Welsh Firing Range
Finally my 2014 motorsport season got under way last weekend. I was up in the Welsh ranges for the first motorsport fix of the year, this was a new event for me and wasn’t sure entirely what to expect truth be told.
This was the opening round of the 2014 REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, organised by the Port Talbot Motor Club and held up in the MoD ranges of Epynt in the Breacon Beacons. It’s somewhat of a unique place for an event to take place really, ribbons of beautifully smooth asphalt undulate over and twist around the range linking between the rather unique “German” and “Irish” towns used as training grounds for the Army.
The roads are narrow, difficult, and incredibly fast – these roads clearly takes no prisoners. The reality became quickly apparent that if a driver was to make a mistake on any of the seven stages that were ran as part of the single day event, they would quickly find themselves in a situation of no return. Unfortunately, two teams in particular fell suspect to the difficulty of the roads and required medical attention – I’d like to wish all involved a speedy recovery.
Me and Tom Loomes arrived on the stages in typical early morning fashion to be greeted with a beautiful sight of the sun beginning to break through the early morning fog. Having wandered along the stage we started to pick out some good shooting locations – but was really going to just explore and experiment a bit seeming this was a non-pressure based environment. We were doing this for fun after all…
One element of Epynt I was keen to explore was the famous jump sections. I’ve never seen a car take flight, or at least not properly. Sure, I’ve seen a car lift a few wheels here and there but nothing quite to this extent. The sound was what hit me the most about it all. To begin with the sound of the screaming engines as they roar towards the do or die crests. As the cars hit the jump you are greeted with the unmistakeable sound of bouncing revs, then the scraping and smashing sound of the cars returning to the ground to then once again disappear off into the distance. It really must take some nerve to keep flat out on these things.
As the day began to draw to close a battle was hotting up within the rally (albeit we didn’t really know at the time). The final stage saw a full on fight for the overall win between three different teams. Leading the rally into the beginning of SS7 was Stephen Simpson & Patrick Walsh in their Subaru Impreza WRC followed in quick succession by Damian Cole (Ford Focus WRC) and Peter Lloyd (Subaru Impreza S14) both only 1 second away from Simpson. Simpson was unfortunately hampered by brake issues meaning his narrow lead slipped – however Damian and Peter Lloyd were once again battling for the ultimate win. Damian Cole and his co-driver Elliot Edmondson would end up taking the rally win in their Ford Focus WRC 2005 by a single second over Peter Lloyd.
The final stage obviously saw a major battle for the lead, but we were being treated to a beautiful half hour of light as the sun finally began to set over the Welsh mountain ranges. This was a truly enjoyable event and a reminder that even club level motorsport can provide some of the closest battles out there. I hope someday I’ll be back at Epynt – it’s definitely somewhere I want to visit again in future.