The Plains Rally  

Plains first saw the light of day in 1964 when, as rallying was beginning to increase in popularity, it made its debut as a road rally based in the lanes of the Cheshire Plain from which it derived its name. Under the guiding hand of its creator Alan Jolley it grew in stature, a major decision being to move the event from Cheshire to the more demanding and exciting lanes of Wales. This astute move completely changed the nature of the event and the new format became an immediate success with competitors.


Recognition of the events popularity was rewarded when it was included in the major rallying championship of the era, The Castrol Motoring News Championship. During the late nineteen sixties and early seventies the event came to be regarded as a classic; not only for its demanding but enjoyable and exciting format but also for its exceptionally slick organisation. In 1971 the event was selected as the Rally of the Year, a feat which was repeated the following year. Ever conscious of the need to move with the times the decision was taken again to change the format of the event. During the mid seventies forest stage rallying had taken off and even though the event was the most popular event in the road rallying calendar with over 300 entries received for the 120 places it was decided the "The Plains" should become a forest stage event.


 In 1974 Alan Jolley handed the reins over to Tony Goulding who totally transformed the event format. The last road rally Plains was therefore organised in 1974 and while many lamented its passing it re-emerged in 1976 as part of the British Trials and Rally Drivers Association Gold Star Championship. By 1977 it was obvious that the organisers had lost non of their organising abilities and it was again awarded the Rally of the Year accolade, thereby becoming the only event to win the award as both a road and stage event. Barmouth had been chosen as the starting venue in 1976 but despite attempts by the Local Authorities to retain the event in 1977 it was decided to move into Central Wales and base the event in Newtown, Powys where it remained until 1987 when due to the demise of the Bear Hotel it moved to Llandrindod Wells. It is particularly pleasing for the old hands that we have returned and re-established ourselves again in its natural home. Having established itself as one of the premier events in the rallying calendar sponsorship was obtained from Esso. During its partnership with Esso the event grew in stature and this was recognised by it being granted National status in 1980. The credit for achieving this is due to Martin Coleman who had succeeded Tony Goulding as Clerk of the Course in 1978. He also exceeded in establishing the event at the Bear Hotel, the two becoming synonymous with each other during the early eighties.


 In 1983 Norman Robertson was appointed Clerk of the Course only a few months before the event. Although the rally went ahead it was agreed that a complete review was necessary and this was undertaken in readiness for 1984. Norman Robertson was joined by Jonathan Smith as Assistant Clerk of the Course and together they undertook a complete re-appraisal of the event. The combination proved an immediate success and they were rewarded by being awarded the Rally of the Year by the BTRDA. As mentioned earlier the rally remained at Newtown until 1987 when a move to a new headquarters was forced upon the organisers. The Hotel Metropole was selected and the change of HQ coincided with the introduction of several miles of previously unrallied roads. The new recipe was well received and another Rally of the Year award was accepted by the organisers at the annual end of season BTRDA Dinner and Dance. 1990 saw yet another move to a new HQ, the Commodore, in the centre of Llandrindod Wells which hosted the event in 1991. The Ford entry for 1991 was an entry for Louise Aitken-Walker, who incidentally drove the course car with Norman Robertson in 1983, driving a Sierra Sapphire Cosworth 4x4. Their final position was a tie with Ritchie Holdfeld in the Metro 6R4. Ritchie managed to gain overall victory by completing stage 1 one second faster than Louise. A change of date was necessary in 1992 to accommodate the different championships as the event struggled with the recession to avoid financial suicide or extinction. Llandrindod were unable to accommodate the change of date to July forcing a move West where the vacated University in Aberystwyth provided an excellent venue. The town made the event very welcome, allowing the start on the sea front. The compact route made possible by the close proximity of the allocated forests in Myherin and Taliesin proved another successful format. The organising team took up the many new challenges and it was fitting that Norman Robertson should again collect the Rally of the Year award in his last year as Clerk of the Course. In 1993 Les Sharp was appointed Clerk of the Course at another time of change when British rallying was being restructured. Knutsford and District Motor Club were very pleased to retain association with the BTRDA and be included in their championships. After three years in Aberystwyth the event returned to Newtown in 1996.


A successful route format using forests in the Aberystwyth area and the Sweet Lamb complex of Mr Bennett-Evans developed over the years. This included the use of Hafren in 1997 and 1998, and Dovey in 1999 and 2000. In 2001 the rally had to be cancelled at quite short notice due to Foot and Mouth disease and the desire to cause no additional problems for the farming community around the planned route. 2002 saw the return to Aberystwyth as the host town but retained the heart of the event in the Dyfnant and Dovey forest complexes. While in 2003 we retained the same forest area but the rally returned to Welshpool as the host town for the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015.


Many of the organising team remember the road rally days of the Plains which started at Border Garage, Welshpool for most of its life. Welshpool was synonymous with the Plains in its early years and was equally successful under the newly appointed Clerk of the Course, Graham Raeburn in 2007 when the Plains Rally was awarded the best 'BTRDA Rally of the Year 2007'. For 2015 Les Sharp returns as the Clerk of the Course where he will use his expertise to the full. The Club is proud of its long association with mid-Wales throughout its long support and organisation of road and stage rallies in the area


Knutsford motor club web

Based in Bala, North Wales 18th May 2024 - See you there.