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Rali Cilwendeg

Sponsored by Forge Aberaeron

Teifi Valley Motor Club

21st/22nd October 2023

Rali Cilwendeg 2023
Winners: Chris Richmond Hand/Shaun Richards (Ford Escort)
Photograph: © Brian Gilbert (Photosport)

Organiser: Teifi Valley Motor Club

Date: 21st/22nd October 2023

Clerk of the Course: Dafydd-Sion Lloyd & Chris Hill

Route: 110 Miles (Maps 145)

Base: Newcastle Emlyn

Starters: 90

The 90 starting places on the Rali Cilwendeg were vastly over-subscribed and with hopeful reserve crews at Signing On, it was a full 90 car entry that took the Start.

As usual, the start venue at Newcastle Emlyn was thronging with spectators, and, after a few early light showers, the crowds were to be rewarded with a largely dry night.

The competitors faced a typical demanding Cilwendeg route. It was 110 miles long with just six competitive sectors, starting and finishing in the event's home town.

SS1 was located just south of Cenarth and was the start of seven four minute sections. It ran around Capel Iwan and Cwmorgan, before finishing near Blaenwaun.

Almost everyone was clean at TC1, but a tight two mile run from Gelynen, via Hendy, looping around via Cilwaunydd Fawr, and finishing at Blaenwaunfach, caught out everybody.

Former Welsh Champions, Mark 'GT' Roberts/Dylan Jenkins (VW Golf GTi) were fastest at TC2, ten seconds ahead of Ieuan Evans/Dafydd Evans (Escort), who were second fastest. However, Evans/Evans were then the only top competitor to drop time at TC3; they were 27 seconds late there.

The 2019 Cilwendeg winning driver, Chris Richmond Hand, with 2022 Autumn winner Shaun Richards navigating, were third fastest, a second ahead of multiple Cilwendeg winners, John Davies/Eurig Davies (Vauxhall Astra).

The next tight section was between TC4 and TC5 at Cwmorgan. Hand/Richards shared fastest time here with Evans/Evans; this put Hand/Richards into a lead of eight seconds over Roberts/Jenkins, with Davies/Davies four seconds further back.

TC6 to TC7 was timed to the minute as it used a long section of track at Fronglyd. Most crews, including Hand/Richards, Roberts/Jenkins and Davies/Davies, dropped a minute at TC7, but George Williams/Cadog Davies (Escort) cleaned it and took the lead. They were now nine seconds ahead of Andy Davies/Michael Gilbey (Subaru Impreza), who also made TC7 on time. Hand/Richards were in third, 30 seconds off the lead.

It was a fairly straight run from TC7 to the end of the section, but three triangle controls, including SF1, had to be negotiated to get there.

Hand/Richards cleaned the run and this put them back into the lead, as Williams/Davies overshot one of the triangles and dropped 47 seconds, and they were now tied with Davies/Davies for third place. Davies/Gilbey were 23 second late at SF1 and so were two seconds behind the leaders.

The sector from SS2 to SF2 contained three TCs. For the leading crews the critical controls were the first, TC8, and the finish, SF2. TC8 was on a track at Dyffrynbach, everyone dropped time there.

Hand/Richards were 20 seconds late at TC8, while Davies/Gilbey dropped 19 seconds; the two were now separated by just one second. Davies/Davies pulled clear of Williams/Davies for third and were 16 seconds off the lead.

Mike Roberts/Nick Bloxham (Escort) were fastest to SF2, but were still outside the top ten. Davies/Davies moved into second place, narrowing the gap to Hand/Richards to 13 seconds. Davies/Gilbey fell back to third, two seconds behind Davies/Davies.

Rali Cilwendeg 2023

Petrol was taken at Glandy Cross, with the halfway rest halt at the Cafe Becca in Efailwen. The Expert Class was led at this point by Llyr Williams/Ceri Davies (Peugeot 206), who were in seventh place overall; they were over a minute ahead of their nearest class rivals, Steve Knibbs/Gerwyn Barry (Proton Satria), who were in twelfth place.

Joshua Weston/Gethin Jones (Peugeot 106) led the combined Semi-Expert/Novice Class; they held a 13 second lead over Dion James/Richard James (Escort).

Eighty of the 90 starters made it to the fuel halt. Not amongst them were Kevin Kerr/Kieran Price (Escort) and Lewis Morgan/Marc Hughes (Escort), who had both retired.

The third section was the shortest of the night, it was a simple loop through Maes-yr-Wyn, to the west of the A478. The most significant incident here was the retirement of John Davies/Eurig Davies; the water tank exploded on their Astra and they were out.

Both Chris Richmond Hand/Shaun Richards and Ieuan Evans/Dafydd Evans cleaned SF3, this put the latter crew 12 seconds behind Andy Davies/Michael Gilbey in what, with the Astra's retirement, was now the battle for second place. Hand/Richards had extended their lead to 21 seconds.

The fourth sector was a mammoth 25-miler, with seven TCs before the finish control. It started to the east of Llanfyrnach, went in an intricate pattern around Bwlchygroes, then after a run though Ffynone Wood, finished just outside Llechryd.

Most of the leading runners lost time at only two of the TCs - TC15 which was at Bwlchygroes and TC17 which was after Ffynone Wood. Davies/Gilbey were quickest to the control, eight seconds ahead of the leaders. Llyr Williams/Ceri Davies were second fastest at the control to extend their class lead.

Richard Jerman/Alan James (Escort) were now in third place, a minute and a half behind Hand/Richards and leading a group of five cars, all within 30 seconds of each other.

Hand/Richards were fastest to TC17, but only by a second from Evans/Evans, Davies/Gilbey and Jerman/James.

Mark Lennox/Ian Beamond had been in thirteenth place at Petrol after a time consuming wrong slot in the first half. Then on the fourth section the steering rack on their Escort broke and they were out.

The penultimate section started with a tricky all tarmac route from Llandygwydd to Ponthirwaun, that included three triangle PCs. Hand/Richards were the only ones to clean it, although most of their challengers were only a matter of seconds late at TC18.

The leaders remained clean until the final ten minute section leading to SF5; this included the use of the Felin Wnda white. They dropped 18 seconds at the control, but this was nine seconds better than Davies/Gilbey; their advantage was now 26 seconds, while Jerman/James, in third, were over two minutes off the lead.

Iwan Jones/Andrew Lowe (Ford Escort) picked up a puncture on the white and lost over a minute. They went on to finish in seventh place, which was good enough to secure the ANWCC Championship for Lowe; the second time that he had taken the title. His quest was eased by the fact that Paul Holmberg, navigating for Danny Cowell, picked up a fail after not having a route check correctly counter signed. Despite this, previous results ensured that Cowell topped the ANWCC Drivers' table for 2023.

The final section was a classic Cilwendeg test, with no let up for either crew member as it wound a five mile route from Rhydlewis to Newcastle Emlyn.

Once again, Hand/Richards put in the best performance, coming home to seal the win, with a victory margin over Davies/Gilbey of just under a minute. Jerman/James completed the podium places.

The two crews battling for the Welsh Championship, George Williams/Cadog Davies and Arwel Hughes-Jones/Dylan John Williams, recovered from the lower reaches of the top ten at Petrol, to finish in fourth and fifth places respectively. This means that Williams must take maximum points on the final round of the series, the Powys Lanes, to deny Hughes Jones the title.

Dylan John Williams also holds the upper hand in the navigator's table; Cadog Davies must take at least second WAMC points scorer on the final round to have a chance of the championship. The Cilwendeg Clerk of the Course, Dafydd-Sion Lloyd, is still in with a shout, but must be the top WAMC scorer on the Powys Lanes to be able to claim the crown.

Llyr Williams/Ceri Davies moved up to sixth overall at the Finish and held on to their Expert Class lead. Joshua Weston/Gethin Jones held on to their Semi-Expert/Novice Class lead throughout the second half and took the award at the end.