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Night Owl Rally

Sponsored by Tomos Lewis Body Repairs

Aberystwyth & District Motor Club

29th/30th April 2023

Night Owl 2023
Winners: Ieuan Evans/Dafydd-Sion Lloyd (Ford Escort)
Photograph: Joseph John Gilbertson

Organiser: Aberystwyth & District Motor Club

Date: 29th/30th April 2023

Clerk of the Course: Irfon Richards & Richard Williams

Route: 100 Miles (Maps 135)

Base: Aberystwyth

Starters: 89

The National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth provided the start venue for the Night Owl Rally, the third round of the Welsh Road Rally Championship. It was to prove a tough event.

An oversubscribed 90 car entry, resulted in 89 cars taking the start at just before Midnight. They were led away by the current Championship leaders, Arwel Hughes Jones/Dylan John Williams (Ford Escort), while Rali Bro Caron winners Andy Davies/Michael Gilbey (Subaru Impreza) were at Number 2.

The opening section snaked its way between Llandre and Borth, to finished at Tal-y-Bont. There were four time controls, three of them timed to the second.

Richard Jerman/Alan James (Ford Escort) were the only crew to be clean at the first ITC and were quickest again at the end of the section. Ieuan Evans/Dafydd-Sion Lloyd (Ford Escort) were second fastest, nine seconds behind.

Crossing the main Aberystwyth-Machynlleth road, the second section was a short one, starting at Tre'r-ddol and looping around to finish at Tal-y-Bont.

Evans/Lloyd were fastest, 17 seconds ahead of Jerman/James, giving them the lead. Hughes Jones/Williams matched the leader's time and were now third, five seconds off second place. John Davies/Eurig Davies (Vauxhall Astra) were fourth 20 seconds further back.

Davies/Gilbey came to grief on this section. They put their Impreza into a ditch and retired soon afterwards.

A run over the Nant-yr-Moch mountain road followed. Most runners cleaned the section to the first TC, which was timed to the minute, but all dropped time at TC6S. This section ran over the dam and used five three-metre triangle controls.

Once again Evans/Lloyd were fastest, extending their lead to 15 seconds. However, they were now being chased by Hughes Jones/Williams, they had now passed Jerman/James. These two crews were separated by 12 seconds. Thirty seconds further back there was a close battle for fourth as Iwan Jones/Andrew Lowe closed in on Davies/Davies.

The gap between the two leaders was cut by a further four seconds as Evans/Lloyd were four seconds late at the end of the section, while all the other leading crews were clean.

A visit to the infamous Ystumteum Loop completed the first half; the start was at Llywernog and it ended at Cwmbrwyno. There was one ITC.

Jones/Lowe booked in early at the ITC and added 40 seconds to their total, this dropped them behind Mark Lennox/Robbie Pugh (Ford Escort), who moved into fifth.

After this section crews took on fuel at Ponterwyd. At this point Evans/Lloyd held a lead of nine second over Hughes Jones/Williams, while Jerman/James were now 26 seconds off the lead in third place. Davies/Davies were in fourth, but over a minute off first place.

Further back the latter third of the field had been badly affected by Car 63 going off and blocking the road. Many were delayed. Some decided to miss out the Ystumtuen Loop to reach the Main Control at Petrol on time, others continued and found that they were OTL at the halt.

At Petrol Gethin Dafis/Dion Lewis (Ford Escort) were holding tenth place and led the Expert Class. They maintained their pace in the second half and ended in ninth place, taking the class win by four minutes.

As crews left Ponterwyd the heavens opened and it rained heavily for the rest of the event. This made the demanding route even more difficult.

The opening section of the second half used the roads and tracks in the Pendam area. It had a significant affect on the lead battle as Hughes Jones/Williams picked up a puncture and dropped three minutes to their rivals.

By the end of the section Evans/Lloyd held a lead of 44 seconds over Jerman/James. Jones/Lowe were the fastest car over Pendam and this pushed them up to third place, but this was over a minute behind Jerman/James. Twenty-five seconds further back, Lennox/Pugh were in fourth, but had Davies/Davies just two seconds behind them.

The rally ended with two sections on either side of the Aberystwyth to Devils Bridge road. All crews dropped time at the end of the first of these. Once again, Evans/Lloyd were fastest, but Jerman/James were only two seconds behind them, keeping the pressure on to the final test.

Owain Rowlands/Jamie Mills (Mazda MX5) had been lost time when they went off the road on the Ystumtuen section, but put in the same time as Jerman/James on Section 6, this helped to move them back up to twelfth by the Finish.

The route then reversed direction; the final section taking crews back to Aberystwyth via Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn.

Jerman/James closed the gap to Evans/Lloyd by 25 seconds over the section, but this still left them 21 seconds behind at the Finish. These top two crews were over two minutes ahead of the rest of the field in the final classification.

Jones/Lowe came in third, with Lennox/Pugh having closed to within 24 seconds of them on the final section. Ethan Davies/Gary Evans (Ford Puma) lost time here after going off the road; they got pulled out and were classified in tenth place at the Finish.

A second puncture lost Hughes Jones/Williams more time and, with Masters having only a 20 minutes lateness limit, they failed to make the final control within time, therefore they weren't classified as a Finisher.

The Semi-Expert Class was won by Gethin Jones/Lewis Griffiths (Mazda MX5), who were over six minutes ahead of their nearest class rival at the Finish.

The highly experienced Gareth 'Penuwch' Richards/Maurice Leach (Ford Escort) won the Novice Class, but they ended only a minute ahead of Steffan Roberts/Edward Rawlinson (Peugeot 206), who had to be content with second in class.