Meirion Galway

Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson leaping their way to second overall (pic courtesy of DHarriganimages)

On the weekend of the 5th/6th of February the rally calendar opened with the Galway International rally, once again being the opening round of the Irish tarmac rally championship. This year’s event would be the 51st running of the event, and would once again prove to be very popular with competitors from Ireland and further afield with the entry filling very quick;y. 

Among the 125 strong entry list were the Lampeter and district members Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson, who would be using an R5 specification Volkswagen polo. They were to be competing in the Irish tarmac championship this year, after having a string of successful outings in recent years. They had been seeded at car 4

Also venturing over from Lampeter and district was Ian Evans, who once again was using his historic specification BMW M3, Ian is no stranger to the Irish stages, having competed on many events out there over a number of years, for this event he had Mark Chrisp reading the notes. They would be number 130.

The rally consisted of 15 stages over the course of the weekend, giving some 190 kilometers of competitive motoring to all. The opening day would consist of 9 stages totalling over 88 kilometers, and weather conditions were atrocious, making the stages very slippery and challenging. The day consisted of three stages, Kiltormer, Foolagh, and Linehill, and each stage would be run three times. 

Meirion and Jonathan got their rally off to an excellent start, setting the fastest time over the days opening stage by 2.2 seconds, and Ian and Mark also had a good start to the day setting a time that would see them in 89th overall. On the second stage, Foolagh one, Meirion and Jonathon once again showed excellent pace, setting the second quickest time. Although this dropped them to second overall in the event standings, they were only half a second off the event leader. Ian and Mark were given a time of 8 minutes 53.5 seconds due to an incident, so they shared that time with many of the other competitors, this lifted them to 84th in the overall standings.

For the third stage of the day and the final of the first loop, which was also the shortest of the three,  Meirion and Jonathan once again set the quickest time, which was 2 minutes and 3.3 seconds, by a narrow margin of 0.4 seconds ahead of their rivals, this meant whilst they still remained in second overall the gap was now down to a very slim 0.1 seconds! Ian and Mark were 107th on this stage which saw them hold 83rd overall.

Onto the second loop of stages and in worsening weather making an already challenging event trickier Meirion and Jonathan dropped slightly off the pace, but still set a very respectable 6th quickest time here, which was 6 minutes and 53.5 seconds, this was only 4.4 seconds of the stage winner, showing just how tight and competitive it was at the top end of the leaderboard. This kept them in second place overall but the gap had increased by 3 seconds and was now 3.1 seconds. Ian and Mark set a time of 8 minutes and 47 seconds here, showing just how much harder the conditions were making it for two wheel driven vehicles. This was still good enough for 88th quickest here and saw them lay in 84th overall. 

Foolagh 2 was next, and Meirion and Jonathan were back on podium positions with third overall on this stage with a very impressive 8 minutes and 13.3 seconds, this meant they stayed in second place overall but the gap had increased slightly and they now lay 9 seconds off the rally leader. Unfortunately Ian and Marks rally came to an end of this stage with them retiring the BMW here. 

Back to the short stage of Linehill and here Meirion and Jonathan tied with two other competitors for third place, another example of just how tight the competition was and how evenly matched the front of the field are. The gap between the event leader and Meirion lie at 10.2 seconds.

For the final loop of the day's stages Meirion and Jonathan continued to push hard in the difficult conditions. They showed incredible consistency with their times that was always in or near the podium placings and by the end of the day they held an excellent second overall. The gap between them and the event leader was still a very narrow 14.1 seconds so it was all to play for on the second day of competition. 

The second day was made up of two stages repeated three times each, those stages were Brady’s yard and Black road. Whilst there were fewer stages than yesterday, the competitive mileage was actually higher than that of the opening day, giving plenty of opportunity to push on for a strong result. 

On the day’s opening stage, Meirion and Jonathan were slightly off the pace with the eighth quickest time, just over 20 seconds down on the fastest time of the day, this dropped them down to third overall in the event standing but they were only three seconds behind second place. 

On the following stage, Black Road 1, Meirion and Jonathan went all out and had a simply fantastic time, beating everyone by over 14 seconds over the 20 kilometer stage, this lifted them back into seconds overall and saw the leaders margin slashed to just over 5 seconds after a superb drive. 

Back over to Brady’s yard and here the Polo pairing managed a very respectable sixth fastest over this stage which was enough for them to hold on to their second place overall position. Meirion and Jonathan were once again quickest on the second passing of Black Road, although this time their time was only 3.2 seconds ahead of the next quickest competitor. After this stage the gap between the event leader and Meirion lay at a very narrow 6.8 seconds. With only one loop left it was still anybody’s for the taking.

For the final run over Brady’s Yard this time Meirion and Joanthan were fourth quickest, a good improvement over their previous effort, this time only 10.8 seconds off the fastest time. The rally was to be decided on the final stage of the day, the third and final pass over Black Road, a stage where Meirion and Jonathon had been dominant over the first two passes. They once again tired incredibly hard on this stage, and despite coming into contact with a stone wall, they still managed fastest time, although their margin was a slimer 0.6 seconds this time around, this meant that after a full 15 stages of battle they finished the rally in an excellent second overall, only 14.1 seconds off the event winner, this was to be an excellent start of the year for Meirion and Jonathan, with Meirion commenting that it had been one of the most enjoyable races he had been involved with in a long time. The next round of the Irish tarmac championship will be the West Cork international rally on the weekend of the 19th and 20th of March and no doubt the pair will once again be challenging for top honors there.

Many thanks must go to David Harrigan of DHarriganimagesfor the use of his image in this report.