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Hafren Rally 2013

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The Hafren Rally 2013 had to be better than the washout that was the 2012 event. Persistent rain all day the previous year turned our yearly trip to the Sweat Lamb complex into a slog rather than a pleasure. But 2013 had been a dry year and the organisers had pulled it forward a full month to the 22nd of September. Dry year or not I wasn’t taking any chances to a new set of GT216 were fitted front and rear so that I knew I’d be ready for any weather rain or shine. A bit more spanner twirling was required before the bike was ready. I’d been suffering from a gear shift problem and mentioned this when sitting around at the last CHEC event. Gary said he’d read about the problem and that it was an ‘easy fix’ so he suggested I goggle the problem. Sure enough a few searches for “not shifting under full load” dug up a clip on youtube showing you what was required. It’s quite simple to do but does require the clutch to come out. Once all back together I went for a test ride to Amersham and back and realised two things, one was that the gearbox was now perfect, and the second was that the 13/50 gearing I had on was going to be way too slow for the fast roads of the Hafren. I fitted and used a 14 front last year’s race but didn’t like it, so I’d been using std gearing since then. Anyway a 14 front was found and fitted and finally some lights front and back were connected to bring the bike up to the required spec.


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the muddy car park up at sweat lamb



Hosting the race a month earlier caught me out a little, as I didn’t know until Darren told me a week or so before the entries were opened. I phoned the usual B&B we always use and left a message but due to a slight misunderstanding I ended up having to find last minute accommodation for eight people! Not an easy task but I managed it by splitting the party up into two groups.


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time to go and get the bikes checked over


Saturday morning turned into a Saturday afternoon as we set off a little bit later than usual as Tony had to work – and we also had to turn around to go and pick up his mobile phone! The sun was out too so it was looking good for the weekend, but it got cooler and ever more cloudy the closer we got to Wales! We had one enforced pit stop on the way there due to the right hand side mudguard making a bid for freedom. I heard a noise, then it stopped and looking in the rear view mirror I saw the (fairly solid) metal mudguard bounce along the road missing the cars behind by some miracle. A convenient lay-by was on hand so we I dropped the trailer and I whizzed back up the road to pick the escapee, bumping it into the boot. Thankfully that was the only thing to break all weekend.


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Tommy does it in style


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i do it slightly more relaxed



Once booked into the B&B (The Old Vicarage in LLangurig) it was time to head off to the social evening to get booked in and meeting the rest of the group. The social evening was a more muted affair this year as the other guys were tired (some had been trail riding in the morning) so head off back to the hotel right after the raffle. Keeping up the tradition of winning everything one year and nothing the next the whole table won nothing this year. Nicky & I plus Tony were all that were left for the pub quiz and we really felt the loss of Rob (great general knowledge) and Phil (TV pundit) so pretty much tanked in the quiz as we don’t like football and don’t watch much old British tv.


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one of the rally 'big bikes' gets some air


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Sunday morning came all too soon as I woke up before the alarm (set all too early) and couldn’t get back to sleep. The breakfast that was served up at the 6.30 was one of the best I’ve had in a B&B so if you are in the area give The Old Vicarage in LLangurig a try. I short drive to the start was easy enough but the car park was been churned up quite a bit so we opted for a stop right on the edge near the road. Scrutineering was done and dusted in minutes so we had some time to kill before the start – especially due to the fact that we’d been bumped done into the 170’s for some reason – more on that later! We had a walk around and checked out some of the mega money rally bikes one of which I assumed was a KTM but turned out to be a husky.


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i get to grips with the first jump on lap one


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and then one of the turn just after the jump


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Tommy hits the berm


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We eventually set off, in the wrong direction. Well not actually going wrong, but in the opposite direction to what we’ve done in the last few years. This time we were going in a clockwise direction i.e. starting at the end. I little puddle was in the track and people starting in front of us were skirting around it and Nicky was poised with the camera. I asked one of the marshals how deep it was and was told it was only a couple of inches so I decided to wheelie through for the camera. It wasn’t very far to the first check and having all set a different pace we were all separated in no time but re-grouped once at the start of special test 1. Of course on the first lap the tests are untimed but it’s nice to set a quick’ish time so that you have an idea of what to expect on the first timed run.


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George showing some style in the turns


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Having all completed the ‘test’ we set off again and of course got separated but three or four of us tried one of the green routes which was fun but nothing too tricky just a drop done though some trees after which we carried on to test number two. I can’t remember if it was before test two or after it, but we did find another green route that was a bit more tricky, as it was up and over masses of fallen branch cuttings then up a sticky climb. I was trying to find a way past Tony as he was struggling with a tyre that was a third worn already and just lined up to go past on the right when he did a great job of veering across the track and cutting me off as Darren powered past on his 390 burg. I got clear but near the top of the hill I caught my left foot on a branch or root sticking out and it twisted my foot back quite painfully.


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me waving to nicky on the way back to the pits


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time for a quick break and then its off out again


Special test three is a quick one and the little 250 was feeling the pace as I speed up on the open fire roads back to the pits. Nicky was at the mini track to snap away again but made it back to the pits while we were still there. I filled the bike up first then tucked into a flapjack to ensure I had some go in the next lap. Setting off on lap two I sped up a little to get ready for the first test.

Lap Two Special Test 1:

The sequence of starters was Tommy, Darren, Dan, Tony, Dave, myself and George at the back. I knew I’d most likely catch Dave and Tony but wasn’t too worried as they knew I was coming so hopefully they’d give me some room. One by one the guys set off with the required 20 second gap between them. Once it was my turn I few up the road then took the right turn with care as it sort of turns a little back on itself. The climb up the hill is getting quite rough now and there are drainage ditches too so the best way to do it is hit the gas hard and skip over the bumps. The 250 runs out of revs quickly but flicking up a gear tend to drop the revs too much. The left turn is best taken wide, right up against the bank so your wheels have nowhere to go but grip. Between this turn and the next the track it humped with a few erosion channels cut into it and the next right can catch you out as it gets quite wet. You then follow the course made up of single track where it soon turns to the left and makes its way back down the hill (still on a narrow track) and the speeds are kept in check a little by anti erosion banks that send you into the air once the speed picks up. This is fun but unless your suspension is properly sorted this fun can soon turn into f**k! As it can all go wrong very easily.



Helmet cam footage of the test filmed by me

At the foot of the hill its back onto fire roads for a short blast then you turn off again to the left and join up with a narrow track in the woods. Just as I was on the roads I spotted Dave ahead and tried to catch up and get into the woods first but I was just a little too late. “Just nudge me out the way” Dave had said at the start but I’m sure he’d not be too please with me for doing that so I sat behind him and first looked to the left on the grass and then to the right as there were two mini runts to choose from. I opted for the right hand side rut and was just about to pass when the two ruts joined back together for a drainage ditch and Dave cut off the route I was going to take so I had to back off for a moment. A quick look and I took a chance to overtake on the left and with the bike flat out I slipped past while we jumped over another ditch. The track then narrowed and became one rut the weaved this way and that then dipped down into a mini stream which is where I caught Tony. The track opened up a bit after that and I wasn’t quite close enough to overtake until the track closed in again but by that time there wasn’t anywhere to pass other than at the bottom left turn but Tony was a little ragged going into those and by now we’d caught up to Dan so I had two riders in front – right at the narrowest part of the test! There was nothing to do but wait. Once at the bottom of the hill and back onto roads I lost a little bit of ground then opened up the bike to get past but had to take some avoiding action and back off a little as Tony’s back tyre was determined to keep me at bay by shooting bullets I mean stones at me. I got past eventually but was a little disappointed having dropped a considerable amount of time. Gathering together at the end we excitedly related different moments to one another (all at the same time) as the adrenaline was still pumping through our systems!

Results of Lap 2 ST1

Darren FE 390 00:07:34
Tom TE 250     00:07:51
John 250exc 00:08:05
David 125 EXC 00:08:43
Tony exc-f250 00:09:01
George EXC125 00:09:20



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Lap Two. Special Test 2

A gentle ride up to the start of Special Test Two and we had time for a short pee break before lining up for the next test. For some reason we started out of sequence. The test starts off on narrow single track that is again quite rough. It had some humps in it but several of these had been cut into by some worrying looking narrow ruts. The best way to deal with these ruts it to speed up and use the stability of speed to get you through them. the track then dropped down to the stream crossing which was barely running this year and then we climbed back up the hill turning left onto the road but immediately turned off again and up a slope with exposed rock, followed by more track with jumps and ruts built into it by a combination of forest husbandry (land management?) and nature fighting back. Two nice jumps were followed by a tricky one that had a right turn just after the jump and seeing as it was downhill you need to proceed with caution as it was incredibly easy to run off the track here. Back onto a road for a short run and then onto a track once again climbing the hills with more anti erosion devices in the form of logs across the track which then quickly turned into a deep narrow rut for a few 100 meters until opening out slightly and winding this way and that through the trees. After a left tune there was another one of those “am I going to stop” turns as it was on a narrow, fast section of track going downhill and this then lead to as slightly more open section of track which brought you out at the finish. For the life of me know I can’t remember how the test went for me, but it must have been quite good as I only lost 3 seconds to Darren.

Darren 00:06:21
John 00:06:24
Tom 00:06:33
Tony 00:07:18
George 00:07:47
David 00:09:10

I think it was on this test that Dan had a crash and Dave stopped to see if he was ok. He was banged up a bit but not too badly hurt and managed to finish the lap, but dropped out after that.


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someone not having a good day


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Darren in ST3


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me chasing


Lap Two. Special Test 3

Test Three and a started behind Darren, hoping to claw back some time on him. The test starts out on fire roads and is quick. It then has a section of rutted tracks as it climbs up a hill and this is where I ran into trouble. Two riders were ahead of me taking up the whole track and then blocked the path from there onwards into the wet narrower track and beyond. Sitting right on their back wheels one of them seemed to have a paddle on his back wheel as it completely covered me in fine watery mud and I couldn’t see a thing. I eventually got past when the track opens up a bit, but I was incensed at being stuck behind riders going at trail riding speeds on a special test. I frantically pawed at my goggles to try and clear them as set off on the fast roads around the big hill and down into the amphitheatre that holds the little mx like track. Nicky was there again snapping away but I was having trouble with my riding as I was overdoing it. there is a couple of small table top like jumps that are best down on full chat and the followed by mini banked turns with copious amounts of braking and acceleration bumps in between the turns. Then course then takes you out, up and over the hill in a very hi speed run to the finish. There are a couple of turns that suck you in but mostly they are ok. Several corners have mini berms built into the racing line which helps or you can ride the drainage ditches for a nice tight line and that helps you get on the power early without sliding out. At the end of the test I was spitting fire about losing so much time and may have gone on about it a bit too much!

Darren 00:14:29
John 00:15:04
Tom 00:15:15
Tony 00:16:15
David 00:16:23
George 00:16:36


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heavy metal!


Lap Three. Special Test 1

Lap three and we lined up for the start of Special Test One. This time I was starting behind Darren as the others had moved aside so Darren Tommy and myself could fight it out amongst ourselves. Darren set off and 20 seconds later I tried my best to catch him. I was running well but suddenly I came upon another rider on the long narrow section flanked by trees and shrubs. Luckily it was right at the left turn so a cut tight and went over the rough stuff and overtook as he motioned with this leg. I think there was another rider somewhere too but I don’t remember where I over took. All I remember was that I was relieved at not being held up again. as I was breaking into the finish area I could see Darren just coming to a halt so I knew I’d managed to get the better of him this time.

John 00:07:48
Darren 00:07:58
Tom 00:08:01
David 00:09:04
Tony 00:09:23
George 00:09:28

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no time to sleep now!



Lap Three. Special Test 2

So now we had Darren moaning that him going in front was acting as a magnet to us, helping us hunt him down by spurring us on. In some respects that was true i suppose and i relented by going first. i convinced the marshals to give us a bit of a gap seeing as we were catching so many riders starting ahead of our little group. Seeing as we were not on our minutes yet anyway we were given a 2 minute grace period and i set off at a good speed but made a few small mistakes, the first by the stream. I didn't ride at my best as i was a little ragged in some spots and then eased off too much in others. i was dismayed to see i was catching a rider but luckily i slipped past within out being held up much.  right near the end of the lap i nearly overshot a left turn but just managed to pull it tight enough to make it. As soon as I went through the end markers I started counting and to my disappointment Darren clocked in when I got to twelve, so he’d beaten me by at least eight seconds, bugger.

Darren 00:06:25
John 00:06:33
Tom 00:06:38
David 00:07:21
Tony 00:07:40
George 00:07:43





Footage i shot

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Lap Three. Special Test 3
By now i was determined to get a good run, especially as i got boxed in on the last run on ST3.  Darren set off first and i followed. watching the video i see i started a little on the conservative side but really got into the swing of things as the test progressed.  i was catching loads of riders but none were holding me back much although i did have a few moments when i need to switch sides on the climb due to a stuck or broken down rider. I had a moment where i thought i was going to over balance but a bit of throttle pulled me straight and i was away. getting into the middle part of the test i slipped past another rider on the first jump buy in doing so i was pushed wide and by carrying to much speed i blew clean past the next turn so had to ride round the outside and back onto the track just as the other rider got there too.  Once up onto the top of the  hill and on the homeward run i made some good time only making a few minor errors. The small 2T was not really the best tool for the job on these long fast roads and i was thrashing the daylights out of it! At one point i spotted Darren ahead on one of the switchbacks and that spurred me on a bit.  Talking to him afterwards he had looked back at the same time and had also seen me so he too had a bit of a boost!  I came to a stop next to him at the end and he declared it a dead heat and he  was spot on and we posted the exact same time!

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So after a long wait the results came out (not as long as the trip hom felt though) and guess what - i won my class!  Not only that but i would have won the next class up to ie the bigger Two Strokes.  in fact had i been in the biggest Rally Light class i would have finished right behind Darren!  Well done to all of the group.  Tom realy gave us a run for our money this year having been a bit disapointed last year. Tony also had a good result as did George but special mention to David in his first race ever and came home in a very ceditable tenth spot in the 2T light class.

Lap Three. Special Test 3 results
Darren & John 00:14:43
Tom 00:15:46
David 00:16:37
Tony 00:16:38
George 00:17:01


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Results from our group. Dan is not listed due to not completing the event after sutaining an injury
position in class rider number         cc class


T1 T2 T3 T1 T2 T3 total time
7 172 Darren Maidenhead Husaberg FE 390 RL4 O/349   00:07:34 00:06:21 00:14:29 00:07:58 00:06:25 00:14:43 00:57:30
1 175 John High Wycombe KTM 250 exc 250 RL2 U/249 O 40 00:08:05 00:06:24 00:15:04 00:07:48 00:06:33 00:14:43 00:58:37
3 170 Tom Aylesbury Husaberg TE 250 250 RL2 U/249   00:07:51 00:06:33 00:15:15 00:08:01 00:06:38 00:15:46 01:00:04
21 173 Tony Amersham KTM exc-f 250 RL4 U/349 O 40 00:09:01 00:07:18 00:16:15 00:09:23 00:07:40 00:16:38 01:06:15
10 174 David Aylesbury KTM 125 EXC 125 RL2 U/249   00:08:43 00:09:10 00:16:23 00:09:04 00:07:21 00:16:37 01:07:18
13 176 George Maidenhead KTM EXC 125 RL2 U/249   00:09:20 00:07:47 00:16:36 00:09:28 00:07:43 00:17:01 01:07:55






©2012 John Muizelaar