The Royal Welsh Showground has a long association with rallying, more recently in the form of hosting the Start, Finish or Service Park of a rally event, but last Saturday saw the reintroduction of competitive stage rallying, writes Mark Griffin.
Newtown & District Automobile Club organised a grassroots club event geared towards two-wheel drive cars. The event comprised of 30 competitive stage miles divided into 10 timed stages, all within the confines of the Showground.
Events at the venue were always extremely popular and this rally was no exception, with the maximum 55-car entry full within hours of opening and a healthy reserve list hoping to get a run should anyone withdraw prior to the rally.
Vauxhall Novas topped the seeded positions – the car ideally suited to the tight technical nature of the roads. Previous winner at the venue, was the Dennis Motorsport, Iau the Fry supported car of Clyrobased Sam Davies and co-driver Rhys Edwards, while father and son Dan and Ian Evans piloted more modified variants at cars seeded 2 and 3.
Car 6 was the North Road Garage Toyota backed Escort RS of Jason Pritchard and Anthony Elkes.
As title sponsor and the event being so close to home, a run on home turf was too attractive to miss.
Although above freezing on Saturday morning, the frost from the previous week was evident and a difficult tyre choice ensued prior to the first stage. Spins and lurid slides kept the large number of spectators entertained, but a number of crews returned to the service area after the opening loop with minor corner damage to their cars.
Jason Pritchard was one such unfortunate crew, incurring steering damage and plummeted down the order - a repair to Escort saw the multiple rally champion return to provide a great driving spectacle.
At the front of the field, Sam Davies headed the time sheets, closely perused by the fearsome G3 Escort of Lee Edwards and Robbie Pugh. However, the pure grunt of the Escort in largely dry conditions provided a second or two advantage per stage – accumulating into ten seconds with one stage remaining. With the win out of reach, barring mechanical problems Davies and Edwards settled for second.
After a major shunt on Epynt two years ago, Josh Jones returned to rally action with the experienced Jonathan Hawkins co-driving – the J&P Engineering Peugeot was completed the night before the rally with the aim to finish the event unscathed, eventually finishing in 30th position.
One of the drives of the rally was from Joseph Palmer in the Nissan Micra, co-driven by the vastly experienced Steve McPhee, the Brecon youngster steering the Micra to 4th in class and a top 20 finish from a start seeding of 54.
Multiple Asphalt Rally Champion Damian Cole, with daughter Charly co-driving - wheeled out an Escort from the Get Connected stable and entertained going sideways at every opportunity but finished lower down the order.
At the end of the ten stages, Lee Edwards and Robbie Pugh took the win by 17 seconds, but it had been a close all day battle.