Alex Allingham and co-driver Chris Williams took a third ‘Pirelli’ MSA Welsh National Rally Championship title in five years and with it, a free entry to Wales Rally GB National after enduring a far from straight forward day on last weekend’s Llandudno based Cambrian Rally.
The North Wales forests making up the 45 mile route greeted the 125 crews with treacherously slippery gravel and mud strewn tracks which made driving conditions difficult and meaning even reaching the finish would be an achievement.
Allingham and Williams scored an impressive 5th overall result on August’s Woodpecker Stages which was enough to leave the Riverside Property Services backed Subaru Impreza N10 duo with a chance of lifting the MSA Welsh Rally Championship title on the final round. Although their chances were mathematically possible, their chances in reality looked unlikely. Lying 15 points behind long term series leaders Luke Francis/John H Roberts meant that Allingham and Williams would have to hope Francis came home 14th or worse amongst the 17 registered crews in the event.
With their hopes slim of taking the outright title, Allingham and Williams settled that so long as they finished they would comfortably retain the MSA Welsh Production Cup, however disaster would strike the Kumho Tyres backed crew when in a rare mistake, they slid wide at a junction, down a banking and rolled onto their roof. Fortunately there was little damage to the car, but they were stuck fast. Spectators helped right the upside down Impreza back onto it’s wheels and then hauled them out of the ditch but not before the crew had lost more than 3 minutes dropping them to 123rd overall and almost last in the standings.
Williams commented, ‘I thought we’d blown it. There we were on the opening stage of the final round just needing to finish and we were upside down below the road. The exit road at the junction went straight on and the stage was tightening to the left. We ran out of road and had nowhere left to go other than down the bank and the momentum took us over. Fortunately there were plenty of spectators there and they did a great job in extracting us with only 3 minutes of time loss. We’ve been told the same bend caused about 10-15 others go off too, so we weren’t the only ones to get caught out. It felt though, having lost so much time that our day and championship hopes were done.’
As if their 3 minute time loss wasn’t enough, they picked up a puncture exiting the stage and had to change the wheel at the side of the road ahead of SS2 dropping 2 minutes of road time in the process and then during Stage 2, Allingham’s intercom started to cut out intermittently. Even with the intercom problems in Stage 2, they were still able to set joint quickest time in Group N with BTRDA Production Cup rivals Tom Naughton and Andi Mort.
Undeterred the Coppermines & Lakes Cottages supported crew knew that just finishing the event would be enough so Allingham and Williams pressed on, and had their first clean stage of the day on SS3, although their commitment and confidence had been dented from their earlier off, then in SS4, their day took a turn for the better, passing title rivals Luke Francis/John Roberts stricken Evo 9 with a holed fuel tank by the side of the stage.
The Richard Allingham Cars backed crew’s day had been completely turned on it’s head. All Allingham and Williams needed to do was finish 7th or better amongst the Welsh contenders and the title would be theirs.
As if the Juice Motorsport sponsored crew required reminding how quickly things could change, it was on the road section back to refuel that the car suddenly cut out and coasted to a halt. It seemed that elation had turned to devastation. It seemed that the Impreza had run out of fuel. Quickly, the crew were out of the car and checking to see what could have caused the problem. Fortunately, they noticed the wire going to the fuel pump had been knocked loose by some tools in the boot of the Subaru and with the problem fixed and a little coaxing, the Impreza fired up and Allingham and Williams made it to refuel with no more dramas.
When they reached midday service, Allingham and Williams were unaware of where they were lying amongst the Welsh contenders and it was some time before they realised they were running 5th and doing enough to take the title. All that stood between them and the trophy was an afternoon of 4 stages, however, the remaining 4 stages that lay in front of the duo would be a repeat of the mornings 4 treacherously slippery tests. Both Allingham and Williams knew it would be far from easy.
Allingham and Williams mixed speed with caution to perfection, ticking off each stage throughout the afternoon whilst continuing their dramatic fight back through the field to reach the finish after a trying day, an ironic 13th overall and 3rd in Group N, an astonishing 110 position improvement on their first stage position. More importantly though their result was enough to take 4th amongst the Welsh Championship contenders meaning they sealed their third title in 5 years where a packed Llandudno Promenade was waiting to welcome Allingham and Williams and their trusty Subaru Impreza N10 as MSA Welsh National Rally Champions.
A delighted Allingham said at the finish, “What a day! I don’t think we can quite believe it. I’m absolutely delighted to have taken the Welsh title today! I don’t think neither me nor Chris would’ve believed anyone who’d said we’d be stood here as Welsh Champions after our 1st stage incident this morning. When we saw Luke parked up, it completely knocked our rhythm for the rest of the stage. It was so unexpected. We were having a day to forget up until then, then when the car cut out on us, we honestly thought, ‘how many other things can go wrong today?!’. I think we’ve had more dramas today that we’ve had in the last two seasons put together! It certainly hasn’t been easy, especially knowing we couldn’t push too hard, but I’ve got to say, Chris has done a great job in keeping an eye over how everyone else was getting on and keeping a control over the whole situation.”
Allingham also commented on the team’s entry into Wales Rally GB. “It’s a great opportunity, and one we can certainly generate publicity off. We’re certainly planning on being there. Now we’ve got another race though, to find the budget to run the car on Wales Rally GB and we’ve only three weeks to do it.”
Allingham and Williams are hopeful of reaching the budget in time to make the start of Wales Rally GB, the team’s next outing. The Deeside based event is considered to be the biggest national rally in the country with 100 miles of stages spread over three days of rallying competing against some of the best crews in the world over the weekend of 14/15/16th November They have been seeded at Car 205, 5th amongst the National field.
The team are looking for potential sponsors to come on board and help meet some of the costs involved in such a high profile event. If you can help the team with sponsorship, please call Chris on 07854 158795.
You can catch Allingham and Williams in action on the BTRDA Review Programme on Friday 31st October at 21:30hrs and again on Special Stage Extra TV Review on on Wednesday 5th Novemeber at 19:25hrs. Both programmes are on Motors TV (Sky Channel No: 447) and now available on Freeview boxes.