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Autumn Road Rally

Sponsored by John Morgan Autoparts & Cath Williams Catering

Carmarthen Motor Club

23rd/24th September 2023

Autumn Road Rally 2023
Winners: George Williams/Cadog Davies (Ford Escort)
Photograph: Joseph John Gilbertson

Organiser: Carmarthen Motor Club

Date: 23rd/24th September 2023

Clerk of the Course: Alan James & Owain Davies

Route: 100 Miles (Maps 145 146 158 & 159)

Base: Carmarthen Cattle Market

Starters: 85

The sodden lanes and tracks of South West Wales were the venue for the Autumn Rally, Round Seven of the Welsh Championship.

Heavy rain, the remnants of Hurricane Lee, the previous weekend had left large areas flooded and led to a number of last minute re-route, which the organisers had to deal with in the days prior to the rally. Then, on the event, torrential rain fell throughout the night.

Five late withdrawals from the capacity 90 car meant that 85 crews took the start from Carmarthen Auction Mart.

A short four minute section, under two miles from the start, used tight lanes to the south of the A40, starting at Nantyrhebog. It wasn't an easy introduction, all competitors dropped at least a minute on it.

Fastest to TC2 were Ieaun Evans/Dafydd-Sion Lloyd (Ford Escort); they were on 1m17s, while Richard Jerman/Ian Beamond (Ford Escort) were second on 1m28s. Beamond had been drafted in a navigator for the Autumn as Jerman's regular partner, Alan James, was doing duty as Clerk of the Course.

Huw Jones/Shaun Richards were looking to repeat their 2022 win on the Carmarthen MC event, but got only a mile or so before their Peugeot 206 XSi broke a drive shaft and they were out.

The second section was an eleven minuter, starting at Llanddowror and finishing near Laugharne. All the leading crews cleaned the two time controls on this sector. However Ethan Davies/Nick Bloxham had the gearbox fail on their Puma here.

Section Three, TC6 to TC9, was located in the high ground above Pendine Sands, and included two long 'white' sections. Evans/Lloyd shared fastest time with George Williams/Cadog Davies (Ford Escort) at the first time control, but the former crew then dropped a minute at TC9, which was timed to the minute. Williams/Davies cleaned it and were now tied with Jerman/Beamond for the lead. Mike Roberts/Andrew Edwards retired on this section when the gearbox on their Escort broke.

TC10 to TC11 was a seven minute section that was cleaned by all of the leading crews, but saw the end of the rally for Breeze Jones/Jamie Mills; their Sierra suffering a failed clutch.

The next section was more challenging; it was an intricate ten miles, with five timing points. All the top crews dropped time at the first ITC, the route to which used a ford at Whitland Abbey. Jerman/Beamond took the lead here, as they beat Williams/Davies by six seconds.

All this action became irrelevant when Wayne 'Tar' Jones, most famous for exploits in a Darrian on stage events, drowned out his Renault Clio in the ford and blocked the route for following cars. A reroute was quickly, taking crews to the start of the next section, but causing the cancellation of the fifth section in total.

Competition recommenced at TC18 near Cwmfelin Mynach, with competitive motoring continuing until the final control before Petrol, TC25, at Blaen-y-coed. The last three timing points on this section were the only ones at which the top crews dropped time.

TC24 was timed to the minute, while TC23 and TC25 were to the second. This led to an interesting situation where the quickest cars at TC23 dropped a minute at TC24. Rob Stephens/Kieran Price (Ford Escort) were quickest to TC23, being 46 seconds late. This gave them 4m14s to make their minute at TC24, they failed and added a minute to their total. In contrast, Williams/Davies were 1m07s late at TC23, thus giving them 4m53s to get to TC24 in time; they did it. Over the two controls Williams/Davies picked up 1m07s of penalties, while Stephens/Price added 1m46s to their total. That difference was to be crucial at the Finish.

Autumn Road Rally 2023

At Petrol, which was taken at Cynwyl Elfed, Williams/Davies led; they were 11 seconds ahead of Stephens/Price, while John Davies/Eurin Davies (Peugeot 206) were in third, 22 seconds further back. Tomos Evans/Emyr Jones (Ford Escort) were in seventh place and led the Expert Class by over three minutes. Rhodri Lewis/Trystan Leyshon (Citroen Saxo) held a similar advantage in the Semi-Expert category over their rivals.

There was a much tighter fight in the Novices, where the top three crews were separated by just 30 seconds. Leading were Carwyn Jones/Steffan Thomas (Proton Compact); they were six seconds ahead Barry Quibell/David Lee (Ford Escort).

Petrol was taken at two-thirds distance and there were just two sections remaining before crews returned to the Auction Mart for the Finish.

The first section ran from near Petrol to Pen-y-Bont; there were five timing points. The leaders first dropped time at TC28 and it saw Stephens/Price draw level with Williams/Davies. However, Williams/Davies were back in front by the end of the section as they beat Stephens/Price by six seconds to TC30.

In the treacherous conditions, Jerman/Beamond, who had been in fourth at Petrol, slid into a ditch towards the end of the section and lost over 35 minutes. They would have been out, but due to the weather the organisers had extended maximum lateness to 45 minutes and the crew continued to the Finish, finally being classified in 31st position.

The battle for first place continued into the final section, which was in the Meidrim area. It contained three timing points. Williams/Davies extended their lead by 13 seconds at TC33, but Stephens/Price were quickest to the final TC and closed to within five second of their rivals in the final reckoning.

Williams/Davies therefore came home to take their second Welsh Championship win of the year, just ahead of Stephens/Price. Ieaun Evans/Dafydd-Sion Lloyd were third, almost a minute off the lead and 27 seconds ahead of Davies/Davies.

Eighteen year old Moi Williams continued his impressive run of results, navigating Arwel Evans to tenth place and winning the Gareth 'Jaffa' Roberts Award for the highest placed navigator aged under 21.

Martin Curzon/Richy Williams had been in the top ten when they were another crew to visit a ditch, sliding off the road within sight of the final TC. They lost over 20 minutes and dropped to 26th in the overall standings.

Tomos Evans/Emyr Jones continued their domination of the Expert Class in the second half, taking best time to final TC. They finished five minutes ahead of Nathan Summers/Scott Marshall (Ford Escort) and were sixth overall.

Osian Jones/Llyr Davies (Nissan Micra) closed the gap on the leading Semi-Experts, Rhodri Lewis/Trystan Leyshon, after Petrol, but still finished just under a minute off the class win.

Barry Quibell/David Lee came through to win the Novice Class, passing Carwyn Jones/Steffan Thomas on the penultimate section.

Arwel 'Sbidi' Hughes Jones/Dylan John Williams (Ford Escort) finished in fifth place. Hughes Jones now led the Welsh Championship by ten points and, with two rounds remaining, could only be denied the title by George Williams.

In the Navigators' table, Dylan John Williams was in first place, five points ahead of Dafydd-Sion Lloyd, while Cadog Davies was 19 points off the lead, but, along with the other two, could still win the series.