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E Roberts (Ffestiniog) Memorial Rali Meirion

Sponsored by John Roberts (Ffestiniog) Ltd & R E Jones Ltd

Harlech & District Motor Club

30th September/1st October 2023

Rali Meirion 2023
Winners: Iwan Roberts Jnr/Daniel Jones (Toyota Corolla)
Photograph: Joseph John Gilbertson

Organiser: Harlech & District Motor Club

Date: 30th September/1st October 2023

Clerk of the Course: Emyr Jones & Rob Mason

Route: 109 Miles (Map 124)

Base: Dolgellau

Starters: 49

If the 49 starters on the Dolgellau based Rali Meirion were expecting an easy introduction to the event, they were mistaken - the first section used almost all the road in the infamous Dolgellau Maze.

The organising team hadn't used the roads in southern Snowdonia previously and were therefore unsure of how many controls were required to ensure competitors dropped time. They erred on the side of caution and had 149 controls in the 109 mile route. This proved more than sufficient as all cars dropped time on most sections.

For the third weekend in a row a Welsh road rally was run in torrential rain; the Palferman and Autumn rallies having suffered the same conditions.

Five crews made the first timing point near Llwyn-y-sarn, at the northern end of the Maze, on time, but all were late at SS3F, a further six miles into the route at Ochr y Foel. Fastest were Iwan Jones/Dafydd-Sion Lloyd (Escort) on 1m35s, but they were only two seconds ahead of Deion Atkinson/Kieran Price (BMW 318Ti). Iwan Roberts Jnr/Daniel Jones (Toyota Corolla) were the only other crew under two minutes, coming in 1m53s behind their time.

Already on the retirement list were Declan Mason/Jamie Mills, who lasted two miles before the clutch on their Escort failed.

The second section moved further up the main road to Bala, running from Wenallt to Bryn-coed-ifor; a four minuter. Once again, Jones/Lloyd were fastest, dropping 55s, while top seeds, George Williams/Cadog Davies (Escort) and Dewi Jones/Iwan Jones (Mazda MX5) were on 59s.

The action then moved back towards Dolgellau with a very tight section around Dolserau Hall Hotel, which finished on the white that ends near Cross Foxes. Jones/Lloyd extended their lead further as they beat Roberts Jnr/Jones by 20 seconds, putting them 45 seconds ahead of the Toyota crew, who in turn were now 24 seconds in front of Atkinson/Price.

A number of competitors missed a route check on a triangle at the entrance to Dolserau Hall; most notably ANWCC Championship leaders Danny Cowell/Paul Holmberg (Subaru Impreza) picked up a fail here. Later they missed a PC and so ended the night in 24th place.

Roberts Jnr/Jones pegged back their deficit to the leaders by 32 seconds on the next section, which used the lanes and tracks immediately to the south of Dolgellau. This left them 13 seconds behind Jones/Lloyd. Atkinson/Price, in third, were now almost a minute off first place.

Eric Roberts/Richard 'Tyson' Morris, who were well inside the top ten, retired after this section as their Escort, which had been awarded the Best Presented Car Award, developed electrical problems. The wet conditions were taking their toll as both Mark Parry/Iolo Jones-Evans (Talbot Sunbeam) and Iwan Bowness/Tomos Shakespeare (Peugeot 206) withdrew when their cars developed severe misfires.

The fifth section started at Arthog on the Maddawch Estuary and ran up the northern slopes of Cader Idris before descending back to the main road via the Kings White. There were three time controls on the section. By the end of it Jones/Lloyd held a lead of 32 seconds. The top five positions at this point were: Jones/Lloyd 8m59s; Roberts Jnr/Jones 9m31s; Atkinson/Price 10m18s; Williams/Davies 11m14s and Dewi Jones/Iwan Jones 12m46s.

Rali Meirion 2023

The route then tracked northwards, starting at the western end of the Maze and running through Coed-yr-Brenin to finish just above the holiday village at Trawsfynydd.

It was to have a crucial affect on the battle for the lead as Jones/Lloyd drove through PC25, near the start of the section, not seeing the marshal. They incurred a fail, which dropped them well down the order and out of contention for the win.

Petrol was taken at Trawsfynydd. At this point Roberts Jnr/Jones led on 10m03s, while Atkinson/Price had narrowed the gap to them to 36 seconds. While Williams/Davies were 1m45s off the lead.

Tenth placed Carwyn Evans/Robin Harvey (Escort) led the Semi-Expert Class by over a minute and went on to take the class win at the Finish. The Novice Class leaders at this point were Aron Jones/Gavin Jones (Mazda MX5), the only Novices without a fail. However, they were to retire soon after the restart, this allowed Dyfan Williams/Llifon Williams (Toyota Corolla) to take the class award.

Thirty-one cars made it to Petrol, not amongst these were Richard Jerman/Steven Roberts (Escort) and Kevin Kerr/Max Freeman (Escort), both crews having withdrawn.

Action recommenced near the old Trawsfynydd Power Station and finished near Pont Tal-y-bont. Atkinson/Price were fastest, but Roberts Jnr/Jones were only three seconds slower and maintained their lead.

What turned out to be the final section of the night was a four minuter that ran around Pen y Foel. Iwan Roberts Snr/Guto Sion Williams (Toyota Corolla) were fastest, two seconds ahead of Roberts Jnr/Jones. Roberts Snr/Williams were classified in sixth place at the Finish.

The next section ran south, parallel to the coast, starting at Bryn Bwbach and finishing at Coed Ystumgwern. As the first crews tackled the early part, they encountered severe flooding. The organisers quickly took the decision to cancel the section before other competitors started it and sent crews directly to the Finish.

Atkinson/Price had drowned out and took some time to get going again, however, the cancellation of the last two sections gave them plenty of time to get to the Finish within their maximum lateness. They were classified in second place, 54 seconds behind the winners, Iwan Roberts Jnr/Daniel Jones, the driver's first road rally victory.

Third was taken by George Williams/Cadog Davies, while Dewi Jones/Iwan Jones were fourth. Gareth Jones/Andrew Lowe (Escort) were fifth; this result, plus the bad night for Paul Holmberg, moved Lowe to the top of the ANWCC Navigator Table, with two rounds remaining. Holmberg's partner, Danny Cowell still leads the Drivers' table.