By James Roberts
A grey and dreary Monday would not have been welcomed by many, but for the few meeting at the Phil Price Rally School in Llangunllo, the damp ground under foot was accompanied by the sound of an orchestra of engines.
The 2023 Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship starts on March 25 and for a number of drivers and teams, this was the first time to shake down and unwrap their cars after an off-season break.
The media were also invited to the spectacle in mid-Wales and we at Dai Sport had one question on our minds whilst admiring the machinery on show. What makes a great rally driver?
Matthew Hirst is the reigning Welsh Rally champion. Despite suffering some electrical gremlins on the day, he was happy to sit down and talk to us about our pressing question.
“Obviously, you need car control, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” says Hirst.
The obvious to Hirst may not be so obvious to us, but Hirst clearly knows what he’s talking about.
After an impressive run of perfect weekends in last season’s campaign – plus a complete ground-up rebuild of his car over the off-season – he will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Callum Black is returning to the championship after a period of absence since winning the coveted Welsh title in 2017.
Black has British Rally Championship experience and is hoping to push forward with more success into the forthcoming season.
Black speaks about, “dedication to being a good driver . . . to put the effort in of work that goes on in the background.
For him, it takes more than just driving right to the ragged edge of your limit. He brings a wealth of knowledge behind him, including stints as a development driver and other illustrious rally honours to his name, not just his Welsh championship title.
It’s rare for individuals to impress in their first season in the travelling theatre known to us as the Welsh Rally Championship, but Liam Griffiths shone through in the Under-25 category last year with his co-driver Dan James.
James is part of Motorsport UK’s elite programme, which develops young people on a pathway through to being professional co-drivers on the national and international rally competition circuit.
“They need to, kind of, have fun,” says, James.
Like competitors in many other sports, James believes his best performances come when he is having fun and relaxed.
It’s a conviction that clearly works, as he and Griffiths caught the attention of those up and down the courses at a very early stage.
If you are feeling inspired and motivated to give rallying a go yourself, then why not take a browse of the championship’s website.
Visit https://wnrc.wamc.org.uk/ to browse the rules and regulations and maybe create a contender of your own.
With 15 different competing categories of cars, there is really every opportunity to try out the sport for yourself, if you are feeling spurred on by the words of some of the grid’s top talents.
The Welsh Rally community is welcoming and encouraging. It’s simply enough to find out which is your local stage and to along and watch.
All drivers stress how important it is to support your local car club, and local stage; without the support of locals, fantastic events like the Welsh Rally Championship simply would not happen.
Volunteers play a key role in making the Championship possible, as well as events like those held at the Phil Price Rally School.
The 2023 championship has seven stages taking place over eight months. For the first time, all races will be broadcast in a series entitled, Sideways to Victory – with three different videos to be produced at each rally.
Who needs Drive to Survive when there’s quality content like this available, all about Welsh sport, throughout the season?
The first rally of the new season gets underway at the Get Jerky Rally North Wales on Saturday, 25th March.
Hirst will be wanting to shake those electrical gremlins off as soon as possible, if he wants to shake off the challenge of the experienced Black.
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