Matthew Hirst will be aiming for his third straight 2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship victory on Saturday’s Plains Rally – although this time he’ll be without his regular co-driver Declan Dear, who is on his long-awaited honeymoon.
The defending Welsh champion and 2022 Plains Rally winner will be partnered for the first time by Mark Glennerster, who is stepping into Hirst’s Pirelli-shod Delta Salvage-backed Ford Fiesta R5.
The new partnership will face stiff competition, not least from Perry Gardener who returns to the Pirelli Welsh Championship in his Ford Fiesta R5. The Ludlow driver scored maximum points on last year’s Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages and will be aiming to do the same on the Plains. He’s partnered by Jack Bowen, who finished runner-up in last year’s Welsh Junior co-drivers’ category.
Bob Morgan, who finished an impressive third on both the Plains and in the overall Pirelli Welsh drivers’ standings last year, is contesting his first event of 2023. Together with co-driver Ade Williams, the experienced Cinderford pilot will be at the wheel of his Winner Garage Škoda Fabia R5.
Simon Rogers had a good top 10 result on the Plains last year and has started this season even better as he arrives in Bala leading class W13 and lying third in the overall drivers’ standings. The Hertfordshire driver will be co-driver by James How in his MacWhirter Motorsport-prepared Mitsubishi Evo 6.
Rogers beat Martyn Andrews by 15 seconds on the opening Get Jerky Rally North Wales and by four seconds on the recent Rallynuts Stages. The two will resume their close battle for overall and class W13 points when Steve Greenhill co-drivers for Andrews (who leads the Welsh Challenge category) in his Opie Oils Subaru Impreza.
Wug Utting has had two strong showings so far this year and hopes to continue that good run when he and co-driver Bob Stokoe pair up in their Subaru Impreza N12b. Likewise, Daniel Moss/Samuel Davies will be aiming for a third good result in a row in their Hurst Haylage Mitsubishi Evo 10.
Colin Minton/Bonnie Papper may have suffered from overheating brakes last time out in their Ignition Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5, but they were pleased to get through their first event of 2023 without any clutch problems. Given a clean run this time, they have every chance of an extremely good result on the Plains.
Richard Ceen found his MSL Motorsport-prepared Fiesta R5 “chalk and cheese” compared to the Focus WRC he’s more accustomed to driving, having done very few events in the newer car since the 2016 Wales Rally GB National. With the Rallynuts Stages proving a good test, he and co-driver Alun Hayward will be more on the pace this time.
The hotly contested battles in the Restruct Welsh Historic classes are set to continue, 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.
Organised by Knutsford & District Motor Club, the Bala-based Plains Rally contains two loops of four stages (Aberhirnant, Llangower, Alwen North and Alwen South) totalling 44 stage miles. The first car starts at 08:30 and finishes back at Ysgol Y Berwyn at 15:35, while the midday service will be located at the Bala Enterprise Park.