tour of epynt

Wayne "Tar" Jones and Rhys Jones on their way to an excellent class win on the Tour of Epynt (Aneurin James)

The weekend of the 15th and 16th of April saw the third round of the Irish tarmac rally championship take place, the Wastewater Solutions Circuit of Ireland. This very famous event, organised by the Ulster Automobile club would once again see the top club competitors from the UK, Ireland and further afield take on some of the most exciting stages on the rallying calendar. 

Among the 75 car entry were Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson who would once again be using their R5 specification Volkswagen Polo GTI. They were seeded at car 4 and once again hoping for a good result to secure points for their championship bid. The rally would be made up of two days of competition with the first leg consisting of six stages totalling some 93 kilometres of competitive motoring followed by 5 more stages and another 98 kilometres of stages on the following leg. The opening leg would be made up of two stages, Orra Lodge and Lisles Hill, repeated 3 times.

It had been six years since Meirion and Jonathan had rallied on these stages, doing so in a much less powerful ford fiesta, so the opening stages would be a learning curve for the pair. Even so they managed the fifth fastest time on the opening stage of the event, and in fact matched that on the following two stages. On stage four they were sixth fastest but they held on to fifth place overall with a total time of 32 minutes and 27.6 seconds. They were just over 40 seconds down from the event leader after the first two loops of stages. 

They improved on the fifth stage of the event (Orra Lodge 3) to set the third quickest time, with confidence growing after getting some experience of the stages. On the final stage of the day, Lisles Hills 3, they would once again set the fifth quickest time with 7 minutes and 34.3 seconds over the 15 kilometre stage. This meant that going into the overnight halt they were in fifth place overall with a total time of 48 minutes and 37.6 seconds. They were within a minute of the overall leader and there were still a lot of miles to cover. 

Day two would consist of two more stages, Cairncastle and Glendun, with Cairncastle to be run three times and Glendun to be run twice. Cairncastle was the first up, and here Meirion and Jonathan were once again fifth quickest with a time of 11 minutes and 41 seconds over the 22.55 kilometre test. The first run over Glendun followed and here Meirion and Jonathon were sixth quickest with 8 minutes and 18.7 seconds. They were still holding fifth place overall at this point. It was on stage nine that things sadly went wrong for Meirion and Jonathan, as with them gaining confidence and Meirion feeling improvements over the stage he unfortunately clipped the rear corner of the car on a left hand bend which unfortunately put them into retirement. A great shame as they had been setting some great times even with their lack of familiarity with the stages. No doubt they will both bounce back from this on the next round of the championship, which is the Killarney rally of the lakes which takes place from the 29th of April to the 1st of May.

Also taking place over the weekend was the ever popular Tour of Epynt, once again held at the popular MOD training ground on the 16th of April this Port Talbot motor club organised event attracted an entry of 69 cars and would be the third round of the welsh tarmac rally championship. The rally attracted a few club members with the first on the entry list being Dafydd Evans who once again was with Huw James. They were seeded at 6 in Huw’s Mk2 Ford escort. Next was Gareth Phillip Bevan in a historic specification Mk2 escort RS1800, he had Gareth James navigating for him, they were seeded at 34. Wayne “tar” Jones and Rhys Jones were next in Wayne’s 2.5 litre Darrian, they had been given number 36. At 55 was Emyr Morgan in a Mitsubishi Lancer evo 10. He had Paul Jones navigating for him. Rounding off club members at 75 were Kevin Davies and Jonathon Davies in Kevin’s Peugeot 206 GTI. 

The rally would consist of 7 stages totalling just over 58 miles of competition on the ranges. The competition was very close among a couple of club members on the opening stage, with Huw and Dafydd setting the eighth quickest time with 7 minutes and 38 seconds, despite reckoning they had their tyre choice wrong. Right behind them only one second away were Wayne and Rhys that managed the ninth quickest time. The two Gareths were next in seventeenth with a time of 8 minutes and 1 second. Emyr and Paul began their day with forty third quickest time with 8 minutes and 40 seconds and Kevin and Jonathon were fifty-eighth with 9 minutes and 35 seconds. 

On the second stage of the day Wayne and Rhys set an excellent sixth quickest overall time, matching the more modern machinery in the process, a great time for them especially considering this was Wayne’s first visit to Epynt in a rear wheel drive car. Their time was 2 minutes and 48 seconds. Huw and Dafydd took fifteenth on the second stage, they were looking forward to the service halt so that they could change tyres over and have a real crack at it, they still set an impressive time of 2 minutes and 53 seconds here. In joint forty-first were Emyr and Paul in their Mitsubishi with 3 minutes and 11 seconds, and Kevin and Jonathon were joint fifty-eighth with 3 minutes and 30 seconds. The two Gareth's ran into difficulty so they had 6 minutes on this stage.

With a service halt next before the next pair of stages Huw and Dafydd took the opportunity to change they tyres over on their escort, and with that taken care of it was back to the stages, where unfortunately they were to discover that the clutch would begin to play up on the car, this would cost them some time on every stage start as they tried to pull away, they would still be in a close battle with Wayne and Rhys who were doing great and spent their day catching cars on most stages. On the third stage they would be tenth quickest with 7 minutes and 34 seconds, and once again Huw and Dafydd were close by on 7 minutes and 37 seconds in eleventh. Emyr and Paul were still going well with the thirty-eighth quickest time of 8 minutes and 37 seconds. And Kevin and Jonathon were also doing well with 9 minutes and 12 seconds which saw them joint forty-sixth. Sadly the two Gareth's rally came to a premature end as they put their escort off the road on the third stage, forcing their retirement.

On the fourth stage club members continued to impress with excellent times, with Wayne and Rhys once again in the top ten. Something they repeated on stage five. Even with their slipping clutch Huw and Dafydd were still creeping into the top ten. Emyr and Paul were 35th here on stage five, while Kevin and Jonathon were fifty first. Stage six followed and here was where Huw and Dafydd really got into the swing of things and set a time of eighth fastest overall. Wayne and Rhys again featured in the top ten with joint ninth quickest and Kevin and Jonathon achieved forty-seventh. Emyr and Paul had problems so were down in fifty-sixth on this stage.

The final stage of the rally saw Wayne and Rhys set an excellent sixth fastest overall. Wayne had spent the rally getting up to speed with the car but had no doubt shown the potential that he and the car had. Huw and Dafydd set eleventh quickest on the final stage with their clutch still giving them grief. Emyr and Paul had a good end to their rally and set thirty-third quickest time on the final stage, and Kevin and Jonathon also did well with forty-fifth quickest.

So at the end of a very enjoyable and fast paced rally Wayne Jones and Rhys Jones found themselves in an excellent ninth overall.They also won their class and were the highest placed two wheel drive vehicle at the end. An excellent result for them. Wayne was very grateful for Rhys’ experience over the ranges and said that the result would not have been possible without him. Rhys believed it was the toughest yet fastest and proudest rally to date. Their total time at the end of the day was 50 minutes and 7 seconds. Huw James and Dafydd Evans finished their day in eleventh overall. A great result considering the troubles they had. Their time was 50 minutes and 38 seconds. Kevin Davies and Jonathon Davies finished in a very respectable forty-fifth overall with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 46 seconds. Emyr Morgan and Paul Jones were just behind in forty ninth in their Mitsubishi with 1 hour 6 minutes and 1 second. 

Thanks must go to Aneurin James for the use of his image in this report.