Davies Home Run The Fiat Stilo Rally Cup Rally of Wales May 15/16 2004 The picturesque town of Dolgellau was bathed in sunshine for the International Rally of Wales, where six Fiat Stilo Rally Cup crews joined battle for round two of the...
Davies Home Run
The Fiat Stilo Rally Cup
Rally of Wales May 15/16 2004
The picturesque town of Dolgellau was bathed in sunshine for the International Rally of Wales, where six Fiat Stilo Rally Cup crews joined battle for round two of the UK's newest one make rally series.
Situated in the heart of rally country, the town is no stranger to the sport, but it played host to the whole event for the first time in its history.
As championship leaders, Scots Willie Bonniwell and Ian Fraser led the cars over the start ramp in the town square, heading for the first pair of stages in the forest complex to the south and east of Dolgellau.
The 15.84 mile Dyfi stage could have been instrumental in the result of the rally with Bonniwell's car developing a water leak mid-way through and Paul Tod's car sticking in fourth gear. They were relieved, but the other Stilo crews were disappointed, when an accident caused them to drive non-competitively through the final part of the stage. A total of fifteen crews were allocated a nominal time, effectively making stage two their first competitive test.
Having affected a temporary repair at the roadside, on the next stage Bonniwell went on to set a blistering pace, fifteen seconds clear of Gainsborough's Shaun Woffinden and Howard Pridmore. Unfortunately the repair had cost them time and the resulting one-and-a-half minute road penalty dropped them to last Stilo. Woffinden benefited and led at first service. He and Pridmore had made their own pace notes and found they worked well on the 11.53 mile Dyfnant stage, but both were on guard in case their round one misfire returned. Abergavenny pairing, Chris Davies and Nathan Parry, were a further nine seconds adrift, with Davies admitting that the car had been fine but he had been asleep.
Snapping at the locals' heels and just 1.9 seconds down were Catalan Joan Roca and his Spanish co-driver Jordi Barrabes. They were another pair who returned to the first service suffering from tiredness after a gruelling 14 hour recce the day before, during which they suffered two punctures on their recce car.
Less than ten seconds behind were Paul Tod and Iestyn ap Dafydd. The second all-Welsh crew suffered when their car became stuck gear again, a problem that was remedied at service. However, they were another crew who picked up road penalties, but 20 seconds was a small price to pay for the roadside repair.
Scots topped and tailed the time sheets on stage 2, with Dumfries represented by Tom Metcalfe and Roger Herron, who also had problems with gear selection, the pair only having 1st, 3rd and 5th gears before the service halt.
At 7.95 miles, Pantperthog was a relatively short stage and the times were close. Roca took the stage win and leapt into the lead, but Bonniwell began his fight-back, stopping the clock just 0.9 seconds adrift of the Spaniard. Eight seconds further back and maintaining second place was Davies, with Metcalfe having a clean run just nine seconds behind the Welshman. Tod and Woffinden struggled, with Woffinden dropping to third while Tod had Bonniwell closing on his fifth place.
Stage four was a re-run of Dyfi and it proved that in rallying, everything can change in an instant. Bonniwell had the bit between his teeth and stormed through with another fastest time, with Davies gamely hanging on 14.9 seconds behind. However, after the stage, the time sheets showed the Welshman leading. Roca had taken six minutes to affect a mid-stage gear selector repair, dropping him to last Stilo.
He was not placed sixth though, since stage four saw the demise of former leader Woffinden and the improving Metcalfe. Back at service Woffinden explained his retirement: "We hit a big outcrop on a fast left hander and it pulled the driveshaft out." He continued: "It was only half-a-mile from the end of the stage and we managed to drive out, but called it a day on the road section when the diff started complaining."
Metcalfe's disappearance was rather more spectacular, with the car reportedly spotted upside down in a ravine, wedged between two trees. Both driver and co-driver were unhurt, but the car remained there until the stage was over.
This elevated Paul Tod from fifth to third where he remained until the end of day one, although his final stage of the day was hampered when he caught the dust from the car in front which had slowed with a puncture.
Having leap-frogged Tod on stage four, the final stage of the day saw Bonniwell reduce the gap to new leader Davies by a further eight seconds, leaving him poised for a charge on Sunday's three stages.
End of Leg 1 Positions
1 Chris Davies/Nathan Parry 1:13:39.0
2 Willie Bonniwell/Ian Fraser 1:14:13.7
3 Paul Tod/Iestyn ap Dafydd 1:15:32.8
4 Joan Roca/Jordi Barrabes 1:19:28.0
Nearly forty miles awaited the crews on an uncharacteristically sunny May morning in Wales, and Davies needed all his local support as Bonniwell had vowed to have a charge for the lead.
In the only scheduled service of the day, the teams had just ten minutes to check the cars over after they were released from the overnight parc ferme and Bonniwell had bad news. When he drove out of parc ferme the power steering didn't work, and with no time to trace the fault he headed for the three stages with some trepidation.
Davies and Parry had their fingers crossed, and when an incorrect time penalty was scrubbed, they were convinced that he could hold off Bonniwell's ailing car. The Welshman crossed the line setting a time of 17:02.5 and waited for the Scot, who was just one car back. Astoundingly Bonniwell was nearly nine seconds quicker, and Davies went into the penultimate stage fearing he would be caught.
Meanwhile Tod and Roca held station, with big time gaps in front and behind meaning that they could not catch or be caught without one having serious problems.
Bonniwell's charge was cut short on stage seven when he ran wide at the edge of the track and spun. His error meant that Davies took his first stage victory, over twenty seconds faster. The drama behind was equally tense, with Tod suffering a puncture and Roca a recurrence of his gear selection malady.
The final stage of the rally should have been simple for Davies. With badly blistered hands from fighting with the steering, Bonniwell's charge might have been over. But Davies had to drive the stage with no cooling fan and an eye on the temperature gauge. This allowed Bonniwell and Fraser to take their fifth stage win of the event, but the honours went to the delighted Chris Davies and Nathan Parry, who were just two seconds slower, driving the whole stage with the heater on full to try and keep the engine cool. The two top placed Stilo crews also picked up first and second in the event's Formula 2000 category, and go to the next round equal on points.
Paul Tod/Iestyn ap Dafydd took third place and valuable championship points after their disappointment on round one, while Joan Roca/Jordi Barrabes struggled through, also taking their first points of the season.
The Championship now has three ties, with Bonniwell and Davies sharing the top spot, Woffinden and Tod sharing third and Metcalfe and Roca sharing fifth. Chris Davies leads the Junior category.
The next round is the RSAC Scottish Rally based in Dumfries on 11/12 June, sure to be well worth watching to see the battle unfold for the 2005 Fiat Punto S1600 prize.
The Fiat Stilo Rally Cup acknowledges support from Fiat Auto (UK), Hi-Tec, Toora Competizione, PIAA, Bardahl, Pirelli and media partner Motorsport News.
Final Positions and Provisional Championship Positions
1 Davies/Parry 1:59:56.7
2 Bonniwell/Fraser 2:00:40.7
3 Tod/ap Dafydd 2:02:41.1
4 Roca/Barrabes 2:20:11.5
1 Bonniwell/Fraser 47
2 Davies/Parry 47
3 Woffinden/Pridmore 20
4 Tod/ap Dafydd 20
5 Metcalfe/Herron 18
6 Roca/Barrabes 18