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Matthew Hirst heads a star-studded 2023 Nicky Grist Stages entry

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Matthew Hirst will lead a star-studded field away at the start of the Nicky Grist Stages on Saturday 8 July, as the Doncaster rally ace is seeded at number one in his Delta Salvage/Witham Group Ford Fiesta R5.

Co-driven by Declan Dear, Hirst won the Nicky Grist Stages Interclub event last year and will be looking to close in on the MRF Tyres BTRDA Gold Star Series lead (he currently lies third, just four points behind the leader) and also extend his advantage at the top of the Motorsport UK Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship points table.

Arron Newby/Jamie Edwards are second in the BTRDA Gold Star Series and start at number two in their Tatham Tyre Services-backed Škoda Fabia R5, having won a rally in the nearby mid-Wales forests already this year.

BTRDA Gold Star Series leaders Elliot Payne/Tom Woodburn start at number three in their Mango Go Ford Fiesta Rally2. This will be the young Harrogate driver’s third attempt at the Quinton Motor Club-organised event – having finished sixth on his debut in 2021 and seventh (and second in the BTRDA section) last year.

Ian Bainbridge last contested the event in 2021, scoring a top 10 result in a Škoda Fabia R5. Together with Will Atkins, he returns this year in a new Ford Fiesta Rally2, seeded at number four.

Alistair Ginley/Craig Thorley start at number five in their Fiesta Rally2, Russ Thompson/Stephen Link have been seeded at number six in their Mitsubishi Evo 9, Rob Wilson/Richard Crozier start at seven in their Ravenol Mitsubishi Evo 7, Eddie Lewis/Sion Cunniff start at eight in their Ford Fiesta R5, Niall McCullagh/Martin Brady are at nine in their Fiesta Rally2 and Simon Rogers/James How round off the top 10 in their Mitsubishi Evo 6.

There is plenty of quality seeded outside the top 10, including Martyn Andrews/Steve Greenhill (Subaru Impreza), Bob Morgan/Ade Williams (Škoda Fabia R5), Peter Baylis/Paul Godden (Mitsubishi Evo 9), Daniel Moss/Samuel Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10), Colin Minton/Bonnie Papper (Ford Fiesta R5), Richard Ceen/Dylan Thomas (Ford Fiesta R5), Steve Hollis/Tim Currie (Volkswagen Golf V R32) and Quinton MC members Paul Walker/Geraint Thomas (Subaru Impreza STI N11) and Geoff Cottrill/Nathan Crewe (Mitsubishi Evo 9).

The event is also a round of the HRCR Rally Master Challenge (the largest historic rally car registration of its kind), IPS Paint Rally Challenge (which raises funds for the Wales Air Ambulance), the ANWCC Rally Championship (which has over 120 member clubs) and, for the first time, the Bowler Defender Challenge.

This all brings an incredible variety of cars to this year’s Nicky Grist Stages – with 18 manufacturers and 38 different models on the 2023 entry list – with everything from an Alfa Romeo Alfasud to a Porsche 911 taking part.

Thanks to the magnificent support of Powys County Council, Builth Wells Town Council, Builth Wells Rugby Football Club and the businesses and residents of Builth Wells, the 2023 Nicky Grist Stages will once again be based in the very heart of the picturesque market town.

The start of the event will be held in Strand Street, outside the wonderful Strand Hall which will play host to rally headquarters.

The smaller capacity 1400cc, Rally First and H1/2 Historic class cars will start first, leaving Strand Street at 08:30, followed by the rest of the field in numerical order.

The mid-day service halt will be located on the Groe, home to Builth Wells RFC, and the finish ceremonies will on the banks of the River Wye, with Builth Wells’ 18th Century bridge and surrounding rolling hills providing one of the most scenic podium finish backdrops in British rallying.

Scrutineering will take place the day before the event (Friday 7 July) at North Road Garage; the local Toyota dealership (owned by Eian Pritchard and his family) is located within sight of the service area on the other side of the River Wye. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke are contesting the event in their magnificent Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2 and will be the local favourites.

All the rally action will take place in the nearby gravel roads of Llyn Login, Crychan, Halfway and Monument – with a 22 stage mile loop run in the morning and repeated after midday service in the afternoon.

To limit the environmental impact and to safeguard Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI), spectator areas have been carefully agreed with the landowners, Natural Resources Wales and Defence Infrastructure Organisation Wales. These are easily accessible, have dedicated off-road parking and other facilities and give some of the best viewing locations on the event, and more spectator information is available on nickygriststages.co.uk.

The 2023 Nicky Grist Stages has once again teamed up with Carbon Positive Motorsport to provide carbon offsetting as part of a long-term roadmap and commitment to mitigate the event’s carbon footprint. A special discount code (CPMNG2023) has been created to use on the Carbon Positive Motorsport online sales platform, which is available for all competitors and spectators to use to carbon offset their event-related travel: https://www.carbonpositivemotorsport.com/purchase-offsets

The event is proud to continue its association with GoSafe – the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership and its Operation SNAP programme and help raise awareness of the Fatal Five road safety initiative by the Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service. Mobile units will be operating in the area on Saturday 8 July.

“I am delighted to see such a strong and competitive field that will be battling hard to win the 2023 Nicky Grist Stages,” says Nicky Grist.

“Not just a strong field but also such a wide range of different rally cars are right the way through the entry list. The BTRDA, Welsh and other national rally championships offer such a spectacle that it makes these national events the must-see rallies in the UK. The crews and cars in this year’s event shows that UK rallying is strong and vibrant.”

“Quinton Motor Club are overwhelmed at the level of support shown again this year for the event,” adds Neil Cross, Nicky Grist Stages Clerk of the Course.

“We have put together a route that we think will challenge everyone and we look forward to welcoming all competitors and spectators to Builth Wells.”

2023 Nicky Grist Stages top 10 seeded entries
1. Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear….Ford Fiesta R5
2. Arron Newby/Jamie Edwards….Škoda Fabia R5
3. Elliot Payne/Tom Woodburn….Ford Fiesta Rally2
4. Ian Bainbridge/Will Atkins….Ford Fiesta Rally2
5. Alistair Ginley/Craig Thorley….Ford Fiesta Rally2
6. Russ Thompson/Stephen Link….Mitsubishi Evo 9
7. Rob Wilson/Richard Crozier….Mitsubishi Evo 7
8. Eddie Lewis/Sion Cunniff….Ford Fiesta R5
9. Niall McCullagh/Martin Brady….Ford Fiesta Rally2
10. Simon Rogers/James How….Mitsubishi Evo 6

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