Round five of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge witnessed the closest battle of the year so far, the hot, dry and dusty conditions in the mid-Wales forests provoking fierce competition, the final results seeing Daniel Barry and co-driver Martin Brady claim their fourth victory of the season.
They crossed the line just ten seconds ahead of Simon Hughes/Craig Parry, with Nik Elsmore/Craig Drew a slender 0.7 seconds behind in third.
Starting and finishing at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, the Severn Valley National Rally uses some of the best forest stages in the UK and is therefore regarded as a favourite by many competitors. Five of the 10 registered Evolution Challenge crews were entered, which although is less than previous years, the Mitsubishis still represented 30% of the National A field.
The event featured four stages before the first service halt, followed by another two before the second. It then concluded with the longest of the day – a 16-mile run through Radnor Forest.
The gauntlet was laid right from the word go, when Barry/Brady stopped the clocks on stage one just 1.6 seconds ahead of Hughes/Parry, who in-turn were 2.6 seconds ahead of Elsmore/Drew. But on the longer 12-mile stage two, Hughes/Parry reversed the position by emerging 2.2 seconds ahead, Barry reporting he couldn't seem to find a rhythm and feeling below par due to a cold.
After the third stage Hughes/Parry were just 1.2 seconds ahead. Then, on stage four, Barry/Brady went on the offensive and came into service leading the Evo Challenge by three seconds, Hughes reporting that he needed to make some adjustments to his car's suspension.
Elsmore/Drew were not for behind in third, with only a gap of 7.9 seconds between them and second place – even following a spin in SS3. For the first two stages they were being challenged by Owen Murphy/Dai Roberts, who had finally got to the bottom of their car's previous electrical problems. However, they now found that the turbo was not providing enough boost and Murphy became frustrated not to be mixing it with the leading pair.
Adding to his problems was a missed note at the end of SS3 when the car slid wide, clouted a bank and seriously damaged the rear off-side suspension. Although managing to limp back to the service halt, the prospect of taking a first win was now very much in question.
Icelandic Rally Champion Daniel Sigurdarson and co-driver Isak Gudjonsson were debuting their Evo X in the Evolution Challenge and, although treating this event as a learning exercise for their new car, their pace was more than respectable. However three spins on SS3 - as Sigurdarson tried to find the limits of his car's handling - lost them over 30 seconds, the delay seeing them in fifth place at the service halt.