Rali Llyn 2018 Review

One thing I was guilty of last year was only bothering to write a report on the Mike Darowen, then losing interest when the Bro Caron didn’t go the way Stef and I intended, then neglected to write another for the rest of the year… I’m determined that this won’t be the case this year, so shock horror, here’s a report of a rally I didn’t win!

The Llyn has always been an event I’ve enjoyed, but haven’t ever really come close to being able to fight with the locals on. That’s true for many, many competitors who don’t live on or very close to the Peninsula, but it’s been a source of frustration for me for ages. I made too many mistakes and got caught out by silly stuff the last time I did the event with Reian, in 2014. That night we ended up fourth, which wasn’t a terrible result, but we were nearly three minutes off the winning pace – largely down to a number of wrong slots by my good self – and annoyingly ended up 2 seconds behind GT and third place.

I’d enjoyed a good spin with the inimitable Gethin Bodlas in 2015, and learned a lot of the intricacies of map 123 alongside him, right up until a driveshaft broke before Nanhoron Farm. Nevertheless, a lot of what we did that night, particularly some of the lanes coming down the northern coast of the Peninsula, to Anelog, then around Llanfaelrhys and then back around Pant to Sarn Meyllteyrn, stuck with me, especially sat alongside a local hero who knew the lanes as well as Geth. This was to come in very handy!

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

I have to be honest, and say that both Andy and I were a bit disappointed with our seeding at car 9. I didn’t pester the organisers about it – for one thing, they’ve got more than enough work to do in the lead-up to a rally than field complaints from some egotistical navigator who thinks he should be starting much higher! For another, there’s a pretty clear line in the regs and the finals that no discussion would be entered into about seeding anyway. So our mission changed slightly, from trying to take maximum Welsh points and get into the mix with the locals, to proving a point and improving our start position.

In the past, I’ve taken matters like this to heart, which has rattled me and caused me to make mistakes. This time around, I was determined to keep a cool head, concentrate as hard as ever, and deliver as good a performance on the maps as possible. I spent a few evenings in the week leading up to the event poring over old 123s, checking triangles, re-acquainting myself with tricky junctions and lanes… old Google Street View took a pounding! By Saturday morning I was certain I had prepared as thoroughly as possible, and couldn’t wait to get up the road to Pwllheli to start the event.

Andy, too, had spent a lot of time and effort (not to mention money!) on bringing IDZ back to her best after a very tough night on the Bro Caron. A complete new front end, with a sump guard that had been extensively reprofiled with a sledge hammer, along with new discs and pads and a fresher set of lovely soft Dunlop A2s, and we were ready to go. Can’t go and do a rally like the Llyn with a shabby looking car, especially considering how absolutely beautiful the locals’ Mk2s all are!

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

After the usual pre-start sbeng, which mostly involved taking the mick out of Dafydd-Sion Lloyd for having a tractor wheel fall on his foot, as well as his hilarious near-meltdown on the Bagger (“how many maps?! F*** y rali ma!”) we attended the competitors’ briefing, at which we were told that the weather station at RAF Valley were expecting a huge snowfall at around 2:00. Organisers, marshals and competitors alike all hoped they were wrong, but with nothing else to do other than waiting to see if it arrived, we were off to plot. If the snow did come, it was almost guaranteed it would stick, and possibly drift – temperatures had hovered around freezing all day, and once night fell, the mercury dropped well below zero, with strong winds making it feel much, much colder still.

Despite the arctic conditions, never before in my life have I had as dreamy a plotting experience as I did on this rally. The trailer park was in the same compound as the competitors’ start car park, so rather than sit and shiver in a relatively uncomfortable bucket seat in IDZ, Andy and I decamped to his Transit van, in which he had fitted an LED plotting light. With the heater on, cup holders for hot drinks, a bench seat to spread out and have easy access to my nav bag, and tucked away in the corner of the car park undisturbed, the route went down more easily than I can ever remember. If any organisers reading this fancy recreating this arrangement on their rally later in the year, you have my full support!

The route itself went down really nicely, and the map promised a classic Rally Llyn; nice, technical droppers, linked together with some of the faster lanes on the Peninsula, run as either slack standard sections or neutrals. Enough time to get your breath back, but only just!

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

With the route down, triangle diagrams highlighted and stuck to my map board, and lucky hats (patented two-hat system, can’t beat it) on my head, we were away to Abererch, and the start of the first section. After a bit of manoeuvring to let a taxi out of the lane, we were on the start line and ready to tackle a section that every driver I’ve ever sat with has absolutely loved. Super technical, narrow, with deep unforgiving ditches lining most of the way, followed by a white I’d never used before… what’s not to love?

With the promise of snow, along with me knowing this section reasonably well, we decided to have a good push on. If the snow did come in at 2, and affect the running of the event, a good first half could have been decisive, just as it was on the 2015 Powys Lanes. So attack was the name of the game! We carried as much speed as we dared along to the first slot of the night, got the triangle at PC2 spot on, and absolutely nailed the slot onto the white.

There were already ice patches, especially on the tighter lanes with high banks! I held Andy back a bit on the white, neither of us were sure where the slot onto the next track was or what it looked like – in hindsight it was obvious, but it’s better to be safe than throw ten seconds away reversing after an overshoot. Along the cow track, through the yard, and in to the clock, 59 seconds dropped, which the marshal informed us was enough for second fastest to that man Kevin Davies, partnered for the first time since the Autumn by Owain Davies. I don’t think there’s been a ‘foreign’ one-two after the first section of Rali Llyn in a very long time, if at all!

Photo by Jez Turner, http://www.facebook.com/jez.turner.161?hc_location=stream

A short neutral, back on the Porthmadog road to Llanystumdwy, brought us to the second standard section of the night. Another classic section, another I knew pretty well, and another chance to put a decent time on the board. The first section, down to the very tight give way right on the white-that-isn’t-a-white, then back up to the Chwilog road, went okay – the hairpin was tighter than Andy expected, so we had to quickly nudge back to get around it. From there, up to PC7, the road reads quite nicely… the next lane, up around Felin Bencoed, is very tricky! A combination of ice, deep ditches and a bad bump bridge meant we chose to behave ourselves… we arrived at TC4 on 29 seconds dropped, which we weren’t too unhappy about. A fairly slack run around Llanarmon and Pencaenewydd brought us to SF5, and another short neutral to the start of the next standard section.

It would transpire that all of that effort was in vain, since as a result of competitors getting stuck in the lanes on both of the first two standard sections, both were scrubbed from the results. Thankfully none concerned were hurt, and the rest of the rally resumed competition at the start of the third standard section. In an unrelated incident, Craig Judd and Dafydd Evans’ long trip north was rewarded with an early bath, with a broken bottom arm. The duo were able to limp their Peugeot 306 out of the way, but with no way of mending the car, it was game over.

A fairly easy run, from Llwyndyrys down to Llannor, picking up a couple of codeboards to ensure we’d gone the right way, brought us to the start of what was now the first proper ‘dropper’ of the night, taking in the technical triangle near Moelypenmaen, crossing the B4354 and across to Jamie Mills’ time control near Hendre Penprys. We were nicely warmed up by now, and set a time 8 seconds off the flying Arwel ’Sbidi’ Hughes-Jones / Iwan Jones, second quickest of all, and very narrowly ahead of the flying Escorts seeded 2 – 6. Tidy! Jamie had warned us of ice ahead, so we took it nice and easy until we were back onto the B road, and found our way to Edryd Evans’ TC with plenty of time in hand.

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

The next section was another little gem, using Hendre white, along the fast but deceptive lane past Maesoglan, taking in the awkward triangle, before more fast, technical lanes to Ceidio, using the yard where Gethin Bodlas and I had sent a bin flying in 2015, with the clock after the next junction. The locals’ pace was too much for us to live with here, and with the words “WELSH POINTS” prominent in our minds, we took no chances over any of the big crests, dropping exactly one minute – tactically, since we had come in at 00:56 – to Steven John / Paul Roberts’ 31 seconds, Sbidi’s 36 seconds, and Kev Smiley’s 46 seconds. Not to worry, on to the next one…

A nicely judged, fun, fairly straightforward run down Nant Llaniestyn saw us reach MTC11, the start of two back-to-back droppers, probably the most intense section of the first half. After nailing the very narrow slot hairpin right just after the time control, we were into the extremely technical lane that would take us around a big loop, and back to the crossroads above Ffridd. After a few words of encouragement at Justin Davies’ passage control, nailing Rhodri Evans’ triangle at Myfyr, picking our way through the absolutely insane lane down past Penrhyn, we reached the TC on 16 seconds dropped, which felt pretty reasonable.

By now, Gavin Edwards and Cadog Davies had been forced to retire with engine problems, Gavin’s attempt to win three successive road rallies in three different cars with three different navigators sadly frustrated. The battle among the front-running Escorts was no less intense for having lost Gavin and Cadog, with Sbidi and Smiley tied on 2 seconds dropped, Carwyn Evans and Dylan John on 13 seconds, and Kevin Kerr and Huw Manion on 17 seconds. Our Impreza had managed to sneak in among the Fords, with reigning WAMC champions Mark Roberts and Dylan Jenkins on a very respectable 18 seconds, narrowly ahead of Steven John on 22 seconds. Slightly further down the running order, both Dafydd Post / Carl Slate and Guto Ifan / Archie Bach had performed excellently, both stopping the clock on 15 seconds dropped.

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

No time to relax, however, and straight into a properly testing section, down over Pont-Llidiard-y-dwr, along the B4415 to the tight slot hairpin right (which we naturally behaved ourselves around!) then up the hill to the slot hairpin left into Nanhoron Farm. A good fun section through the farm (along the pink dotted line) eventually brought us to the section finish, back on the main Botwnnog road. This section, which we cleaned by around 12 seconds, just as most of the top ten did, was to prove decisive to the eventual result, since as we descended the white into the farm, we came across Sbidi and Iwan parked up with broken steering. With two of the top five now out of the rally, and with the second half promising to be even more challenging than the first, the fight for the win was still wide open…

A short neutral through Mynytho brought us to the start of the last competitive section of the first half, a really fun loop up past Llanfihangel, along the B4415 towards Rhydyclafdy, then back down the map to Llanbedrog. We took our time on the first mile or so, with a couple of locals having reported seriously bad ice past Carneddol, down to the B road, where we had a bit more confidence to stretch IDZ’s legs a bit more. We reached Eilir Williams’ finish time control with around 15 seconds to spare, which felt very satisfying. Smiley, Kev Kerr and Carwyn all managed to clean it as well, with Guto Ifan coming mighty close, dropping 2 seconds. From here, petrol was just a couple of miles away, and we cruised down to the filling station feeling fairly happy with how things had gone.

After five droppers, Kev Smiley / Owain Davies held a lead of 17 seconds over Steven John / Paul Roberts, who in turn were just 3 seconds up on Carwyn Evans / Dylan John. Andy and I held fourth place, 8 seconds off the podium, and just 6 seconds up on Kevin Kerr / Huw Manion. Not much to call between us after a full half of challenging lanes! The expert class would have been led by Guto Ifan / Aron Jones, whose times were good enough for 6th place, however the Mk1 Escort pairing had sadly incurred a fail before the Nanhoron Farm section. In their absence, Iwan and Gareth Rhys Jones (the navigator being a rapid pilot in his own right!) held a commanding lead of over a minute in the expert class, with Aled Roberts / Sion Tegid Tomos second, and Gary Evans / Rich Ty Capel just three seconds adrift in third.

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

With a fine first half performance that would have put them second in the expert class, Daniel Williams and Rhian Sanson led the semi-expert class by over 30 seconds at halfway, with Sion Eifion Morris and Harriet Helen From second, and Rob Stephens / Nathan Summers a well deserved third, a long way from home. The novice class was a much closer affair, with the Honda Civic crew of Mark Williams / Robin Harvey Evans just 10 seconds ahead of the Suzuki Baleno of Dewi Rhys Jones / Rhian Jones. A mere 9 seconds further back sat Carwyn Llyr Griffith and Sera Glyn Roberts; all to play for in the second half throughout the field.

Positions at Petrol

(3) Kevin Davies / Owain Davies 01:24
(2) Steven John Williams / Paul Roberts 01:41
(6) Carwyn Evans / Dylan John Williams 01:44
(9) Andy Davies / Michael Gilbey 01:51
(4) Kevin Kerr / Huw Manion 01:57

There’s no polite way of describing the weather conditions at the halfway halt – it was bloody cold! Here, we changed one tyre that appeared to be wearing slightly unevenly, and sought shelter in the warmth of the shop. After what felt like ages (cold weather will do that) we were away to start the second half, and immediately, we were in big trouble.

Photo by Jez Turner, http://www.facebook.com/jez.turner.161?hc_location=stream

After a brief debate over which way to depart the fuel station (I knew it was left, honest!) we set off, and IDZ was not behaving. At low revs, on our low-speed run out to SS16, the clutch was slipping appallingly, with any throttle input making it worse still. The plate was coming up on its milage, and was due to be changed after this event, but to fail halfway through? It didn’t make sense. The atmosphere in the car was colder than the weather outside. We seriously considered pulling out and going back to Pwllheli – poor IDZ didn’t even seem capable of that – but with championship points at stake, and not enough distance completed to be able to cut and be credited with a finish, we decided to just go as far as we could.

After removing a spring in the clutch mechanism in the hope of reducing the slip (I’m nowhere near qualified to describe this in any more detail!) we decided to have as good a push as the car was capable of on the fairly slack run to Tudweiliog, in the hope of getting a bit of heat into the clutch, which would hopefully alleviate the slipping. Both of us had resigned ourselves to not finishing the rally, so every mile we could complete would be a bonus.

The first dropper of the second half was a wonderfully technical run around the loop to the north of Tudweiliog, using a couple of tricky three-metre controls, finishing at the chapel just south of Tyddyn. Steven John went fastest, with an excellent time of 23 seconds dropped. Kev Kerr stopped the clock at 42 seconds, 9 up on Smiley and 13 up on Carwyn. Andy had managed to suppress every bit of mechanical sympathy in his body and press on, with IDZ making some awful noises, our reward being a time of 56 seconds dropped – good enough for fifth fastest, which neither of us were too unhappy about. One dropper down, five to go, and on we went, down the northern shoreline of the Peninsula, through Llangwnnadl, to TC19 and the start of another classic Rally Llyn section.

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

Mercifully, the slipping hadn’t got any worse, though we were still just waiting for IDZ to cry enough. In the meantime, we were trying as hard as possible – if it was going to fail, might as well fail in style eh! The next section was nice and wide, and so really suited the car, and I remembered a good deal of it from 2015, so we managed to set a time of 30 seconds dropped – 2 up on the flying Kev Kerr, and good enough for fastest overall. Mega tidy! Another 2 seconds back came Smiley, with Carwyn just 3 down on him, and Steven John a mere 3 behind Carwyn. this was shaping up to be some battle! None could afford to relax, as a short run brought us to a section that’s famed for being extremely not-as-map and very unforgiving, Anelog.

Indeed, Anelog simply does not read properly in 1:50k Landranger scale. Carwyn and Dylan John really showed their local expertise with a time of 9 seconds dropped – I’d expected them to be quick here, since when I went to check with Dylan John what to look out for at the triangle at PC48, he’d described the lane going to and from the farm, the slot itself, even the colour of the sign on the way in… the kind of detail I’d be giving a driver on the lanes within five miles of my house. Can’t argue with that! The two Kevins both set a time of 30 seconds dropped, and we – in spite of the lane barely being wide enough to accommodate IDZ, never mind anything else! – posted a time just 2 seconds slower. Steven John came in on 40 seconds, five down on Mike Roberts and Dafydd-Sion.

A neutral from Aberdaron to Rhoshirwaun followed, which we weren’t happy about – the slipping was made worse by being sat still for more than a minute at a time! Once back up to temperature, we set about the fiendish lane around Llanfaelrhys with as much commitment as possible. I remember being held up by SOO having a wheel taken off here in 2015, and we’d had warnings of ice from a couple of locals, so it’s just as well we couldn’t give it 100%!

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

After picking our way past Ysgo, nailing the slot hairpin right after the chapel, we came to the next give way to be greeted by a sheet of ice. Andy got IDZ stopped before it, but even as we gently picked our way through it IDZ broke sideways, gently brushing the bank on the outside, and with “Welsh points” flashing before our eyes we gingerly made our way to the TC. A time of 41 seconds dropped was our reward, 11 down on the flying Carwyn, who in turn was 3 up on the two Kevins, who had once again set matching times, and who in turn were 4 up on Steven John. Fair enough! The slight frustration we felt at not really having proper drive was alleviated by the feeling of relief that IDZ was holding together, and the finish was getting closer – we’d already decided we HAD to come back in 2019 to give a better show of what we could do!

With 4 of the 6 droppers of the second half done, we made our way up the map, through Pen-y-groeslon, and to the start of probably the single best section I’ve ever had the pleasure to compete on. A tortuous eight-and-a-half-mile dropper, linking the famous network of lanes at Pant, through Bryncroes, along the bumpy lane past Ty Engan farm, down the side of Mynydd Rhiw, along the Aberdaron road to the finish clock. Sections which, on their own, present a substantial challenge, but tonight, thanks to the efforts of Emyr, Rhys and Harlech MC, we had to face them as one absolutely rock-solid dropper. We started off well enough, though we caught the right rear quarter shortly after slotting through the bedrock off the B road, and had to shunt around the give way at PC53, losing a handful of seconds. The worsening clutch situation mean that we had to be careful to get every junction spot on in this technical little maze of lanes; IDZ doesn’t like reversing at the best of times – we were in no mood to see what she was like with no clutch as well!

By now, any uphill sections were proving to be very hard work, the sound of the engine revving on with no real improvement in forward motion was quite concerning. We just nosed past the entrance to PC62 and needed to turn back on ourselves to go in, at the cost of another few seconds, but pushed on as much as we dared down through Plas yn Rhiw, around the famous old main road hairpins, back onto the wide yellow and on to the clock. All things considered, we were pretty happy with our time of 53 seconds dropped!

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

Steven John, running first on the road, had posted a time of 1:06 dropped, with Smiley coming into the clock on 10 seconds – JLJ arriving into the control just 4 seconds behind MBU. This would make the last section interesting! Carwyn had dropped just 5 more than Smiley, though as impressive as those times had been, Kevin Kerr managed to defy belief, cleaning the section by the skin of his teeth, and winning a wager into the bargain!

One last short slack standard section brought us to the final dropper of the night, a relatively simple loop with just one junction and a couple of three-metre controls to tackle. The sight of Steven John and Smiley taking off in unison was something to behold, though we couldn’t enjoy ourselves too much; IDZ had really started to limp now. While we could barely believe we’d made it this far – unlike poor GT and Dylan, who’d retired on the previous section with sheared wheel studs – we were now within touching distance of the finish, and absolutely determined that we would make it. A top 5 result wasn’t even a consideration, and we didn’t know anything about what was going on behind us in terms of who was running, who had retired, what times they were setting… we just HAD to bring her home, that’s all we could think of.

We made it round the two triangles (simple enough ‘in-and-around-a-cone’ jobs) with ease, and after negotiating the final two competitive give way junctions of the night, we’d done it. SS29F, end of sport, job done! Both of us cheered with joy, delighted and relieved in equal measure that IDZ had held together. With a time of 59 seconds dropped, we hadn’t exactly embarrassed ourselves either, though without the clutch slipping we’d comfortably have knocked 15 to 20 seconds off that time. Indeed, Smiley posted a time 22 seconds faster than us, 2 seconds up on both Kev Kerr and Carwyn. Telor Pugh and Andrew Edwards had had a quiet night, but went 1 second faster than us, with Steven John posting the same time as he had done on the previous section, 1:06, though he had had to run in Smiley’s dust for the first part of the section.

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

A spectator car crawling along ahead of us was the last thing we needed, in our attempt to bring the rapidly-worsening IDZ to the finish. We barely made it up the hill in Llangian, and opted to give the spectator a bit of a head start on us, to avoid getting held up by them again. After limping (and I mean LIMPING) down to Abersoch, then through Llanbedrog and back to Pwllheli in 3rd gear with much slipping, we nursed the car into the Sailing Club car park, and the sense of relief was probably stronger than the sense of joy we’d experienced a few weeks before at the Rugby Club. If we’re going to win this WAMC championship, it will be on the back of gritty performances like this, as much as more triumphant ones.

A quick spot of breakfast, a cursory glance at the results – just in case – and we decided to head off. In first place, Kevin Smiley and Owain Davies, the first “foreign” crew since Meirion Evans and Iwan Jones in 2012 to win the Llyn. Immense! Ten seconds back, Carwyn Evans and Dylan John had put up a mighty fight, clawing back 10 seconds in the second half, but not quite enough to take it. Kev Kerr and Huw Manion put in an exceptional performance to recover from fifth to third in the second half, leapfrogging both Steven John / Paul Roberts and ourselves, just 4 seconds down on Carwyn. With SJ fourth, Andy and I had managed to bring a sick car home in fifth place, and managed to bag 98 and 100 points apiece. It’s a long year, and to start off strongly can make a huge difference come the business end of the season.

Justin Davies had reported that the snow was starting to fall, hard, on the road home, and with a towing vehicle that doesn’t really like anything other than smooth dry tarmac, we didn’t want to take our chances. No trophy to collect anyway! The run back ended up being quite a comical affair, with the spectacle of Telor “Mechanical Sympathy” Pugh putting his L200 to go ahead of us, though I’d fallen asleep by the time we got to Trawsfynydd… travel sickness pills will do that…

Photo by Jez Turner, http://www.facebook.com/jez.turner.161?hc_location=stream

It was as we were heading south out of Aberystwyth that I woke up (after having had my ‘sleeping beauty’ photographed a few times by Andy…) and had a quick check on Rallyroots. My first port of call is normally the Welsh points summary, and to my surprise, the name next to 100 drivers’ points was Andy Davies… Smiley had been disqualified? Seconds later my phone rang, and it was the man himself. It turns out they hadn’t stopped for a DSO – located about 200m before a tricky give way – and, out of blind panic at the finish, had approximated the signature themselves… I don’t think there’s a navigator in the land who, upon finding themselves in that situation, hasn’t at least thought of doing something like that. It’s a pretty horrible decision to have to make; leave it as it is and stand to take a fail, or put something in the box and hope to get away with it. I’ve been on both sides of that decision; I’ve left one or two that I could probably have got away with, and chanced a couple that I did get away with. Unfortunately, the offence was spotted and reported by the DSO in question, and the organisers’ hands were tied.

Kevin had been dignified enough to keep it all together, despite the disappointment of having his hard work count for nothing, a long way from home, and congratulated the newly-elevated winners of the event, before heading home. Owain was beyond devastated. The circumstances of the victory should not count against Carwyn and Dylan John – they had only narrowly lost out to Kev and Owain on the lanes, and there have been occasions in road rallying history where a crew have “won” an event on the road by several minutes, only to be excluded on a trumped-up technicality – although, obviously, none spring immediately to my mind, none at all, honest – and any one of three cars could easily and rightfully have ended up deserving winners. This situation shouldn’t be held against what was a fine rally, run by a club who worked bloody hard to give us competitors exactly what we want in a modern road rally. Kevin and Owain have plans to return next year to prove their pace once again!

So, with that issue dealt with, the final results were as follows:

(6) Carwyn Evans / Dylan John Williams 04:59
(4) Kevin Kerr / Huw Manion 05:03
(2) Steven John Williams / Paul Roberts 06:13
(9) Andy Davies / Michael Gilbey 06:22
(25) Iwan Rhys Jones / Gareth Rhys Jones 07:19

As an aside, it was nice to prove our seeding wrong!

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

One of the performances of the rally was that of car 25, Iwan and Gareth Rhys Jones, dominating the expert class and finishing a fantastic fifth overall. Second in class, having overcome what was a fairly awful road position, came Matt Barker and Jordan Dziadulewicz, twelfth overall despite having been held up by various crews ahead of them, a huge improvement on seeding and yet another excellent result for a driver enjoying his return to the sport, and a navigator very much on his way to becoming a master – that first win won’t be long now. In third place, Gari Evans and Rich Ty Capel had similarly endured a fairly up-and-down night, having been stuck behind the blockage on the first section, but kept their cool and ended up just 9 seconds behind Barker and Dziadulewicz.

Ahead of both Barker and Evans, however, came the flying Nova of Gruffydd and Adam Jones, leaping from car 50 on the road to an incredible seventh overall, and a clear win in the semi-expert class. They finished on exactly the same time penalty as Telor Pugh and Andrew Edwards, and claimed the position on the basis of having completed the first section very slightly faster than the Ibiza crew. In second place, Daniel Williams and Rhian Sanson had survived a second half that had proved tougher for them than the first, but still claimed a deserved fourteenth overall. Rounding out the class podium, Rhys Morris and Michael Jones made it the navigator’s second trophy in two events, following up his first Novice rally win on the Valentine a few weeks beforehand.

The novice class was decided by less than thirty seconds, with seven crews in the class coming home fail-free, a fine achievement on such a technical event. 1st in class went to the Nissan Micra of Carwyn Llyr Griffith and Sera Glyn Roberts, a fine achievement from a start position of 81. Mark Williams and Robin Harvey Evans claimed second in their Honda Civic Type R, while Gwenan Haf Jones and Rhys Jones claimed third in their Peugeot 205 GTi.

Photo by Sonya Jones Rally Photography, https://www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography

Both Andy and I wish to extend our sincerest thanks to Harlech and District Motor Club for organising one of the best road rallies a crew could ever wish to compete on. The lanes of 123 are among the finest anywhere in the country, and Emyr, Rhys and team know how to get the most out of them, no doubt. I’d still be just as effusive in my praise if we’d turned around and gone home when the clutch started to slip; the fact we managed to finish has just reinforced the fact that we will definitely return in 2019! Anyone reading this unsure about travelling up to Pwllheli, make sure you get your entry in as soon as they open next year!

Diolch yn fawr iawn,
Michael Gilbey, Navigator – Car 9, Subaru Impreza – 4th Overall

Thanks to Joseph John Gilbertson (www.facebook.com/joseph.j.gilbertson), Jez Turner (www.facebook.com/jez.turner.161) & Sonya Jones Rally Photography (www.facebook.com/s.jones.rallyphotography) 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!