Matthew Hirst

Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5). Pic: Paul Mitchell

Matthew Hirst Cracks The Rallynuts Stages To Extend Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship Lead

By Paul Evans

Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear have extended their lead in the 2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship after scoring maximum points on the second round of the series, the Rallynuts Stages Rally (Saturday 15 April).

It was a perfect day for rallying, with glorious sunshine and some of the best stages Wales has to offer in excellent condition – although the event ran in a somewhat sombre and reflective mood, following the tragic death of WRC star Craig Breen in pre-Rally Croatia testing. As a mark of respect, the event began with an impeccably observed minute silence and there were no Pirelli Welsh champagne celebrations at the finish.

Welsh rally 2023 Rallynuts Stages – MSUK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship podium. Pic: Paul Mitchell

Hirst set the fastest time on all four of the morning’s loop of stages through Myherin West, Myherin East, Hafren Sweet Lamb and Cwmysgawen in his Pirelli-shod Delta Salvage Ford Fiesta R5 to reach midday service at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd with a 20 second lead overall.

But four corners into the first stage in the afternoon, the Doncaster driver hit a rock that was directly on the racing line. The tyre deflated midday through the stages, ripping part of the bodywork off and costing him around 40 seconds and dropping him to second overall. He reduced the gap to the new leader from 16 to four seconds on the next stage, but when a tyre rolled off the rim at a hairpin on the seventh and final stage, it cost him another 35 seconds, dropping him to third overall. However, Hirst and Dear were still the top placed Pirelli Welsh registered crew, giving them maximum points for the second time in two rounds.

“It was a challenging day,” admitted Hirst.

“The morning loop couldn’t have gone better, but the afternoon tested us. A puncture in Myherin was doing a lot of damage to the car and we had to decide whether to stop and change it. We had a bit of a push in Sweet Lamb to try and get the time back, but then we had another puncture on the last stage.

“But hey-ho, that’s rallying, isn’t it? But we’re very happy to score maximum points again in the Welsh Championship, which puts us in a strong position for the rest of the season.”


Russ Thompson was flying in his Dunnow Plant-backed Mitsubishi Evo 9, especially in Myherin where the fast and flowing roads best suited the car. His plan of avoiding mistakes paid dividends, as he and co-driver Stephen Link picked up second placed Pirelli Welsh points.

Rob Wilson dropped to fourth with fuel related problems towards the end of SS4. The reigning Welsh Junior and Challenge champion immediately got the position back on the next stage, as he and co-driver Richard Crozier secured the final place on the Pirelli Welsh podium in their Ravenol-backed Mitsubishi Evo 7 – having set a very impressive joint second fastest overall time on the final stage.

Steve Black enjoyed a great day in only his second outing in the 586 Sports-prepared Pallas Connections Ford Fiesta Rally2. After a sensible start in the slippery morning conditions, the 2021 Welsh class W3 champion was confident enough to stretch his legs on the drier afternoon stages, and together with co-driver Jack Morton he took home fourth place Pirelli Welsh points.

Eddie Lewis survived a “disastrous” morning loop, which included a turbo pipe coming off, a bottom arm joint coming loose and a tyre delaminating on a road section, which put him within four minutes of going OTL by the time he’d reached SS4. He and co-driver Sion Cunniff enjoyed a much better “steady, neat and tidy” afternoon, picking up sixth placed Pirelli Welsh points in their Mechanical Solutions-backed Ford Fiesta R5. Lewis also took maximum points in the OnThePaceNote-supported Welsh Junior section.

Once again Simon Rogers had a late change of co-driver, with Ade Williams stepping into the MacWhirter Motorsport-prepared Mitsubishi Evo 6 hot seat this time. The day started with a huge spin on the opening stage, and thereafter he was embroiled in another close battle with Martyn Andrews – who Rogers ended up beating by just four seconds to maintain his class W13 lead and move up to third in the overall points standings. In recognition of his outstanding performance, Rogers collected the Witham Group special award (a voucher for £50) from Witham Group Sales Director Richard Scarbrough.

Andrews echoed all drivers who said how “awesome” the stages were, as he had another great run in his Opie Oils Subaru Impreza. He and co-driver Steve Greenhill have extended their lead in the Welsh Challenge, while Andrews jumps from sixth to fourth in the overall drivers’ standings.

Daniel Moss said these were the best stages he’d ever competed on, as he put in another excellent performance in his unmissable pink Hurst Haylage Mitsubishi Evo 10. After a faultless run, he and co-driver Samuel Davies completed the Pirelli Welsh top 10 finishers.

The live streaming coverage from the Rallynuts Stages Rally remains available to view on the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship and Special Stage TV Facebook pages.

Round 3 of the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship is the Plains Rally on Saturday 20 May. Organised by Knutsford & District Motor Club, the event is based in Bala and contains a compact route of approximately 100 road and 44 stage miles.

Further details on the Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship can be found online at:

2023 Rallynuts Stages Rally – top 10 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship finishers:

1. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear (Ford Fiesta R5)….44mins 25secs
2. Russ Thompson/Stephen Link (Mitsubishi Evo 9)….44mins 53secs
3. Rob Wilson/Richard Crozier (Mitsubishi Evo 7)….45mins 51secs
4. Steve Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta Rally2)…. 46mins 31secs
5. Robert Gough/Paul Morris (Ford Escort Mk2)….46mins 57secs
6. Eddie Lewis/Sion Cunniff (Ford Fiesta R5)…. 47mins 03secs
7. Boyd Kershaw/Keegan Rees (Ford Escort Mk2)….47mins 59secs
8. Simon Rogers/Ade Williams (Mitsubishi Evo 6)….47mins 59secs
9. Martyn Andrews/Steve Greenhill (Subaru Impreza)….48mins 03secs
10. Daniel Moss/Samuel Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10)….48mins 09secs

2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship
Overall drivers’ points after Round 2:

1. Matthew Hirst….60pts
2. Robert Gough….51pts
3. Simon Rogers….44pts
4. Martyn Andrews….41pts
5. Boyd Kershaw….40pts
6. Wug Utting….38pts

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