Rali Ceredigion: Inside Wales’ international asphalt rally

Rali Ceredigion hosts the 2022 British Rally Championship’s fifth round this weekend. The recently founded event follows in the footsteps of several illustrious rallies based in Wales – including Rally North Wales, the Cambrian Rally, and of course Wales Rally GB.

There is a small difference with Rali Ceredigion, though. It is an asphalt rally.

Organisers of the two-day event have swapped Wales’ famous forest stages for closed roads more akin to the country’s road rallying scene.

Rali Ceredigion ran for the first time in 2019 as a single-day national event. Three years on, it is time for edition two, and things have ramped up in scale.

Eight stages have been increased to 12, the competitive route has doubled to 141 kilometres, an extra day including two night-stages has been added, and the rally forms part of BRC, the Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship, the Tour European Rally series, and FIA’s Celtic Rally Trophy.

There is no denying it, this rally is not messing about – it has serious ambitions.

“The team has done a lot of work to get into the different championships,” explained Clerk of the Course Andy Gilmore. “There is a great bunch of people from four motor clubs working together to organise it.

“We have virtual meetings every Monday night with around 35 or 40 people joining each one.

“The enthusiasm is fantastic, they are out PRing or organising spectators zones every weekend. Everyone is pulling together and it is great to see.

“I know from the Down Rally how much it helped when the Rathfriland and Ballynahinch Motor Clubs came together.

“When you get the right attitude, that is driven and guided in the right way, some great rallies can be delivered. It really lessens the stress on organising teams.”

Teifi Valley, Lampeter, Aberystwyth and District, and Newtown and District Motor Clubs have laid on an interesting itinerary that will provide the lengthiest test for BRC crews this year.

Three of Sunday’s stages are a reverse of 2019’s tests while the mammoth 27-kilometre Llanfihangel stage will start each of Sunday’s two loops.

Llanfihangel is split into two separate stages on Friday with all cars set to tackle Glan yr Agon and Devils Bridge in complete darkness.

The rally’s host town Aberystwyth has its own super special to kick start the action on Friday.

“Llanfihangel is going to be a great challenge for the crews,” described Gilmore. “It uses fantastic roads with a great surface.

“The route in general is very compact, it is never any more than 30 kilometres from Aberyswyth.

“The landscape in Wales is very similar to what we are used to in Ireland.

“Some of the stages go out over mountains using classic Welsh road rally routes. There are very few houses and junctions on them.

“They have a nice asphalt surface and are twisty by nature. There wouldn’t be as many jumps as we are used to in Northern Ireland. That is probably the only difference.”

Rali Ceredigion will be the first event in the UK to run with FIA’s environmental and sustainability certification.

The organisers’ recognition of running a sustainable rally will hopefully help sustain its progression as a long-term international event.

Official cars will use HVO (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil) fuel that reduces emissions by 90% and can be used in any diesel car without modifications.

Another eye-catching aspect will be the performance of 2019 runner-up Tom Cave in an Opel Corsa E. Cave will become the first driver in the UK to compete on a multi-stage rally in an all-electric car.

The electric car is prepared by Myerscough University’s Motorsport Engineering department and is seeded 50th out of 108 entries.

As for Rali Ceredigion’s top contenders, Osian Pryce leads the way and will be hoping for a successful defence of his 2019 win to close the gap to BRC leader Keith Cronin.

Cronin will be no slouch on asphalt and could well upset the locals which also includes recent Ulster Rally winners Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson.

New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon is the ultimate wildcard to throw into the mix of no fewer than 20 Rally2 and World Rally Cars.

Rali Ceredigion’s rise to international rally status has been a rapid one. One wonders what the next three years could have in store for the event with big ambitions.

First, though, let’s enjoy what this year’s edition has in store.

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Photos by Jakob Ebrey