Hirst blasts to Rally North Wales hattrick

Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear took a hattrick of victories at the Get Jerky Rally North Wales on Saturday [25 March] taking their Ford Fiesta R5 to a sensational win by over two minutes from their nearest rival.

Hirst set the fastest time on all but one of the eight tricky forest stages to dominate the event and kick off his defence of the Welsh Rally Championship title in fine style.

But in the battle for the honours in the National section of the event, it would be a much more close-cut affair, with Joe Price and Chris Brooks sealing victory by just three seconds in their Ford Escort MKII.

Organised by Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Car Club Rally North Wales took on a distinctly fresh look in 2023 thanks to a new partnership with Trailhead Fine Foods and the high protein Get Jerky brand of beef jerky snacks. Moving from its traditional base in Dolgellau, the popular motorsport event moved to its latest home of Welshpool, with the rally base on the outskirts.

The jewel in the crown was the ceremonial start and finish ceremonies which took place directly in the town centre, allowing fans and townsfolk to get up close to the cars and drivers and enjoy a full day in the area thanks to market traders and display stands.

But out on the stages, motorsport enthusiasts were treated to a spectacular day of action as contenders in the Fuchs Lubricants Motorsport UK British Historic Rally Championship, Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship and a host of other regional series battled it out for championship honours and the coveted rally win.

Eight stages, classed as some of the best in the world by leading drivers of the sport, gave crews around 45 miles of flat-out driving in the Dyfi and Dyfnant Forest complex. With rain making conditions difficult, mud-strewn stages added challenge to the already tricky tests.

In the Interclub section which housed the top-flight four-wheel drive crews, whilst it was Hirst that cruised to victory he wasn’t the fastest out of the blocks. That honour went to Irishmen Jordan and Paul Hone who made the long trip over in the search for seat time in their Fiesta R5, stopping the clocks two seconds faster than anyone else.

Suspension issues in the second test meant they couldn’t repeat that pace and would sadly retire before the third stage, leaving Hirst to secure a comfortable victory, his third Rally North Wales win in a row.

“Considering the competition out there today I think a win by two minutes is quite good and very encouraging for the season,” said a delighted Hirst.

“It’s a shame Jordan [Hone] didn’t make it throughout the day as it would have been a good battle but hopefully we can keep going through the rest of the year like this.”

That left Northern Ireland’s Alan Carmichael in Hirst’s wake, taking the runner-up spot with co-driver Claire Williams alongside in their Hyundai i20 R5 and Kevin Proctor and co-driver Jamie Edwards to round out the podium.

In the National section of the event which hosted the British Historic battle, a fascinating fight played out in the forests during the day, with no less than four crews taking fastest times in the stages. In fact, Price didn’t set the benchmark all day but such was his consistency when others hit trouble, Price would hold onto his mettle to seal victory by the slender margin of three seconds.

Second would go to Herefordshire’s Roger Chilman and co-driver Patrick Walsh. The Ford Escort MKII crew would also scoop the maximum score in the Historic championship with Price not registered to score points. Rounding out the top three were Nick Elliott and Dave Price in their stunning FIAT 131 Abarth.

Builth Wells driver Jason Pritchard made an impressive return to the series with fourth place in his Ford Escort MKII and Phil Clarke on the notes.

In the single-make BMW Mini Challenge, which was held over the first four stages of the event, it was Mick Smith and Paul Stringer who took back-to-back wins having sealed victory at Rally North Wales in 2022.

Guy Weaver, Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Car Club Chairman was delighted to see yet another successful event take place and believes Welshpool truly embraced the rally in its new home.

“Welshpool has a great heritage in motorsport and indeed Rally North Wales, as over the decades the rally has used the town as its base many times before,” he says.

“With the continued growth and development of the event which has attracted competitors from across the world, we had been looking for a new home for the rally which in recent times had been based wholly in Dolgellau. Thanks to the fantastic support from Welshpool Town Council and Mayor Cllr Alison Davies, and our sponsors Get Jerky, the Broad Street start and finish ceremonies were a huge hit with the fans and competitors.”

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has everyone has truly embraced the event and its ethos and I`m very proud to see the event run to such high acclaim. We look forward to seeing what next year brings”.

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