HEREFORDSHIRE co-driver Keaton Williams suffered a nightmare at the Xite Energy Drink Wyedean Stages when he had to abandon the event while leading.

Paired Meirion Evans the long-time leaders retired on the penultimate stage with a damaged suspension after clipping something in their VW Polo R5.

Their withdrawal meant that Matt Hirst completed a hat-trick of wins and is only the second man in the event’s history to do so, after local legend Graham Elsmore completed the same accomplishment between 1975 and 1977.

Hirst’s winning margin was just 17 seconds from Herefordshire driver Rob Wilson alongside Martin Haggett in the Ravenol backed older Mitsubishi Evo 7, with the new pairing of Nik Elsmore and Pauline Nash in the CDS Taxis & Calico Interiors Lancer Evo 9 taking third and top ‘local honours’.

Heavy drizzle greeted the 75 crews as they left the Coleford start early on Saturday morning ahead of 40 competitive miles over seven classic Forest of Dean slippery stages, which despite the weather saw a huge numbers of spectators enjoying the spectacle.

The event the final round of the Pirelli Welsh National championship and penultimate round of the English series saw over  of the entry made up with local crews .

Ross duo Gary Bollands and Kevin Lane in the GB Motors Subaru Stationwagon took a superb 13th and fourth in class despite finding the stages incredibly slippery especially in the morning.

Luke Watts yet again put in another superb drive in the Ian Watts & Son & NJ Autos MG ZR together with Herefordshire co-driver Matt Rogers to finish 20th overall and second in class.

Charles Hopkinson with Alan Jones calling the notes in the Dave Jenkins Motorsport run Escort RS1800 had a good day despite finding the stages a bit slippery taking 23rd and sixth in class 

Wyedean Veteran Eric Davis with Ryan Taylor deputising for Russ Joseph in the Andy Lee Transport, Dennis Motorsport Mini GT yet again entertained his army of supporters with a sterling drive despite one or two hairy moments when the Mini decided it wanted to swap ends at nearly 100 mph, finishing 40th overall and second in class.

Jason Morgan back after a 10 year lay-off with Herefordshire’s Will Rogers alongside in a beautiful 2.4 MG Rover ZR backed by Cinderford MG were up to eighth after stage six only for a timing belt to snap on the road section back to service resulted in a cruel end to a sterling drive.

Geoff Phelps with Colin Jenkins on the notes were going well in the Hartpury Farms Escort RS1800 on the opening loop despite a trip into the scenery but discovered a leaking crankshaft seal at service and their day was done.