Fowden opens 2016 with victory in swamped Pembrey
Rali Cwm Gwendraeth
Organiser: Gwendraeth Valley Motor Club When: February 7 Where: Pembrey, South Wales Championship: WAMC Tarmacadam, FMP Rally Challenge Starters: 55 Stages: 5
Bob Fowden and co-driver Paul Wakely overcame treacherous conditions to take a dominant win at a sodden Pembrey.
The Subaru Impreza duo overhauled early leaders Phil Turner/simon Anthony’s Mitsubishi Lancer E9 on stage two and set fastest time on every remaining stage to take victory by 1m29s from Oliver Hopkins/ashley Trimble (E9), with Neil Williams/peter James (Ford Escort Mk1) third.
Pre-event rain made the stage surface extremely slippery, with patches of standing water along the Beach Road section causing numerous spins. Turner, recovered from his recent illness, set the early pace ahead of Fowden, Hopkins and Williams. Mechanical woes as well as the treacherous conditions caused early problems; top seeds Robert Tout/emma Jones (Mitsubishi Lancer E10) retired with a blown turbo, while second seeds Geoff Kitney/ken Gibbard (Mitsubishi E6) lost time when they spun and could not select reverse gear.
Once Fowden got a feel for the grip levels he snatched the lead and broke free of his pursuers, helped when Turner’s good run ended due to a blown turbo. This moved Hopkins into second and having reported that his new E9 was running well, he switched to full wet tyres to fend off Williams’s increasingly strong challenge. The stalemate broke on stage four, when Hopkins stopped the clocks 16s faster than his rival to secure runner-up spot. After a slow start, Wynne Watkins / Sherryn Roberts (Impreza) mounted a late charge to challenge Williams, but missed out on third by three seconds.