Organised by Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Car Club, Rally North Wales has returned to the calendar after a two year lay off with a revised format and compact route.
Scottish rally championship contender David Bogie scored his second win in as many weekends, dominating The North Wales Rally Services – Weir Laundry Equipment RNW Stages (Rally North Wales). Fresh from his Border Counties victory in Scotland last Saturday, Bogie guided by Kevin Rae took his Ford Fiesta R5+ to a convincing win in the Dyfi forests by almost 2 minutes from Mitsubishi pilots Luke Francis and John Roberts.
Dolgellau rally stars Osian Pryce and Dale Furness would complete the top three and leading two wheel drive after a successful outing in their new Citroen DS3 R3MAX.
Heavy winds and horizontal rain greeted the crews at the Dolgellau start on Saturday morning with the news that World Rally Championship regular and local hero Elfyn Evans would debut the new MSport Fiesta R2 one litre turbo on the event as a last minute entry. This world class addition to the already packed 100 car field would ensure an exciting day ahead for the spectators who braved the atrocious weather in the forests.
Pryce led the field away as number one seed and was looking for extra seat time ahead of his Junior WRC outing in Portugal in May. A burst turbo hose on the opening stage meant he would return to service at the halfway halt just outside the top three.
Meanwhile Bogie stormed to three fastest stage times despite reporting a stall and a trip into a ditch on stage three. Swede's Martin Bergland and Sofie Lundmark used the event as a UK debut for the new Mitsubishi R5 and set some impressive stage times despite suffering from a misted windscreen. The newly built car had not yet fitted with a heater system; although that did not that it prevent them from being inside the top five.
Francis was also at the mercy of the Welsh weather due to having no wipers as he left the start arch meant a lapse in concentration for the first stage and not being in "the zone" for the first loop. This wasn't apparent in his stage times however as he returned to service in second overall. Bob Ceen and Chris Brooks rounded off the top three in their Impreza WRC.
Last minute entry Peter Taylor and Andrew Roughead was fifth, but was also suffering from a misted screen, resorting to borrowing some shower gel to try and alleviate the lack of vision.
On to the second loop which repeated the mornings set of three stages in Dyfi and Gartheiniog forests. Whilst the weather may have improved in Dolgellau, the mist and fog was still lingering in some sections of the stages and crews would need to keep the concentration levels high if they were to stay in the centre of the road.
The rally leader at halfway, was still the rally leader at the finish as Bogie returned to the finish ramp as event winner, never beaten throughout the six stages and 44 competitive miles. "It's been a great event and the stages are in perfect condition despite the weather, even on the second run" he said "I've certainly got the bug back after our Border Counties win and it's nice to keep my hand in on the Welsh stages. The new format is really nice too…".
Luke Francis maintained his second overall spot to take the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship spoils whilst Pryce settled into his newly found power in the DS3 to secure the final podium position in third. Taylor adapted to the slightly better conditions in the afternoon to take a solid 4th overall in his Focus WRC. Fifth would be the reward for Bergland after making the long trek across Europe for the Mitsubishi R5 debut and its first competitive event on gravel.
Outside the podium and four wheel drive battle, Ieuan Rowlands and Emyr Hall secured 7th spot overall in their Ford Escort MK2. Fellow Escort pilot Nick Elliot and Dave Price took the Category 3 Historic honours with David Stokes and organising club Chairman Guy Weaver taking the Category 2 and HRCR Mintex 'Old Stager' Historic Stage Rally Championship victory in their MK1. Stokes also secured the Brian Dennis Motorsport Welsh Historic Rally Championship spoils.
The event was also a qualifying round of the Road to Wales initiative where a lucky class or overall winner was entered into a draw to win a free entry to the final round of the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB. As the results were declared final, rally star and event supporter Gwyndaf Evans was on hand to draw a name at random from a hat. The free entry went to Clive King in his MINI who will need to wait till the November event to claim his prize.