Rali Ceredigion ticks all the right boxes
Last weekend’s spectacular JDS Machinery Rali Ceredigion (2-3 September) has been hailed as a huge success by competitors, spectators and all those involved. It has set exciting new standards on several significant fronts.
Billed as ‘the highest-profile international motorsport event in Wales’, the 2023 rally built on last year’s achievements with a top-class entry, an extended two-day format and a number of important new record-breaking environmental initiatives.
In 2022 the Aberystwyth-based showpiece was the first UK event to fully offset the emissions of all competing vehicles and the first UK rally to run under the FIA’s new environmental management accreditation.
This year’s event continued to focus on sustainability and introduced a number of new initiatives to minimise its environmental impact. The long-term partnership with Carbon Positive Motorsport has been expanded to more than offset the full carbon footprint of the rally via reforestation programmes in Scotland.
With the purchase of future offsetting for a minimum of 100,000 kg CO2e, last weekend’s event will set a new UK record for rallying. This level of carbon offsetting will be not only be the highest of any UK rally so far, it will also represent one of the highest carbon compensation levels of any rally event in the world to date.
The fast and furious action was spread over two thrilling days, with more than 100 spectacular stage miles of super-fast, undulating moorland roads and narrow, hedge-lined lanes. Saturday evening also featured two short, fan-friendly blasts through the streets of Aberystwyth where huge crowds, basking in the evening sunshine, were wowed by a series of dramatic demonstration runs by Matthew Wilson in an M-Sport Puma Rally 1 Hybrid.
The impressive 110 car field was topped by the VW Polo Rally2 of local hero Osian Price from Machynlleth and his Belgian co-driver Stephane Prevot. The reigning British Rally Champion was in determined mood having finished runner-up 12 months ago when New Zealander Hayden Paddon, the newly crowned ERC champion, took top honours.
However, after Friday evening’s screen-setting Rali Show and Ceremonial Start on Aberystwyth Promenade, it was fellow Welshman Meirion Evans with co-driver Jonathan Jackson – Motorsport UK Head of Rallies and Cross Country – who was fastest out of the blocks in another of the VW Polo Rally2s.
Evans’s tenure at the top, though, was short-lived – a spin and puncture on the second stage handed the advantage to Pryce who then drove faultlessly to take a famous victory. The recovering Evans fought back to finish second with James Williams and co-driver Dai Roberts completing the podium in their Hyundai i20 Rally2. Adding to the celebrations, Williams also took maximum points among those registered for the British Rally Championship with his maiden BRC win.
Providing yet more sparkle, the stellar entry also included two of the sport’s most famous stars both competing in evergreen Ford Escorts. Former British Rally Champion Gwyndaf Evans (Elfyn’s father) entered his modified Mk2 while Phil Mills, who won the World Rally Championship as Petter Solberg’s co-driver in 2003, swapped seats to celebrate his 60th birthday. Co-driven by his son Iwan, he was behind the wheel of a replica of the Mk1 which Roger Clark took to victory on the 1974 Welsh Rally.
Furthering the event’s green credentials, Mills’ twin-cam Escort showcased a brand new, sustainable Hiperflo ECO98 R70 biofuel. Introduced by race-fuel manufacturer Carless, this innovative product reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an impressive 50 per cent compared to an equivalent 98 octane fully fossil-based fuel and can be run in any car without any changes to existing engines.
At the finish, a very satisfied Pryce enthused: “It’s been a challenging rally, I’ve really enjoyed the driving and I’m delighted to have won. This has been a fantastic event. It’s great for the area, great for the sport and I applaud the organisers for all they have achieved.”
In response, Phil Pugh – Chairman of the JDS Machinery Rali Ceredigion organising committee – said: “I must congratulate Osian and Stephane on their impressive performance. I also congratulate all those who made it to the finish and thank each and every competitor for joining us for what has been an amazing event. It’s surpassed our expectations and we hope those of others, too.
“This rally is only possible because of the incredible team behind it; the marshals, officials, sponsors, partners and everyone who’s been involved. We were delighted to see so many people watching the event on the stages. We look forward to doing it all again next year!”