Hirst races to imperious fourth Get Jerky Rally North Wales win

Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear stormed to a fourth consecutive Get Jerky Rally North Wales win on Saturday with a breathtaking performance that saw them win each one of the event’s eight stages.

 

The 27-year-old driver was untouchable in the world-famous forests of Dyfnant, Dyfi and Gartheiniog, taking his Ford Fiesta R5 to a sensational win and his fourth in a row at the Welshpool-based event.

 

Blasting through the tricky conditions, which were made even more treacherous by persistent rain during the day, Hirst returned a faultless drive to win the Interclub section of the event by a staggering three minutes, getting his Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship title defence underway in fine style.

 

“When you look back at the history of this event, there are some top drivers that have won it. I’m really proud to have added my name to that list four times in a row,” said an elated Hirst.

 

“It’s a challenging event but one that I look forward to every year. There were some really difficult conditions out there today, especially this afternoon. It was bouncing it down and rivers were running across the stages.

 

“To be fair, we had a big moment on the last stage where it aquaplaned but we scooped it up. It may have looked easy [the winning margin] but it was anything but easy.”

 

The nearest challenge came from Irishman Dan O`Brien who made the trip over in his Ford Fiesta WRC with Mark Glennerster on the notes.

 

O’Brien found himself down in fifth overall after the opening Gartheiniog test but soon found the pace required to work his way up the leaderboard, eventually scooping second overall on a rare gravel outing.

Rounding out the podium were Mitsubishi EvoIX driver James Giddings and co-driver Aled Davies. Initially, the crew managed to haul their older specification Mitsubishi up to second behind Hirst but lost a chunk of time in the Big Ray stage and had to settle for third.

 

The race for the National section top spot was an altogether different affair as contenders in the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship battled it out throughout the day in a close-run affair.

 

George Lepley’s Mitsubishi Galant VR4 took the early advantage before being sidelined, which sparked a fascinating battle for victory.

 

In the end, it was Nick Elliot and Dave Price who finally stood on the top step of the podium taking their FIAT 131 Abarth to a long-awaited victory, their first since 2021.

 

“That’s the first one in the Fiat and the first one in a couple of years, so yeah I’m really pleased with that,” said Elliott. “I said from the start the car was that much better from the word go, it was actually making me sweat on most stages.

 

“As ever, the pace at the front has been ferocious, with five or six drivers, all with great talent and pace, but we had just a little bit extra today and nicked it. But that’s not bad for an old Fiat and not bad for an old boy like me!”

 

The second spot went to Yorkshireman Daniel Mennell in his Ford Escort MKII. He and co-driver Richard Wise only entered the series at the start of the season and, on only Mennell’s second event in the BHRC, took an impressive runner-up spot against stiff competition.

 

Rounding out the Historic podium was Seb Perez and Gary McElhinney in their Porsche 911. The young Derbyshire driver returned a giant-killing performance to seal third, fresh from winning a rally in Mallorca the previous weekend.

 

The popularity of the rally was recognised on Saturday when the spectator car park in the Dyfnant stage reached capacity as motorsport fans flocked to the region to witness the impressive drivers in each category blast through the forests.

 

The lure of rally legend and local hero Gwyndaf Evans was apparent and the onlookers were not disappointed. The Dolgellau driver hurled his Ford Escort MKII through the trees in fine style during the day.

 

Making his first appearance in the event since 2010 and first gravel rally since 2014, Evans rapidly bedded back into the driver’s seat and despite feeling like he “needed some WD40”, took fourth in the Historics with Dale Furness alongside.

 

Running alongside the event, the Mini Rally Challenge tackled just four of the stages, offering a cost-effective platform for the 14 BMW Minis which enjoyed their own battles during the morning. Jacob Neal and Russell Thompson were the eventual victors.

 

Organised by Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Car Club, the event was once again sponsored by the Welshpool-based Get Jerky brand of beef jerky snacks and attracted an impressive entry of more 100 cars which tackled the rally.