Astra Stages final summary

Winter Cup Winner Rowlands Wins Again! Seventeen Peugeot 206 competitors lined up at the start of a new event to the Peugeot TOTAL 206 Super Cup, the Astra Stages Rally. From the very hospitable host town of Llangollen in North Wales, the cars...

Winter Cup Winner Rowlands Wins Again!

Seventeen Peugeot 206 competitors lined up at the start of a new event to the Peugeot TOTAL 206 Super Cup, the Astra Stages Rally. From the very hospitable host town of Llangollen in North Wales, the cars tackled nine classic stages in the Clocaenog and Penmachno complexes.

Overnight rain had made the stages very slippery but Ieuan Rowlands local knowledge stood him in good stead when he set fastest times on the first two stages, 21 miles through Clocaenog despite a big moment at a hairpin on Stage 1 and the intercom cutting out on Stage 2. In second place by 20 seconds at first service in Bala was Stuart Jones who had initially complained The car feels slow, but there is plenty of grip. Im getting frustrated and losing concentration but theres a long way to go.

In yet another new car, his own new purchase, Chris Moore was experimenting with tyre pressures on Stage 1 and taking it steady but then had a big spin on Stage 2, ending up at 90 degrees across the stage and having to do a five point turn to get out of it. Nevertheless he was only 4 seconds behind Jones, but being chased hard by Mike Faulkner, 2 seconds behind. Faulkner also complained of the slippy conditions and reported a big moment through gateposts on Stage 1, but was lucky to get away with it. The car is jumping out of gear, so I lost a bit of confidence, then I overdrove trying to get the time back. Tom Boardman was next in 5th place saying I will gain more time just by waking up this morning. He was followed by Peugeot Celebrity Car driver Robbie Dale who had had a few spins whilst getting used to the 206 and was having to use the handbrake more than he was used to for the tight hairpins.

Paul Jones reported a few overshoots, and at one point thought he had a puncture and slowed down, losing some time as a result. In 8th place and uncharacteristically over a minute behind the leader, Gareth MacHale had been held up when the preceding car, Simon Taft, had rolled on Stage 1, then he subsequently lost 20 seconds with a small off on a junction. As well as Simon Taft, Stage 1 also claimed both Alastair Moffatt when his gearbox failed and Clive Wheeler who limped out but who had damaged his car too badly to continue.

Stephen Petch brought up the rear in 14th place, having struggled with his car jumping out of gear and losing over 10 minutes over the two stages. This was traced to a broken bolt which was fixed at service, but they were unable to complete the repair in time and were still struggling through the next two stages.

As the weather worsened, it was Stuart Jones who set fastest time on the next pair of stages, ten miles in Penllyn and 4 miles in Llangower, by 0.9 and 0.8 seconds respectively and narrowing the overall gap from Rowlands to 18 seconds. He was much happier with his car after changing the exhaust and adjusting the throttle in first service. Stage 3 was to claim Robbie Dale who plunged down an embankment and was unable to regain the road. Mike Harris also went off on this stage. Tom Boardman was to join the growing list of retirements when he used his handbrake on a right hand hairpin but the car dug in and rolled. He managed to get back to the Bala service but had lost most the glass in the car. In the torrential rain, he decided to call it a day. This meant Gareth MacHale was progressing back up the leaderboard and was now in 5th place although his difference on the leader had lengthened slightly. Colin Britton was puzzled by a major loss of power, but the Peugeot mechanics traced this to a loose fuse, and he rejoined the fray with renewed enthusiasm.

Stages 5 and 6, Penmachno South and North, were run in torrential rain, and the battle at the top continued unabated with Rowlands fastest by one second, then Jones taking four seconds back, narrowing the gap to 14 seconds at the last service.

Rowlands was surprised to only lose a few seconds when he hit a rock on Stage 6, putting the strut through the bonnet. Were hitting the sumpguard heavily. Well get it fixed but I cannot hang about on the last three. For his part, Jones said I want more of the same! Only 14 seconds, so Im going to try to get the win but there is not a lot left to push! In car footage will be interesting; the whole day was so much fun since the cat (exhaust) was sorted. The battle for third place was also very heated, with Mike Faulkner overtaking Moore by 1 second. Im going better now I have got the gear linkage sorted. However, co-driver Peter Foys voice was failing and the pair were hoping it lasted for the last three stages. Moores excuse for dropping a place was that he had fallen asleep. The last few stages have been rough and Im not pushing as hard as I should. I must learn to push a bit harder. Gareth MacHale was philosophical, 40 seconds behind in 5th place and now setting times consistent with the top lads. Im happy enough he said, I wont catch the Moore/Faulkner battle in three stages, so Im holding station and looking forward to the challenge of the Manx and getting back on the hard stuff.

A further minute behind, Paul Jones admitted to struggling. I tried to go quicker but Im having big moments. I cant see through the corners on a lot of the fifth gear stuff and Im not committed to the notes. I was nearly in a ditch on Stage 6.

Also holding station, Jon Tucker said he was driving like a girl, its really slippy and rutted in places so Im on the sumpguard. My aim was for sixth place but although I took some time out of Jones, it was not enough to catch him-if I try Ill go off. Colin Britton reported that his earlier problem was due to a faulty MAP sensor and the car was now feeling good.

After a close shave on Stage 6 OBrien commented: Its very slippy. Weve had a few near misses. Its still wet in the car but thats the least of our worries. Its hard work but good fun.

Twice winner of the Super Cup publicity award Trevor Martin went off into a ditch for five minutes relying on the help of brave spectators who pulled them out. Fortunately for him the car only seemed to have a dent in the bonnet.

Steve Petch junior complained of having one of those days. My car still keeps jumping out of gear and Im fishing for gears. We also spun on the last corner. We are too far behind now, just going to go for a finish its too slippy out there.

The final loop took the crews to Alwen for Stage 7. At the end of this test, Jones beat Rowlands by 3.8 seconds, taking the gap to 10.9 seconds with still 20 miles of stages to go. Moore woke up and took a precious second fastest taking 6 seconds back from Faulkner and with that regaining third place overall. Petch junior sparkled through the stage, matching the time of Gareth MacHale in fourth, not denting his massive deficit from his earlier problems, but earning him the TOTAL Spirit of the Rally Award.

The final two stages of the day were a rerun of the mornings stages in Clocaenog. Stage 8 was the long one at 13.8 miles. Rowlands showed he still meant business, taking fastest, but by a tiny 4 tenths of a second! Chris Moore was third, 8 seconds down, but more importantly, 10 seconds up on his rival Faulkner to make his third place more secure. MacHale completed the top five. Jon Tucker retired with drive shaft failure on this test.

The final stage, the 7.6 miles of Clocaenog east saw the drama finally fall in Rowlands favour. He commented: Im so glad to finish first-I hope I can be quick on the next round which is tarmac as gravel is my favourite. After winning three out of three Winter Cup rounds, the Super Cup victory is sweet indeed. Jones took up the runner up spot, a scant 6.6 seconds back and a valiant effort in his comeback, taking 4.7 seconds off Rowlands on this test, but not enough. He commented: "Its been a fun day considering its so wet, I would like to have finished first though! Moore took up the last place on the podium, just over a minute behind; such had been the tussle at the front. Moore commented: Weve had a great day, we came here wanting to finish third and we have, despite a couple of spins the car is spotless. Faulkner finished 4th 15 seconds back, while MacHale had made no more inroads and had a comfortable 5th place.

Paul Jones took up 6th, Colin Britton was a solid 7th, taking the Motorsport News Improvement on Seeding Award, with Michael OBrien two minutes back in 8th . Trevor Martin and Stephen Petch rounded off the top ten. All credit to the finishers for completing the slippy treacherous stages.

North Berwicks newest rallying star, Robbie Dale was pleased with his early position but disappointed after his off on Stage 6 leaving him with three wheels and out of the rally. He commented; I am so glad to have had the opportunity to drive the 206 Super Cup car its a fantastic little car. It has taken a bit of getting used to but it is also very wet and rutted out there today. Theres some stiff opposition in the Cup.

The Third Round of the 206 Super Cup moves across the water to the Isle of Man for the Roush Manx Rally: May 7th -8th.

<pre> Results: Driver Co-Driver Time 1 Ieuan Rowlands Kelvin Savage 1:25:05.6 2 Stuart Jones Richard Edwards 1:25:12.2 3 Chris Moore Andrew Bargery 1:26:16.3 4 Mike Faulkner Peter Foy 1:26:32.1 5 Gareth McHale Clive Jenkins 1:27:16.6 6 Paul Jones Darren Garrod 1:29:33.3 7 Colin Britton Kenny Hull 1:32:15.6 8 Michael O'Brien Simon Coates 1:34:25.9 9 Trevor Martin Ray Cleghorn 1:35:55.5 10 Stephen Petch Michael Wilkinson 1:40:08.4

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Andrew Bargery , Tom Boardman , Paul Jones , Stuart Jones , Trevor Martin , Gareth McHale