andy welsh champion

Andy Davies and Michael Gilbey on their way to winning the welsh road rally championship on the Powys Lanes rally (photo credit Joseph John Gilbertson)

Andy Davies has just been crowned the welsh road rally champion of 2018, a title he has wanted since he took up rallying some years ago. The idea to have a real attempt of it came from last October when he and Michael Gilbey who became his navigator for the majority of the championship discussed the idea over a coffee, and it was decided there that they should try and get their names down on the list of winners of this much sought-after title.

                The year began with the Mike Darowen organised by Dovey valley motor club up in Machynlleth on the 3rd/4th of February. Michael wasn’t available to navigate with Andy for this opening round so Cadog Davies stepped in for this round. They were seeded at car 3 and began his year with a caution as weather conditions were very slippery and keeping the car on the road and out of the scenery was the main objective for this round. Their efforts paid off and managed to finish the rally in seventh overall after a tricky night and Andy manged to secure 93 points (out a possible 100) for the championship, a great result for the beginning of the year.

                Round 2 of the championship was Andy’s home round, the Bro Caron. This was the first event of the year that Andy and Michael had paired up on, and once again Andy had been seeded at car 3. This was an event that Andy had always really wanted to win, so he and Michael put on a charge from the very first control, which saw them hold second overall at the fuel halt despite loosing a few seconds after a slide that saw them visit the scenery, thankfully there was no damage to speak of and only a small amount of time was lost. With one half down the second half began, with competitors making their way back from Llandovery towards Lampeter onto more familiar and often used roads. This didn’t however make it any easier on them, as by this late stage in the event black ice had began to form in some of the lanes, adding to the challenge. They continued to push on as much as the weather conditions would allow and set excellent times on the final few time controls around Ffarmers and Oxen hall which come the finish saw them take a hard-fought victory of 34 seconds and achieving one of the goals that he and Michael had always wanted to win. This gave both a maximum score of 100 points from this round.

                It was up to the peninsula for the third round of the year, the Llyn, held on the 17th/18th of March and organised by Harlech and district motor club. Its an event with an excellent reputation with the lanes on the peninsula often described as some of the best in the country and competition is always fierce with many local crews always in attendance. The plan of action for this round was to simply try and keep out of trouble as whilst the competition was fierce not all of the front runners had entered the welsh championship so keeping out of trouble could pay off well for both Andy and Michael, who for this round were seeded at 9.

                They seemed to have achieved what they needed too on the event as they managed to set great times whilst keeping out of trouble and after a challenging night, they managed to finish in an excellent fourth overall, whilst also being the first non-local competitors. They also managed to take maximum points in the championship as they were the first registered competitors on the night.

                There was a slight break in the championship before Andy and Michael headed up north again to the outskirts of Bala for the PK memorial event, organised by Bala and district motor club, that took place on the 23rd/24th of June. They had been seeded at 2 for this event amongst yet another strong entry and once again the plan was to push hard but keep out of trouble. At the petrol halt they lay in third place overall having only picked up eleven seconds of penalties. This was a position they in fact held throughout the rally, giving Andy 98 points for the championship bid.

                The Knighton motor club organised Pacemaker rally was the fifth round of the championship. Taking lace on the 21st/22nd of July. With it taking place in the summer months the route was a little shorter than some at 80 miles but it was no less competitive with the organisers offering a challenging and enjoyable route. With Michael running elsewhere in the field Darren Ikin stepped in to the passenger’s seat to guide Andy around the route. Unfortunately, it was a short rally for Andy and Darren as they were plagued with transmission problems which put a premature end to their rally, giving Andy his first DNF (did not finish) in the championship.

                It was up to Anglesey for the sixth round of the year for the Rali Mon which took place on the 15th/16th September. Andy was reunited with Michael for this round and together they once again went out for as many points as they could for their championship bid, but it was not meant to be as Andy got his second DNF of the year. Prematurely ending what could have been a very strong result on the island.

                It was down to Carmarthen on the following weekend (22nd/23rd of September) to compete on the Autumn, the seventh round. Organised by Carmarthen motor club. Wanting to put the previous events result behind them both Andy and Michael turned up more focussed than ever and set about getting as high a result as possible to put their championship back on track. Seeded at 3 but ending up second on the road due to a withdrawal it was a very tight and technical event with many difficult sections where time penalties were picked up. Andy and Michael held fourth overall as the petrol halt after a challenging half in difficult weather conditions and having some minor problems they both decided to really push on in the second half and go for glory.

                With plenty of tight sections still to tackle along the route control by control they clawed their way back up the leader board to take the glory and finish in first overall. A drastic change to their previous weekends efforts and once again giving them a maximum score in the championship.

                The 1000 lanes was the eighth round of the championship, taking place on the 13th/14th of October. Organised by the Heads of Valley auto club it was to be another excellent event that gave crews an enjoyable challenge. Mother nature played its part with country wide flooding had been occurring due to storms. This hadn’t deterred any of the competitors or the organisers and marshals who in true British bulldog spirit simply carried on as though it was nothing! For this round Andy was joined by Dale Bowen and they were seeded at 3 once again. Together they looked forward to taking on the 110-mile route took place all over OS map 161, a map full of excellent and enjoyable lanes. At the halfway halt they lay in fifth overall after what was a very tricky first half where Andy’s Subaru IDZ suffered a puncture that cost them some time. Andy and Dale both decided to try and push a little harder and use the Subaru’s traction to good use in the second half to try and gain a place or two on the leader board. It was a pan that worked out as they managed to finish in an excellent second overall, giving Andy 98 points to add to his championship score.

                Round 9 was possibly the most famous rally in the calendar, the Cilwendeg, which once again began in the mart car park right in the centre of Newcastle Emlyn on the 27th/28th of October. For this rally Andy was reunited with Michael and they took the number 4 spot on the entry list in among some stiff competition. With a route that included going up the famous Cwmtydu harpins a challenging route lay ahead. At the fuel halt Andy and Michael lay in fourth overall with Andy admitting to some slight driver errors which cost them a little time. So, they used the rest halt as an opportunity to refocus and concentrate entirely on the second half. A tactic that worked as at each time control, they managed to claw back a little time, which saw them take the runners up spot at the end, no small achievement given the competitive field around them. This gave Andy a very helpful 98 points.

                The tenth round of the championship was the Powys Lanes, taking place on the 3rd/4th November. Starting in Builth Wells showground this Epynt motor club organised event is always a popular event in the rally calendar which fills its entry very quickly. At the petrol halt Andy and Michael held fourth overall as they guided IDZ around the first half nervously, knowing that they could clinch the title on this event. With one half down the second half tactics were the same as the first, get around the route safely! It was a nerve-wracking experience for both Andy and Michael who cautiously guided IDZ round to the final control where they could finally relax a little. Once again tactics paid off and they managed an excellent third overall, giving Andy 98 points and securing the title in the process.

                It had been a very tough year long battle but Andy and Michael both managed to secure the welsh in their respective seats, a goal Andy had always wanted to achieve with a round to spare (the eagle being on the 1st/2nd December). After the rally Andy gave thanks to Michael for guiding him around the lanes up and down the country, as well as all the other navigators that stepped in throughout the year as well to Delun for marshalling for him and being there all year, as well as all the event organisers and motorsport specialists for running the events and helping keep IDZ in good health, and lastly, to the man who inspired the whole thing in the first place, the late Greg Evans.

                Thanks must go to Joseph John Gilbertson for the use of his image for this report.