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Hirst targets four championship wins in a row on the Nicky Grist Stages

Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear in their Ford Fiesta R5+. Credit: Paul Mitchell Photography

Matthew Hirst will be targeting his fourth straight 2022 Motorsport UK Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship win when he contests the Nicky Grist Stages based in Builth Wells on Saturday, July 9.

Co-driven by Declan Dear, Hirst became the first driver since Callum Black in 2017 to win three Welsh Championship rallies in a row when he won the Plains Rally in his Delta Salvage Ford Fiesta R5+ last time out.

If he wins again, he will be the first driver to win four in a row since Luke Francis in 2016. Both Callum and Luke went on to win the Welsh title in those years.

The Welsh Championship’s live streaming service – facebook.com/WELSHRALLYCHAMPIONSHIP – will have more action and interviews. Howard Davies will commentate on live stage action and interview drivers and co-drivers at the midday service.

Organised by Quinton Motor Club, the 2022 Nicky Grist Stages starts from Strand Street in the centre of Builth Wells at 08.31am. After a loop of stages through Llyn Login, Monument, Halfway and Crychan forests, cars will return for a midday service on the Builth Wells RFC pitch before a repeat run over the stages.

After all eight stages and 45 stage miles have been completed, the podium ceremony will take place in Groe Park at 3.30pm, with the River Wye and the landmark 18th century bridge in the background.

“The Nicky Grist Stages is one of the events which we look forward to each year,” says Hirst. “The pace at the front of the field just seems to get quicker every year.

“I’d put this down to the fact that the route doesn’t generally alter dramatically year-on-year, typically with just small changes here and there. That allows you to build confidence with the pace notes and generally gives a good feeling to the pre-event preparations.

“It’s also the only time to compare the Pirelli Ravenol Welsh Rally Championship pace against the BRC which is an interesting opportunity, albeit on the proviso that they have had the opportunity to recce the stages beforehand.

“This will be the fifth time that we have entered the event and upon reflection we have yet to have a proper clean run. Hopefully we can get through this year with no dramas!”

James Giddings finished second last time out in his Group N Fordpad Mitsubishi Evo 9 to shoot up the points table and become a real title contender. Co-driven this time by Lee Taylor, the former Fiesta ST Trophy and Citroën C2 Challenge champion has taken little time to get used to his new car and will be one of many trying to stop Hirst’s winning run.

Bob Morgan/Ade Williams are also having a fantastic season in their Winner Garage Škoda Fabia R5+. They lead the Ravenol Challenge and arrive at the Nicky Grist Stages as the top-placed Škoda crew.

Dylan Davies has had a troubled start to the season, which will make the 2019 Welsh champion all the more determined to score maximum points as he and co-driver Mark Glennerster contest the event in their Škoda Fabia R5+.

Another former champion Bob Ceen, who won the title in 2001 and 2015, arrives in Builth Wells on top form having scored a fifth-place Welsh Championship points finish last time out on the Plains. He and co-driver Shaun Layland know the classic Mid Wales forests well and will have their sights set on another strong performance in their ‘National spec’ Ford Fiesta R5.