Rallying novice Geoff Mayes lost a near certain podium position on the Neath Valley Stages last weekend when a driveshaft failure, caused by metal fatigue, sidelined the little Nissan Micra for two stages.

Mayes, who lives in Welshpool, was contesting only his second ever rally as a driver, and even more importantly this was to be his first rally in the woods, having previously only competed at the Sweet Lamb Rally complex.

Preparations were less than perfect when the Geoff Jones Motorsport-run Nissan Micra blew a clutch on Thursday morning, necessitating a complete gearbox change the day before the rally.

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Despite no testing in the car, a new co-driver in the form of Cross Hands based Tony Derrick, and a new pacenote system, Mayes proved his pace with an impressive run through the opening stage around Walters Arena. Third quickest in class and well inside the top 40 overall in the little 1275cc Micra was a positive sign for the pairing.

Everything then went horribly wrong however on the start line of the very next stage. Less than 50 yards into Rhondda the driveshaft snapped in half, leaving the car with no drive.

Swift work from the Geoff Jones Motorsport mechanics saw a replacement shaft fitted and with the permission of the organisers the pair rejoined for the final loop of three stages. Although the second run through Walters Arena was cancelled Mayes and Derrick put their demons to bed on the re-run of Rhondda, third quickest in class, and this despite a puncture for roughly half the stage.

Revelling in the tricky conditions the pair enjoyed another good run through the final stage and despite not being classified at the finish still drew some consolation from their stage times.

"I'm disappointed, not just for myself, but for everyone who helped get me here that the driveshaft broke," reflected Geoff. "It's just one of those things about rallying, and thanks to the marshals who looked after us whilst we waited for the GJM boys to come and repair the car.

"The stages were brilliant to drive and both Tony and I had a right laugh. Big thanks must go to the organisers for putting on a splendid event.

"Also a special mention must go to Geoff Jones for allowing me to use the Micra again, Richard Egger Insurance, Vulcan Fasteners, Carr and Griffiths, GRP Composites and Mouldings, GRH Foods and to Richard and Bryn who put up with rubbish weather to get me going again!"

Mayes now has no plans for further outings in 2008 and he will return to the role of motorsport photographer and PR person on the Ulster International Rally this coming weekend.