Cumbrian driver Arron Newby claimed victory during the weekend's thrilling Rallynuts Stages rally at Builth Wells.

Newby and co-driver Jamie Edwards, driving their Skoda Fabia R5, claimed a 30-second winning margin over second-placed crew, Elliott Payne and co-driver Tom Woodburn in their Ford Fiesta R5.

Based at the Royal Welsh Showground and running for the 49th time, the event attracted close to 120 crews who were scheduled to tackle seven timed stages on loose gravel tracks within Myherin, Sweet Lamb, Hafren and Sarnau forest blocks.

Pre-event favourite and last year's winner Matthew Hirst was quickest out of the blocks in his Fiesta R5 and had built a comfortable 20-second lead over the opening four stages, but two punctures during the afternoon loop dropped him to third at the finish.

This allowed Newby to take advantage of the ailing Fiesta, setting the pace on the Myherin Main test and again in Cwmysgawen to storm to the win, adding to his Malcolm Wilson Rally Interclub victory last month, taking maximum MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series points in the process.

Overall winners (centre) Arron Newby and Jame Edwards with their Škoda Fabia R5
Overall winners (centre) Arron Newby and Jame Edwards with their Škoda Fabia R5 (Mark Griffin)

“That was totally unexpected,” said a shocked Newby at the finish.

“It’s been a phenomenal day and there isn’t a mark on the car. The pacenotes were brilliant and the stages are just fantastic down here, it's absolutely mega. You know of course we have a little bit in the back of our minds with Craig [Breen] obviously, our thoughts are still going towards him, but in terms of the pace today, I absolutely loved it, I couldn't be any happier”.

Russ Thompson and Steve Link hurled their Mitsubishi Evo IX to an impressive fourth spot on the opening stage and remained there for the remainder of the event. Whilst they would always struggle to match the pace of the R5 machinery in front, the pairing produced a faultless run.

The Fiesta Rally2 of Alistair Ginley rounded out the top five with Craig Thorley on the notes, whilst Robert Wilson and Richard Crozier took sixth in their Mitsubishi Evo VII.

Builth Wells' Jason Pritchard and co-driver Phil Clarke continued their re-familiarisation with their historic specification Mk2 Escort and finished in 13th position overall. It was another solid result for the local driver who gained confidence with each competitive mile completed and was fastest 'historic’ over the afternoon's loop.

Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke
Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke are building consistency and pace as they brought their Escort RS to a solid finish (Mark Griffin)

Pentrefelin's Dai Block and Glyn Price finished fourth in class in the ever reliable BMW 325i.

The Rallynuts Stages Rally also attracted a healthy two-wheel-drive battle and it was the stunning FIAT 131 Abarth of Nick Elliott and Dave Price who took the honours. But they snatched that marker from the grasp of Robert Gough and Paul Morris on the final stage, who had control in the afternoon in their Ford Escort MKII, losing out by just one second.

Many crews were deeply saddened by the news earlier in the week of the death of World Rally Championship driver Craig Breen. Breen lost his life in a testing accident for the forthcoming WRC Rally Croatia. Many crews had worked and rallied against Breen in the past or knew him personally. The event held a one-minute silence ahead of the start as a mark of respect. The winners also didn’t celebrate in the traditional champagne spray during the podium ceremony in his honour.

Rally action returns to Builth Wells in a few months' time with the Nicky Grist Stages.