Irish eyes are smiling after the the 'best Wyedean rally ever'
WAS this the best Wyedean Rally ever?
Last year's event was dominated by snow and ice, but the weather played a cruel role once again for this, the 38th rally.
Due to slippery conditions, the attrition rate was immense for the drivers as 66 crews were forced to retire – around 40 per cent of the entry list, which made it a very busy day for organisers, the Forest of Dean Motor Club.
First through in the GMF Motor Factors Wyedean Forest Rally were the young guns in the 1400 class, Taunton's Julian Wilkes and Will Rutherford-Child in their Nova VXR190.
They were extremely fast and set the early pace in the Sallowvallets stage, with Cheltenham stars Darren Pinchin and Kaz Watts in their Proton Satria given it their all to stay in touch.
All crews were alarmed by how slippery the conditions were and most had white faces of fear at the end of the first stage.
Forest of Dean Motor Club's Tim Freeman and Paul Wakely in the Historic class had good reason to be worried.
They under-steered, rolled, and then hit a MG ZR that had already been retired, luckily both were unhurt, although shaken.
Last year's winners, Charlie Payne and Craig Thorley in their Ford Focus WRC didn't look happy with former winners Hugh Hunter and Andy Marchbank chasing them hard.
However it was the young scot Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton, Ford Focus WRC that stole the show and set the fastest time of the day.
As crews headed into Serridge, Chepstow Park Wood, the rain stopped.
However, the surface remained treacherous and ended the race for many crews.
Sadly Gloucestershire Rally School chief Andy Gwynne and co-driver Mark Watkins rolled on stage four.
Pinchin and Watts also had dramas on this stage, which put pay to them challenging Julian Wilkes for the 1400 class honours.
Birdlip's Rob Dennis and Andy Boswell didn't enjoy a good start with a puncture on the first stage, but they steadily got to grips with their Mk2 Ford Escort.
In the historic class Gloucester's Roger Mathews and Paul Morris Mk 1 Ford Escort were setting some superb times, with a great 18th overall.
After service at Chepstow racecourse, the leading crews headed back to the heart of the event, Mailscot, Serridge 2 and finally 13.5 miles through the Speech House stage.
The battle for overall victory, was intense, Hunter, Thorburn, Payne and now the Mitubishi of David Wright and Matt Edwards, plus a Subaru Impreza S9 of Connor McClosey and Francis Regan from Northern Ireland were knocking on the door.
Entering the final special stage, Euan Thorburn's Focus suffered mechanical failure ending what had been a spectacular first trip to the Forest of Dean.
Only 12 seconds covered the top three cars, Hugh Hunter was on the limit as the Focus's disc brake glowed red hot through Speech House.
However a stunning time from Connor McClosey meant it was Irish eyes that were smiling.
David Wright came home second only seven seconds adrift, with Hunter third.
Results: 1 Connor McCloskey Francis Regan Subaru Impreza S9 46:13; 2 David Wright Michael Wilkinson Mitsubishi EVO 9 46:20; 3 Hugh Hunter Andy Marchbank Ford Focus 46:23; 4 Matt Edwards Will Rogers Mitsubishi EVO 46:44; 5Charlie Payne Craig Thorley Ford Focus WRC 48:44; 6 Luke Francis John H Roberts Mitsubishi EVO 948:59; 7 Jamie Anderson Ella Flynn Mitsubishi EVO 9 49:09; 8. Will Onions Dave Williams Ford Escort 50:17; 9 Bob Morgan Adie Williams Subaru Impreza 51:1; 10 Julian Wilkes Will Rutherford-Child Vauxhall Nova VXR190 51:15