Round 14 Pembrey Rhordis final reckoning
Rhodri Jenkins 2004 Welsh Sports & Saloon Champion
There was another fine showing of cars on the grid for the final race of the season, sadly without Andy Williams who could not repair his damaged front suspension and was a non starter, as was Paul Trowbridge. However starting this time was Nigel Bowen and his Nissan Primera, and he certainly made an impact in a wet session coming in 3rd place on the grid as first saloon just behind the front row men of Peter Williams and Pole Position man Terry Brown. Nigel was faster than Huw Williams, Alvin Powell, Martin Davies and Richard Rhozon, truly impressive stuff! Also doing well was Rhys Lloyd who was 8th ahead of Don Kettleboroughs MG ZR and Chaz Ryles. In 11th was Christian Evans the first of the Championship contenders, looking handily placed with 6 cars between him and his next serious class opposition Ken Rattenbury. In between Christian and Ken were David Coulthards MG ZR, Ian Collins Proton Coupe, Shane Marshall Mallock, Matthew Perkins Rover and championship points leader Rhodri Jenkins Honda in 16th place! Although it was strange to see Rhodri so far down he wasnt worried where he was on the grid, it was all part of his plan. Kenneth Rattenbury Sierra Sapphire, Lee David, Anthony Allitt, Stephen Pearcy, Christopher Davies and Adrian Chapman made up the runners.
The Race 20 Minutes + 1 Lap rolling start
After Saturdays marathon the organisers were prevailed on to reduce the race distance to a more manageable distance, which was just as well as by now it was raining fairly heavily and by the time the race started it was pretty wet. Not that it worried Terry because as soon as the lights changed he was in the lead.
Sometimes its not easy to fully appreciate just how hard Terry works as a driver, after all his cars are so well engineered and Radicals, along with lots of modern cars, tend to look like they corner flat, tending to under-steer. However on Sunday with the track moving from streaming wet to a nasty, greasy looking sheen, it was a Terry Brown Tour de Force as he held dramatic slides and viscous looking twitches with consummate ease, building a big lead and increasing it to the end, setting the fastest lap on the way to win by just over 33 seconds, despite some hair-raising moments lapping the field " There were plenty of those" he said afterwards, before adding his usual comment "That was hard, Im getting too old for it now". On that display there seems to be plenty of life in the old dog yet!
Behind Terry, Peter Williams settled into a undisputed 2nd place, but 3rd place was up for grabs from the word go. Huw Williams held 3rd initially from Martin Davies, Nigel Bowen, after Alvin Powell had spun to the back of the field, and Richard Rhozon. However Martin soon began to monster Huw, getting alongside at Spitfires before Huw was forced to dive into the pits for a quick stop to sort out some bodywork problems, leaving Martin free to briefly look like chasing Peter. However Martin soon had something else to occupy his attention with a serious challenge shaping up from Nigel Bowen who really seemed to have a handle on the Primera. Nigel looked like he was ready to put a move on Martin, but catching is one thing, and Martin has plenty of tricks up his sleeve to deal with these situations! Barrelling down to Hatchets on lap 5 Martin seemed to take a wide line and stayed late on the brakes, offering Nigel a gap up the inside. Nigel duly obliged, sailing into the gap and up the escape road! Martin carefully watching Nigels exit before turning in. Nigel couldnt get himself going again, finding the throttle cable jammed open but after that it was plain sailing for Martin to take 3rd place, the last unlapped runner. (Shane Marshall also stopped on lap 7, making him and Nigel the only 2 non finishers)
Richard Rhozon was 4th, some way ahead of the impressive Rhys Lloyd in 5th. It was strange to see Rhys on his own without Rhodri somewhere near but this time he had a recovering Chas Ryles and Don Kettleborough to keep him in very close company with only a few 10th separating the cars at the end. 8th was the recovering Huw Williams, whilst 9th and another lap down was fellow spinner Alvin Powell (although Alvin did it twice). David Coulthard was 10th and was well pleased with his visit, although he is looking for us to arrange some better weather next time. (What do you mean? That was better, you should have seen it in 1999!)
Behind them was where the championship was decided in one of the most of the tense finales for many years with only 3 points between Rhodri & Christian at the start of the race (Terry having already wrapped up 3rd place overall as well as his class.) Initially Christian looked on course to narrow the gap to Rhodri as Rhodri sank down the order. Whether Rhodri had a problem, or this was all part of a plan was hard to gauge at the time.
Indeed Christian may have thought himself relatively safe with Andy Williams on the sidelines, but just when you think youve got rid of one Ford Sierra Sapphire, here comes another one to put you under pressure! In a clear case of Enter the Dragon (rather than exit) this time it was Ken Rattenbury. After a torrid time on Saturday that would have had Murray Walker at his most manic, "Spin, Spin, Spin!! its Kenny Rattenbury !!", Ken was keeping it on the tarmac and right up behind Christians bumper. Knowing he too had to finish to score the points he needed, Kenny was clearly unsettling Christian and once he got past Christian dropped back, afterwards saying "I had to let him go, I couldnt risk it" Indeed if Rhodri had dropped out again, 2nd may have done it, and there was always the hope that Ken might actually drop it again. However this time Ken was showing considerable maturity and there were no hiccups, going from spinner to Class winner (even setting the fastest lap) in one easy move, and justly clinching the Driver of the Day Award!
Meanwhile as the race drew to a close it looked like Rhodris plan was begining to unravel as he dropped further and further back, (even losing a lap to Rhys Lloyd who finished 5th overall and won Class G) until he had Matthew Perkins sitting on his tail! Matthew looked like he was up for a dice and it certainly woke Rhodri up and there was only 3/10ths to spare at the end!
But Rhodris plan was to stay out of the melee and stroke home for the points he needed and afterwards he said "My plan was to go for second place. I knew that was all I needed. I stayed off the pace in practice and I spent most of the race watching my mirrors trying to make sure, but that was the most awful race I have ever had. I didn't like it but I knew I could risk throwing away a lot of hard work after such a long season" However later he revealed that this was not the only reason for his no risks approach. "I broke a wheel stud on the left front when changing tyres and although we managed to get a wheel nut on it, I obviously had that in mind"
Still, thats all history now, as is Rhodris place in the pantheon of the Champions.
Behind the Rhodri and Matthew dash for the line, Ian Collins (who joined the WRDA over weekend, new members are always welcome!) was the last runner to complete 18 laps. Ian has been doing some of the Britcar endurance races but said "It was a bit of a shock to realise we only had 15 minutes practice, you dont usually get going for the first 20 minutes in enduros", Lee David, Stephen Pearcy, Anthony Allitt, and Christopher Davies completed the finishers (Lee and Anthony having had a right old set-to at one stage) but this time poor Adrian Chapman copped an N.C.F next to his name, by completing just under 80% of the distance of the Class winner (i.e Rhys, who did 19 laps . MSA regs J 18.3). Still it was a good effort in difficult conditions.
So the dust settles on another thrilling Welsh Championship, which has gone to the wire an incredible 6 times in the last 9 seasons, which must make it one of the toughest, and most worthwhile championships to win anywhere, and a pleasure to watch. (Are you listening Bernie?)
I know you all be back next season
Still to come photo gallery + AGM & Championship Conference. (Rhodris buying the 1st drink afterwards!)
I'd be grateful if you could pass on my sincere thanks to everyone
involved in this weekend's meeting. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, and we were
made to feel most welcome. Excellent track, good racing, but please can you organise
better weather next time!
Mt gear is still wet and cold after last weekend, and I don't quite understand why I still somehow enjoyed myself, despite my performance! It must be because absolutely everyone has been so friendly and helpful since I started in May. I have learned a lot including what DNF & NCF mean and hopefully may yet learn to go a little quicker to get up among the tailenders. Thank everyone for me, and especially the front runners who have managed so far to avoid collecting me on their front wings!
Best wishes to all and hopefully looking forward to next season and at any social events you may lay on in the meantime.