By Paul Evans
Matt Edwards put in a truly cracking performance to win the hotly contested historic section of the Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship by an incredible 40 seconds on last weekend’s Rallynuts Stages Rally.
Co-driven by Hamish Campbell, the triple British champion got off to a shaky start with some untested brake discs causing the front wheels on his Pirelli-shod RSD-prepared Fiat Abarth 131 to lock up – something that Edwards only discovered when he stood on the brakes for the first corner of the opening stage.
The improvements that Edwards, a renowned test and development driver, has made to the car were clearly evident in the afternoon.
With the brake problem fixed, the Colwyn Bay driver was able to show exactly what the car is capable of.
After a fast and trouble-free run through the second loop of stages, Edwards finished a magnificent first in class and 12th overall.
“The car was absolutely amazing through Myherin and Hafren and total buzz to drive,” said Edwards.
“We are finally unlocking what we have felt was there for a while, just restricted by the odd underlying niggle here and there.
“A huge credit to RSD for their ongoing efforts and thank you for letting me out in it again!”
Nick Elliott finished second in the Restruct Welsh Historic class on his first event in his Fiat Abarth 131 since the 2018 Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire.
Once he’d stopped trying to drive the Fiat like he does his more familiar Escort Mk2, Elliott and co-driver Peredur Davies set some impressive times in the afternoon to come home 18th overall.
Meirion Evans kick-started his Welsh Historic title challenge when he and co-driver Gwynfor Jones collected third-place points in their Wales Motorsport Escort Mk2.
The first Escort Mk1 home was the Brace’s Bakery Escort RS1600 of Jonathan Brace/Paul Spooner.
They absolutely love their new Dave Jenkins Motorsport-built car and won their class by 43 seconds.
The overall Rallynuts Stages victory went to Matthew Hirst.
Co-driven by Declan Dear in his Pirelli-shod Delta Salvage Ford Fiesta R5+, Hirst led from start to finish after a masterful performance through the Myherin, Sweet Lamb/Hafren and Cwmysgawen forests to win by 31 seconds.
Matthew Hirst,pictured, got his challenge for a second Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship drivers' title off to the perfect start by winning the opening round of the 2022 series, the WKD Trained Dogs @RallyNorthWales see more https://t.co/IHUgxnIWpT pic.twitter.com/aByRbeEXsE
— Welsh Rally Championship. (@WnRC) March 27, 2022
Having also won Rally North Wales, Hirst has a perfect score of 60 points from the first two Welsh Championship rounds.
Elliot Payne/Patrick Walsh finished second overall in their Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Dylan Davies/Mark Glennerster keep their Welsh Championship challenge very much alive by finishing third in their Škoda Fabia R5+.
They remain second in the Welsh Championship standings.
Perry Gardener/Jack Bowen set the fastest time on the sixth and final stage to finish fourth in their Ford Fiesta R5+.
Russ Thompson/Stephen Link (Mitsubishi Evo 9) and Ian Bainbridge/Tom Woodburn (Škoda Fabia R5+) completed the top six.
The brakes on Tom Llewellin’s Brace’s Bakery Mitsubishi Mirage weren’t biting over the morning loop of stages, meaning that the car wasn’t pitching and not cornering properly.
Replacing the glazed pads and discs at the midday service halt at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd solved the problem and the young Pembrokeshire driver and navigator Ross Whittock flew in the afternoon to take seventh.
Roland Llewellin enjoyed a good run in only his second gravel rally in his Hyundai i20 R5.
The Haverfordwest driver was guided successfully to 24th place by Wrexham’s Jamie Edwards on their first gravel rally together for seven years.
Benj Ceen took home another good haul of Welsh Championship points in only his second rally in his Ford Fiesta R5 and his first with co-driver Caron Tomlinson.
The former Peugeot 106 Cup driver finished 16th overall and maintains and is sixth in the overall Welsh drivers’ standings, while he remains a serious contender for the Ravenol Welsh Challenge trophy.
Bob Ceen has slipped from fourth in the overall drivers’ standings to ninth after his Coedwigaeth Pencelyn-backed Ford Fiesta R5+ lost turbo boost halfway through the opening stage.
It was impossible for the former Welsh champion and co-driver Shaun Layland to regain all the morning’s time lost, but they still salvaged a points-scoring finish.
Richard Ceen/Alun Hayward also had a nightmare on stage one when they lost over three minutes when their Ford Focus WRC05’s engine stalled at the first hairpin and refused to restart.
Launch controls issues later on didn’t help either and they did well to reach the finish at all.
Liam Griffiths/Daniel James still lead the Welsh Junior points table but had to settle for second-placed points this time out after the ABS sensor on their Discover Parks Ford Fiesta ST limited the car’s speed to 50mph over the afternoon loop of stages.
Unfortunately, Liam’s brother Callum (co-driven by William Lewis) broke a driveshaft on his Presteigne Tyre Services Ford Fiesta ST on SS1.
His event came to an early end when the other driveshaft snapped on SS2.
Brynli Thomas scored maximum points in the Welsh Road Rally class.
Co-driven by Steve Griffiths, the Denbigh driver enjoyed a great run in his Peugeot 306 Rallye and beat defending class champions Graham Thatcher/Tim Samuel who spun their Peugeot 206 GTi at least three times – and twice on the same corner!
Round 3 of the 2022 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship is the Bala-based Plains Rally on Saturday 21 May, with stages in the Aberhirnant, Llangower, Alwen and Clocaenog forests.