In September 2019 The Get Connected Rali Bae Ceredigion became the first ever competitive stage rally to take place on closed public roads in Wales. This brand new, landmark event for Welsh Motorsport represented almost two years of hard work by four Welsh car clubs all coming together to pull off this truly fantastic event. Featuring 4 challenging repeated stages totalling 44 competitive stage miles; the event based at Aberystwyth University attracted a very strong national entry of 120 competitors. Being big rally fans we simply couldn’t sit at home being armchair rally enthusiasts and just had to make the trip.
The organisers not only catered for the competitors by selecting some of the best roads in the area but they delivered a great experience for the rally fan too. With specially created Fan Zones at a number of points along the rally route, providing easy access with great viewing opportunities, commentary and a decent level of facilities which one would not normally expect on a national rally. This event has raised the bar when it comes to attracting new comers to our much loved sport.
On the day of the event one couldn’t have asked for better weather, bright warm sunshine was looking down on the stages as car number one, a Hyundai i20 R5 driven by Welshman Tom Cave & Co-Driver Dale Bowen left the start in Aberystwyth and headed for SS1 Bont Goch.
Cave and Bowen kick started the event with the first stage win beating Osian Pryce & Dale Furniss by just 1 second. Pryce was also tackling the event in the same spec Hyundai i20 R5 car and hadn’t driven an R5 spec car in competition for some two years; so to be on the pace with the likes of British Rally Championship regular Cave from the very first stage was impressive.
Next up was the longest stage of the event, the 9.63 miles of the picturesque Nant Y Moch stage. On the road which runs by the side of the reservoir is where Osian Pryce reacted to Cave’s opening stage win; by posting a time some 7.5 seconds quicker, he took the lead of the event.
Pryce followed that up with another sizable stage win in SS3 Ystumtuen which was a short sharp stage before heading into the final stage of the mornings loop, SS4 Pendam. Although Cave who was nursing some brake issues took the final stage win of the morning beating Pryce by just 0.2 seconds, that didn’t really make a dent on Pryce’s overall lead which was just short of 11 seconds.
Laying in third overall at the midpoint was National Asphalt ace Jason Tauber Pritchard alongside Phil Clarke on the notes. They were competing in a Ford Escort MK2 and were mixing it up with the modern 4WD machinery. They were successfully getting the better of the likes of Hugh Hunter (4th) in a 2005 spec Focus WRC and Damian Cole (5th) in a Fiesta WRC.
Now that the crews had sampled all of the stages they returned to service in Aberystwyth for a quick tinker with the spanners before heading back out for repeated runs. Osian Pryce would start the afternoon off with a stage win in SS5, Bont Goch 2 and from then on it was clear that he only had eyes for winning this historic Welsh Rallying event.
Although Tom Cave would win the remaining three stages of the event, Pryce would keep close enough to him on each of those stages to maintain a decent enough lead to take the victory by 7.7 seconds.
Rounding off the podium was Jason Pritchard; a solid drive in the rear wheel drive MK2 Escort earned him this 3rd place finish. Although it was a 1-2 for the new “High Tech” Hyundai i20 R5 machinery, Prichard proved that there is a real alternative to the modern rally car technology which is competitive and can delivery good results.
Just missing out on the podium by some 21 seconds was event title sponsor Damian Cole (MD of Get Connected) in the Ford Fiesta WRC. Although Cole started off close enough to the top three in the opening stage of the day, he dropped back in the morning. The times in those early stages opened up the gap just that little bit too much from which he couldn’t claw back so much in the afternoon.
Elsewhere Martin McCormack & Barney Mitchell took the historic honours winning the Viking Motorsport Cup in their Ford Escort MK2 and Meilyr Evans & Rhodri Evans were the top 2WD crew in their Ford Escort.
And so after taking the lead on the second stage of the event and battling it out all day with fellow Welsh crew Tom Cave & Dale Bowen, it was Osian Pryce & Co Driver Dale Furniss who made history by winning the 2019 Get Connected Rali Bae Ceredigion.
“I didn’t expect this at all and it’s awesome to win this historic event. The plan was just to get to the finish but to have been locked in a battle with Tom (Cave) all day and to come out on top has been brilliant. It takes time to settle into a car like this so we’re really pleased with the result. The event was just fantastic and the way it ran is a credit to everyone involved.”
The event, which if the rumour is true, was born from an idea down the pub more than 18 months previously, had most definitely delivered and perhaps exceeded expectations. With quality roads on offer and a brilliant entry the event received great support from the local authorities, businesses and residents alike. Enabling high numbers of spectators (some of which were new to rallying) from near and far the opportunity to enjoy a great day of motorsport in an exciting new way. So it’s a big thumbs up all around for all involved and who may have contributed, here’s to the future of the event.
Clerk of the Course, Wayne Jones:
“I’m delighted that everything has gone according to plan and the day has exceeded our expectations. However, we could not have done it without the help and support of so many people and organisations, the residents and landowners, local authorities, Aberystwyth University, our commercial partners – and the competitors. And of course, I have to thank the fantastic organising team, the marshals and everyone who has worked so hard behind the scenes to deliver what a safe and successful event. It’s enabled us to make history by running the first ever closed road stage rally in Wales.”
Words & Photo’s By Andy Cook – Copyright © 2019 Xlerate.net