07/11/2023 Off By admin

The Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship arrived in Llandudno, North Wales for the penultimate round of its 2023 Championship at The Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally.

Organised by the very capable North Wales Car Club, the team were challenged in the run-up to the event when one of the planned venues, Alwen Forest became unworkable and thus some adjustments to the route had to be made.

Photos By Xlerate.Media

Fear not, all was sorted in time and their was some good news to counterbalance the loss of Alwen, the headline from the route was that the main area of Clocaenog Forest was now back on the menu. After over 10 years of no-stage rallying in this part of the complex due to the Wind Farm development, NWCC had obtained the venue to once again be used in competition, which was very well received.

It had been well over a month that had passed since the previous round, the Woodpecker Stages at the beginning of September. The drama-filled event delivered a grueling rally and a final stage battle between the two Mitsubishi EVOs driven by Russ Thompson and Rob Wilson following the non-starter, Matthew Hirst not turning a wheel.

Wilson alongside Richard Morton Crozier would be the ones to emerge victorious taking their first Welsh win at the Ludlow event but the pair would not be making an appearance this time around at the Cambrian. Boyd Kershaw would retire from the Woody before half time leaving Iwan Roberts to scope maximum points in the Two Wheel Drives enabling him to gain traction at the top of the standings.


Arriving in Llandudno, Hirst was still leading the Championship and was sporting the No1 seed on the doors of his Ford Fiesta R5 car as the crews headed out to the first 8.9-mile stage of the event, in Llyn Elsi, near Betws-y-Coed. Hirst and Co-Driver Declan Dear were hoping to put the downer of recent events behind them and began their day in Elsi by scoring 10-second advantage Thompson & Stephen Link in the EVO 9.

The crews headed into the second test of the event, another 8 miler in Clocaenog Forest; although this neck of the woods would have been a mainstay in Welsh rallying in the past, that was some 10-plus years ago and the Forest now looked very different to then. The stage offered something of a level playing field, many of the roads were in super condition following the resurfacing of them post-wind farm build.

Photo: Matthew Hirst & Declan Dear | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media

Hirst and Dear once again got the better of Thompson & Link, nearly 14 seconds was the margin this time around, however with a shorter 4.7-mile test through Brenig before the midpoint in the rally next, the tides would turn.

Although Hirst and Dear completed the stage, their Ford Fiesta R5 car had suffered radiator damage, once again Lady Luck had vacated them at a rally and the pair were forced to retire from the event at the mid-day service back in Llandudno. The demise of Hirst promoted Thompson who arrived back at service now with the lead of the rally, he and Co-Driver Link had a sizable lead over Martyne Andrews & Steve Greenhill in the Subaru Impreza.

The afternoon’s loop was intended to consist of two further stages, however, due to localised traffic issues in the region, the repeated run through Elsi was dropped and the crews were re-routed onto the final 13 miles stage which was formed from the joining of Clocaenog Main and Brenig.

Photo: Russ Thompson & Stephen Link | By Andrew Scott

Russ Thompson & Stephen Link seized the day picking up that final stage win to cross the finish line back on Llandudno Promenade with well over a minute in their glove box. Taking their first Welsh win of the season and in fact for a long time (their last win being back in 2019) the pair had vastly improved their Championship circumstances.

Martyne Andrews & Steve Greenhill secured their best result in the Welsh picking up the runners-up spot on the podium; having fended off the Ford Fiesta R5 car of David Tomlin & Keith Ashley who rounded out the top three Welsh 4WD crews.

Photo: Martyne Andrews & Steve Greenhill | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media

The saying that bad things come along in threes is absolutely yet unfortunately true for Hirst and Dear, the Cambrian was their third event in a row where they failed to finish and this was also their second unfruitful Welsh Championship round. Although Hirst still leads the standings, this second non-points scoring round now gives the likes of Simon Rogers, Martyn Andrews and Russ Thompson a bit of a look in, heading into the final rally of the season, the Wyedean in November.


The Hockly Motorsport 2WD was focused on that race for the title between the likes of Body Kershaw and Iwan Roberts. Roberts and Co-Driver Daniel Jones arrived in Llandudno leading the way following their win last time out and would begin their Cambrian with the opening stage win in Elsi.

Photo: Iwan Roberts & Daniel Jones | By Andrew Scott

Stopping the clocks around 4 seconds quicker than Callum Griffiths in the Ford Fiesta ST, some 15 seconds were also in the bag over Kiwi Kershaw in third. The man from Ffestiniog would send out the early warning shot to Kershaw and the rest of the Welsh 2WD crews in that opening test.

Photo: Boyd Kershaw & Keegan Rees | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media

Kershaw and Co-Driver Keegan Rees were able to get the better of Callum Griffiths in the second test through Clocaenog Forest, but their efforts were still not enough to touch the G3 Ford Escort of Roberts & Jones who were still some 10 seconds quicker.

Roberts & Jones rounded out their morning efforts with their third Welsh 2WD stage win in SS3 Brenig. The pair were heading into service with a lead of 21 seconds over Callum Griffiths & William Lewis in the Fiesta ST; with Kershaw & Rees rounding out the top three in their MK2 Ford Escort, a further 7.7 seconds down on Griffiths.

Photo: Iwan Roberts & Daniel Jones | By Andrew Scott

With the subsequent cancellation of SS4, Elsi 2, Roberts & Jones had 13 miles of the Clocaenog to Brenig test to contend with and they signed off their Cambrian with a full house of Welsh 2WD stage wins. Crossing the finish line with a margin of nearly 49 seconds over second place Boyd Kershaw & Keegan Rees who managed to overhaul and pass, Callum Griffiths & William Lewis after they slid up a bank and picked up a puncture in that final stage of the event.

Photo: Boyd Kershaw & Keegan Rees | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media

Iwan Roberts & Danial Jones’s efforts on the Cambrian not only earned them maximum points to bolster their Welsh 2WD title hopes but also secured them third overall in the Welsh Championship, mixing it up with the 4WD crews. Roberts continues to lead the standings over Kershaw heading into the final round of the year, the Wyedean.

Photo: Callum Griffiths & William Lewis | By Andrew Scott

Despite his little misdemeanor on that final test of the rally, it was actually a pretty good day in the office for Callum Griffiths. After a hard fort battle with brother Liam throughout the day, he walked away with the Welsh Junior win, having got the better of his sibling on three out of the four stages. Sam Mason rounded out the Welsh Juniors Podium in his Ford Fiesta and lies second in the standings and 8 points behind Callum with one to go.


Elsewhere it was a thin turnout from the Welsh Historic field, Andrew Stokes alongside Jonny Tad Evans brought their MK1 Ford Escort home to secure maximum points for the second time running. This was their third win of the year which had earned them the W8 Class title for 2023.

Photo: Andrew Stokes & Jonny Tad Evans | By Andrew Scott

Behind Stokes and Evans, Julian Birley with Emyr Hall on the notes picked up the W5 title in their Talbot Sunbeam. There were no contenders for the W9 Class out on the Cambrian which means the final top 3 finishers in each of the Historic classes will be ironed out at the final round.

Photo: Julian Birley & Emyr Hall | By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media


The Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship heads to the Forest-of-Dean where classic tests will offer up one last rally of the season at The Wyedean (Nov 18) in the race for the 2023 Welsh National Rally title.

Words By Andy Cook – Xlerate.Media | Feature Photo By Andrew Scott