North Road Garage, a company synonymous with both the motor industry in Mid-Wales and with national rallying, will provide state-of-the-art scrutineering facilities for this year’s Nicky Grist Stages – which takes place on Saturday 13 July.
The Toyota dealership, which is situated in a prime position on the A470/A483 roundabout on the outskirts of Builth Wells, has very kindly offered its pristine workshop for the event’s technical and safety checks, which will be carried out on the eve of the rally (on the afternoon of Friday 12 July). A one-way system will operate to allow an easy flow in and out of the workshop, while the building will provide competitors and scrutineers with first-class operating facilities.
It’s not the first time a high-profile motorsports event has used North Road Garage for such an occasion, as it was the scrutineering venue for the 2011 Wales Rally GB.
North Road Garage is owned by Eian Pritchard and his wife Helen. The company has been based in Builth Wells since 1972, when Eian’s parents ran it as a petrol station. Eian was training to be a motor technician at Newtown College when, in May 1977, his father sadly passed away. Aged just 19, Eian immediately left college to help his mother run the garage, and began offering customers vehicle repairs and servicing.
In April 1984 Eian and Helen bought North Road Garage and started buying and selling used cars. In 1989, the old site was redeveloped and in December 1992 North Road Garage took on the Toyota franchise selling new and used cars. During this period, from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, North Road Garage also used to buy, sell and rent out rally cars, with many customers scoring event and championship victories. It still buys and sells the odd rally car, in addition to normal car sales.
In October 2007 North Road Garage moved into new purpose-built state-of-the-art premises to accommodate new Toyota franchise requirements. This is where North Road Garage is based today, and the busy operation employs 15 people.
Renowned for having an exceptionally high quality of service and aftersales care, Eian is also extremely well known in rallying – and has, over the years, won many national Tarmac events as a driver. Running North Road Garage has meant that he has mainly tackled individual events and has been unable to contest many full championships, although Eian did finish second in the 1988 Motoring News National Tarmac Rally Championship in the famous ex-Roger Clark (POO 505R) Group 4 Escort. He also finished second in the same series in 2004, driving a Group A Subaru Impreza. He most recently won the Historic section and finished 11th overall on the Dixies Challenge Rally, driving a Ford Escort RS1800 – which was his first rally in twelve months!
Eian’s son Jason Pritchard also works at North Road Garage. After finishing his GCSEs at school, Jason attended the Toyota Academy to train as a motor technician and has worked his way up through the business to become Sales Manager. He worked in the workshop for a number of years and also maintained the rally cars and has built a number of competition cars.
Jason is also a superb rally driver, and has won four major British titles in as many years – a hat-trick of MSA British Historic Rally Championship titles (2015, ’16 and ’17) and the 2018 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship. The reigning champion currently leads the Asphalt series with a perfect score, after winning three out of three rounds in a Ford Focus WRC05. His latest victory on the Manx National Rally equalled Kenny McKinstry’s record of five event wins.
Eian Pritchard, North Road Garage MD, said: “It’s a privilege to be able to accommodate the Nicky Grist Stages as a scrutineering venue. We’re delighted to help a national rally use our facilities at North Road Garage and we hope it is a successful event for the organisers, competitors and the local town. It’s great to have big events such as these come to Builth Wells, as it’s extremely beneficial to the local economy in this small town in Mid-Wales. We really do appreciate the event supporting our local businesses and all the teams and spectators this event brings with it.”
Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course, said: “We are delighted to have access to such fabulous facilities for our scrutineering and look forward to working with Eian, Jason and all those at North Road Garage, which is an iconic name in national rallying. Working with the local businesses in Builth Wells is important to us at Quinton Motor Club and bringing the event into the heart of the town is a major part of our vision for the Nicky Grist Stages going forward.”
This year’s Quinton Motor Club-organised Nicky Grist Stages hosts a round of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series for a 32nd consecutive year. The event will count towards the BTRDA Gold Star, BTRDA Silver Star, BTRDA Production Cup, BTRDA 1400, BTRDA Rally First, BTRDA Historic Cup, BTRDA Rallye R2 Cup and the Fiesta ST Trophy, plus the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Forest Rally Championship, FMP Rally Challenge and the HRCR Stage Masters Challenge.
Based in the centre of Builth Wells – with Rally Headquarters in Strand Hall (Strand Street) and the Start, Finish and Service Area at the Builth Wells RFC in Groe Park – this year’s route will contain 43 stage miles in Crychan, Halfway, Monument and Llyn Login forests. All eight stages (four stages repeated) will run on both Natural Resources Wales and Ministry of Defence land on the Epynt ranges, in the Carmarthenshire-Powys border area.