS WRC).......50mins 10secs
3. James Giddings/Aled Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 9).......50mins 29secs
4. Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver (Ford Escort Mk2).......51mins 23secs
5. Peter Baylis/Paul Godden (Mitsubishi Evo 9).......51mins 41secs
6. Ben Smith/Steven Smith (Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1).......51mins 45secs
7. Simon Rogers/Jack Bowen (Mitsubishi Evo6).......53mins 15secs
8. Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe (Subaru Impreza).......52mins 15secs
9. Chris Richmond Hand/Pete Phennah (Ford Escort Mk2).......53mins 27secs
10. Rob Dennis/Andrew Boswell (Ford Escort Mk2).......53mins 48secs
2024 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship
Overall drivers' points after Round 1:
1. Matthew Hirst.......30pts
2. Dan O'Brien.......27pts
3. James Giddings.......25pts
4. Rudi Lancaster.......24pts
5. Peter Baylis.......23pts
6. Ben Smith.......22pts

For more information, please contact:
Dave Evison
Secretary, Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Paul Evans
Press Officer, Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship