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July 2023

Fairfield Merlin Stages

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A damp start greeted the 33 Rally Challenge contenders in a 73 car field at the Pembrey Motorsport Centre, with heavy rain leaving standing water on the outer roads in places.

Quick out of the blocks was Clydach man Phil Turner in the TCS Groundworks Skoda Fabia R5, pulling out a 12 second lead on Stage One. Breezy conditions saw the stages drying out by the midway point, favouring the Darrians,  and despite a couple of uncharacteristic spins Richard Merriman / Kath Curzon swapped Top 5 times all day, eventually finishing 5th, taking the Class 4 victory, and seeing Richard re-gain the top Rally Challenge Drivers spot.

Some of the most notable drives amongst Rally Challenge contenders were from Kidwelly’s Sean Jones and newcomer Joseph Palmer. Sean more than justified his seeding at Car 9 with a scorching pace, keeping his ex –celebrity Vauxhall Astra race car in the top 10, only to be thwarted by a broken battery lead, giving him a stage maximum. Despite this he fought on to still clinch second in class but was robbed of the chance to compete for overall placings against dad Chris and uncle Mark in a pair of Gilbern’s, who were 9th and 12th respectively.  Junior contender Joseph Palmer (pictured right) was driving in only his 2nd rally with experienced driver Marcus Padgett (pictured right) in the Co-driver seat. The crew achieved 25th overall and 3rd in Class in the little Nissan Micra 1400 with Marcus joking that the youngster had an advantage on left hand corners as he was causing the car to bank on his side!

Godspeed Brakes proprietor Ian Godney (pictured left) continues to settle in to his Suzuki Swift F2000 with improving results seeing him take 8th overall and 3rd in Class which takes him into the ‘IPS’ Top 10.

With Neil Griffiths in his four door Mark 2 being out of reach, one of the battles of the day was in Class 3 with Chris Gifford, co-driven by son Cieran, (on his second ever rally- both pictured right), and Porthcawl’s Matthew Curzon with Dafydd Davies. The crews both suffered a bit of baulking and Matthew ended the day with a slim six second lead.

A good class position would have ensured the top Co-drivers spot for Karen Phelps after her three previous Class victories but Leighton Smith’s usually ultra reliable engine let go with the oil pressure disappearing in the afternoon. Also in with a shout was Dan Evans but he also failed to finish in the Vauxhall Nova with Christian Howells.

The RJD Motor Services Two Seats Trophy, created for competitors who both drive and co-drive throughout the year is more popular than ever this year, with Junior contender Dylan Fowler Bishop now pulling out a 34 point lead over cousin Ashley Francis Adams after co-driving for 16 year old Kyle Green in the Junior F1000 section of the event.

Our thanks to Carmarthen Motor Club who put on a much enjoyed event which ran smoothly all day.

Photos courtesy of Mike Frayne

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