By Paul Evans
Walter’s Arena, in the beautiful Vale of Neath, was alive with the sound of Polaris RZRs, QT Wildcats, Kirkland Protos and other crazy off-road machines that you might well have never heard of before – but it’s a spectacular sport and in the end it was Paul Rowlands and co-driver Andrew Smith who triumphed on the Welsh Hill Rally in their rapid Can Am X3, after three days of teeth-rattling competition.
Dan Lofthouse/Tony Coid led initially, holding a slight advantage over Peter Roberts/Anthony Brinkman, with Ian Rochelle/Chris Hammond in third place in their Rivet.
Day two was the longest of the event, and it proved to be challenging for many crews. Despite suffering a puncture on the first stage of the day, Lofthouse continued to lead. By the end of the day Steve Hiatt/Ian McMahon had moved up to second in their Warrior, 44 seconds behind Lofthouse with Roberts in third, 11 seconds further back.
Several crews were experiencing problems in the extremely hot and dusty conditions, including Rochelle who retired his Rivet, Brian Chase, who had a shaft puncture a hole in his Freelander’s gearbox, and Ken Powell, who had engine problems on his KRS 206.
Both Hiatt and Roberts did not start day three, which promoted Rowlands into second in his Can-Am X3 and Ian Gregg/Adam Evans into third in their Polaris RZR. Lofthouse’s day got off to a bad start with a throttle issue causing him to lose over two minutes and the lead of the event to Rowlands. Things were to get worse with a fire in his car on the final stage which forced him into retirement. Rowlands maintained his pace to take the win by 34 seconds from Gregg. With Lofthouse retiring, ex-stage rally driver James Ford finished third in his QT Wildcat.
“It was a tricky weekend,” said Rowlands. “We had some problems with punctures so it was a case of looking after the car and driving steadily to get to the finish.”
Welsh Hill Rally – top 10 finishers
1. Paul Rowlands/Andrew Smith (Can Am X3)….1:19:10
2. Ian Gregg/Adam Evans (Polaris RZR)….1:19:44
3. James Ford/Paul Chambers (QT Wildcat)….1:24:54
4. Toby Jefferson/Will Jefferson (GSR 206)….1:27:39
5. Robert Patton/William Bones (Land Rover Defender)….1:31:09
6. Jason Rowlands/Matthew Hall (Can Am X3)….1:31:20
7. George Bryson/Wallace McKay (Kirkland Proto)….1:32:05
8. Chris Bowler/David Bowler (Land Rover Ultra)….1:32:33
9. Alec Fern/Matthew Booth (3M Challenger)….1:32:39
10. Simon Crowe/Karl Johnstone (Polaris RZR)….1:32:40