Rallynuts Stages Rally in Mid Wales
Posted on 19 April 2023
The weekend of the 15/16th April saw the Tata Elxsi Defender Rally Series compete at the 49th annual Rallynuts stages rally – widely recognised as a key stage rally in the British calendar. Rallynuts brought up to 120 teams together from multiple classes for some closely fought competition.
Rallynuts was established as the first public event for team Bowler in 2023, which saw five competitor teams take on the all-gravel 44 mile course for the first time. Based in Builth Wells, the event comprised of seven stages across Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren forest with routes designed to test competitors to the limit. Joining the series for the first time after an intensive week of training was Andrew Burgess and co-driver John Tomley who missed the initial private round of the season at Walters Arena. The event also brought a late entry pairing of driver Dave Hooper and co-driver Paul Chambers due to Paul White unfortunately pulling out. They were joined by Finnish team Jorma Jokela and Janne Jokela, Bowler works driver Vanessa Ruck & Chris Cuming and John Cockburn and Christina Dobloug.
The highly slick Bowler works crew consisting of skilled technicians from both Bowler & JLR arrived in Builth Wells on Friday morning to get competitor cars prepared and lined up for scrutineering. By mid-afternoon, everything was in order with drivers and co-drivers fully prepared to race. Saturday started sunny but frosty with Bowler participants enjoying breakfast in the paddock courtesy of catering partners Feast Streat. Spirits were high and the bright morning sunshine was welcome albeit the frost meant teams had to consider icy patches as well as standing as they discussed race plans.
Bowler drivers headed for the first stage at 10am with the added challenge of 95 very different vehicles having already raced the routes ahead of them; the Bowler Defender would tackle the course very differently to the R5 Category cars, 2-wheel drive Subarus and Fords ahead of them – the Bowler is design for both gravel and hill rallies. The new drivers approached this new course cautiously, recognising the long season ahead, with all drivers successfully finishing the morning’s session. Dave Hooper and co-driver Paul Chamber’s finished the morning first with a total time of 32m23s. John and co-driver Christina also finished strongly with a substantial gap of 01m14s between them and the leaders.
Four stages and three hours into the competition, all the cars pitted for a one-hour service. Dedicated tech crews were briefed by drivers and went about thoroughly inspecting the cars with no issues found – a testament to the robustness of the Defender and Bowler engineering.
Back out to stage 5, confidence was clearly growing as all drivers began to improve on previous times whilst retaining their positions in class.
Stage 6 saw everything change with confidence growing even further, Jorma and Vanessa increased their speed and jumped up to 1st and 2nd place respectively; Dave Hooper slipped to 5th due to a slow puncture and John and Christina also slipped down to 4th owing to an interesting battle with a mk2 Escort.
Performances in the seventh and final stage couldn’t have been more different to the morning; Jorma’s steady persistence paid off as he took first place yet only 1 minute 8 seconds ahead of ‘The Girl on a Bike’ Vanessa. Regardless of being completely new to racing on four wheels, Vanessa is one to watch as her confidence grows combined with determination makes her a formidable challenger for established racers. Despite her motorcycle rally experience and mental programming, Vanessa admits that getting into a rally car for the first time just weeks ago was a completely new experience, but clearly the four wheels isn’t going to hold her back! Bowler are very excited for the journey with Vanessa as the series continues to grow.
Back in the pits at the race finale, drivers were met with applause from team Bowler and it was all smiles for team Jokela as they realised 1st place; “It was an amazing day, we increased our speed in every stage, beautiful roads and the car worked amazingly, big thanks to the team!”
2nd place was won by Ruck and Cuming with Burgess and Tomley coming 3rd. The Bowler Spirit of event award which recognised outstanding contribution or camaraderie from anyone associated with Bowler was awarded to Dave Hooper and Paul Chambers for teamwork and effort.
Calum McKechnie, general manager of Bowler, remarked; “It’s been a fantastic second round to the Bowler 2023 Championship here at Rallynuts, all the cars performed perfectly with absolutely no issues for the drivers, and we were lucky with the weather which helped us make the most of the absolutely beautiful setting here in Wales. Congratulations to all our competitors, it’s clear that confidence is growing, with times improving each stage but particular congratulations go to Jorma and Janne on their consistent progress and taking first place this weekend. I’d like to thank our sponsors Tata Elxsi for their support of this year’s championships and we now look forward to round 3 in Scotland in June.”
The next round of the Defender Rally Series by Bowler is a Hill Rally, which takes place on 17th and 18th June in Scotland with some further exciting news.
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