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Palferman Road Rally

Sponsored by Anglesey Aggregates

Caernarvonshire & Anglesey Motor Club

16th/17th September 2023

Palferman Road Rally 2023
Winners: Arwel Hughes Jones/Dylan John Williams (Ford Escort)
Photograph: © Duncan Littler

Organiser: Caernarvonshire & Anglesey Motor Club

Date: 16th/17th September 2023

Clerk of the Course: Gruff Parry, Dion Bee & Shaun Bee

Route: 110 Miles (Map 114)

Base: Bangor

Starters: 60

The Palferman Rally, an event first run in 1936, returned after a break of 13 years in 2023. The organisers had laid out a 110 mile route, with all the competitive sections on Anglesey. However, due to the lack of suitable venues on the island, both the start and finish were on the mainland.

The start was at Nantporth Stadium, the home of Bangor FC. Sixty crews assembled at the venue for the post-penultimate round of the ANWCC Championship. They were to face a night of persistent rain.

Notably the time allowed for the run out from Bangor to the start of the opening section had to be extended as the Welsh Government's new 20mph speed limits came into effect at Midnight, just as the rally got underway.

The first standard section was just under nine miles long and included two intermediate time controls. It ran from Mynydd Bodafon, through Llaneuddog, to finish at Penysarn. It caused no difficulty for the top runners as a dozen crews were still clean after it.

SS2 to SF2 was a simple four minute section, just to the south-west of Amlwch, but included a passage control in a farmyard and a route check on a triangle. Everyone dropped time here. The winners of the last running of the Palferman in 2010, Arwel Hughes Jones/Dylan John Williams, were debuting a new Escort, and took fastest time by over 20 seconds.

On home territory, the Novice crew of Ceiron Owen/Rhidion Jones (Peugeot 206 GTi) were second quickest. They continued that pace on the third section, but then missed a route check on the fifth and fell down the order.

The reigning American Rally Association Champion Co-Driver, Keaton Williams, was tackling his first rally as a driver and, partnered by Jamie Mills, took third fastest time in his Proton Satria at SF2.

Section 3 was another short four minuter, using the tricky yellow to the north of the A5025 from Peibron to Neuadd. Hughes Jones/Williams were fastest again, but had to share the honours this time with Sion Matthews/Iwan Evans (Vauxhall Astra).

At this point, in the overall standings, the Escort pairing led the Astra crew by 22 seconds. Dyfed Pritchard/Llion Williams (Ford Escort) were in third, 38 seconds off the lead.

Two Escorts from the top ten starters had left the fray by this point; these were Eric Roberts/Paul Owen and Tom Williams/Gareth Flynn, the latter's car succumbing to engine maladies.

The fourth section continued the route's westerly run along the north coast and included an Intermediate Time Control, timed to the minute. Prior to this there was an intricate course that included two short white loops off the A5025 in square 9134. Dewi Jones/Aron Roberts (Mazda MX5) lost three minutes at the ITC, and Lee Matthews/John Evans (Ford Consul Capri GT) were amongst a number of crews who dropped a minute.

All cars dropped time to SF4. Williams/Mills put in the best performance over the section, dropping just 10 seconds, which was 13 better than Hughes Jones/Williams; despite this the Escort crew still managed to extend their lead, as they were 15 seconds quicker than Matthews/Evans.

After a short Neutral through Llanfairynghornwy, the final section before Petrol started at Waen Lych and, after four ITCs, eight PCs and four RCs, finished just outside Bodedern. Hughes Jones/Williams put in a storming performance, being the only crew to clean the run to TC5a and dropping just eight seconds to SF5. They arrived at MC2, which was at Valley, with a lead of 1m13s, having accumulated a total of just 1m15s themselves.

Palferman Road Rally 2023

Keaton Williams seemed to have got the hang of this driving lark and was now in in second place; he and navigator Mills, at this point were 11 seconds ahead of third placed Matthews/Evans.

Pritchard/Williams were in fourth place, just eight seconds ahead of the BMW 318i of Chris Farrell/Phil Savage. Alun Pierce Jones/Alun Hayward (Ford Escort) were in sixth, but hit problems in the second half. Towards the end of the penultimate section the car cut out; the problem was finally traced to a broken earth wire on the alternator, but by the time the car was running again, they were OTL.

Merfyn Williams/Derwyn Roberts (Ford Fiesta) were inside the top ten, when, on the section before Petrol, the car started to develop gearbox problems. They withdrew at the fuel halt.

Competition restarted with another short sharp section, this one using the twisty not-as-map lanes around Llanfairyneubwll. Hughes Jones/Williams were the only crew to clean it. Meanwhile Williams/Mills lost 47 seconds and dropped to third place behind Matthews/Evans.

The seventh section was the longest of the night. It started to the east of Bodedern and via nine ITCs, finished besides Mona Airfield. The tightest segment was the whites in squares 3979 and 3980; these contained TP7c.

This third control was the only one at which the leaders dropped any time in the second half; they were a minute late here, a time matched by Steve King/Carl Williamson (BMW 318Ti Compact).

With this being the only penalty added to their total, Hughes Jones/Williams came home to win with a victory margin of 3m21s, having dropped just 2m15s themselves. A truly dominant performance.

The battle for the runner up spot was decided on Section Seven, with Pritchard/Williams taking almost a minute from Matthews/Evans, thus ending the rally 18 seconds ahead of the Astra duo, who finished in third.

Williams/Mills fell further down the order after being baulked by another competitor for a number of controls on the penultimate section. They also dropped time on the final section, which most other leading contenders cleaned. They ended the event in eighth place.

Having lost time in the first half with a wrong slot, Carwyn Evans/Aled Pennant (Ford Escort) recovered after Petrol to climb from ninth to fourth place at the Finish. An even better improvement was made by Gethin Eifion Jones/Dylan Richards (Mazda MX5), who moved from fourteenth at the fuel halt to fifth at the end.

continuing their run of good results, Dafydd Huw Jones/Moi Williams (Nissan Micra) finished in sixth place, these successes included second overall on the JD Romain and two Targa wins for the navigator.

The leading Semi-Expert crew of Emyr Owen/Ifan Devine (Ford Escort) were seventh, 24 seconds ahead of class rivals, Gerallt Williams/Osian Richards (Ford Escort), who finished in ninth.

There was a tight finish in the Novice category with Rhian Jones/Deio Rhys Jones (Suzuki Baleno) finishing seven seconds ahead of Geraint Bowness/Huw Evans (Toyota Corolla T-Sport), reversing the positions that they had held at the halfway point.

In the ANWCC Championship, Danny Cowell/Paul Holmberg (Subaru Impreza) finished in thirteenth place and moved to the head of their respective tables. Cowell was assisted by Richard Hunter not entering the Palferman and Chris Way retiring with gearbox problems. Meanwhile Holmberg is in a tight battle with Andrew Lowe, who finished the Palferman in fifteenth place.