DIFFICULT driving conditions challenged competitors at last weekend's Winner Garage Wyedean Stages in association with KGD Industrial Services of Hereford.

Rain, sleet and autumn leaves made sure the gravel roads were left extremely slippery for the two loops of three stages.

Steve Black with Ross-on-Wye co-driver Paul Morris took local honours finishing 13th overall and first in class in the SBG Group Suzuki Swift S1400, despite a trip into a ditch and a puncture on the last stage.

St Weonards driver Roger Matthews in his RJ Matthews Transport backed Escort RS1600, with co-driver Ryan Taylor were using the event in preparation for the forthcoming five-day RAC Rally at the end of the month.

It was Matthews' first gravel rally for three years and it took a while to blow the cobwebs away on the first loop.

However, their second loop was much better and he climbed as high as 14th at one point before dropping back to finish 23rd overall and fourth in class due to being given a wrong stage time.

"I was a bit steady on the first loop but given the conditions and I'm only using the event has a test, it was not a bad thing," said Matthews.

"We got into it in the second half of the event, but it's been a very worthwhile exercise for both the car and me."

Tim Phelps with Elwyn Manuel in his 2.4 litre Escort took 33rd overall and fourth in class.

Meanwhile, the event's associate sponsor Ken Davis in the KGD Industrial Services Volvo Amazon, with Alan Jones alongside, finished 48th and third in class.

Veteran campaigner Phil Collins with Den Golding driving started well despite an off-road excursion which damaged a wheel.

They lay inside the top-10 after the first loop, but on the final stage a broken strut brought retirement.

Gary and Tom Bollands in the GB Motorservices Subaru Estate were another early casualty with broken suspension.

The overall event winners were Matt Hirst and Declan Dear in a Lancer Evo 9 and with the victory were crowned Welsh National Rally Champions for 2019.

They finished the rally just over a minute ahead of the Escort RS1800 of Alex Allingham and Ross Weir.