Castrol Welsh Rally
Long gone are the times when this event was crammed into a weekend without respite, starting on a Friday evening and finishing on the Sunday after no official rest stops at all. Like other events which have been softened by FISA decree, the Welsh now has rest stops, whilst the need for main road runs from and back to Cardiff has been removed by locating the start and finish in Mid-Wales, much nearer the available forests.
Just as the Scottish Rally seems to attract the sun, so the Welsh seems to attract storm clouds, and this year was no exception. There were a few dry periods during the weekend, but the stage roads were invariably slippery, which Blomqvist used to good advantage.
He led right from the start, and whilst there were changes immediately behind him he never once appeared at risk of losing his lead, and his final winning margin over Englishman Russell Brookes in a Chevette was over seven minutes, a remarkably wide marging for an event with just 24 comparatively short special stages.
Scot Jimmy McRae had been holding second place for much of the time in his Opel Manta 400, but towards the end he went off the road and lost all of 15 min. heaving and pushing to get the undamaged car back on firm ground.
This was the Manta 400's first competitive appearance, or rather, half of it, for it was making a simultaneous debut in Corsica in the hands of Guy Fréquelin. It has often been seen at rallies in the past, but mainly for trial usage as chase car or some similar role. It has even been seen in four-wheel-drive guise, but we attach little significance to that.
Malcolm Wilson, driving a new Ford Escort 1600i, lost time having a clutch / gearbox unit changed (no-one tries to cure a slipping clutch with Vim these days!) and then more when his second gearbox lost a ratio and had to be changed again. Per Eklund drove his GpA Toyota Corolla with his usual aplomb to finish fourth overall and win the group comfortably.
Last year there were criticisms of the event's organisation, although we were not there to see it ourselves. This time we heard none of that and the celebrations afterwards were largely those of satisfied customers rather than disgruntled ones. — G.P.