While the main attraction last weekend in the forests of Wales was the FIA World Rally Championship, there was a national rally being run just behind the main event.
A total of 95 amateur crews lined up for the national event that included the likes of five-time British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae along with former England cricketer Graeme Swann who was thrown in at the deep end for BT Sport.
The 2014 Wales Rally GB National was dominated by Mike Faulkner and co-driver Peter Foy who led the rally from the second stage on Friday morning in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, the pair would finish the rally 30 seconds clear of Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol with Barry Groundwater and Neil Shanks coming home in third place to make it a Mitsubishi Evo 9 1-2-3.
With the main WRC rally running each stage twice a day the National rally drivers took to the stages once on each day, making it a total 13 stages over 98 miles.
From the off it was Ieuan Rowlands who led the way in a Subaru Impreza, not a bad start for the driver who is normally seen in a Ford Escort Mk2 and hasn’t driver a four-wheel-drive car for seven years!
Faulkner took the initiative on the second stage while number one seed Roger Duckworth moved in to second place, unfortunately a mistimed page turn for co-driver Mark Broomfield would result in whiplash as the car hit the jump and he was unable to brace himself.
“The marshals wanted to be very careful with the injury,” said Duckworth, “so they airlifted Mark to hospital but discharged him later in the evening. There’s no lasting damage but he’ll be a bit sore for a while.”
Faulkner took things easy on the second day after fuel issues caused him to start the day with caution, he would be able to push later in the day to build a 30 second lead which he then sealed on the Sunday.
“I’m really pleased with this result,” he said. “It was hard work and this is a tough rally to complete. We thoroughly enjoyed the event from start to finish. The stages were fantastic and a huge challenge, with so much grip variation. They were smooth, fast and flowing, tight and technical and rough and muddy – but what was consistent was the huge amount of spectators cheering us on.
“The atmosphere has been unbelievable – the rally had a pre-event buzz, the Service Park at Deeside was electric and it was great to follow the WRC crews over the podium in Wales. This is as good as it gets.”
Early rally leader Rowlands suffered a puncture on the Clocaenog Main stage on Saturday morning which dropped him to fifth place, promoting Gallacher to second place.
“The whole three days weren’t too bad for us,” said Gallacher. “The only problem was on the penultimate stage when we overshot a right-hander. We’ve really enjoyed the rally and thanks to everyone who has volunteered and helped to put this event together.”
“We didn’t encounter any problems,” said third-placed Groundwater. “The last stage was difficult because some fog had set in but it didn’t slow us down. It’s been a great event and we’ve loved driving on these stages, they flow so well.”
Jimmy McRae took to the wheel of a Vauxhall Firenza Can Am V8 in the historic section of the national rally and would go on to finish in 31st position. “I was completely amazed by our popularity,” admitted the 71-year-old Scot. “Having competed in my first RAC Rally 37 years ago in a Vauxhall, it was great to return again in a similar car. I think the fans appreciated the glorious noise of the V8 and the age of the driver!”
BTRDA Rally Series Champion Steve Perez added to the historic field in his Lancia Stratos and despite having to deal wit ha ceased wheel bearing on Friday would make it through the three days to come home in 46th place.
Graeme Swann started his rally with a roll on the very first stage on Friday and two stages later was forced to kick out the windscreen with co-driver Stuart Loudon due to impaired vision. The pair would however go on to finish the rally 45th overall and third in class.
Top Gear magazine build and raced a Hyundai i20 with the assistance of Hyundai UK to give the readers an insight in to rallying. Chief road tester Ollie Marriage was presented with the driving duties and despite his limited experience won his category.
“We were a bit lucky when the leader retired on the final day but it has been a truly fantastic experience,” said Marriage.
Pre-event favourite Luke Francis was unlucky on day one and forced to retired after rolling their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 on the second stage, he would battle on but be forced to reitre later with radiator damage caused by the accident.
Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Champion Alex Allingham suffered from bad luck across the weekend when his Subaru Impreza ran out of fuel on stage two, later brake trouble would hinder his fightback to and eventual 23rd as he was left ruing what could have been after setting four consecutive fastest times.
WALES RALLY GB NATIONAL RALLY RESULTS
1. Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) 1h 45m 02.6s
2. Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nichol (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) +30.1s
3. Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) +1m 20.9s
4. Tristan Bailey/James How (Mitsubishi Lancer WRC 04) +2m 34.9s
5. Ieuan Rowlands/Emyr Hall (Subaru Impreza) +2m 58.8s
6. David Howells/Robin Hernaman (Subaru Impreza) +4m 14.3s
7. Paul Walker/Vernon Brown (Subaru Impreza) +5m 26.2s
8. John Morrison/Peter Carstairs (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) +5m 31.2s
9. Phil Brown/Hamish Campbell (Subaru Impreza) +7m 15.2s
10. David Stokes/Guy Weaver (Ford Escort RS1600) +7m 15.7s
For the full final classification, click here