A different country hosted the second round of the Peugeot Total 206 Winter Cup at weekend when the action moved to mid-Wales for the Red Kite Stages Rally. The weather was also very different, mild with thick patchy rolling fog in the valleys.

Based in Llandovery, the event comprised nine stages totalling 41 miles in the Crychan and Halfway forest complex with central service on the Eppynt Military road.

Championship leader Ieuan Rowlands set the pace on the first two stages in Crychan, coming into service eighth overall and leading the Peugeots by a comfortable 26 seconds despite catching a car on the first stage and sliding wide on a couple of hairpins on the second.

In second place and an impressive tenth overall, BTCC driver Tom Boardman complained of not "being committed enough when driving blind in the fog", but after a clear run on stage 2 said: "I just want to go again".

Paul Jones had a disaster, getting lost on the notes in the fog, but maintained fourth place behind Gareth MacHale, who admitted to being just too cautious in the poor visibility, a couple of small spins not adding to his confidence. James Robertson did well to get into fifth place, struggling as he found the fog getting worse on Stage 2.

On only his second rally as a driver, Paul Kiely was sixth, loving it despite the conditions and Barry Horan said: "It was desperate, there was one section in the middle where I just couldn't see at all". Richard Phillipson added: "I am just keeping it the right way up, we haven't broken any records, but we haven't broken anything else either!"

Bringing up the rear in ninth place, Michael O'Brien was having a dreadful day, losing the power steering towards the end of the first stage making the second stage hairpins almost impossible to negotiate. His misery was complete when he temporarily lost all electrics.

Following a 20 minute service, the crews headed for the next loop of three stages. First retirement of the day was Paul Jones/Steve Smallbone whose clutch failed shortly into Stage 3, Blaen Cwm. Tom Boardman/Craig Parry were to suffer mechanical failure and retire on the subsequent road section.

Rowlands was getting used to the car and the notes and everything was coming together. The Kumho tyres were working well and he was planning to replace the fronts with new tyres at the second service. Second placed man Gareth MacHale said: "Rowlands has taken more time off me, and I don't know why, I can't put my finger on it, but I'm ready for the last loop."

James Robertson was starting to enjoy himself in third place, despite losing his place in the notes on Stage 5 and reporting a drastic drop in speed in the fog. "I've never been here before," he said, "and I'm a wee bit nervous."

Paul Kiely was struggling to get up the hills and had had a problem on a square right into square left, tucking the car into the bank and damaging the steering. In fifth place, Michael O'Briens steering was still giving him some problems and he was keeping his fingers crossed to get to the finish. Barry Horan said: "I'm having a great run, getting to grips with the car. Can you lift the fog for me?". He was swapping times with Richard Phillipson, equal going into the last loop.

The last three stages were a repeat of the previous three. Phillipson was delighted to finish with the car undamaged after his big accident on the previous round. After their close tussle all day, he finished sixth in front of Barry Horan who struggled more than most in the fog.

Michael O'Briens steering had been properly fixed at the last service and he had a clean run through the last stage to finish fifth. James Robertson had battled all day with Kiely and although enjoying Stage 8 best of all, was disappointed to drop to fourth. Paul Kiely had thoroughly enjoyed himself and was delighted to steal third on the last stage despite his suspension scare. In second place, Gareth MacHale was disappointed not to win. However, he said: "You should not read too much into my result this weekend; I've been trying out different driving styles as my main focus is the Peugeot TOTAL 206 Super Cup in 2004."

At the end of the day, with eight out of eight fastest stage times to his credit and lying 6th overall in the main event, it was Ieuan Rowlands and Kelvin Savage who proved themselves worthy winners.

"We came here to show that our result in Scotland was not a fluke, and we have done just that," he said, "The championship is great, but I am surprised we did not have more competition here this weekend. Peugeot have made a good choice with Kumho too, our tyres worked really well this weekend."

The final round of the Championship is the Wyedean Forest Rally on Saturday 14th February, which Rowlands merely has to start to tie up the Peugeot Total 206 Winter Cup.

Results - Peugeot Total 206 Winter Cup:

1. Ieuan Rowlands/Kelvin Savage 51:29
2. Gareth MacHale/Clive Jenkins 53:32
3. Paul Kiely/Eugene Donnelly 57:33
4. James Robertson/Mike Rollo 57:35
5. Michael O'Brien/Simon Coates 58:22
6. Richard Phillipson/Brian Cammack 59:14
7. Barry Horan/Simon Mills 59:58

 

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