Matthew Hirst will begin the defence of his Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship title when he contests the opening round of the 2023 series, the Get Jerky Rally North Wales, on Saturday 25 March.
The event has proven to be a successful launching pad for Hirst and co-driver Declan Dear, as both times they have won Rally North Wales (in 2019 and 2022) they have gone on to clinch the Welsh title.
Having recorded a perfect 150 points score to win the title last year, Hirst will return to the popular Welsh Association of Motor Clubs organised gravel championship in his all-conquering Pirelli-shod Delta Salvage Ford Fiesta R5+.
"Rally North Wales is one of the rallies I know the best, as this year will be my fifth start," says Hirst.
"The first time I did it I wasn't placed too high, we were second the next time and the third and fourth times we won it - so for the fifth time we'll have to try and keep that record of success going!
"I'm pleased that this year's Rally North Wales is returning to Dyfnant forest which has been underused for the last few years but is nevertheless a classic Welsh stage. It's a stage with a lot of variety and it's great that the event organisers have worked hard to bring some different stages into the mix and refresh the event. Having said that, it's also nice to be going back to Dyfi, because that's one of my favourite stages of the whole year. It's a big challenge, with a lovely flowing nature and some really fast corners. It's a stage that rewards commitment, but if you were to make a mistake in Dyfi, you'd be heavily punished for it!
"The Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship is one of the most competitive championships that you can take part in. Last year might have looked easy from the outside, but in reality winning the title was far from easy."
As Hirst acknowledges, competition is tough - and without doubt his rivals will be aiming to stop his run of success in the Welsh forests.
The Welsh forests are once again the place to see a Subaru driven on the limit, with many challenging for the top spot. Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas return in their unmissable Geoff Jones Motorsport-prepared Green Paw-backed example and are joined by Tommi Meadows/Laura Cooledge, Keith Jones/Sion Williams, Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe, Tom McKeown/Neil Thomas, Martyn Andrews/Steve Greenhill, Colin Griffiths/Sion Rowlands and Rob and Ashley Aslett in a fleet of Imprezas.
Crew also aiming for overall honours include David Tomlin/Keith Ashley (Axon Ford Fiesta R5), Simon Rogers/James How (Mitsubishi Evo 6), Colin Minton/Bonnie Papper (Ford Fiesta R5), Geoff Cottrill/Nathan Crewe (Mitsubishi Evo 9), Steve Hollis/Tim Currie (Volkswagen Golf R), Peter Baylis/Paul Godden (Mitsubishi Evo 9) and Daniel Moss/Samuel Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10).
The Hockly Motorsport Welsh 2WD category is overflowing with talent and variety, with defending champions Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees returning with a new livery on their Flying Kiwi Ford Escort Mk2.
Other Escort Mk2 crews to keep a close eye on include Geoff Phelps/Colin Jenkins, Ricky Crone/Ifan Devine, Richard Warne/Chris Deal, Alan Horn/Ian Beamond, Tim Phelps/Elwyn Manuel and Rowan Moreton Wood/Hamish Campbell.
Class W12 champions Andrew Fox/Jaime-Lee Fox return in their Xwatch Safety Solutions BMW 325, while Iwan Roberts/Daniel Jones appear in a Ford Escort G3 and David Howell Jones/Glyn Price, Dan Chester/Paul Barbet and Kevin Metcalfe/Ian Jones bring a trio of BMW E30s.
In only his first full season of rallying last year, Liam Griffiths finished runner-up in the OnThePaceNote supported Welsh Junior category. Partnered by Motorsport UK Academy co-driver Daniel James, he'll be looking to win the title and do well in the 2WD section this time in his Discover Parks Ford Fiesta ST.
Liam's brother Callum Griffiths also returns, as he and co-driver William Lewis compete in their Presteigne Tyre Services Ford Fiesta ST - while Gethin Price/Steven Brown wheel out their Nissan Micra.
Michael Jenkins/Sophie Buckland return for another crack at the class W10 title in their Ford Fiesta and will be up against the defending champions Martin Walters/Marie Fletcher (Honda Civic) and Dan Jones/Cyril Jones (Vauxhall Nova) - while the highly competitive class W4 battle will be fought out by the likes of Tony Simpson/Stefan Arndt (Seacon UK/Kielder Tools Ford Fiesta R2T), Adam Clews/Mark Thomas (Fiesta R2) and Alex Cannon/Alan Carfrae (Fiesta R2).
The Restruct Welsh Historic classes continue to grow - and as well as the category trophies, the registered crews that finish in the top three of 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.
Charles Campbell/Sam Weller will be battling for top class W5 points in their Davian Mk8 alongside the likes of Mark and Debora Tugwell (Ford Escort Mk1).
Gareth Lewis/Ryland James (Escort Mk1 RS2000), Julian Birley/Emyr Hall (Talbot Sunbeam), Freddy Camp/Stephen Spear (Escort), Ian Beveridge/Paul Price (Toyota Corolla TE27) and Simon Wallis/Graham Wride (Ford Capri 3.0 GT) will all be aiming to get their class W6 campaigns off to a winning start - as will Graham Palmer/Mike Webb (Escort) and Ben and Steven Smith (Ford Escort Mk1 RS2000) in class W7.
The big guns are out again in class W8, with Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver aiming for a category win in their Woolacombe Holiday Parks Escort RS1800 after several good performances last year. Gary Smith/Clive Jones, Peter Jones/Gareth Davies and Lyn Davies/Aled Richards are all in Escort Mk2s, while Jonathan Brace/Paul Spooner and Andrew Stokes/Jonny Tad Evans appear in a pair of gorgeous Escort Mk1s.
Meanwhile in class W9, Alan Walker/John Conner will be targeting a strong points finish in their Ford Escort RS1800.
Coverage from Rally North Wales will be live streamed on the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship's and Special Stage TV's Facebook pages during the event, featuring action from all the registered competitors.
Organised by Wolverhampton & South Staffs Car Club, this year's Rally North Wales will be based in Welshpool, home of title sponsor Get Jerky, with the rally headquarters based at the Livestock Market on the outskirts of the town. Welshpool town centre will host the start ceremony (first car starts at 07:45), ahead of a four-stage loop through Dyfnant, Gartheiniog, Big Ray and Dyfi forests in the morning and afternoon, separated by a mid-point service halt at the Dolgellau Farmers Market. After all eight stages, covering almost 45 stage miles, are completed, the finish ceremony will be back in Welshpool town centre - with the first car arriving at 16:23.
Further details on the 2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship can be found online at: wnrc.wamc.org.uk.
2023 Get Jerky Rally North Wales - leading top 10 seeded entries
401. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5+)
402. Alan Carmichael/Claire Williams (Hyundai i20 R5)
403. Gavin Edwards/Caron Tomlinson (Ford Fiesta R5+)
404. Kevin Procter/Jamie Edwards (Ford Fiesta S2000T)
405. Simon Rogers/James How (Mitsubishi Evo6)
406. Jordan Hone/Paul Hone (Ford Fiesta R5+)
407. Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas (Subaru Impreza)
408. Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe (Subaru Impreza)
409. Daniel Moss/Samuel Davies (Mitsubishi Evo10)
410. David Tomlin/Keith Ashley (Ford Fiesta R5+)
Images Paul Mitchell
One of Wales' most iconic and long-running motorsport operations, Hockly Motorsport, has teamed up with the Motorsport UK Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship in association with Pirelli to support the Two-Wheel Drive category.
Hockly Motorsport was first established in 1985 as a motorsport preparations company, initially building cars for Vauxhall Motorsport. One of those cars was driven by company founder Harry Hockly, who went on to take three consecutive British Rally Championship category victories.
The Newtown-based company does far more than build and run rally cars, as it manufactures and fits roll cages and has its own fabrication room, machine shop, main workshop and undertakes bespoke projects - many of which are top secret prototypes and unique one-off vehicles for manufacturers and Hollywood film productions.
Jessica Hockly, Hockly Motorsport Managing Director, said: "As a company the Welsh Rally Championship is very close to our hearts. We feel that the Championship is a prime example of not only grass roots clubman rallying, but it is also inviting to competitors who want to use the championship as a stepping stone to the next level of motorsport.
"We are very much a clubman-based company and aim to produce motorsport products at competitive prices, with quality that lasts. Our heritage comes from the Vauxhall Dealer Sport days, with Harry [Hockly] himself competing and developing products for the Vauxhall Nova and latterly Astra and Corsa. We have also developed a bolt on kit for a Rally First Suzuki Swift, promoting entry level motorsport at an affordable price.
"The Championship has always been well supported, and with ourselves competing in the 1400 class back in 2019 we know that it's a Championship that makes you feel part of it, not just a number.
"So this year we are pleased to be supporting the Two-Wheel Drive category and the 1400 class as a sign of our commitment to clubman rallying."
Dave Evison, MSUK Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship in association with Pirelli, said: "It's fantastic news that Hockly Motorsport will be supporting the championship in 2023. The Hockly name, synonymous with Welsh rallying for around forty years, sits well with what we are striving to achieve in Wales, and they are based in the heart of rallying in Mid-Wales. I'm really pleased and looking forward to working with Hockly Motorsport Managing Director Jessica Hockly."
Further details on the 2023 Motorsport UK Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship in association with Pirelli can be found online at: wnrc.wamc.org.uk.
2023 Motorsport UK Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship in association with Pirelli
Saturday 25 March.......Get Jerky Rally North Wales
Saturday 15 April.......Rallynuts Stages Rally
Saturday 20 May.......Plains Rally
Saturday 8 July.......Nicky Grist Stages
Saturday 9 September.......Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages
Saturday 28 October.......Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally
Regulations and Registrations are now open for the 2023 Championship.
Please click on the link below and follow the instructions.
Press release: 12 December 2022
Many of the world's greatest gravel forest stages - like Myherin, Sweet Lamb,
Dyfnant, Hafren and Crychan - will come together to form the 2023 Motorsport UK
Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship, with an exciting seven-round calendar
planned for next year.
Organised by the Welsh Association of Motor Clubs, the 2023 series will offer
competitors a good geographical spread and a good date balance, with the first
round taking place at the end of March, the final round at the end of October and
only one event taking place over the months of June, July and August, providing
plenty of time for mid-season car refurbishments in the summer break.
Each event will have an ultra-compact one-day format, with around 45 stage miles
and minimal road mileage.
Thanks to the outstanding work of Rally 4 Wales, the Welsh forest stages are always
in excellent condition. These super smooth world-class road conditions have seen
the Historic and smaller capacity car entries grow and the very successful
introduction of a Road Rally class, whilst it has also attracted top-class competition
from Ireland, Scotland, England the Isle of Man, and of course the home nation of
The 2023 season will start with the Get Jerky Rally North Wales on Saturday 25
March. Organised by Wolverhampton & South Staffs Car Club, the event will move
from its traditional base in Dolgellau to Welshpool, which is home to the event's new
title sponsor. An exciting new route is being planned, featuring some classic forest
Round 2 will be the Rallynuts Stages Rally on Saturday 15 April. Organised by
Midland Manor Motor Club, the event is based at the Royal Welsh Showground in
Llanelwedd and has stages in the nearby mid-Wales forests.
The Plains Rally, which successfully moved to its new home of Bala this year, hosts
Round 3. The Knutsford & District Motor Club event will take place on Saturday 20
May, with another tight and compact route like the one which was so well received
by competitors in 2022.
Round 4 will be the Nicky Grist Stages on Saturday 8 July. Based in Builth Wells,
with the start, finish and service area all located in the town centre, the Quinton
Motor Club event will contain super-smooth stages in the classic mid-Wales forests
in and around the Epynt military range.
The Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages Rally is another hugely popular event
that traditionally features some fantastic challenging stages and very low road
mileage. The Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club organised event will be based at
Ludlow Racecourse and hosts Round 5 on Saturday 9 September.
The stunning Wales/England border is also the setting for the sixth and penultimate
round of the 2023 Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship, the Wyedean Rally.
Organised by Forest of Dean Motor Club, the event will take place on Saturday 14
The seventh and final round will be the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, which takes
place on Saturday 28 October. The North Wales Car Club organised event will be
based in Llandudno and incorporates some of the most classic former Wales Rally
GB stages in the north of the principality.
Following on from the success of recent years, each round of the 2023 Pirelli
Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship will be filmed and live-streamed online, with
expert commentary, driver interviews and much more.
Dave Evison, Pirelli Ravenol Welsh National Rally Championship, said: "Firstly I
have to say a massive thank you to all the individual event organisers. Recently the
pandemic held back their thinking, and now with it behind us they are looking to do
things differently. What you might ask? Well, you will have to come and join us to
find out! We have tweaked the class structure and the calendar with seven events,
with the best five scores to count, and we will also use Sportity so that all the
championship information is easily accessible and in one place. The main
ingredients remain - friendly competition on the best stages in the world!"
Further details on the 2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship
can be found online at: wnrc.wamc.org.uk.
2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship
25 March.......Get Jerky Rally North Wales
15 April.......Rallynuts Stages Rally
20 May.......Plains Rally
8 July.......Nicky Grist Stages
9 September.......Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages
14 October.......Wyedean Rally
28 October.......Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally
For more information, please contact:
Secretary, Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship
Press Officer, Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship
Bob Ceen/Shaun Layland (Ford Fiesta R5)
Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas (Subaru Impreza)
Andrew Fox/Jaime-Lee Fox (BMW 325)
Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham (Ford Escort Mk2)
Jonathan Brace/Paul Spooner (Ford Escort Mk1 RS1600)
Pictures by Paul Mitchell. Please credit 'Paul Mitchell Photography' if used.
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