After a break of 27 years Carmarthen Motor Club reintroduced the classic road rally event, The Autumn. Previous winners have included Mick Briant, Bill Gwynne & Nicky Grist and the event was also a round of the prestigious Motoring New Road Rally Championship in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
The organising team made up of current competitors put on a no-frills event covering 105 miles around the Welsh town of Carmathen. Starting at the cattle market the event had a full entry list with some pretty big names within the top 10.
At 23:50 the first car headed off into the lanes north west of carmarthen, watching at a slot 90 left at a crossroads just before TC2 crews were coming in thick and fast. A long straight before the TC caused several people to wait for their times at the TC but it was quite surprising on the other hand to see so many large gaps so early on! Nick Evans & Rob Stephens (AE86 Corolla) and Josh Clarkey & Chris Jones (BMW 3 Series) showed a fair bit of flair using the rear wheels to flick the cars around the corner!
We managed to get to one more spot just before petrol where crews headed down in front of us and then slotted hairpin left just before a small cottage. Looking at the map and relating it to what we could hear there was a give way just up the road with a DSO just after, then miss a slot left (which several people took!) and down to us. A lot of people were throwing their cars in fast, putting on a good show for the crowd! Evans/Stephens in the corolla went a little too far around and popped the front left wheel up on the bank to head up the road. Nathan Jones & Greg Leeman (Civic) were by far the best FWD car using the handbrake to great effect! We could see the lights of 3 cars coming down the road pretty close together, the first being Galen Howells & Jonathan Hands (Mk2 Escort) who gave it a massive skandy flick a long way before the junction, unfortunately hitting the wall on the outside of the corner with the back end at quite high speed, the damage looked quite bad but the crew put in in reverse and headed on up the road just before Clarkey/Jones threw it into the corner, almost doing exactly the same!
The first half looked very compact with a couple people plotting a lot of points almost ontop of each other. With only 17 crews making it to petrol without fails it was looking like a tough rally. Malcolm Jones & Rhys Jones (Satria) were in the first spot at petrol dropping 2.08 with Jamie Jukes & Dale Bowen (Mk2 Astra) just 46 seconds behind, Tony Davies & Dylan Jenkins (Satria) were a further 43 seconds behind in third.
Jones/Leeman were ontop of class 2 and also in 7th with a time of 7.55. Huw Tagg and Jordan Dziadulewicz (3 Series) were second in class and 8th overall on 10.58 and only 21 behind them were Clarkey/Jones.
The Novice class was currently lead by Huw Evans & Darren Jones (Impreza) with a time of 16.24. Almost 2 minutes behind with 18.15 were Andrew Blackburn & Steve Greenfield (Impreza). A further 30 minutes behind but without any fails were Aled Edwards & Maggie Bolland (306) who rounded off the top 3 in class.
The second half headed south of Carmarthen, we headed to a LWR triangle near Crwbin. Crews headed up the hill, missed the slot 45 right and then slot 90 right into 90 left and then a control. The first few cars were very neat and tidy as the triangle was quite wide, again Evans/Stephens came through in their flamboyant fashion as well as Matt Bowyer & Mark Rodway almost spinning a little too much! Jones/Leeman and Rhys Lewis & Sion Edwards (Nova) were the best through for me, Jones/Leeman being the most sideways out of anyone (even the RWD cars) and Lewis/Edwards holding onto the handbrake for almost the entire triangle just slinging the rear end around.
At around 5 in the morning crews were turning up at the finish back at the Cattle Market, most with decent stories of happenings of the night. From my point of view it looked a great event and looking at the results it looked tough, some crews finishing with 38 fails and some times seen of over 50 minutes!
Juke/Bowen came away with the win with Jones/Jones in second and Davies/Jenkins in third. Jones/Leeman took the class 2 win and class 3 was held by Evans/Jones who also managed to get 10th overall! Its been a while since a Novice crew were seen within the top 10!
Here are a few comments that have been seen from competitors about the event;
“The organisers did the event a lot of justice” – Dale Bowen (1st overall Navigator)
“Really enjoyed the rally, excellent roads, well done to CMC.” – Cadog Davies (Navigator, car 12)
“Congrats to Dai Roberts and the Carmarthen motor club crew for putting on a cracking event. Hope the Autumn is back on the road rally calendar for good. Route was superb, tricky in places but overall a fantastic challenge for both seats.” – Matt Bowyer (5th overall Driver)
“Never mind this group N malarkey, last night was mint, thoroughly enjoyed my spin in the passenger seat albeit a bit stressful at times! Top drive by young Mr Taylor! shame about the puncture and other issues but we only went out for fun and I think we achieved that. Dai, Gareth, Louise, Justin, Alan and the rest of the team at Carmarthen MC, hats off to you all, that was as quality a road rally as you will do anywhere even in the wamc. A huge achievement.” – Andy Davies (25th overall Navigator)
I sincerely hope that the event is run next year as this time I won’t be missing it!
Daniel Pidgeon, Spectator
Thanks to Gary Jones Photography (www.garyphotos.zenfolio.com) & JMS Photographic (www.facebook.com/JMSPhotographic) for all of the photos! Make sure you head to their sites for more photos and details on how to purchase yourself a copy!