THIS weekend’s Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally looks like being one of the most closely contested in recent years, with a high class entry featuring some of the cream of British rallying.

The event is a round of both the British Trials and Rally Drivers’ Association’s national championship, and the Welsh Forest Rally Championship.

The first car away from the start on Llandudno promenade on Saturday morning will be the Ford Fiesta World Rally car of 2017 British Trials and Rally Drivers’ Association Gold Star Championship winner - and English Rally Championship title holder - Stephen Petch and co-driver Michael Wilkinson.

They head a strong line-up, which features five Fiesta R5s in the top-six seeds, plus a Ford Focus World Rally Car, indicating that spectators can anticipate a tight battle for honours.

Following Petch away from the start line will be 2012 and 2016 Cambrian winner Luke Francis, from Rhuddlan, and co-driver John H Roberts, from Llysfaen, who will be making their first competitive outing in a Ford Fiesta World Rally Car.

Luke has previously successfully campaigned a Mitsubishi Evo 9 in both the BTRDA and Welsh Forest Championships, and says he is looking forward to the challenge of repeating that success in the Fiesta.

In car four, Colwyn Bay's Matt Edwards is a rising star of British rallying.

In 2017, Matt and navigator Darren Garrod competed in the Swift Rally Team Ford Fiesta in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship for the first time, and they gained an excellent third place overall.

This season, their talent has been recognised by the mighty M-Sport Rally team, and Matt will be driving an M-Sport works Fiesta in the British Rally Championship, while contesting the BTRDA Championship, of which the Cambrian is the first round, in the Swift Rally Team Fiesta.

And sure to put in a challenge for the overall win will be Ruthin-based Hugh Hunter - the 2008 Cambrian winner - who is contesting the BTRDA Championship series this year in a Ford Fiesta World Rally Car with experienced co-driver Rob Fagg on the notes.

Heading the front-wheel drive entry is up and coming Ulster driver, 18-year-old William Creighton, who took the runner-up spot in the 2017 Prestone Motorsport News Junior British Rally Championship, and closed his season with a run on Wales Rally GB in a Peugeot 208 R2.

The youngster from Belfast surprised many with his front-running pace in the British Rally Championship, taking two class wins and podiums on all but two rounds.

Sure to entertain the crowds with a foot to the floor performance, while hoping for honours in the two-wheel drive category, are Ffestiniog's Ieuan Rowlands and Cerrigydrudion's Emyr Hall, who, in a change from their usual Ford Escort, will be in a Hillman Avenger.

They will be using the rally as a warm-up to a season in the British Historic Championship.

The rally starts on Llandudno promenade at 8.01am this Saturday, February 17, and takes in competitive timed stages in the Conwy Valley, Penmachno, and at Llyn Alwen near Cerrigydruidion, before finishing at Llandudno.

There will also be a service area at Surf Snowdonia, Dolgarrog, where the public can get up close to the rally cars and competitors.

Cllr Louise Emery, Conwy cabinet member for the economy, said: “An enhanced Cambrian Rally will further boost the local economy during a traditional quiet time of the year.

"Becoming a round of the BRC will bring extra profile nationally for the event, as well as the county.

"These points fit with aspirations in our events strategy 2018-2022, such as extending our winter tourism offer.”

Cambrian clerk of the course Alyn Edwards added: “This is great news.

"Having this extra help from Conwy, in addition to the excellent support it has given the event over the years, will be a huge boost to our bid to be a round of the BRC, and will help us in our desire to become one of Europe’s leading motorsport events.

“We anticipate that having a proactive council behind us will be of great help. "Especially as we plan to use the newly passed Welsh Government measure to allow motorsport events on closed roads, and having the support of the council will, we hope, help us in this respect.

“Our ultimate aim is for the Cambrian to achieve the same iconic status as the Ypres Rally in Belgium.”

Further spectator information is available on the rally website at