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Powys Lanes Rally

Sponsored by DG Jones Agri Ltd

Epynt Motor Club

11th/12th November 2023

Rali PowysLanes 2023
Winners: Arwel Hughes-Jones/Dylan John Williams (Ford Escort)
Photograph: © Brian Gilbert (Photosport)

Organiser: Epynt Motor Club

Date: 11th/12th November 2023

Clerk of the Course: Jamie Pickup & Ceri Davies

Route: 110 Miles (Maps 146, 147 & 160)

Base: Llandovery

Starters: 85

For the second year in succession the Powys Lanes Rally was based at the Castle Hotel in Llandovery. It was the final round of the Welsh Road Rally Championship, with both the drivers' and navigators' titles still up for grabs.

The originally over-subscribed entry was reduced to 85 starters due to a number of last minute withdrawals. The competitors faced 110 miles of treacherously slippery lanes, on a nicely timed event. The retirement rate, particularly amongst the top seeds, was going to be high.

The opening section started just north of Llandovery and wound its way to finish near Pontrhydhyd.

All crews dropped time here; Arwel 'Sbidi' Hughes Jones/Dylan John Williams (Ford Escort), who were in pole position to take the Welsh Championship - they were assured of the titles if they finished within the top ten - were still clean at ITC1c, but then were ten seconds late at ITC1d, this allowed Richard Jerman/Alan James (Ford Escort), who had dropped two seconds at ITC1c, into a one second lead.

Unfortunately, a non-competing car went off the road on the section after around 30 cars had passed, this delayed the latter two-thirds of the field. This incident led to penalties at ITC1d and ITC1e being cancelled. Critically for the lead battle it meant that Jerman/James were now on the two second, while Hughes Jones/Williams were clean.

A number of leading crews had more serious problems on the section. Top seeds, Rob Stephens/Kieran Price (Ford Escort) booked in a minute early at the start control and picked up a fail. Then Kevin Kerr/Dafydd-Sion Lloyd (Ford Escort) slid off the road on a deceptive 90 left hander and lost over three minutes before they regained the tarmac. They weren't alone, the course car had already gone off on the corner.

This incident put Lloyd out of the running for the Welsh Championship; having not scored on the Cilwendeg, where he was the Clerk of the Course, he needed to win the Powys Lanes to stand any chance of the series win.

Meanwhile a set of sheered wheel nuts halted the Escort of George Williams/Cadog Davies after just four miles; this was significant as they had been in with the best chance of denying Hughes Jones/Williams the Welsh Championship.

Section 2 was a long one, starting at Pumpsaint and running past Llyn Brianne to finish at Abergeswyn. There were nine intermediate TCs. All crews had dropped time at the first and last timing points.

Fastest to TC2b, which was situated in a farmyard, were Hughes Jones/Williams. They now led Jerman/James by 20 seconds. Iwan Jones/Andrew Lowe (Ford Escort) were two seconds further back in third.

Behind them from a start number of 20 Gethin Dafis/Dion Lewis (Ford Escort) showed that they were on good form; after TC2b they were in fourth place on 47 seconds, 25 seconds behind the leaders.

Mark 'GT' Roberts/Dylan Jenkins went off the road on a tightening left hander and landed on top of a ditch near Pumpsaint. They sought help from the near by spectator point, but it was 30 minutes before the car was back on the road. The crew withdrew.

Also in trouble were Irfon Richards/Daniel Jones; the alternator belt on their Escort broke and they lost 12 minutes fixing the problem.

Further up the section, Jones/Lowe passed Jerman/James for second place, as the latter crew dropped 16 seconds at TC2f, a control that was preceded by four three metre PCs, all were close to the Brianne Dam.

There were a number of significant retirements on the section; Andy Davies/Michael Gilbey (Subaru Impreza) were beached on a triangle and got no further, while Mark Lennox/Ian Beamond (Ford Escort) had a prop shaft bearing fail. Owain Rowlands/Jamie Mills suffered a broken shaft on their Mazda MX5.

The section ended with a run down The Devil's Staircase and all cars were late at the final timing point. Once again, Hughes Jones/Williams were quickest, dropping just five seconds. This put them 34 seconds ahead of Jerman/James.

The first half finished with a straight run down from Abergwesyn to Beulah, the location of the petrol halt. All crews were clean on this section.

This meant that at Petrol, the top positions hadn't changed. Dafis/Lewis were continuing their good run and had moved up to third, 40 seconds off the lead. However, they had Wayne 'Tar' Jones/Owen Rowcliffe (Peugeot 206) just two seconds behind; this crew were the only non-Escort in the top eight.

The top seeds Rob Stephens/Kieran Price withdrew at the halt, the head gasket having failed on their Escort.

By this point seven of the top 17 cars had retired, in contrast there had only been six withdrawals between numbers 19 and 61.

Powys Lanes Rally 2023

Competition resumed with three short sections, the first of which used the loop to the north of Glandulas, on the road around Y Gareth Hill. The top times were close here, Hughes Jones/Williams shared fastest time with a recovering Kerr/Lloyd, who, after their earlier off, were in 29th position at Petrol. Jerman/James were a second behind and Dafis/Lewis were only two seconds off.

Section 5 ran from Hafod-yr-Ancr to Llanfechan. It caused no problems for the lead runners, who cleaned both timing points, however it saw the demise of Jones/Lowe, who had a stub axle fail on their Escort.

The sixth section was slightly longer, running around the north-eastern corner of Epynt and touching the outskirts of Builth Wells. Everyone dropped time at the final control, which used the yellow past Maesmynis.

Some of the fastest times came from lower down the order, with the Semi-Expert crew of Martin Richards/Corey Welsby, who had been in 18th place at Petrol, being quickest. At the front Hughes Jones/Williams pulled out two more seconds over Jerman/James, while Dafis/Lewis were a second further back.

Section 7 started with a run up to Merthy Cynog, then headed, via numerous triangle controls, to Aberbran. The top crews were late at both ITC7c and ITC7e, the final control; this proved to be the tightest part of route as everyone dropped over a minute there.

Jerman/James dropped least time; they took a total of 1m 40s for the section, while Hughes Jones/Williams were on 1m 52s. Kerr/Lloyd continued their climb back up the standings by being second quickest on 1m 48s. No other crew were under two minutes.

Another short cleanable section followed; it was three miles in length from Tralong to Pentre'r-felin. In contrast, the penultimate test, from Llywel to Cwm Dwr, saw everyone drop time. Dafis/Lewis consolidated their third place by being fastest, one second ahead of Owain Evans/Marc Hughes (Ford Escort). Jerman/James were seven seconds off fastest, while Hughes Jones/Williams were eight.

The final section had two timing points and caught almost all crews for time. The exceptions were Jerman/James and Kerr/Lloyd. Hughes Jones/Williams added nine second to their total, but still came home 15 seconds ahead of Jerman/James, while Dafis/Lewis were third, 1m 11s off first place. Evans/Hughes moved up from seventh at Petrol to secure fourth at the Finish. Kerr/Lloyd stormed back up the leader board in the second half to claim fifth place.

The Sem-Expert Class was won by Eilir Williams/Owen Davies (Ford Escort), who were eight overall, while the leading Novices were Carwyn Jones/Steffan Thomas (Proton Satria), they finished over three minutes ahead of their nearest class rivals.

The win meant that, after three wins, Arwel Hughes Jones/Dylan John Williams won the Welsh Championship title for the first time, scoring a rare victory for North Wales. In the Navigators' table Dafydd-Sion Lloyd, with his fifth placed finish, overtook Cadog Davies for the runner up spot.

There is a special award available on the Powys Lanes for the first non-Escort to win the event, after eleven editions of the Epynt MC rally, the prize has still yet to be claimed.