MATT Hirst completed a hat trick of wins with a hard-fought victory in last weekend’s Richard Cole Contracting, Vantage Point Business Village, Xite Energy Drink Wyedean Stages, writes Paul Willetts.

The Fiesta R5 pilot became only the second man in the event’s history to achieve the feat after  local legend Graham Elsmore in 1975, 1976 and 1977.

Hirst’s winning margin was just 17 seconds from Rob Wilson and Martin Haggett in the Ravenol-backed older Mitsubishi Evo 7 with the new pairing of Nik Elsmore and Pauline Nash in the CDS Taxis and Calico Interiors Lancer Evo 9 taking third and top local honours.

Long time leaders Meirion Evans and Keaton Williams retired on the penultimate stage with damaged  suspension after clipping something in the VW Polo R5.

Heavy drizzle greeted the 75 crews as they left the Coleford start early  on Saturday morning. 

Some 40 competitive tests lay ahead over seven classic Forest of Dean slippery stages which, despite the weather, saw huge numbers of spectators enjoying the spectacle such is the popularity of this fantastic event.

The event was the final round of the Pirelli Welsh National championship and penultimate round of the English series and saw more than 30 per cent of the entry made up by local crews.

The new combination of Nik Elsmore and Pauline Nash had a terrific day in the Evo 9 despite a few moments and few niggling issues and they we’re delighted with third overall,

“Absolutely fabulous day – huge thanks to Nik and the team, all the wonderful support out there watching, this event really is special, also thanks to the organisers marshals and everyone involved in a terrific day’s motorsport – we must get this rally to 50 years in 2025,” said a delighted Pauline.

Some 27 seconds behind was the Winner Garage Skoda Fabia R5 of Bob Morgan with Adrian Williams on the notes.

They got off to the worst possible start by hitting a huge puddle early on in the opening test which caused a dreadful misfire for the rest of the stage and any hopes of overall honours disappeared in an instant.

With the problem cleared, they set some excellent times despite one or two hairy moments, which pulled them back to fourth despite the misfire returning on the final stage.

Just 2 seconds back in 5th and 1st 2wd and Historic car home was the brilliant youngster Tom Llewellin with Sion Williams in the beautiful Weir Rallying Chepstow Dave Jenkins Motorsport Escort RS1800 after a trouble free run, despite a wrong tyre choice for the opening loop.

Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds won the battle of the category One Escort RS1600,s with a superb 10th overall after a terrific battle with the similar cars of Ernie Graham and Jonathan Brace – just nine seconds covered these three at the end.

Ross duo Gary Bollands and Kevin Lane in the GB Motors Subaru Stationwagon took a superb 13th and 4th in class despite finding the stages incredibly slippery especially in the morning.

Luke Watts yet again put in another superb drive in the Ian Watts and Son and NJ Autos MG ZR together with Matt Rogers 

They had a trouble-free day despite having no handbrake on stage six and 21st overall second in class was just reward for the youngster.

Charles Hopkinson with Alan Jones calling the notes in the immaculate Dave Jenkins Motorsport-run Escort RS1800 had a good day, despite finding the stages a bit slippery, taking 20th and 6th in class 

Event sponsor Richard Cole was another with a new co-driver this time with Jemma Taylor making her Wyedean debut in the Xite Energy backed Escort RS1800, again another to experience a few moments in the greasy conditions but was well pleased with 27th and sixth in class.

Dan Troughton and Jordan McKenzie took 33rd and sixth in class in the Grail Engineering Subaru Impreza.

Wyedean Veteran Eric Davis with Ryan Taylor deputising for Russ Joseph in the Andy Lee Transport, Dennis Motorsport Mini GT yet again entertained his army of supporters with a sterling drive despite one or two hairy moments when the Mini decided it wanted to swap ends at nearly 100 mph at Speech House but this never affected an excellent drive to 40th overall and secnd in class.

“After a few non finishes in recent years, I just wanted to try and finish but boy was it slippery this morning. 

“I’ve got a few more grey hairs now after a few moments,I just want to say thanks to my sponsors and also to Paul Taylor,”.said the ever-jovial Davis 

A third stage puncture certainly hampered the progress of James Dunkley and Simon Cox in the Dunkley Auto Services Vauxhall Corsa costing them well over five minutes, but they soldiered on to finish 45th overall and third in class 

Mark Christopher and Kevin Watkins were another crew to enjoy their local event in the Citroën C2 despite arriving at the finish of stage two backwards but took 50th overall and sixth in class.

Dave Troughton with Natalie Heath calling the notes in the Hyundai i20 had a trouble-free run to 51st overall and secnd in class.

“I need more power,” he joked 

Some local crews didn’t make it to the finish.

Husband and wife duo Nigel and Karen Jenkins in the NJ Autos Vauxhall Nova engine issues brought their event to a premature end at Speech House.

Jason Morgan, back after a 10-year lay off,  with Will Rogers alongside in a beautiful 2.4 MG Rover ZR backed by Cinderford MG were up to eighth after stage six only for a timing belt to snap on the road section back to service – a cruel end to a sterling drive which was the first time out in the new self-prepared car.

“Although disappointed to have retired really pleased how the car performed,” said the Cinderford businessman.

Geoff Phelps with Colin Jenkins on the notes were going well in the Hartpury Farms Escort RS1800 on the opening loop despite a trip into the scenery, unfortunately they discovered a leaking crankshaft seal at service and there day was done.

Mike Truman and Martha Howells were very unlucky when a split fuel pipe put them out on stage 6 in the ME Damsell Subaru Impreza.

Yes again the Wyedean proved a real test of man and machine over the greasy roads in front of thousands of spectators, but the real winners are the loyal economy with the amount of money it brings to the area for local businesses and charities which unfortunately gets overlooked.

The event is just 2 years away from its 50th anniversary what a milestone this would be to reach for the Forest of Dean Motor Club, the organisers should be congratulated for putting on a first class event in the face of great adversity at times.

The old Wyedean is alive and kicking and long may it continue.