The final event of the 2019 rallying year for the Bob Fowden Motorsport Team was Sunday’s Carmarthen MC WWRS Jaffa Stages at Pembrey Mototorsport Centre, writes Roger Gale.
It began well for the Comline Auto Spares & NGK backed Subaru Impreza WRC taking a seven-second lead on the opening stage of five, the Llanelli driver again having his grandson Mathias co-driving, the pair winning a previous event at the venue, fastest on every stage, despite a time consuming slide off the slippery ‘Beach Road’ section of the rally on the second stage.
With that imperious win still fresh in their minds the family duo had started what many tipped as a likely run to victory, aided by their main challenger, and winner of the same event last year Phil Turner, starting badly, his Mitsubishi Evo immediately trailing what seemed to be smoke from the engine bay as the car left the start and headed away into the stage.
The ‘smoke’ proved to be steam, the Mitsubishi blowing the radiator, though with a long gap between stages, mechanics were able to change the broken system, and the Evo able to continue. Briefly !
The Fowdens were experiencing a lack of traction in the slippery conditions, despite the four wheel drive, tyre choice and gearing selection proving a tricky one, the front of the car lacking grip, but held second from another Subaru going into the longer second and third stages that included the notorious Beach Road. Stage three claimed the Turner Mitsubishi, a tyre torn from a front wheel, the car stopped for around seven minutes on the race circuit, and with it all hopes gone of third win at the venue gone.
As Stage four – the longest run so far of the rally – was contemplated, Bob Fowden and his team were again evaluating differential and tyre choices, with the treacherous Beach Road section uppermost in their minds. The decisions made, the Subaru WRC headed for the start line, the win now seemingly possible, only the Subaru of Carmarthen driver Nigel Jones a threat.
However, that Beach Road had other ideas, the Comline – NGK Impreza flat out in fifth gear as a rear suspension link failed, the Fowden car sliding off the track, over some concrete debris, and glancing off a tree. Their rally was over on the spot, both crew members escaping injury in what had been a high speed accident, the Beach Road curse striking again, but this time getting the better of the Impreza..
That left the way clear for the Jones Subaru to take the win, the car coincidentally co-driven by Tracy Davies, wife of Bob Fowdens co-driver earlier this year, Aled Davies. Not the way the Fowden Motorsport Team had hoped to round off 2019, in front of what had been a massive crowd of enthusiastic rally spectators, the biggest seen at the venue for some time, but some consolation for the Llanelli driver that he had taken a win in the JD Tyres Welsh Tarmacadam Championship of 2019, after a difficult year that followed the huge rebuild of his ex Petter Solberg Impreza WRC made necessary by the Manx rally fire.