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Wyedean Rally – A Sentimental Look At England’s Most Spectacular Car Rally

Wyedean Rally 1976

Most recently, we decided to create a special section here on Garage Chief, a section devoted to some great motorsport / automotive events and initiatives. However you call it, a “tribute to” section, or a “hall of fame”, we aim to publish articles about the initiatives we either miss a lot (like England’s Wyedean Rally), feel nostalgic about, or are proud of supporting in some way, even if that support isn’t direct or any kind of official but is rather limited to publishing a post that’s here to stay for years to come.

In this post, we’re starting with a famous Wyedean Rally, a UK’s longest running rally event that has its up and downs – and unfortunately, most recently it was the latter.

Wyedean Rally – The Basics

Motorsport rallies are huge events where car nuts and extremists alike get together to celebrate the glory and power of today’s top vehicles. There are numerous rallies being held annually and people do their best to take part in ones that are near and dear to their heart. One such event that has a cult-like following is the Wyedean Rally, also known as the Winner Garage Skoda Wyedean Stages Rally.

Wyedean Forest Rally

Organized by the Forest of Dean Motor Club (FODMC), this motorsport rally is held in the Forest of Dean Gloucestershire, England.

Forests are the last place you’ll think of when thinking about motorsport rallies but trust us when we say that the Forest of Dean offers great views for the audience and a great track to follow for the drivers.


History

Even before starting the rally in the Forest of Dean, the FODMC has always been a fervent organizer of autocross events in England. In fact, it was one of the first organizations to support the safe and highly competitive activity. While it saw the fun and excitement to be had in open roads and clear countryside routes, the FODMC eventually gave in to the allure of the forests.

The Forest of Dean is roughly over 110 square kilometers of mixed woodland. It has a long history behind and in fact, it is one of England’s last surviving ancient woodlands. It has been the site of numerous activities, one of which included royal hunting back in 1000s. As the site of FODMC’s rally, the forest is turned into one of the most iconic stages for motorsport rallies in England and people are always eager for its installments.


Wyedean Stages – The First Edition of the Rally

The first rally in the forest was held in 1975. Back then, it was referred to as the Wyedean Stages. Needless to say, the event was an instant hit and it was apparent that fans across the UK will be seeing more in the coming years. The inaugural event started from the Watts of Lydney. Most of the stages used during the early years remain as a part of the rally to this date.

The winner of the first event was Graham Elsmore who drove a Ford Escort RS1600. A forester by heart, Elsmore maneuvered through the stages with ease. He was also called as the King of the Dean, a nickname that suits him very well as he went on to win the next two rallies in the Forest of Dean. Along the way, he beat numerous iconic names in racing including Roger Clark in 1976.

Elsmore’s winning streak was cut by Andy Dawson who breezed through the stages using his Datsun in 1978. When it seemed like Elsmore’s time in the limelight was already up, he was able to come up second during the 1979 and 1980 rallies. Thus proving that he truly is the King of the Dean.


The ’80s

Because of the efforts of the FODMC in putting the Forest of Dean on the map for motocross rallies. In 1980, the RAC Rally decided to put the forest to good use by making it their stage for the first time in many years. The FODMC rally usually held in November was pushed to January the following year but was eventually canceled as the weather condition at the time proved to be too challenging even for the most experienced participants.

The 1983 event saw one of the biggest rally for FODMC. About 135 cars participated during the event, one of the drivers was the acclaimed Per Eklund who drove in his Toyota. However, that year’s big winner’s title belonged to Colin Short, who against the biggest names, drove to victory.

audi quatro Wyedean stagesThe following year, the Wyedean Rally started a new format called reverse seeding. In this format, the slowest participating cars had to start first. Since its inception, the format has been widely used by other rallies and to this date, it remains a staple.

While participants questioned the format initially, the 1984 rally was a success. It was at this time that the rally began gaining popularity as it caught to the coverage of the RAC that year.

In 1985, the rally saw the domination of four-wheel drive cars for the first time. That year’s iteration of the event saw a popular name take the winning title. Driving an Audi Sport UK-backed Quattro, National Rally Champion David Llewellin took home the biggest prize, adding another acclaimed title to his name.

Many considered the 1986 Wyedeans as one of the best and most challenging rallies by the FODMC. During that year, the stage was covered in snow, making driving quite the challenge. Still, 110 competitors were able to reach the finish line. The next event was the complete opposite as the Forest of Dean as the weather was nice and sunny. The winner of the event was the husband and wife tandem of Graham and Pay Beveridge, using a 3-day old MG Metro 6R4.


The ’90s

1993 had big changes for the Wyedean. Aside from the HQ moving to Ross on Wye, the FODMAC also introduced Historic Wyedean, a portion of the event that is made exclusively for classic rally cars. The big winner that year was none other than Tim Ellis-Jones. The following year, the Forest of Dean District Council Offices in Coleford was used as the rally starter for the first time. It was a monumental event for the organizers, as it was the first time they partnered with a governing body.

By this time, the rally organizers were already experienced and ready to face challenges. They were faced with a great one in 1995 as two days before the event, the Forest of Dean was buried in several inches of snow. Luckily, they were able to clear it in time for the event. Scheduling errors also pushed the staff to defy the odds by making use of cattle to transport equipment. The following year was great for the FODMC though as its members Dave Jenkins and Graham Cox were the victorious duo using their Ford Escort Cosworth.

Wyedean Rally 2010 in the Forest of Dean, taken by Rob Ward
Wyedean Rally 2010 in the Forest of Dean, taken by Rob Ward

The next major event for the event organizers fell in the year 2000, which is coincidentally the 25th anniversary of the rally. To commemorate the event, the organizers held their first Wyedean Classic Autoshot at the Chepstow Racecourse. It was a display of classic cars that wowed audiences. Seeing as the event was successful, it has become a staple of the Wyedean since then.

The following years of the event saw numerous racers making their mark on the rally. Some of the key names include Nik Elsmore, Mark Perrott, Vince Wetton, Gary Mansell, and Martin Saunders. As the rally continues to get bigger each year, more and more participants join in on the fun. However, that isn’t to say that it doesn’t face challenges from time to time.


Wyedean Rally in Present Times

Sadly, last year’s rally was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. No announcements have been made regarding the next event but it seems like it will be grander than ever before. Some of the organizer’s partners include Allisport, Vital Equipment, and Calico Interiors.

Moving forward, the event organizers of the rally have shown their dedication in continuously improving their events. In time, the Wyedean Rally will become the grandest stage for motorsports.


Wyedean Forest Rally Winners

 YearDriver/Co-DriverCar
1975Graham Elsmore/Stuart HarroldEscort RS1600
1976Graham Elsmore/Stuart HarroldEscort RS1600
1977Graham Elsmore/Stuart HarroldEscort RS1600
1978Andy Dawson/KevinGormleyDatsun Violet
1979Malcolm Wilson/Kevin GormleyEscort RS1800
1980/81Jeff Churchill/Roger EvansEscort RS1800
1982Russell Brookes/Mike BroadVauxhall Chevette
1983Colin Short/Steve BondEscort RS1800
1984Russell Brookes/Mike BroadOpel Manta 400
1985David Llewellyn/Phil ShortAudi Quattro
1986John Brown/Andy SuttonMG Metro 6R4
1987Ian & Pat BeveridgeMG Metro 6R4
1988Steve Whitford/Dave AdamsMG Metro 6R4
1989Ian & Pat BeveridgeMG Metro 6R4
1990David Llewellyn/Phil ShortToyota GT4
1991Maurice Flux/Ian ThomasMG Metro 6R4
1992Pete Doughty/Jerry FreemanSierra Cosworth
1993Tim Ellis-Jones/Huw LewisSierra Cosworth
1994Roger Duckworth/Mark BroomfieldSierra XR 4×4
1995Andy Burton/Rob MorganAlfa Ferrari
1996Dave Jenkins/Graham CoxEscort Cosworth
1997Warren Philiskirk/Eurig EvansMetro 6R4
1998David Mann/Alun CookProton Persona
1999Brian Bell/Paul SpoonerEscort WRC
2000Andy Burton/Rob MorganPeugeot Cosworth
2001Nik Elsmore/Jim HolderMitsubishi Evo V
2002Mark Perrott/Garry MansellEscort WRC
2003Andy Burton/Rob MorganPeugeot Cosworth
2004Andy Burton/Rob MorganPeugeot Cosworth
2005Dorian Rees/Paul WillettsSubaru Impreza

Wyedean Rally – Wrapping Up

We hope you learned a bit about the UK’s famous Wyedean Rally from our article. We hope the rally will come back to the roadmap in 2019 and will continue to be a spectacular event for motorsport enthusiasts in UK and beyond. When it does return, be sure we’ll be first to let you know.


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