Brilliant Epynt

Last weekend, Epynt, near Brecon in Wales was the venue for the opening round of the 2010 Richard Egger Insurance MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.

Epynt Military Ranges are MOD land that is opened up a few times a year to host some of the fastest Tarmac rallies in the country. Narrow ribbons of tarmac weave their way across hillsides and through mock German villages, built to simulate fighting the Russians in WWIII. I love the place, mainly because it’s so sodding quick. The rally consisted of 6 stages, two layouts repeated three times, with each stage being about 12 miles long. It’s a mix of flat out sections over jumps and long, sweeping bends with the occasional tight, technical section thrown in to keep the average speed down. The weather was about as good as you get; Epynt seems to it’s own weather system, but it behaved itself on this occasion. It was chilly to begin with and quite windy, but crucially, it was dry.

After spectating on the event for a few years now, it seems to me that being quick here requires above all else, trust. The driver must first trust the notes that their navigator is calling, miss read a corner here and the consequences can be expensive and painful. The driver also needs to trust the car. He/she must believe that it will grip when they enter a string of 5/6th gear bends. They must know that the suspension will cope with the crests and not spit the car off in a direction of it’s own choosing when landing.

As usual, there was a real mix of machinery on the event. From ex works Impreza, Focus and Fabia WRC cars right down to 1.3 Minis and Novas. Add in to the mix a Metro 6R4, a very special, and rapid Audi S3, numerous Mk2 Escorts and a clutch of Darrians, made it a varied and exciting mix of tarmac weaponry.

The most spectacular viewing point of the day was a crest on stages 4-6. They ran in the opposite direction to those in the morning. This meant that instead of approaching the crest after twisty climb, the crews would now be hitting it after a flat, half mile straight.

The quickest crews were arriving at this point well in excess of 100 mph. The seemingly gentle kink launched the cars in to the air with breathtaking ease. The wind at this point was briskly gusting across the track, creating an intermittent, but fiendish cross wind. The cars were airborne for a good two seconds and seeing them buffet in the air as the wind hit was both thrilling a quite terrifying. There’s been some big accidents over the years at this point, the crews understand the risks but still display incredible commitment.

The event was won by Peter Lloyd/Graham Handly in thier Subaru S12 WRC by a margin of 37s over Steve Simpson/Mark Booth in another WRC Impreza.

Special mention must go the 3rd placed crew of Simon Mauger/Chris Butcher who beat a raft of far more exotic machinery in their Mk2 Escort.

The sight of these cars flying through the air only a couple of meters from where you’re standing is utterly intoxicating. These crews are performing absolute heroics and long may it continue. The guys in the BMW below typify the spirit of the event, brilliant.

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