Rali Bro Caron 2019 Review

Kevin Davies makes it a hat-trick

The weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of March saw Lampeter and District Motor Club hold their annual event in the road rallying calendar, the Bro Caron. Due to snow conditions effecting the Mike Darowen’s running it was now the first round of the Welsh Road Rally Championship as well as the first round in the club’s own road rally championship. Once again Marc Hughes took care of Clerk of the Course duties, together, he and his team held an event of approximately 90 miles using mostly the northern half of OS Map 146. This year’s event was held in March to avoid any clashing with the rugby matches that occur at this time of the year to help guarantee maximum marshal numbers that are required to run an event.

Showing just how popular the rally is, a flood of entries were received as soon as regulations became available and infact over 90 entries had been received within 48 hours of opening. In total the event attracted some 130 entries meaning there would be a large number of reserve entries with fingers crossed hoping to get a run.

Photo by Joseph John Gilbertson, http://www.facebook.com/joseph.j.gilbertson

In amongst the 90 competitors that managed to get a run was Andy Davies and Michael Gilbey who took the number one seed after winning last years event. They were hoping to be able to repeat their performance although knew it would be a big challenge with the quality of the field. They were in their familiar Subaru Impreza ‘IDZ’. The number 2 slot went to 2017 winner, Kevin Davies, who for this year again was accompanied by Alan James. They were another crew that had the potential to take the top spot on the podium in Kevin’s Mk2 Ford Escort. Another Escort followed at 3, this one being crewed by Daniel “lwni” Jones who had regular navigator Gerwyn Barry on map duties, Dan hasn’t had the best of luck on this event in recent years but is always a contender for a very strong result. John Davies and Aled Richards were at 4 and were another crew to be using a Mk2 Ford Escort which they had hired for the event. John is a two time winner of this event and Aled has excellent knowledge of the area (as well as a win on the 2016 event with John) so they would be a crew to watch. The number five spot went to George Williams and Dale Bowen, who rounded off a quartet of Mk2 Ford Escorts in the top five showing how popular the old Ford still is with clubmen. They were another crew that had the potential for an excellent result with Dale Bowen winning the event in 2017 with Kevin Davies.

Mark ‘GT’ Roberts and Dafydd Sion Lloyd were at six in Mark’s regular Volkswagen Golf GTi, Mark is a very consistent driver who has won numerous events and titles over the years and is always a strong contender no matter what part of the country he competes in. Seven went to 2015 winner Stefan “DR” Davies who was partnered this year by Nathan Davies, Stefan only just made it to the start of the event with his Mk2 Ford Escort after recently having undergone an engine rebuild and had only just been reassembled in time for the event. Malcolm ‘Tar’ Jones and Rhys Jones were at eight in the first of the Peugeot’s, their’s being a 206 GTi 180 model, Malcolm and Rhys normally concentrate on tarmac stage rallying but always like to compete on the club’s own road rally. Number nine went to Kevin ‘Penclaw’ Jones and Llion ‘Tractor’ Williams, Kevin has been achieving excellent result recently and putting excellent performances all over the country and was looking to make it another on this event. Rounding off the top ten were Kevin Kerr and Huw Rhys Manion in Kevin’s Mk2 Ford Escort, Kevin returning to the lanes of West Wales for the first time in a couple of years and was nice to see him back competing in the area.

The talent continued well outside of the top ten with Mark Lennox and Ian Beamond at 11 in another Mk2 Ford Escort, followed by another Escort at 12 piloted by Tomos Lewis and Daniel Stone. Lampeter’s own Justin Jones took the 13 slot in the recently purchased Vauxhall Astra GTE, he had Robbie Pugh sat with him for this occasion. Another Lampeter member with the potential for a strong result was James Davies at car 17 in his Proton Compact GTi, he was to be contesting in the Welsh Road Rally Championship this year with his navigator Irfon Richards and hoping for a strong result on his home event. Gari Evans and Iwan Griffiths took the number 20 slot in Gari’s immaculately prepared Mk2 Ford Escort, they were another crew that could potentially finish high up the leader board. Tim Evans was at 23 in his Proton Satria GTi, he was accompanied by Ryan Hurrell for this rally.

Photo by Gary Jones Photography, http://www.garyphotos.zenfolio.com

Other names on the entry list in the expert class included Jonathon Davies and Andrew Gaunt who were at 26 in a Peugeot 206, a car that was very popular on the night with a dozen or so entered. Daniel Williams and Shaun Richards were having their first go in expert class in Dan’s BMW 318ti and they were given number 30. Another crew using the BMW were former Motoring News Championship rally winner, Steve King, who had Ashley Owen navigating for him, Steve is a very consistent driver having a wealth of experience on Welsh Road Rallies and were out for a good result. Also appearing on the entry list was a pair of RS2000 Mk2 Ford Escorts, with the first being the almost too nice to rally example owned by Tim Hodgson, which in fact is a very famous car that three-time Motoring News champion Mick Briant used to one of his titles back in the era of that championship. The second example was the blue one belonging to Colin Davies, they were given number 39.

In the Semi-Expert class at 47 were Geraint Wright and Craig Davies who were among contenders for class honours and were another crew to be using a Peugeot 206. Also, contenders were Lee ‘Eggs’ Plant and Michael Phillips in Lee’s newly resprayed Mitsubishi Colt, now in a very smart shade of white, they were seeded right behind Geraint and Craig at 48. Just behind them were Huw and Owen Rowcliffe who were another pair getting excellent results recently and another pair using a Peugeot 206. Osian Jones and Andrew Davies took 54 in another Peugeot 206 and hoping to get in amongst the more experienced crews. Another former Motoring News star occupied the space of 63, this being Derek Arnold who had recently purchased a Mk2 Ford Escort to get back into rallying having following the sport for some time. Carrying his famous EBH 666K number plate he and his navigator Chris White were out to sample 146’s lanes.

In the novice class Dafydd Jones and Rhodri Williams were looking to take the class win in their Vauxhall Corsa, they were at 71. Right behind them at 72 were Rhodri Lewis and Dion Phillips who were another one aiming for the class win. At 73 was Richard Hughes who normally occupies the passenger side of a rally car but switched to the driver’s side for this, Richard had been wanting to use an escort on a road rally for some time and the time had come on this event. At 86 were James Hatfield and Martin Haynes who were out in an MG ZR and out for fun and to enjoy the Lampeter roads. At 89 were father and son team of Lloyd Evans and Dan Evans, Dan who were out on his first event at the age of twelve, a huge credit should be given for having a go despite feeling somewhat nervous at the start of the event. Rounding off the 90-car field were Thomas Slack and Daniel Belcher in a Toyota Corolla returning to the sport after a couple years away.

Photo by Joseph John Gilbertson, http://www.facebook.com/joseph.j.gilbertson

Signing on was once again held at Lampeter Leisure Centre and as soon as it was opened there were reserves queuing to sign on in the hope that a space became available, unfortunately this didn’t happen as all 90 cars signed on which is an incredible achievement in itself, although unfortunate for the eight reserves that did show up, maybe their luck will be different next year?

With the car park filling as competitors turned up the rain made an appearance at the same time, making competitors question their tyre choices for the night, thankfully whist it was a heavy downpour it soon stopped so at least it was dry overhead, even though the lanes themselves stayed wet. Signing on was once again a flurry of activity and just after 10 o’clock route cards began to be handed out giving the Master and Expert class competitors one and a half hours plotting time with a little extra to the Semi-Expert and Novice class crews.

With plotting taken care of it was time for the action to begin, as competitors left the start car park, a welcome return to the tradition of leaving through the arch of the Black Lion Royal Hotel. Once crews had passed through here it was off to Cwmmann where the first section began. From here crews headed south before turning right back up towards the edge of Cellan before going over Oxen Hall and finishing just outside of Llanddewi-brefi. Time Control 3 was the first dropper in this section, which was just after competitors had been by Cellan. This was timed to the minute and most competitors here picked up a minute of penalties on what is a very technical piece of road, although two crews managed to pass through this without any penalty, the Escort of Kevin Davies and Alan James who were already demonstrating an incredible performance even at this early stage. Robert Paul Price and Christian Coleman were the other crew to pass this section without penalty in their MG ZR giving an excellent start to their event. It was becoming an eventful night right from the go for many competitors, including the Subaru Impreza of Lloyd and Dan Evans who nearly left the road after having the wheels lock up on the car, thankfully they managed to regain their composure and press on. The following Time Control (TC4) through Oxen Hall was scrubbed due to an accident where a car broke its bottom arms so it was on towards Llangybi for the next section.

Photo by Gary Jones Photography, http://www.garyphotos.zenfolio.com

Unfortunately, there were already names on the retirement list, which unfortunately included car one, Andy Davies and Michael Gilbey who had a power steering pipe burst on IDZ causing a small engine fire that was soon dealt with, but unfortunately, they were not able to continue. Another one sadly no longer running was Daniel “Lwni” Jones and Gerwyn Barry who were out with engine troubles on their Escort. Dan and Gerwyn really haven’t had the luck on this event but hopefully won’t be put off trying again next year. Another one on the list were John Davies and Aled Richards who were out with fueling issues.

The second section of the night involved going through Llangybi before heading over to Llwyn-y-groes. From here competitors turned right into Abermeurig, before heading up to Trefilan, crossing through the ford that is just off the B4337. There were two spectator points on this section and both proved very popular with a large crowd present at each one where plenty of action could be seen safely. There were two tight sections on this piece, with the first being at the end of Llangybi Common, which was the location of Time Control 8. Dewi Davies and Nathan Davies received the best time here with only 8 seconds of penalties, followed by George Wiliams and Dale Bowen who had 25 seconds. They were matched by the Semi-Expert pairing of Daniel Evans and Elin Evans in their Citroen Xsara VTS, excellent times by all. Quickest Novices at this section were Dafydd Jones and Rhodri Williams who had 54 seconds.
The end of the section (SF10) was the next dropper, with the whole field picking up penalties along it. Dewi Davies and Nathan Davies were showing excellent form and managed an incredible time of 1:06 here in their Vauxhall Astra. Kevin Davies and Alan James were another crew fully into the swing of things and managed an excellent time of 1:29 in the Escort, with Kevin displaying some excellent car control through the tight triangles that featured along the route here. Another crew showing real commitment and getting the most out of their car were Malcolm ‘Tar’ Jones and Rhys Jones making them a real favorite among the crowd dropping 1:49. James Davies was using this section to push for the class win and kept the car neat and tidy through the technical sections and stopped the clocks on 1:33, although they unfortunately gained another minute of penalties whilst queuing at the next time control. Mark Lennox and Ian Beamond were another crew doing exceptionally well and achieved a time of 1:21, putting them well in the running for overall honors.

In the Semi-Expert class Huw and Owen Rowciffe were doing very well and had 1:47 at SF10 in their Peugeot only three seconds down on the class leader here at SF10 which was Jordan Evans and Jonathon Hands. Daniel Jones and Tom Beckett were also setting good times and had 1:52 here. In the Novice class Rhodri Lewis and Dion Phillips were the pace setters and in a league of their own with an excellent time of 1:58 in their 206, excellent going by them. Dafydd Jones and Rhodri Williams next quickest on 2:40.

Photo by Joseph John Gilbertson, http://www.facebook.com/joseph.j.gilbertson

The next section of route was to be the final before the refuel halt and included the use of Llety-Sion Farm which was a new section for a Lampeter MC organised event. Time Control 13 was located at the end of it and here it was George Williams and Dale Bowen who made the most of the slippery conditions and achieved a time of 5 seconds, excellent going given the tricky conditions. Kevin Davies and Alan James continued to do well and achieved 17 seconds. Also doing very well here was Geriant Wright who with navigator Craig Davies achieved a great time of 21 seconds, excellent going by them. The route then crossed the A482 near Ciliau Aeron where there were another couple of tight sections before refueling in Aberaeron. This section of road proved to be very tricky with muddy sections of road providing very little grip. This sadly is where Lee ‘Eggs’ Plant and Michael Philips rally came to a premature end following the spot lights going out on Lee’s Colt. This distraction, plus the tricky conditions, were enough for Lee to slide the car off the road, causing no damage apart from a few scratches but unfortunately, they were out of the running. Kevin Davies and Alan James suffered some bad luck here too, reversing back to pick up a code board that they had passed and unfortunately slid off the road and lost 3 minutes trying to regain the road, they were helped by George Williams and Dale Bowen who quickly towed them out, a great example of sportsmanship!

Following this there was a refuel halt at Aberaeron where tanks were brimmed ready for another go through the lanes. The top five standings here were:
1st – Mark Lennox & Ian Beamond, Ford Escort – 6:36
2nd – George Williams & Dale Bowen, Ford Escort – 7:04
3rd – Tomos Lewis & Daniel Stone, Ford Escort – 7:26
4th – Dewi Davies & Nathan Davies, Vauxhall Astra – 7:30
5th – Carwyn Davies & Ryan Griffiths, Ford Escort – 7:47

The Semi-Exert class was being led by Huw and Owen Rowciffe who were on 8:45 which saw them 12th overall. Leading the Novice class were Rhys Lewis and Dion Phillips with 9:49, which put them in 27th overall. Unfortunately, the retirements list had grown through the first half, with Kevin ‘Penclaw’ Jones and Llion ‘Tractor’ Williams out with a broken drive shaft, Kevin Kerr and Huw Rhys Manion out with brake issues on their escort and Marc Mayes and Mark Rodway also out with engine issues in their escort. Tim Hodgson and Dai Roberts were sadly also on the retirements sheet with Lloyd Evans and Daniel Evans called it a night here too with Daniels stomach giving him trouble, so pulled out with the intention of coming back for another go. Dan wanted to thank Daniel Belcher the navigator in car 90 for the advice with route plotting. Another example of great sportsmanship between competitors.

Photo by Gary Jones Photography, http://www.garyphotos.zenfolio.com

There would be one more short section before the regroup, and this took place in Pen-cae just outside of Llanarth. SF19 was located at the end of it, and here Macaulay Austin and Ryan Swain took their Honda Civic around the twisty lanes in an impressive time to receive a penalty of only 10 seconds, excellent going by them. Dai John and Alun Ginn were also doing well here with a time of 28 seconds. Nathan Davies and Dewi Davies were another crew doing very well and had a time of 35 seconds in their Vauxhall, they were on course for a strong result with the consistently good times that they were achieving. Huw and Owen Rowcliffe were best among the Semi-Experts with one minute here and in the Novice class it was Rhodri Lewis and Dion Phillips once again setting the standard with a time of 1:39.

Then came the regroup at Pantsod Farm where competitors could regather lost time on the road before heading out again for the second half. With that taken care of the next section was a long section which included going through Mydroilyn and Dihewyd via the white at Moiddyn Farm before heading towards Felinfach via Frongelyn and Graig-wen. This section had three tight droppers where competitors would pick up penalties, with the first being just after passing through Mydroilyn, which was Time Control 22 (TC22). It is a difficult road with many ninety-degree bends to negotiate and it was Kevin Davies and Alan James setting the standard here in their Escort, determined to make up some time after their incident in the first half, they pushed their Escort through the very technical and twisty lanes found here and they were rewarded with a time of 39 seconds for their efforts. Three crews then tied on the same time of 44 seconds, and they were all in Mk2 Ford Escorts with the first being Mark Lennox and Ian Beamond followed by Owain Evans and Richard Williams, and then Carwyn Davies and Ryan Griffiths.

Moiddyn white was the next place to be tackled by competitors, and the organisers had placed a spectator point at the entrance of it so that spectators could catch the action and watch them battle along down the track. Time Control 23 (TC23) was located at the end of the track and here it was once again Kevin Davies and Alan James that achieved the best time, with 32 seconds, they were well on their way back up the leader board after their first half delays. Steffan Rhys James and Richard Thomas were next up with 36 seconds in their Peugeot 206 GTi, an excellent time by the novice crew. Stef “DR” and Nathan Davies were next with an excellent time of 42 seconds.

Photo by Joseph John Gilbertson, http://www.facebook.com/joseph.j.gilbertson

The route then passed through the village of Dihewyd before the final tight section that brought competitors out to Felinfach. SF 26 was located at the end and once again it was Kevin Davies and Alan James who were setting the standard with 28 seconds. Stef “DR” and Nathan Davies did well here again with 41 seconds, closely followed by Mark Lennox and Ian Beamod on 42 seconds. Dafydd Morgan and Kieran Price were setting respectable times despite having no clutch and having to match the engines revs to change gear, having to keep the car in gear at controls, even so, they were enjoying themselves and continued on to the end on the event.

The final section of the rally began just outside of Cribyn, and saw crews head south passed the Fish and Anchor pub just outside of Llannwnen. From here they headed East before turning left back towards Cribyn before slotting right and passing through Creuddyn-Bridge. After this they turned right and went into Silian, going around the famous hairpin before arriving at the finish, Time Control 29 was located just after the pub. Here it was Carwyn Davies and Ryan Griffiths that achieved the best time with only 2 seconds. Still doing very well were Dewi Davies and Nathan Davies in their Astra with 4 seconds as well as Kevin Davies and Alan James who were still going strong and had a penalty count of 14 seconds. In the Semi-Expert class it was once again Huw and Owen Rowcliffe that were setting the pace with 29 seconds, Osian Jones and Andrew Davies also did well here and picking up 33 seconds in their Peugeot 206. Rhodri Lewis and Dion Phillips were still in fine form and achieved a time of 57 seconds here making them quickest Novices. James Davies and Irfon Richards had been doing well all night and were well inside the top ten up until now but unfortunately the engine on the Proton began to knock so they limped round to the finish costing them a great deal of time and several places in the process, an unfortunate end to what had been an excellent outing by them.

Crossing the A482 the route then headed through Creuddyn-bridge before turning right towards Silian. There was a time control (TC31) located here that was timed to the minute and every competitor bar one picked up at least one minute of penalties here. The only crew managing to go here penalty-free was Kevin Davies and Alan James who pushed hard here and the clocks showed it. Onto the final couple of miles of route into Silian which included going around the famous hairpin bend, which even after half past three in the morning attracted a crowd of diehard fans. As ever there was plenty of entertainment to be seen on this corner which has a difficult approach with the road that competitors turn onto being at an angle giving a step up making cutting a bad idea as a couple of crews unfortunately found out. SF32 was soon after here and at this control it was Malcolm ‘Tar’ Jones and Rhys Jones that achieved the best time, having demonstrated a mega committed approach all night they were rewarded with an excellent time of 50 seconds, and excellent finish to their night. Alyn and Thomas Welsby were next in their Mk2 Ford Escort on 52 seconds, a great time by them. Craig Judd and Lewis Sim were next on 53 seconds, great going by a very consistent crew. Arwel ‘Cilgwyn’ Thomas and Dan Parsons were the pace setters in the Semi-Expert class at this section with 1:18. Michael Roberts and Natasha Roberts were another crew doing well here in Mk2 Ford Escort with 1:25. Steffan Rhys James and Richard Thomas were best Novices with 1:45. Dafydd Jones and Rhodri Williams also did very well and received 1:57, and right behind them on 1:58 were Peter Carroll and Abigail Haycock in their Citroen C2.

Photo by Gary Jones Photography, http://www.garyphotos.zenfolio.com

After a challenging but enjoyable night with slippery conditions it was back to Lampeter Rugby Club for a well-earned breakfast for all the competitors and before long final results were made available. Making a hat-trick of wins on the Bro Caron was Kevin Davies who with navigator Alan James achieved an excellent comeback to win the rally after an excellent drive. Huge congratulations to them. Winning the Master’s class were Mark Lennox and Ian Beamond in their Escort after setting great times in the tricky condition. Finishing in an excellent second overall and winning the Expert class were Carwyn Davies and Ryan Griffiths in their Mk2 Ford Escort after a great night with excellent times set throughout the entire route. The Semi-Expert class went to father and son team Huw and Owen Rowcliffe after an excellent performance they were very deserving of their 19th overall finish. Getting the Novice class win were Rhodri Lewis and Dion Phillips after a string of excellent times, finishing an excellent 26th overall in their Peugeot 206. Earning the best mixed crew award were Chris Hedley and Rhiannon Bryant who finished 44th overall, it was the first time they sat together and Chris’ first time on the Bro Caron, they thoroughly enjoyed the rally and were already looking forward to next years event. Taking the under 1400cc award were Dai John and Alun Ginn in their Toyota Corolla finishing 41st overall. Highest placed Lampeter MC crew went to were Gari Evans and Iwan Griffith in their Escort with an excellent 11th overall finish. Taking the Wooden Spoon award were Mathew Davies and Trystan Leyshon with their last placed finish in their Escort. The final top five places were:
1st – Kevin Davies & Alan James, Ford Escort – 12:36
2nd – Carwyn Davies & Ryan Griffiths, Ford Escort – 13:49
3rd – Mark Lennox & Ian Beamond, Ford Escort – 14:24
4th – Malcolm ‘Tar’ Jones & Rhys Jones, Peugeot 206 – 14:36
5th – Craig Judd & Lewis Sim, Peugeot 306 – 15:00

So that was the Bro Caron done and dusted for another year, the organisers would wish to thank Lampeter Leisure Centre and Rugby Club for the start and finish venues, Aeron Cost for the petrol halt, all of the residents along the route, all of the marshals who stood out in the dark for a long time after most sensible people had gone to their beds, RallyRoots for the results as well as everyone else who helped the event run. Already people are counting down the days for next year’s event.

Gregory Harrand

Thanks to Gary Jones Photography (www.garyphotos.zenfolio.com) & Joseph John Gilbertson (www.facebook.com/joseph.j.gilbertson) for all of the images. Make sure you check out their pages for more examples and for details on how to purchase yourself a copy!