Inside Revolution: Teifi Valley Motor Club

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Wales has long been one of the UK’s most recognised Rallying regions and with Elfyn Evans currently flying the flag in the World Rally Championship, there is little surprise that many of the nation’s Clubs are thriving. With events over-subscribed and many youngsters keen to try out behind the wheel, things are busy at Teifi Valley.

The Club started out in 1959 and has built the perfect feeder system. It hosts regular Gymkhana Championship events through the year and its rookie-focused Rali Bro Preseli and
more challenging Rali Cilwendeg both open the door to road Rallying. Finally, it co-organises the closed road Stage Rally, Rali Ceredigion, one of the regions premier events.

Club Secretary Olwen Davies says: “There are several clubs in the area, not very far apart, but we are all pretty strong, and it shows the level of interest in motorsport in this area of the country. We see a lot of people progress through the Club, from grassroots right up into national events.”

The Club runs seven Gymkhanas – fun-focused motorsport events with less stringent regulations – in which anyone with a road-legal car can turn up and compete. The results combine into a Championship with multiple different categories to encourage all ages and skill levels to turn up regularly in the hunt for trophies.

“They are real family events, and we sometimes get multigenerations competing,” says Davies. “They are usually run on a Sunday and involve tests of driving skills such as driving
around cones, or parking in garages, with penalties for going the wrong way, hitting a cone, and so on.

“We encourage 14-year-olds drivers to compete, and we have classes for over-50s, ladies and juniors, plus an overall winner. They are very popular – the last event had around 40 entries – and they attract core people, newcomers and people who are planning to compete in a Targa with a new navigator and want some practice.

At the other end of the scale, the Rali Cilwendeg, a road rally that first ran a year after the Club’s formation, is a popular round of the Welsh Championship, while Rally Bro Preseli,
now in its 21st year, is a Clubman event that opens the doors to younger or less experienced competitors. The Club is also now looking at running a Targa Rally.

Drivers are clamouring for the chance to take part in both events – last year there were 134 entries for the 90 spaces on Rali Cilwendeg, while Rali Bro Preseli was also oversubscribed.

The Club runs its own ‘championships’ to encourage their members to compete in other Club events, pooling results and offering trophies at the end of each season. Davies explains: “Our members compete in lots of different events, so we run several different championships – Road Rally, Gymkhana, Targa, Forestry, Tarmac and Overseas – and for
each one, we make a list of events and record how our members do in them.

“So, the highest finisher from the Club in any championship event will get 50 points, the next 45, and so on. They are not formal championships, but they try to recognise the
events our members partake in and reward them for their achievements at the end of the year.”

The Club’s members have regularly enjoyed success outside of Wales, and last year Dyfrig James and co-driver Emyr Jones secured an impressive fourth position overall, and first in class, in the gruelling Roger Albert Clark Rally, while Geraint Davies and Eurig James finished 15th overall.

One of the challenges Rally-focused Clubs often face is in marshalling, particularly when it comes to manning the labour-intensive road rally events that Teifi Valley run. However, in Wales, there is no issue at all – because every competitor that enters must bring their own marshal to help out on the event.

“That has happened for years,” says Davies. “It ensures we have plenty of people to help, and it is then just up to the Club to arrange where that marshal goes. We also have nucleus of people that marshal a lot, including several who are radio operators and run radios on different events – one of them did 24 events last year!

“Good teams make strong Clubs and events, and in our Club, although we all have specific jobs, nobody ever says, ‘that’s not my job’, and everybody pitches in to do what needs to be done – for example, after a road Rally the organising team, including the Clerks of the Course, will all go out with black bin bags and clear the areas of litter.

“We have also had some of the youngest Clerks of the Course. We have members who help them, but it is great that they are confident enough to choose to enter an organising role at such a young age. A lot of that is thanks to the help of Motorsport UK, the Welsh Championship, and the local Associations.”

The Gymkhana events have become a way for the Club to encourage new people to join, and to also give younger members the opportunity to get their first taste of event management and build the next generation of skilled organisers that are so vital for Clubs to continue into the future.

“We often give youngsters the reins to do something new and just keep an eye on them,” says Davies. “There used to be just one person doing the Gymkhanas every time, but now
there is a group of four, so that allows one person to do the organisation for one event, then they can compete next time and somebody else will do the organising.

Despite the booming numbers, the Club still faces the typical challenge of how to attract new members from outside the motorsport spectrum. Most of the youngsters that enter the Gymkhana events, Davies says, are either related to club members or have a family member who has competed in some form of motorsport the past.

This year, however, the Club is hoping to change that, and is in discussions about setting up a new project to attract young people whose families are not currently involved in motorsports, developing a group of juniors, showing them how to prepare a car and encouraging them to participate.

Ultimately, the key to long-running success is getting the Club’s name out there and Davies concludes: “One of our members used to work for the local newspaper, so she is good at writing reports and there are now two of them sharing the work. They find out what members are doing, put it up on social media and tell the local news.

“We are lucky to have local newspapers that cover things and that really helps to grow people’s interest and support. We also go to the local agricultural shows three or four times a
year to raise awareness of the Club, and to thank the local community, without which none of the local Clubs would be able to run events.

“Those events are great. We have cars and photographs for people to see, we have photo boards like those ones at the seaside with holes to put your head in, so people look like
they are in a race suit next to a Rally car, and we also have pedal cars for the little ones – which I like to think is where the future stars start out – that is real grassroots!”