Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear are poised to become Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally champions for a record third time as they take an unassailable lead into the final round of the all-gravel series, the Wyedean Stages Rally on Saturday.
The defending champions have led the series since the beginning of the season, winning the opening four rounds in their Delta Salvage/Witham Group Ford Fiesta R5.
But having been unable to start the Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages and then retiring on the most recent Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally meant that their once handsome lead had been eroded to just 10 points.
It looked like the Wyedean would be a straight head-to-head fight between Hirst/Dear and Russ Thompson/Stephen Link for the title – until pre-event engine problems with their Dunnow Plant Mitsubishi Evo 9 forced the 2019 Pirelli Welsh runners-up to withdraw from the event.
This leaves Hirst/Dear on course to secure their third Pirelli Welsh title in four years and aiming to add to their Wyedean victories of 2019 and ’22.
It’s an incredibly close battle in the OnThePaceNote-supported Welsh Junior Championship, with the top six drivers separated by just 23 points and all still in contention for the title.
With two class wins to his name, Callum Griffiths (co-driven by William Lewis) heads the standings in his Presteigne Tyre Services-supported Fiesta ST and only needs to finish first or second to guarantee the title.
Sam Mason (co-driven by James Seymour) is second, just eight points behind, in his SM Autocare Ford Fiesta – and is tied on points with Callum’s brother Liam (who is co-driven by Daniel James in another Fiesta ST). Mason has won one and finished second twice on the last three rallies, while Griffiths is looking for his first win having finished second twice.
Gethin Price (co-driven this time by Steven Brown) in his RKP Haulage Nissan Micra, Dylan Fowler Bishop (co-driven by Dan Evans) in his Restruct Nissan Micra and Luke Watts (co-driven by Matt Rogers) in his NJ Auto Repairs MG ZR are in fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively – and having already dropped two scores, they can count every point they collect on the Wyedean.
Sam Mason also has a great chance to steal the class W4 title. He’s currently second, but with leader Tony Simpson (NGK/Seacon UK Ford Fiesta) unable to contest the event, the Bewdley youngster is in prime position to clinch the trophy.
Iwan Roberts/Daniel Jones (Roberts of Ffestiniog Ford Escort G3) and Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees (Flying Kiwi Ford Escort Mk2) go into a head-to-head battle for the Hockly Motorsport-supported 2WD category title. Two of the most spectacular drivers in the series have each won the class three times this year – and whilst Roberts Jnr leads by 17 points, he can only improve his score by six points, while Kershaw (who is an impressive sixth in the overall driver standings, one point ahead of Roberts) can add 25 to his current total.
Organised by Dean Motor Club, the 45th running of the Wyedean will contain seven special stages totalling 41 miles in the picturesque Forest of Dean.
There will be three stages in the morning, a midday service halt at Coleford, followed by a re-run of the three stages, a return for a final service and finally a run through a single stage before the finish.
The first car will leave the start at Folly Farm in Coleford at 08:00 and return there for the finish at 17:00. Rally headquarters will be at the nearby Forest Hills Golf Club.
Spectator information is available at: wyedeanstages.co.uk.
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