If you thought the opening round of the 2022 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship was spectacular then just wait for Round 2, the Rallynuts Stages Rally this weekend.
Title challengers Perry Gardener and Russ Thompson, together with several more potential class champions, join the series on Saturday 9 April.
Gardener made a sensational R5 debut last year when he finished fifth overall on the Eventsigns Woodpecker Rally. Partnered by Jack Bowen, he returns for a crack at the Welsh title in his Ford Fiesta R5+.
Thompson finished runner-up in the 2019 Welsh Championship and he always sets his sights on victory. Co-driven by Stephen Link, he’ll be keen to get his championship challenge off to a strong start in his Dunnow Plant-backed Mitsubishi Evo 9.
Being unable to travel back from holiday in time forced Roland Llewellin to miss Rally North Wales, but he’ll be out with Jamie Edwards for the first time this year in their Hyundai Power Products-backed Hyundai i20 R5. Also back are Harry Gardner/Elliott Graham (Mitsubishi Evo 9) and Dave Tomlin/Keith Ashley (Axon Ford Fiesta R5).
With the best five scores from seven rounds to count, crews have lost nothing by opting to join the Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship at Round 2, apart from competition time of course.
Match fit and on great form are Welsh Rally Championship leaders Matthew Hirst/ Declan Dear (Delta Salvage Ford Fiesta R5+) after they scored a well-earned victory on the opening WKD Trained Dogs Rally North Wales.
Dylan Davies finished second in his Škoda Fabia on what was his first event in a top-flight R5 car for two years, so expect the 2018 Welsh champion and co-driver Mark Glennerster to be an even closer challenger for victory this time, while Tom Llewellin, who finished third last time out, will be partnered this time by Ross Whittock in his Brace’s Bakery Mitsubishi Mirage.
The Ceen family trio are back in force, led by the 2001 Welsh champion Bob Ceen (co-driven this time by Shaun Layland) who finished a magnificent fourth on Rally North Wales in his first event in his Coedwigaeth Pencelyn-backed Ford Fiesta R5+. Benj Ceen also did exceptionally well to score a top 10 result on his four-wheel drive debut. Partnered this time by Caron Tomlinson, the former Peugeot 106 Cup car driver will make his second start in a Ford Fiesta R5+. Hoping for fewer problems and a cleaner run will be Richard Ceen in his Ford Focus WRC05.
Others who impressed on Rally North Wales and return for Round 2 include the leaders of the Ravenol Welsh Challenge John Caine/Andrew Sankey (Phil Price Rally School Subaru Impreza), Bob Morgan/Ade Williams (Winner Garage Fabia R5+), Lewers Firth/Shaun Lapper (Firth Construction Subaru Impreza), Paul Walker (partnered this time by Dan Nieroda in his Green Paw Subaru Impreza) and Wug Utting/Bob Stokoe (Geoff Jones Motorsport Subaru Impreza N12b).
The fierce battle resumes in the Restruct Welsh Historic classes – the top three finishers in each class going forward for the David Stokes Historic Challenge for drivers and the Guy Weaver Award for co-drivers special awards.
Julian Birley/Emyr Hall got the defence of their Historic class W6 off to a great start with victory in their Talbot Sunbeam Ti 1600.
They have opted to miss the Rallynuts and will return on the Plains Rally (Round 3 on Saturday 21 May), giving Malcolm Bayliss/Siobhan Pugh (16BAO Rally Team Ford Escort Mk1) and Chris Squires/Shaun Hughes (Ford Escort) a great opportunity to take the class lead.
Neal James/Kevin Jones, Peter Hinton/Lewis Sim and David Lloyd Roberts/Gerallt Wyn Davies, all in Ford Escort Mk2s, will be hoping to steal the Historic class W7 lead away from Ben and Steven Smith, who will also return in their Amigos Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1 on the Plains Rally.
The Midland Manor Motor Club organised Rallynuts Stages Rally on Saturday 9 April will follow its now traditional format with six stages and 44 stage miles in Myherin, Sweet Lamb/Hafren and Sarnau forests. Rally HQ, the start, midday service and finish will be at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd.
Spectators are welcome at specific stage locations and more information can be found on the event’s website: rallynutsrally.co.uk.
For those unable to make it to the Welsh forests in person but would like to watch the event as it happens all the action will be live-streamed on facebook.com/WELSHRALLYCHAMPIONSHIP with commentary from Howard Davies.
© Images ‘Paul Mitchell Photography’.