Welsh Rally Roundup

By Paul Evans


For Welsh rally fans, the stunningly picturesque natural theatres of speed like Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren are the Nou Camp, Bernabeu and San Siro of the motorsport world.

There are plenty more to add to that list, for in one relatively small and green land we call home, Wales contains many of the world’s greatest gravel forest stages.

For 20 years, Wales exclusively hosted Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Its place where champions were crowned indelibly etched in rallying’s rich history.

Britain might have lost its round of the WRC when two decades of Welsh Government title sponsorship came to an end, but rallying continues to thrive in Wales – thanks to the Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship.

Billed as one of the hardest titles to win, last year a total of 176 registered competitors took part in the seven-round series, with 98 drivers and 73 co-drivers scoring points.

An equally buoyant 2023 season kicked off in style in March, with the Welshpool-based Get Jerky Rally North Wales timing competitors to the nearest tenth of a second through Dyfnant, Dyfi, Gartheiniog and Big Ray forests.

These are also classic former Wales Rally GB stages, attacked by some of the UK’s top amateur drivers with just as much gusto now and when the likes of WRC superstars Sébastien Loeb and Petter Solberg were thundering through them.

“Dyfi is one of my favourite stages anywhere in rallying,” says defending Welsh rally champion Matthew Hirst.

“It’s a big challenge, with a lovely flowing nature and some really fast corners. It’s a stage that rewards commitment, but if you were to make a mistake in Dyfi, you’d be heavily punished for it.”

Not every competitor has a state-of-the art Ford Fiesta R5 like Hirst has to compete for overall honours. So to cater for the many, 14 separate classes attract both experienced and rookie drivers in a huge variety of cars to the Welsh Rally Championship.

There are few other championships where an entry list can boast anything from a Škoda Fabia R5 to a fleet of Subaru Imprezas and Mitsubishi Evos and a gaggle of BMW E30s, Vauxhall Novas, Talbot Sunbeams and Nissan Micras. There is even the lesser spotted Ford Ka, Datsun 1600 and Ford Capri 3.0 GT competing!

Add in some of the most gorgeous Ford Escort Mk1s and Mk2s you’ll find rallying anywhere today, plus a few even rarer World Rally Cars, and you have an eclectic mix of cars all battling with the laws of physics and trying to put maximum power down on a slippery loose surface track. Sideways isn’t always quickest, but it’s hard to avoid and spectacular to watch.

But don’t take our word for it.

You might have missed the first round, but there are six more fantastic rallies coming up between now and the middle of November – so check these events out in a forest near you, or on the Welsh Rally Championship’s live online streaming service.

  • Saturday 15th April – Rallynuts Stages Rally
  • Saturday 20th May – Plains Rally
  • Saturday 8th July – Nicky Grist Stages
  • Saturday 9th September – Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages
  • Saturday 28 October – Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally
  • Saturday 11 November – Wyedean Rally