Andy rally of the lakes

Andy Davies celebrates a group N victory with Michael Gilbey on the International rally of the lakes (Dharrigan images)

            On the weekend of the 4th and 5th of May saw an incredibly popular and famous rally in the Irish rally calendar take place, the International Rally of the Lakes, hosted by Killarney and district Motor club. The event was held over two days with sixteen stages including some of the most famous in the rally calendar, such as Molls Gap, Ardgroom and Cods head. Naturally amongst a very strong entry were some of Lampeter and district motor club’s members, with Meirion Evans and Jonathon Jackson once again out in their R5 specification Hyundai i20 and were seeded at 12 and competing in the International rally.  Andy Davies was also out in the GAP solutions backed group N specification Subaru Impreza with regular navigator Michael Gilbey who were both out for more points in the Irish tarmac championship and looking to hopefully take the group N category event here. They were seeded at 57 and would also be competing in the International rally. In the historic category of the event was Llion “tractor” Williams who was navigating for Duncan Williams in Duncan’s Mk2 Ford escort.

                The first day of the rally consisted of 8 stages totalling some 114 kilometres of competitive driving with one of the great’s as the opening stages, 17 and a half kilometres of Molls Gap. Meirion and Jonathon began their day with a very respectable time of 8 minutes and 32.6 seconds here. Andy began his rally with a steady run over “the gap” and recorded a time of 9 minutes and 33.4 seconds, which was enough for second in group N. In the historics section Duncan and LLion set a time of 9 minutes and 47.4 seconds.

                Ardgroom was the second stage of the day and here Andy and Michael made an attack for the group N lead which they managed beating the second placed group N car by a massive 27.3 seconds through here with their time of 12 minutes and 41.1 seconds even managing to catch a car and get held up in the process. Meirion and Jonathon were also doing very well as they set an excellent time of 11 minutes and 37.2 seconds in their R5 specification car. In the historics Duncan and Llion were pushing hard and were rewarded with a time of 12 minutes and 58 seconds for their efforts along this 17.97-kilometre test.

                From here Andy and Michael achieved their target and held on to the group N lead throughout the rest of the events sixteen stages with Another excellent time through the third stage which was Cod’s head with a length of some 13.8 kilometres.

Following a service halt, it was Healey pass that made up stage four and here once again all club members did very well although Meirion’s Hyundai began to suffer with power steering issues which cost them. Duncan and Llion were involved in a battle for historic glory as they pushed their escort through the Irish lanes at an incredible pace.

                Ardgroom 2 was to be the next stage but ended up being cancelled after another competitior went off and blocked the road which was a shame as Andy and Michael were looking to extend their group N lead over here but instead it was back over to Cod’s head for another run for stage six. Here Andy and Michael set another excellent time of 9 minutes and 22.1 seconds. Duncan and Llion also did well and received a time of 9 minutes and 50. 1 seconds. Unfortunately, it was a premature retirement for Meirion and Jonathon with the power steering failing on their Hyundai thus temporarily putting them out of the rally they received a maximum time for the remaining stages of the day but re-joined for day two under rally 2 rules. A great shame as they had been going very well up until then. Another run over Healey pass made up stage 7 before a run over Kilmakilloge to finish the first day.

                At the end of the day Andy and Michael held a 41 second lead in group N in the GAP solutions backed Subaru which was excellent going by them. At the end of the first day in the historic rally Duncan and LLion held the outright lead in their escort after a string of excellent times in their Mk2 ford escort but with many competitive miles still to run it wasn’t over by a long shot.

The second day of the rally saw another eight stages tackled with the 117 kilometres of competition still to run. Meirion Evans and Jonathon Jackson had re-joined the event after their disappointing end to the first day but they looked forward to the second days offerings and saw it as an opportunity to get more seat time in the car over Irish lanes. Andy and Michael looked to hold on to their group N lead and looking to push hard enough to stay in front whilst keeping risks to a minimum which both crew members found to be mentally demanding. They lost 7 seconds to their nearest group N rival on the first stage with of the day which was another run over Molls gap which was 9 minutes and 23.7 seconds but looked at making it back up as soon as possible. Meirion and Jonathon began their day with an excellent time over the gap with 8 minutes and 29.7 seconds as they made for lost time. In the historic section Duncan and Llion began their second day as they ended their first with another very impressive time of 9 minutes and 40.5 seconds.

The next stage of the day was possibly the most difficult and demanding of the whole rally, Sheen River, at 10.33 kilometres it was one of the shorter stages of the rally but was still very demanding. Andy and Michael had a very tense run through here as they pushed to make the time loss back up and managed to make it through with a time of 6 minutes and 56.3 seconds. Meirion and Jonathon were going well again and achieved an excellent time of 6 minutes and 39.8 seconds here. Duncan and Llion were still going strong in the escort and managed 7 minutes and 4.4 seconds.

The next two stages were a repeat of the first two with another run over Molls gap and Sheen river and again club members did very well in their battles. Knockyshehane was to be stage thirteen and here Duncan and Llion lost some time in their historic rally bid which dropped them down to third overall in the historic rally but the gap between the top 3 was small and their challenge was not over with plenty of competitive miles still to run. Meirion and Jonathon continued to set excellent times over the stages, putting yesterday’s troubles behind them as they pushed on in the Hyundai. For Andy and Michael, it was a case of hold onto their lead over the final loop of stages. They had a pretty much perfect run over the day’s final stages with correct tyre choices carried out for each one. This meant that after 2 hours and 23 minutes of rallying over two days and 231.36 kilometres they managed to finish 52.3 seconds ahead of their nearest group N rival. They had an immense battle with the other group N leaders (one of which being last years champion) who pushed them the whole way and didn’t give them any time to stop and breathe at any point. Their result was an excellent ninth overall and first in group N on the International event. Excellent going by them. Andy had a few words to say come the end of a long and challenging event:
                “I believe that we had the best rubber for the job, supplied by Hankook tyres. That coupled with a great set of pace notes delivered expertly by Michael Gilbey made my job pretty easy!’ I’d like to thank all of my sponsors, Hankook tyres for providing us with a perfect package and extend a huge thanks to the whole team in service and out managing our event over the 5 days. We now retake the lead of the group N class in the Irish tarmac championship and look forwards the next round, ‘the big one’ Donegal international in 6 weeks’ time.”

For Duncan and Llion Williams they managed to end their rally in an excellent second overall in the historic rally after an event long battle, they manged to claw back some of the time lost and, in the end, finished only 9.3 seconds behind the overall winner in their Mk2 Ford escort. Meirion and Jonathon managed to finish in fourteenth overall in the International section which whilst still respectable was not a true reflection of their pace.

Many thanks must go to Andy Davies for the words and Dharrigan images for the use of their photograph for this report.