UK: Ieuan Rowlands Astra Stages summary

Rowlands shines through the rain. Ieuan Rowlands battled through a variety of problems on Saturday's Llangollen based Astra Stages Rally, and was rewarded with a well earned Peugeot TOTAL 206 Super Cup win. The Llan Ffestiniog ace had high ...

Rowlands shines through the rain.

Ieuan Rowlands battled through a variety of problems on Saturday's Llangollen based Astra Stages Rally, and was rewarded with a well earned Peugeot TOTAL 206 Super Cup win. The Llan Ffestiniog ace had high hopes for his home event, but victory was far from easy on the second round of the hotly contested Peugeot one make series.

Having won the 2003 206 Winter Cup Championship, Rowlands decided to take the plunge and purchase his own 206 Cup Car to contest the eight round 2004 Championship. It was a gamble, but thankfully one that is quite literally paying off, for Rowlands needs to make sure he finishes the rallies in a good points scoring position in order to pick up the prize money that is necessary to fund his championship campaign.

A strong third place on the first round of the championship, the Bournemouth based Rally Sunseeker and his win on the Astra Stages means his title chase is off to a promising start. His title ambitions have been further bolstered by backing from Aberystwyth based performance car parts supplier CAMSport. Rowlands is also receiving assistance from Geoff Jones Motorsport who provide on event support and technical advice as well as re-preparing the car between rallies.

Despite this obvious pressure, Saturday's rally saw him produce a mature drive in difficult conditions which enabled him to control the pace of the rally from the front of the field. The biggest threat came from young Stuart Jones who pushed Rowlands all day, the pair trading seconds right up until the last stage.

Rowlands rally got off to a perfect start when he set fastest time on the first two stages of the day in Clocaenog, opening up a 20 second lead over second place Stuart Jones by the time the cars reached the first service halt in Bala. However it was not as easy as Rowlands made it look, problems with the intercom on stage two meant Rowlands struggled to hear Dollgelau co-driver Kelvin Savage.

Rowlands admitted to taking it easy in stages three and four, choosing to back off to reduce the risk of punctures which could cost him the chance of winning. His pace was also tempered by memories of seeing many broken cars in the same stages whilst competing on last year's event.

Stages five and six, the daunting Penmachno South and Penmachno North tests, reward bravery and commitment. Rowlands showed he had both in abundance as he duly set the benchmark time for the 206's through Penmachno South. His performance made all the more remarkable by the fact he damaged his suspension part way through the stage. This meant he started stage six (Penmachno North) with an ailing car but still only dropped five seconds to second placed Jones who had now cut the deficit to just fourteen seconds.

The last service of the day was a chance for Rowlands mechanics to effect a repair to his damaged suspension, which had been damaged so badly when he had hit a rock in Stage six, that it had punched its way through the bonnet of the car. The exhaust, flattened by the rough stages, was also changed for a fresh unit.

Stage seven saw the crews tackle the Alwen stage. Again, Rowlands decided to drive cautiously through this one, describing it as extremely rough. He judged his pace perfectly, finishing the stage in second place, just 3.8 seconds behind Jones. Rowlands lead was now a meagre 10.9 seconds.

The final two tests of the day were a re-run of the morning's first two stages. Rowlands chose stage eight, Clocaenog Main, to make his charge and try to seal the win. He claimed another stage victory, completing the 13.8 miles a scant four tenths of a second quicker than second place man Jones. However, the timesheets did not tell the whole story, part way through the stage the hastily repaired suspension had again been forced through the bonnet, leaving Rowlands with an ill-handling car.

Stage nine, the final stage of the rally. Just over seven miles stood between Rowlands and his maiden 206 Super Cup win. With the odds stacked firmly against him, Rowlands rose to the challenge having decided he was not going to settle for second place. He pushed as hard as he could, dropping just four seconds to a very hard charging Jones. However, Jones' efforts were in vain as Rowlands secured the 206 win by just 6.6 seconds after more than seventy-five miles of flat out driving.

At the finish of the rally at the Pavillion in Llangollen, an understandably jubilant Rowlands said; "I am delighted with the result, it looked very bad at the start of last stage. The car was a nightmare to drive through there but we were very pleased to only drop four seconds to Stuart. We decided to push as hard as we could instead of taking it easy and settling for second, and we made it. I am so glad to see the finish line! I was forced to work hard for the win and to say I am pleased is an understatement, particularly after all the problems we have suffered today".

The 206 Super Cup Championship now travels to the Isle of Man for the Roush Manx Rally on May 7th and 8th.

-rallypr-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Stuart Jones