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LeJog 2023 Leg Two Rally Report

LeJog 2023 Leg Two Rally Report

If there was ever a fitting 30th tribute to LeJog, to all the elements that have made it what it is since that first event in 1993 then perhaps last night’s second leg was it. Traditionally this is the leg that defines destiny for those hoping for medals, and sometimes even just a finish, and blow the honours. Well, a nefarious night it was indeed, with all of the devilments needed to ensure that the first nocturnal section of this year’s event was a bona fide classic.

It all began innocently enough, but then leg 2 often does, luring you in before spitting you out, literally in some cases. The Sweeps were busy in the oh-so-small gap between legs 1 and 2, but that’s nothing unusual. A couple of cars would also be going no further in the event, namely cars 20, Adam Davies and Richard Stanier, and 24, James O’Mahony and Frank Hussey, and a few would be skipping straight onto the leg 2 MTC at Mold for repairs. The first couple of regularities didn’t offer up too many surprises, but as the route pushed on over Epynt the snow began to fall, and the blacktop took on a white sheen as the icy precipitation persisted. Whilst there were no competitive sections within the infamous Epynt Ranges, there was a secret check that was causing consternation for some, with many cars needing to perform U-Turns to find it in the dark and some missing it altogether.

As the miles drew on the snow increased in intensity, it certainly wasn’t a blizzard, and there wasn’t anything in the way of deep drifts, but it was coming down at a pace steady enough to make visibility tricky and the roads were icy under tread. It was classic LeJog weather, one of the elements that attracts those with an appetite for it, although perhaps more what would be expected in Scotland, as usually we are subjected to bucketsful of rain in Wales. The metrology was starting to exert its icy hand on the fortunes of those on the road and a few low-speed offs began to happen, on the face of which were fairly innocuous, but often these were the ones that caused the most damage. Mike Farrall in car 32, who had fixed his drive shaft issues, was one of those who ended up kissing the hedgerow. He must have wished the car had stayed broken and had gone directly to Mold, but as it is he and navigator Zach Burns are continuing, even with hope of a medal gone. Car 10, the green Cortina crewed by Paul Richards and Nick Cooper are in a similar position, a gentle caress of the scenery has left Paul with a fairly expensive repair bill, but he and Nick are pushing on regardless, “we’re enjoying ourselves” he said cheerfully this morning. Medals or not, getting to the end of this event is an achievement in its own right.

Sadly the weather put paid to some of the competitive sections due to be contested overnight, regularity number 6 was scrubbed as the road conditions had deteriorated beyond what is reasonable and safe and regularity number five was also cut short, although even the re-route around the other shore of the Llyn Clywedog reservoir was a tricky ascent in the snow and ice, just ask Chris Dillier in the Mk2 Jag, as he propelled the big cat up the snow covered road with quite some style.

It was ascents that would prove the undoing of other crews as the night reached its final act, the much-revered time control section. The snow had disappeared by this point, but although the skies were clear the ice remained and some of the ascents would prove to be the final curtain call for many of the crew's hopes for a medal or blue riband award. Alistair Leckie and Mike Cochrane would be one of these casualties, caught behind other cars that couldn’t find enough traction for the climbs, forcing them out of the TC section and, unfortunately as of this morning, out of the rally altogether.

Other casualties of the night were Ted and Paul Bosdet in Ted’s Golf, victims of the snow and ice and Stephan Koepple and Naser Rouholamin in car 26. It was certainly a tough leg 2, a classic in terms of the influence of the weather and a reminder that this event is not easy, even for those who would consider themselves veterans. The medal table itself now has only 9 cars competing for Gold, Silver and Bronze, with Stewart Christie and Andy Ballantyne, Henrik Verspohl and Horst Pokroppa, Andy Lane and Iain Tullie, and Thomas Koerner and Rolf Pellini now in the gold spots. Those in Silver and Bronze positions are still also well in contention to take advantage of any errors from the four in the top seats and a special mention must go to Rod Hanson, who battled through the night despite being unwell and now finds himself in a very respectable bronze position with navigator Clare Grove.

Sunday is traditionally a bit easier, or at least a shorter day in the saddle, which will be welcomed by the 32 starters that took to Leg 3 this morning. There is plenty of action to contest though and by the time we reach the leg end in Newcastle this evening, there will be another five regularities and four tests under the belt. Who knows what awaits us on the road today, but then that is part of the excitement and lure of LeJog.

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