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Toyota Harlech Stages

Harlech & District Motor Club

15th October 2023

Toyota Harlech Stages 2023
Winners: Darrell Taylor/Cat Lund (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
Photograph: Sonya Jones

Organiser: Harlech & District Motor Club

Date: 15th October 2023

Clerk of the Course: Wenna Roberts

Stages: 6 Stages (51 Miles)

Base: Llanbedr Airfield

Starters: 75 + 12 Juniors

The Toyota Harlech Stages celebrated its 10th anniversary of running the event at Llanbedr Airfield. The 2023 rally was run in memory of Kevin Ephraim, a stalwart Harlech Motor Club member, who died earlier in the year.

Six stages were planned, in most part using the perimeter roads of the airfield. This would provide 51 miles of competition. A well supported F1000 Junior Rally ran in tandem with the main event. There was a capacity 75 car entry, with 12 Juniors taking part in their event.

Dry but cold conditions greeted competitors and marshals in the morning and the day would be free of rain, while the sun warmed the tarmac as the event progressed.

The opening 6 miles stage was the shortest of the event, but it saw the demise of the top seeds; Rob Hughes/Sion Cunniff had the gearbox on their Fiesta R5 fail on the stage. They got to the stage finish and posted a time, but got no further.

Darrell Taylor/Cat Lund (Ford Fiesta Rally2) took fastest time and the lead, they were two seconds faster than Oliver Davies/Jack Bowen (Ford Escort) and Jason Wilson/Lee Wilson (Darrian T90 GTR), who now shared second place.

The Citroen C2 VTS of Richard Fletcher/Cassy Romeo broke a shaft as it left the start line and was pushed back into Service, where a new part was fitted and they continued the rest of the event from SS2 onwards. They finished in 49th position.

Also out at this early stage was the Ford Escort of Robert Cargill/Sophie Law; the engine failed and they were left stranded.

SS2 was over 9 miles in length, using three circuits of the airfield's outer roads. Wilson/Wilson got their Darrian wound up and were fastest by ten seconds, taking the lead, by eight seconds, from Taylor/Lund, who had been baulked by a slower car. Rob Tout/Terry Martin (Ford Fiesta R5) took third on the stage and third place overall as a result.

Martin Farrar/Andy Ward parked their Subaru Impreza up on the stage as the car suffered a loss of power.

The Renault Clio of Ashley Furlong/Pete Phennah was leading its class and holding eighth overall after the stage, however it went no further as a failed gearbox stopped the car.

There was a slight adjustment to the layout for SS3, but Wilson/Wilson took fastest time again, extending their lead to 18 seconds over Taylor/Lund. Chris Simmons/Frazer Moss (Darrian T90 GTR) shared fastest time with Wilson. Simmons was chasing Welsh Tarmac Championship points, which he led prior to the Harlech Stages. They sat with fourth place on the leader board.

Mark Jasper/Simon John Rogers (Skoda Fabia) had held fourth place after SS2, but failing brakes saw them drop time on SS3 and then withdraw at the lunch break that followed.

Car 10, the Escort of Martin Davies/Jason Davies, came to a halt on this stage. After a delay, and a stage maximum, they manage to resolve the issue and completed the event.

Toyota Harlech Stages 2023

SS4 was to have a dramatic affect on the lead battle; a water pipe burst on Jason Wilson's Darrian and he had to cut to Service and retirement.

Meanwhile, Taylor/Lund shared fastest time with Tout/Martin, leaving these two crews in the top two places and separated by 28 seconds.

Wilson's retirement should have elevated Chris Simmons/Frazer Moss to third, but they miscalculated the split and did an extra 'lap' of the stage, adding over three minutes to their time and dropping them to 25th place. They were not alone, a number of crews committed the same offence.

In third now were Oliver Davies/Jack Bowen; they had been slowed on SS3 by a rear axle problem, however this was fixed at the lunch halt.

The fifth stage was the last 'four lapper', but made little difference to the top positions, with Tout/Martin closing the gap to Taylor/Lund by just a second. Davies/Bowen were still in third, but now over a minute off second place.

The big movers on this stage were Russell Davies/Richard Suter (Darrian T90) who jumped from eighth to sixth place and a recovering Simmons/Moss, who took fastest time and moved up to eleventh place.

The final stage was just a little longer than the first at six and a half miles. Taylor/Lund put in a time four seconds quicker than Tout/Martin, while Simmons/Moss' time was two seconds behind the leaders and likely to move into the top ten.

However, after only 16 cars had completed the stage, Simon Tuckman/Denzel Heeks rolled their Mark One Escort and the pair couldn't extract themselves. The stage was stopped while medical and safety crews attended the incident. After check ups, both crew members were passed as fit, but the delay had eaten into the remaining daylight time and so the decision was taken to declare the results of the event after SS5.

The first time pairing of Darrell Taylor/Cat Lund duly took their debut win, with a 28 seconds victory margin over Rob Tout/Terry Martin.

Charlie Mathewson/Ian Bass (Peugeot 107) led the Junior Rally throughout the day, the event running for all six of its intended stages. The winners were three seconds ahead of the field on SS1 and 23 seconds at the Finish. Oliver Waggett/Jon Aston (Citroen C1) chased them hard throughout, but had to be content with a solid second place, despite taking fastest time on the last stage.

All 12 starters made the Finish. The main incidents during the event were Jack Birch/Mike Jode (Nissan Micra) sliding on to the wet grass on SS1 and being unable to regain the tarmac; they eventually finished the stage, but took a maximum, and continued to finish in last place. George Fenner-Leitao/Izzie Holman (Nissan Micra) slid into a ditch on SS2, they continued after collecting a stage maximum.