Matthew Hirst has won the 2022 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship title with a perfect 150 points score after winning the penultimate round of the series, the Wyedean Stages Rally last Saturday.
It’s the second time that Hirst and co-driver Declan Dear have been Welsh champions, having won the title in 2019.
Driving his Pirelli-shod Delta Salvage Ford Fiesta R5+, Hirst scored maximum points on the opening four rounds of the series – the WKD Trained Dogs Rally North Wales in March, April’s Rallynuts Stages Rally, the Plains Rally in mid-May and the Nicky Grist Stages at the start of July – leaving the Doncaster driver only needing one more good result to secure the title.
And he did that in style in the Forest of Dean – leading the 40-stage mile Wyedean Stages from start to finish and winning by a very impressive 47 seconds.
“This season couldn’t have gone better really, with five maximum scores from five events,” said Hirst (below). “Coming into the Wyedean it felt that I had a lot to lose and not much to win, and to win the Welsh Rally Championship again is a great feeling.”
It was far from easy, as heavy showers of rain and fallen leaves made the forest roads extremely slippery – and even Hirst wasn’t immune to a few problems, overshooting a couple of junctions on the opening loop of three stages and getting tangled up with a barrel that had been positioned to prevent a corner being cut on SS6.
Then, 19-year-old Robert Wilson scored this first overall forest rally stage win and his first ever overall podium on his way to a stunning second place in his Ravenol Mitsubishi Evo 7.
Co-driven this time by Martin Haggett, the Herefordshire teenager survived a few overshoots and an off on SS5 which saw the car come to rest on a tree stump, but the great result jumps him to fifth in the overall drivers’ standings.
Wilson has also closed the gap in the race for the OnThePaceNote.co.uk supported Welsh Junior title, having scored four maximums from his four appearances.
Nik Elsmore/Rob Fagg (CDS Mitsubishi Evo 9) and John Caine/Andrew Sankey (Phil Price Rally School Subaru Impreza) were tied for third going into the seventh and final stage. But local knowledge paid dividends as Elsmore took one second per mile out of Caine to secure the final podium position.
It was a magnificent performance by both crews, which sees Caine move from fifth to third in the overall Pirelli Ravenol Welsh drivers’ points table and extend his lead in class W13, while Sankey secures the class co-driver’s title.
The seventh and final round of the 2022 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship is the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally on Saturday 29 October.
Wyedean Stages Rally – top 10 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship finishers
1. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5+)….42mins 04secs
2. Robert Wilson/Martin Haggett (Mitsubishi Evo 7)….42mins 57secs
3. Nik Elsmore/Rob Fagg (Mitsubishi Evo 9)….44mins 03secs
4. John Caine/Andrew Sankey (Subaru Impreza)….44mins 11secs
5. Bob Morgan/Ade Williams (Škoda Fabia R5+)….44mins 57secs
6. Michael McDaid/Declan Casey (Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2)….46mins 39secs
7. Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas (Subaru Impreza)….47mins 33secs
8. David Tomlin/Keith Ashley (Ford Fiesta R5)….47mins 53secs
9. Ben Smith/Steven Smith (Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1)….48mins 14secs
10. Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees (Ford Escort Mk2)….48mins 43secs