Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship 


  • Callum Black flies to Championship honours on the Nicky Grist Stages



    Callum Black and co-driver Jack Morton took victory on the opening round of the 2021 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, the Nicky Grist Stages, winning the Interclub Rally section of the event and finishing an incredible seventh overall in their Ford Fiesta R5.


    In his first rally outing for almost two years, and his first in an R5 car for three and a half years, Callum, the 2017 Pirelli Welsh National Rally champion, drove brilliantly to score maximum points on the 44 stage mile event, held on the classic mid-Wales forest stages of Llyn Login, Monument, Halfway and Crychan.


    Despite a handling problem in the morning, caused by a broken anti-roll bar, and a spin on SS2, the 586 Sports team driver finished 21 seconds ahead of Ian Bainbridge/Will Atkins, who were delighted with the set-up changes they'd made to their Å koda Fabia R5 during lockdown. Ian was a lot faster in the afternoon, when all four stages were repeated - a full 20 seconds faster through Crychan the second time in fact.


    Third place went to George Lepley/Tom Woodburn in their AMS-tuned Mitsubishi Evo X. After a very good start, they found the afternoon loop was much more challenging, but did well to stay in touch with the R5 cars. They were also top Welsh Junior crew home - Lepley staking first claim to the top end-of-season prize of a test in a PCRS Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 R5, courtesy of OnThePaceNote.


    It's the same Junior prize that Tom Llewellin won in 2019, and the former Welsh Junior champion appeared this time in a Mitsubishi Mirage. Together with co-driver Ross Whittock, he made a fantastic four-wheel drive competition debut, and never put a foot wrong as he got valuable miles under his belt on his way to fourth.


    Scotland's Garry Pearson/Niall Burns picked up points for fifth in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. Richard Hill and Elgan Davies were paired together for the first time in their Mitsubishi Evo IX, and the new driver/co-driver partnership worked so well that they caught the car ahead of them on SS4. Their speed continued in the afternoon, coming home sixth, while Gareth Mimnagh/Barry McCarney had a good run to an untroubled seventh place in their Mitsubishi Evo VI - and topped the RAVENOL UK Welsh Challenge category.


    2019 Pirelli Welsh National Rally champions Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear had a nightmare of an opening loop, with an engine misfire on SS1 and 2 and a broken driveshaft on SS3 and 4 in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. Despite this, they showed their class with a brilliant recovery in the afternoon, which rewarded them with 11th at the finish.


    Also struggling was the 2019 championship runner-up Russ Thompson, who snapped a pair of driveshafts on his Mitsubishi Evo IX upon landing after a jump on SS2. Having missed two stages, he completed the afternoon's loop of stages - both for testing and to get seat time with new co-driver Peredur Davies.


    Andy Davies/Ian Beamond were having a good run before a TCA broke on their Subaru Impreza.


    Bob Morgan's first rally for three years was hampered a little with his super-smart and self-prepared Å koda Fabia struggling to launch off the start lines. Co-driven by Adrian Williams, the Winner Garage boss was to retire in the afternoon with brake problems.


    Wug Utting was sporting a new hip, having had a replacement operation only a month ago. He and co-driver Bob Stokoe were on fine form in their Subaru Impreza STi N12, completing the event without drama. It was also a good debut for Martyn and Dawn England, who, after many years in their Ford Fiesta R5+, had purchased a Mitsubishi Evo X just four days before the event. And they got to the finish without an issue.


    It was also great to see Nik Elsmore return to the sport, having only contested three rallies in the last 12 years! On his first event since the 2015 Wyedean Stages Rally, he and co-driver Craig Drew were quickly back up to speed in a Mitsubishi Evo IX, getting used to a sequential gearbox and route notes after a long time away. Elsmore joked that, "it's a good opportunity to blow plenty of cobwebs away, although the event doesn't have much faith in us, seeding us at ninety-one." And he was correct, for he was a second per mile quicker through the stages in the afternoon and came home ninth registered Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship contender.

    David Crossen won the Restruct-sponsored Two-Wheel Drive category, the Irishman finishing eighth with Aileen Kelly on the notes in an Escort Mk2.


    Paul Barrett/Gordon Noble were almost a minute behind in their Escort Mk2 - but were nonetheless overjoyed to win the hotly contested Historic class.


    Frank Kelly, co-driven by his daughter Lauren, had a tyre come off the rim on SS2 - but their afternoon was a lot better as they came home third 2WD in their famous Baby Blue Escort Mk2. Owen McMackin/Lee Taylor and Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham finished fourth and fifth in the 2WD section in their Escort Mk2s.


    Having very kindly donated 500 packets of fabulously moreish Brace's Welsh Cakes for all the volunteer marshals, Jonathan Brace had a good start to the event - despite picking up a puncture in SS2. Sadly for him and co-driver Paul Spooner, his immaculate Escort Mk2's engine cut out a mile into the final stage and refused to restart.


    Ben Friend/Cliff Simmons also had high hopes of a good result, but their run ended after their Escort Mk2 broke its differential on landing after a crossroads junction.


    Paul Street/Ian Jones finished second in the Historic section in their RS1800 Mk2. 2000 Pirelli Welsh National Rally champions Pete Littler/Andy Marchbank and Michael Mcdaid/Daniel Petrie came home third and fourth in a pair of Escort Mk2s, while Tom Coughtrie/Ian Fraser were fifth Historic home in their Mitsubishi Galant VR4.


    Gary Smith/Clive Jones won the private RS1600 Mk1 battle, beating Andrew Stokes/Jonny 'Tad' Evans and David Kirby/Martin Corbett. They might have been seeded in the 200s, but you'd be hard pressed to find a more competitive group of drivers - and that battle is set to rage all season.


    Also enjoying themselves were Julian Birley/Steve White. They won the RallySport championship 40 years ago in a Talbot Sunbeam Ti, and have returned this year in a 1600cc Sunbeam - having rebuilt the engine, gearbox and rear axle during lockdown. Their preparation efforts paid off, as they recorded a trouble-free W6 class win.


    Ioan Lloyd/Sion Williams enjoyed a fantastic run in their Peugeot 208 R2, a spin on SS2 not getting in the way of a well-earned W4 class victory. Jonathan Jones/Alan Walker were second in their Fiesta R2, while Charlie Todd/Glyn Thomas completed the top three Welsh Juniors in their Fiesta R2T. Jonathan Lee Jones/Lewis Griffiths gently rolled their Fiesta R2T in Halfway, but sadly a holed radiator meant that they could go no further.


    James Dunkley/Dan Sayce won the W2 class in their Vauxhall Corsa. Steve Black/Paul Morris (Suzuki Swift S1400) beat David and Toby Brick (Vauxhall Nova) to the W3 class trophy.


    Robi Wood/Osian Davies (Escort Mk2) won the new Road Rally (W5) class, with Ricky Crone/Daniel James (Escort) finishing second and Graham Thatcher/Tim Samuels (Peugeot 206) completing the top three.


    David Edwards/Paul Dolby (Escort Mk2) beat Neal James/Kevin Jones (Escort) to the W7 award, while Dan and Cyril Jones (Vauxhall Nova) won W10. On their first forestry rally and their first event outside Ireland, Jason Black/Karl Egan won the W11 class in their rear-wheel drive Toyota Starlet.


    "It's been three and a half years since I last drove an R5 car and almost two years since I've done a rally, so it's been a very enjoyable event and I'm delighted with the result," said Callum Black.


    "It was good to just be back in a rally car - and I was surprised to be right up there and leading the very strong Welsh National Rally Championship section after stage one. Between stage one and two, I noticed that the anti-roll bar had snapped, so I had to disconnect it on the road section. The stability was compromised and the car was trying to get away from me on the faster sections after that, so stages two, three and four were a bit of a challenge.


    "The team fixed the car at midday service and after giving it a good go on the first two stages in the afternoon, we decided to bring the car home safely and get through the last two stages without any heroics and take home maximum championship points. I'm very happy with the result and I'm already looking forward to the next event."


    While the Nicky Grist Stages was a non-spectator event, fans could watch live streaming with Howard Davies and Eifion Jones interviewing crews from strategic points along the route. Sideways Media was there to film the action, and it is producing a 30 minute programme dedicated to the Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, which will be uploaded onto social media channels as early as possible.


    After a 518-day enforced break caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it truly was a fantastic opening round to the 2021 Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship.


    The series continues on Saturday 4 September with the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages.


    Further details on the 2021 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, together with registration information, can be found online at:

    Picture captions
    Top: Callum Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta R5) - 1st overall, Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, 2021 Nicky Grist Stages.
    Bottom: Ian Bainbridge/Will Atkins (Å koda Fabia R5) - 2nd overall, Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, 2021 Nicky Grist Stages.
    Top Middle: George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Mitsubishi Evo X) - 3rd overall and 1st Junior, Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, 2021 Nicky Grist Stages.
    Middle : David Crossen/Aileen Kelly (Ford Escort Mk2) - 1st Two-Wheel Drive, Pirelli Welsh National Rally Championship, 2021 Nicky Grist Stages

    Please credit 'Chris Huish, RallySport Media' if reproduced.



  • Hirst Cracks Rallynuts

    Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear have extended their lead in the 2023 Motorsport UK
    Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship after scoring maximum points on the second round
    of the series, the Rallynuts Stages Rally (Saturday 15 April).
    It was a perfect day for rallying, with glorious sunshine and some of the best stages
    Wales has to offer in excellent condition - although the event ran in a somewhat
    sombre and reflective mood, following the tragic death of WRC star Craig Breen in
    pre-Rally Croatia testing. As a mark of respect, the event began with an impeccably
    observed minute silence and there were no Pirelli Welsh champagne celebrations at
    the finish.
    Hirst set the fastest time on all four of the morning's loop of stages through Myherin
    West, Myherin East, Hafren Sweet Lamb and Cwmysgawen in his Pirelli-shod Delta
    Salvage Ford Fiesta R5 to reach midday service at the Royal Welsh Showground in
    Llanelwedd with a 20 second lead overall.
    But four corners into the first stage in the afternoon, the Doncaster driver hit a rock
    that was directly on the racing line. The tyre deflated midday through the stages,
    ripping part of the bodywork off and costing him around 40 seconds and dropping
    him to second overall. He reduced the gap to the new leader from 16 to four seconds
    on the next stage, but when a tyre rolled off the rim at a hairpin on the seventh and
    final stage, it cost him another 35 seconds, dropping him to third overall. However,
    Hirst and Dear were still the top placed Pirelli Welsh registered crew, giving them
    maximum points for the second time in two rounds.
    "It was a challenging day," admitted Hirst.
    "The morning loop couldn't have gone better, but the afternoon tested us. A puncture
    in Myherin was doing a lot of damage to the car and we had to decide whether to
    stop and change it. We had a bit of a push in Sweet Lamb to try and get the time
    back, but then we had another puncture on the last stage.
    "But hey-ho, that's rallying, isn't it? But we're very happy to score maximum points
    again in the Welsh Championship, which puts us in a strong position for the rest of
    the season."



    Russ Thompson was flying in his Dunnow Plant-backed Mitsubishi Evo 9, especially
    in Myherin where the fast and flowing roads best suited the car. His plan of avoiding
    mistakes paid dividends, as he and co-driver Stephen Link picked up second placed
    Pirelli Welsh points. 

    Rob Wilson dropped to fourth with fuel related problems towards the end of SS4.
    The reigning Welsh Junior and Challenge champion immediately got the position
    back on the next stage, as he and co-driver Richard Crozier secured the final place
    on the Pirelli Welsh podium in their Ravenol-backed Mitsubishi Evo 7 - having set a
    very impressive joint second fastest overall time on the final stage.

    Steve Black enjoyed a great day in only his second outing in the 586 Sports-prepared
    Pallas Connections Ford Fiesta Rally2. After a sensible start in the slippery
    morning conditions, the 2021 Welsh class W3 champion was confident enough to
    stretch his legs on the drier afternoon stages, and together with co-driver Jack
    Morton he took home fourth placed Pirelli Welsh points.

    Eddie Lewis survived a "disastrous" morning loop, which included a turbo pipe
    coming off, a bottom arm joint coming loose and a tyre delaminating on a road
    section, which put him within four minutes of going OTL by the time he'd reached
    SS4. He and co-driver Sion Cunniff enjoyed a much better "steady, neat and tidy"
    afternoon, picking up sixth placed Pirelli Welsh points in their Mechanical Solutions-
    backed Ford Fiesta R5. Lewis also took maximum points in the OnThePaceNote-
    supported Welsh Junior section.

    Once again Simon Rogers had a late change of co-driver, with Ade Williams
    stepping into the MacWhirter Motorsport-prepared Mitsubishi Evo 6 hot seat this
    time. The day started with a huge spin on the opening stage, and thereafter he was
    embroiled in another close battle with Martyn Andrews - who Rogers ended up
    beating by just 0.04 seconds to maintain his class W13 lead and move up to third in
    the overall points standings. In recognition of his outstanding performance, Rogers
    collected the Witham Group special award (a voucher for £50) from Witham Group
    Sales Director Richard Scarbrough.

    Andrews echoed all drivers who said how "awesome" the stages were, as he had
    another great run in his Opie Oils Subaru Impreza. He and co-driver Steve Greenhill
    have extended their lead in the Welsh Challenge, while Andrews jumps from sixth to
    fourth in the overall drivers' standings.
    Daniel Moss said these were the best stages he'd ever competed on, as he put in
    another excellent performance in his unmissable pink Hurst Haylage Mitsubishi Evo
    10. After a faultless run, he and co-driver Samuel Davies completed the Pirelli Welsh
    top 10 finishers.


    It was another strong performance too from Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe, who put all their
    experience of the Welsh woods to good effect in their Subaru Impreza N12b. Having
    started on the same Pirelli tyres that they had contested the opening round on, the
    Surrey driver put on fresh rubber in the afternoon and went on to beat Peter
    Baylis/Paul Godden (Artificial Lawn Company Mitsubishi Evo 9) by just two seconds.
    David Tomlin enjoyed a "sensible and steady" run in his Axon Ford Fiesta R5, this
    time partnered by Ian Beamond - while Richard Ceen had a clean run having
    swapped his Focus WRC for an MSL Motorsport-prepared Fiesta R5, ably guided by
    Alun Hayward.
    Colin Minton/Bonnie Papper overheated the brakes on their Ignition Motorsport Ford
    Fiesta R5 on the opening stage, leaving them with no brakes and a big time loss
    through SS2. They were delighted to complete their first event of 2023 without a
    slipping clutch, with their afternoon stage times suggesting much more to come from
    the pair in the upcoming rounds.
    Charles Campbell/Sam Weller survived two spins (which cost them 1min 20secs) on
    the opening stage to bring home their Subaru Impreza. Rob and Ashley Aslett
    enjoyed a trouble-free run in their Rigfone Electric Contractors Subaru, as did Geoff
    Cottrill/Nathan Crewe in their Mitsubishi Evo 9.
    Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas retired their Green Paw Subaru Impreza with gearbox
    problems, while Colin Griffiths/Sion Rowlands also failed to complete the morning
    loop in their ex-Mikko Hirvonen/Alister McRae Subaru Impreza STI.

    Robert Gough was once again the top two-wheel drive finisher, scoring a magnificent
    Pirelli Welsh fifth (and ninth overall). Co-driven by Paul Morris in his Ford Escort
    Mk2, the Ludlow driver was kicking himself after losing out of the event's historic
    class win by just one second having put the car briefly down a bank in the opening
    stage and overshooting a hairpin - although he did score maximum Restruct Welsh
    Historic W9 class points to extend his category lead.


    On his very first rally, Steven John Chaplin finished second in class W9 in a new
    Dave Jenkins Motorsport-built Escort Mk2, co-driven by Richard Suter.






    Jonathan Brace/Paul Spooner made it two class W8 wins from two starts in their
    Brace's Bakery Ford Escort RS1600 Mk1. They almost went off at a hairpin on the
    final stage, with a quick yank of the handbrake saving the day - while the marshals
    were very appreciative of the Brace's Welsh Cakes that the driver had very kindly
    supplied fresh from the bakery.
    Andrew Stokes/Jonny Tad Evans went off near the start of SS1 and having regained
    the road picked up a puncture. Having dropped a minute, it was a safe and steady
    drive after that, collecting second place points and remaining second in the class W8
    Jeremy Wells had taken four and a half years to rebuild his immaculate Wells
    Masonary Solutions Escort Mk1. Co-driven by Martin Saunders, his first appearance
    in the car was rewarded with third in class W8 and the Witham Group historic class
    Lyn Davies/Aled Richards picked up fourth place class W8 points after a good run in
    their Wales Motorsport-prepared Escort Mk2, while Peter Jones/Gareth Davies
    retired their Ford with broken suspension on SS2.
    Ben Smith (co-driven by his father Steven) leads the Historic class W6 after a
    second maximum points winning performance in his Amigos Ford Escort RS2000
    Gareth Lewis had intercom issues all day in his Escort Mk1. It turned out to be a
    helmet issue, and with no intercom at all on the final stage, he was only one second
    slower through the second pass of Cwmysgawen than he was on the first, thanks to
    some gifted hand signals by co-driver Ryland James.

    As well as the Historic 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-

    Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees took their second straight victory in the Hockly
    Motorsport-supported Welsh 2WD section after another magnificent performance in
    their Flying Kiwi Ford Escort Mk2, despite spinning on SS5 and having to reverse.
    The defending 2WD champions were in superb form, finishing 19th overall, while
    they also extend their lead in class W11.

    Kevin Metcalfe struggled to find a rhythm in the morning, but with Ian Jones co-
    driving the Horsham pilot came good in the afternoon to take home second place
    2WD points in his rapid 3-litre BMW E30.
    Iwan Roberts Jnr/Daniel Jones lost a lot of time with a puncture on SS1. They fought
    back from 62nd overall to finish 24th in their Roberts of Ffestiniog Ford Escort G3
    and maintain their second position in class W11.

    Geoff Phelps/Colin Jenkins had a bit of a sixth gear pinball moment on SS4 when
    they put their Hartpury Farms Escort Mk2 up and down the banks on either side of
    the road. Having got away that that almighty tank slapper, they went on to record
    another excellent Pirelli Welsh points score.
    Dan Chester/Paul Barbet were playing catch up all day after collecting a puncture in
    their BMW E30 on the opening stage, while Tim Phelps/Elwyn Manuel had a good
    run in their Britpart Escort Mk2, as did Richard Warne/Chris Deal in their CarSpares
    Escort Mk1.

    Ben Smith also leads the Welsh Junior Championship after two second place
    finishes in his Escort Mk1, despite stalling the car on the final stage.
    Callum Griffiths had only ever driven the Hafren Sweet Lamb stage with a broken
    driveshaft, so he particularly enjoyed his first clean run through this classic Rally GB
    stage. Co-driven by William Lewis, he also beat his brother Liam (co-driven by
    Daniel James) in their pair of Presteigne Tyre Services-backed Ford Fiesta STs,
    although Liam did win the Witham Group 2WD category prize.

    Nigel and Kaz Jenkins scored maximum Hockly Motorsport-supported 1400cc class
    W2 points to share the category lead, despite a problematic start to the event, which
    saw their NJ Auto Repairs Vauxhall Nova reduced to 1000rpm after alternator belt
    and coil lead problems. They were also on three cylinders for most of the afternoon!
    In only his second gravel rally, Dylan Fowler Bishop (co-driven by Dan Evans)
    finished second in class W2 in his Restruct-backed Nissan Micra.

    Chris Bush/Kev Papper finished third in class in their Bushtec Recycling Opel Corsa,
    despite the windscreen misting up in the morning, whilst Ashley Francis-Adams
    regretted a lack of sleep the night before and lost time with a sluggish start in his T2
    Fabrication-backed Nissan Micra, although together with Lucy Wilding finished fourth
    in class.
    James Dunkley/Jack Morris came home fifth in class in their Vauxhall Corsa, one
    place ahead of defending class W2 champions Adrian and Matthew Walk who were
    contesting their first event since crashing out of last year's Cambrian Rally. Getting
    settled back into it, they were going well and finished, despite putting their PartBOX
    Ford Ka into a ditch on the final stage.
    Luke Watts/Matt Rogers also finished the event, despite the starter motor failing in
    the morning in their MG ZR.
    Tony Simpson was reunited with former co-driver Stefan Arndt and, for the second
    event running, dominated class W4 in his Seacon UK Ford Fiesta R2T. After two
    rounds, he has already opened an impressive 33-point lead and is second in the
    main 2WD drivers' standings.


    Lucy Wigley/Emma Cooper took maximum class W10 points, despite a few brake
    issues in their Redware Citroën C2.
    Defending champions Martin Walters/Marie Fletcher have taken the class lead after
    a solid run in their Digger Parts Direct Honda Civic, replacing Wrexham's Dan and
    Cyril Jones at the top of the W10 points table after they broke a driveshaft on their
    Jones Brothers/North Wales Joinery Vauxhall Nova on SS3 and went OTL.
    On his first event for six months, Alan Desbois was unlucky to collect a rear left
    puncture towards the end of SS1 and, with no spare remaining, had to be cautious.
    He and co-driver Peter Littlefield were delighted to reach midday service (a feat that
    they'd failed to do on the Rallynuts since 2019) and had a good afternoon to finish
    third in class in their Peugeot 306 RWD.


    The live streaming coverage from the Rallynuts Stages Rally remains available to
    view on the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship and Special Stage TV Facebook

    Round 3 of the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship is the Plains Rally on Saturday 20
    May. Organised by Knutsford & District Motor Club, the event is based in Bala and
    contains a compact route of approximately 100 road and 44 stage miles.
    Further details on the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship can be found online at:

    2023 Rallynuts Stages Rally - top 10 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally
    Championship finishers:
    1. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5).......44mins 25secs
    2. Russ Thompson/Stephen Link (Mitsubishi Evo 9).......44mins 53secs
    3. Rob Wilson/Richard Crozier (Mitsubishi Evo 7).......45mins 51secs
    4. Steve Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta Rally2)....... 46mins 31secs
    5. Robert Gough/Paul Morris (Ford Escort Mk2).......46mins 57secs
    6. Eddie Lewis/Sion Cunniff (Ford Fiesta R5)....... 47mins 03secs

    7. Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees (Ford Escort Mk2).......47mins 59secs
    8. Simon Rogers/Ade Williams (Mitsubishi Evo 6).......47mins 59secs
    9. Martyn Andrews/Steve Greenhill (Subaru Impreza).......48mins 03secs
    10. Daniel Moss/Samuel Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10).......48mins 09secs

    2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship
    Overall drivers' points after Round 2:

    1. Matthew Hirst.......60pts
    2. Robert Gough.......51pts
    3. Simon Rogers.......44pts
    4. Martyn Andrews.......41pts
    5. Boyd Kershaw.......40pts
    6. Wug Utting.......38pts

    Paul Evans
    Press Officer, Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




  • Hirst Targets Four Championship Wins in a Row

    Matthew Hirst will be targeting his fourth straight 2022 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship win when he contests the Nicky Grist Stages on Saturday 9 July in his Pirelli-shod Delta Salvage Ford Fiesta R5+.
    Co-driven by Declan Dear, Matthew became the first driver since Callum Black in 2017 to win three Welsh Championship rallies in a row when he won the Plains Rally last time out - and if he wins again he will be the first driver to win four in a row since Luke Francis in 2016. Both Callum and Luke went on to win the Welsh title in those years!
    "The Nicky Grist Stages is one of the events which we look forward to each year," says Matthew. 
    "The pace at the front of the field just seems to get quicker every year. I'd put this down to the fact that the route doesn't generally alter dramatically year-on-year, typically with just small changes here and there. That allows you to build confidence with the pace notes and generally gives a good feeling to the pre-event preparations. 
    "It's also the only time to compare the Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship pace against the BRC which is an interesting opportunity, albeit on the proviso that they have had the opportunity to recce the stages beforehand. It's always good to get the excuses out early!
    "This will be the fifth time that we have entered the event and upon reflection we have yet to have a proper clean run. In the last three starts, we have had mechanical problems with a broken driveshaft, broken gear-lever and collapsed steering column. 
    "Hopefully we can get through this year with no dramas!"
    James Giddings finished second last time out in his Group N Fordpad Mitsubishi Evo 9 to shoot up the points table and become a real title contender. Co-driven this time by Lee Taylor, the former Fiesta ST Trophy and Citroën C2 Challenge champion has taken very little time to get used to his new car and will be one of many trying to stop Hirst's winning run. 
    Bob Morgan/Ade Williams are also having a fantastic season in their Winner Garage Å koda Fabia R5+. They lead the Ravenol Challenge and arrive at the Nicky Grist Stages as the top-placed Å koda crew.

    We've not seen the best of Dylan Davies yet this year. He's had a troubled start to the season, and that will make the 2019 Welsh champion all the more determined to score maximum points as he and co-driver Mark Glennerster contest the event in their Å koda Fabia R5+.
    Another former champion Bob Ceen, who won the title in 2001 and 2015, arrives in Builth Wells on top form having scored a fifth-place Welsh Championship points finish last time out on the Plains. He and co-driver Shaun Layland know the classic mid-Wales forests well and will have their sights set on another strong performance in their 'National spec' Ford Fiesta R5.

    Bob's brother Richard Ceen (co-driven by Alun Hayward) hopes to have finally sorted out the sensor gremlins which have ruined many a good stage performance this year in his Ford Focus WRC05. 
    Meanwhile, Richard's son Benj Ceen will be aiming to return to his fantastic early season form, as the former Renault/Alpine Formula 1 test engineer and co-driver Caron Tomlinson contest the event in their MSL-prepared Ford Fiesta R5.
    Perry Gardener/Jack Bowen scored a Welsh podium finish on the Rallynuts Stages and will be challenging for maximum points again in their Ford Fiesta R5+, while Tom Llewellin/Ross Whittock appear in a Brace's Bakery-backed Ford Fiesta R5, having switched from a Mitsubishi Mirage.
    Russ Thompson makes his second appearance of the year after recording an excellent fourth-placed points finish on the Rallynuts Stages. Co-driven by Stephen Link, another good result in his Dunnow Plant-backed Mitsubishi Evo 9 could bring the 2019 Welsh Championship runner-up right back into contention for the 2022 title.
    Having sorted out a few reliability issues with his Mitsubishi Evo 6, Simon Rogers enjoyed a much better run on the Plains. Co-driven by James How, he'll be hoping that it continues on the Nicky Grist Stages - while Phil Price Rally School owner John Caine returns in his Subaru Impreza and, co-driven by Andrew Sankey, will be aiming for a strong top 10 finish and more Ravenol Welsh Challenge points.
    Class 13 leader Paul Walker is enjoying a great season and will be out again with Geraint Thomas in his Green Paw Subaru Impreza, while Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe will also be pushing hard in their Geoff Jones Motorsport-prepared Subaru Impreza N12b.

    Last year's Nicky Grist Stages saw the return of Nik Elsmore, who was contesting his first rally for over six years and only his third rally in 12 years. He's done very little since, but it's great to see him and co-driver Craig Drew back in their Mitsubishi Evo IX and preparing to blow the cobwebs away in their characteristic hard-charging style.
    Frazer Martin/Dylan Bargate will contest the event in their Mitsubishi Evo 6, Lewers Firth/Shaun Lapper are back in their Firth Construction Subaru Impreza, Rob and Ashley Aslett wheel out their Subaru Impreza, as do Martyn Andrews/Steve Greenhill, Steven Ormond-Smith/Simon Jones and Geoff Cottrill/Nathan Crewe both appear in Mitsubishi Evo 9s, while Dave Tomlin/Keith Ashley will be hoping for a much-needed change of fortune in their Axon Ford Fiesta R5.
    Having scored two wins from three starts, Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees lead the Welsh 2WD class in their Flying Kiwi Escort Mk2. They really are enjoying a sensational season in the black Ford and will be aiming for a class hat-trick this time out. 


    Kevin Metcalfe (who also leads class W12) is just five points behind in his 3-litre BMW E30 and together with Ian Jones is always great to watch. And to illustrate how diverse the 2WD category is, Matthew Jackson arrives third in class in his MJ Rallying Ford Fiesta R2T. Partnered by Sasha Heriot (who is second in the co-drivers' standings), Jackson also leads class W4.
    Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham remain Welsh 2WD title contenders. Having won the class on the Rallynuts and finished second on Rally North Wales, another strong run in their Burton Power/G&B Finch/Deranged Trucks Ford Escort RS could put them right back into title contention - and with five scores from seven counting towards the end of season points total, they hope to be able to drop the low score they received after retiring on the Plains.

    Also ready to score big in the 2WD category are Philip Jones/Ryan Griffiths (Ford Escort), Andrew Fox/Jaime-Lee Fox (Xwatch Safety Solutions BMW 325), Michael Sawyer/Gareth Price (2350cc Datsun 1600) Geoffrey Phelps/Colin Jenkins (Hartpury Farms Escort Mk2), Matthew Honeyborne/James Curtis (BMW 328 Coupe), Tim Jones/Liam Whiteley (Ford Escort Mk2), Clive Price/John Fellowes (BMW Compact), Alun Horn/Ian Beamond (Ford Escort Mk2), Colin Griffiths/Lucy Wilding (BMW Compact), Richard Warne/Chris Deal (Escort Mk2), David Jones/Glyn Price (BMW E30) and Tim Phelps/Elwyn Manuel who return in their Britpart Ford Escort Mk2.
    The battle for the supported Welsh Junior title is hotting up nicely, with seven under 25-year old drivers aiming for the coveted trophy. Two wins and a second sees Liam Griffiths in the lead and the Presteigne youngsters will be hoping to continue that good run when he and co-driver Daniel James take to the mid-Wales forests in their Discover Parks Ford Fiesta ST.
    Liam's brother Callum, co-driven by William Lewis, will be a tough competitor in his Presteigne Tyre Services Ford Fiesta ST, as will the rapid James Lepley/Arwel Jenkins in their Escort Mk2.
    Robert Wilson won the Junior category on the Rallynuts, which was his first event in his Ravenol Mitsubishi Evo 7 - and he and co-driver Richard Crozier will be aiming for maximum points this time again.

    Rudi Lancaster has the opportunity to take the Historic class W8 lead. Co-driven by Guy Weaver, he's already scored three very good results in his Woolacombe Holiday Parks Escort RS1800 Mk2 and a first or second would give him the outright class lead.

    However, victory could also give the defending class W8 champions Paul Street/Ian Jones the lead as they aim for top points in their PJS Marine Escort RS1800 Mk2.


    Nick Elliott has been super-fast this year, although an engine issue on the Plains Rally has dropped him to fourth in the table. But with it fixed, he and co-driver Dave Price should be right back challenging for class victory in their Fiat Abarth 131.

    Jonathan Brace has been the fastest Escort Mk1 driver all season and despite a power disadvantage is fifth in class W8. Reunited with co-driver Paul Spooner, who was away on holiday when the Plains took place, Jonathan will be out to impress in his Brace's Bakery RS1600. 
    Robert Gough scored his best result of the season last time out and together with Sam Collis will be aiming to keep up that momentum going in their Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2.
    Andrew Stokes/Jonny Tad Evans will be aiming for their fourth straight points-finish in their Ford Escort Mk1, as they start the event seventh in class, one point ahead of Roger Chilman/Patrick Walsh (Wales Motorsport-prepared Securcom Escort Mk2) and Michael McDaid/Declan Casey (McDaid Pharmacy Escort RS1800 Mk2). 
    Also aiming for class W8 points are Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons (Allglass Escort Mk2), Will Onions/Dave Williams (Capital Motorsport Ford Escort Mk2), Pete Littler/Andy Marchbank (RED Preparation & Fabrication/Select Security Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2), Philip Clarke/Richard Bonner (Escort Mk2), Ron Morgan/Marc Clatworthy (Wales Motorsport-prepared Restruct Escort Mk2) and Owen McMackin/Sean Ferris in their BJT Hire Centre Escort Mk2.

    Neal James/Kevin Jones have a healthy lead in the Historic W7 class after three second-place finishes in their Cwm Engineering Ford Escort Mk2. They'll continue to be pushed hard by second-placed David Lloyd Roberts/Gerallt Davies, who have won twice in their Escort Mk2, and Ben Smith/Stephen Smith who took victory on the opening round in their Escort Mk2. Peter Hinton/Lewis Sim (Escort Mk2) and Gareth Lewis/Ryland James (Escort RS2000 Mk1) are also out.

    Julian Birley/Emyr Hall lead the Historic W6 class after taking two wins from two starts in their Talbot Sunbeam Ti 1600. Welsh Junior driver Rory McCann, co-driven by his father Paul, is second in class in his Metalways Hillman Avenger.
    Chris Squires/Shaun Hughes, who celebrated contesting their first gravel rally with class W6 victory on the Rallynuts, are back in their Trevor Morris Engines Ford Escort Mk2, while Mark Tugwell/Steve Pugh (Lotus Twin Cam engines Metalways Ford Escort Mk1) and Malcolm Bayliss/Siobhan Pugh (16BAO Rally Team Ford Escort Mk1) will be aiming for top points as well.
    In addition to valuable points, the top three finishes in each historic class will automatically be put forward for the end-of-season David Stokes Historic Challenge award for drivers and the Guy Weaver award for co-drivers.
    James Dunkley has a great opportunity to take the class W2 lead when he and co-driver Dan Sayce contest the event in their Opel Corsa.
    Gethin Price will be aiming to make a dent in Hefin Lloyd-Davies's class W3 lead as he and co-driver Matthew Baddeley contest the event in their Keith Price Haulage Nissan Micra. They'll be battling for maximum class points with Adrian and Matthew Walk (PartBOX Ford Ka) and brothers Freddy and Toby Brick (Opel Corsa).
    Matthew Jackson may have a good lead in class W4, but he'll have to be on his best again as Jonathan Jones/Jez Rogers (EDSL Sport-run Ingospec Ford Fiesta), Tony Simpson/Ian Bevan (Seacon UK/Kielder Tools Ford Fiesta R2T) and Yaniv Bar/Osian Owen (Ptravel Club Ford Fiesta R2) challenge for maximum points.

    Brynli Thomas leads the Road Rally class and together with co-driver Sion Rowlands will be aiming to extend his lead in his Peugeot 306 Rallye. Aiming to stop them will be the earlier leaders of the W5 class, Graham Thatcher/Tim Samuel in their Pembridge Vehicle Management Peugeot 206 GTi.

    Martin Walters/Marie Fletcher aim to strengthen their healthy class W10 lead in their high-revving yellow Honda Civic. Dan Jones led the class after the opening round and will want to return to the top step on the class W10 podium when he and Cyril Jones tackle the event in their Jones Brothers/Bradley Motorsport Vauxhall Nova. Aiming for their first finish of the season will Alan Desbois/Peter Littlefield (Peugeot 306 RWD) and Michael Jenkins/Scott Dance (Peugeot 205).
    The Welsh Championship's live streaming service will be even bigger and better on the Nicky Grist Stages, with even more action and interviews. Howard Davies will commentate on the live stage action and will also roam with a camera and microphone around midday service, interviewing Welsh Championship drivers and co-drivers. Everything will be broadcast live on:
    Organised by Quinton Motor Club, the 2022 Nicky Grist Stages will start from Strand Street in the centre of Builth Wells at 08.31. After a loop of stages through Llyn Login, Monument, Halfway and Crychan forests, cars will return for a midday service on the Builth Wells RFC pitch before a repeat run over the stages. After all eight stages and 45 stage miles have been completed, the podium ceremony will take place in Groe Park at 15.30, with the River Wye and the landmark 18th Century bridge in the background.

    Further details on the 2022 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship, together with registration information, can be found online at:

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

    Picture captions - top left to bottom right
    Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5+)
    Bob Ceen/Shaun Layland (Ford Fiesta R5)
    Bob Morgan/Ade Williams (Å koda Fabia R5+)
    Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas (Subaru Impreza)
    Nick Elliott/Peredur Davies (Fiat Abarth 131)
    Rudi Lancester/Guy Weaver (Ford Escort Mk2)
    Peter Hinton/Lewis Sim (Escort Mk2) 
    Ashley Davies/Sam Fordham (Ford Escort Mk2)
    Ron Morgan/Marc Clatworthy (Ford Escort Mk2) 
    Matthew Jackson/Sasha Heriot (Ford Fiesta R2T) 
    Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees (Ford Escort)
    Freddy Brick/Toby Brick (Opel Corsa) 
    Paul Street/Ian Jones (Ford Escort Mk2) 
    Neal James/Kevin Jones (Ford Escort Mk2) 
    Rob Wilson/Richard Crozier (Mitsubishi Evo 7) 
    Brynli Thomas/Steve Griffiths (Peugeot 306 Rallye) 

    Pictures courtesy of Paul Mitchell. Please credit 'Paul Mitchell Photography' if used.