As the cars lined up to take the start of this year's Per Ardua rally this morning, the big surprise was that the skies were clear, and the sun was shining down on the famous Metropole Hotel. After all the noise about potential snow this week it might have been a bit of an anti-climax, but nobody seemed to mind. Paul Dyas was certainly up for it in his new blue Volvo, I’m not sure what medication he had taken this morning, but he was in an ebullient mood, determined to provide stiff competition to those around him, especially Dan Willan.
The competition would begin quickly just down the road from the start, at the Royal Welsh Showground, with a pair of long tests to get the blood pumping to the right areas. The top seeds came out swinging, and it was a rousing spectacle for the few spectators who had gathered on the banks to watch the show.
A lot of the rally this year is set within the Epynt Ranges, whose hallowed tracks will provide much of the entertainment. It wasn’t too long before the crews got their first taste of this action, with three quickfire tests on the gravel roadways that diverged off the main road through the range. These provided some of the first drama of the event, when the new Volvo of Dyas and Taylor lost all performance, thanks to a flaccid fuel pump. As Dyas frantically pumped at the mechanism to tease some fluid from it, the mood was all a bit limp. Going out at this stage would certainly be a bitter pill to swallow, especially as the pump was brand new. Eventually though his persistence paid off and the car was underway again! A hard morning, and a big dent in their hopes for glory.
A second regularity of the day followed, back across Sennybridge and, after a quick stop for coffee, there was another regularity, a tricky little number through Abergwesyn and up the Devils Staircase. It wasn’t necessarily a navigational nightmare, but the narrow roads and steep climb certainly made maintaining a pace a challenge, but for anyone who did chance a look out the window the reward was the valley and the hills bathed in spectacular light and with barely any other road users it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Two further tests presented themselves before the lunch break, on the Bont Dolebolion rally stage, a real treat. The middle of the leg results showed a tight fight for honours, led by car number 1, Dan Willan and Niall Frost, with the VW Golf shod pair of Thomas and Roger Bricknell chasing hard in second spot and after a tremendous morning performance third place was held by John King and Oli Waldock.