First published October 2015.
REMEMBERING HYWEL THOMAS – by Nigel Raeburn.
Welsh navigator and organiser Hywel Thomas sadly died from cancer in September 2015. He was known to a number of our NW members particularly from his work on timekeeping and results on Le Jog and the Three Castles and some fifteen years ago he organised the first and excellent Circuit of Wales which attracted a number of our NW crews.
Hywel was a unique character – very much his own man with strongly held and often pedantic views and his own way of doing things – which meant with clear thought and precision. When you got to know him he was good company and had a wonderful collection of rallying stories and anecdotes collected over his long rallying career.
As a navigator and co-driver he had many successes. He won two successive Motoring News rounds (Nutcracker and Express and Star) with Welsh champion Tony Chappell in 1967 and did many events with the very fast but erratic Mini driver Alun Rees. He also did the original London to Mexico World Cup Rally with Alun and Washington James in a Hillman Hunter – they came 15th. He also did a lot of MN events in the late 60s with John Heppenstall in Escorts – a period when he became known as ‘Hywel the Mac’ because of his preference for wearing an old mackintosh rather than the trendy rally jackets! Over the years he co-drove for many well-known drivers such as Chris Sclater and Bob Fowden. More recently he ventured to India for the Himalayan Rally, on one occasion with Philip Young in a TR7V8. This led to his association with the Raid de Himalaya for which he ran the results for quite a few years.
Hywel who lived in Neath had worked as an engineer for ICL, the British computer company, and no doubt his expertise gathered there enabled him to develop his rally results system which became his main interest as he largely stopped competing in more recent years. Peter Boyce and I as CLOs worked alongside Hywel on the Three Castles for quite a few years and had built up a really good working relationship and we will certainly miss him and his company for that week in Llandudno each year.
That Circuit of Wales which Hywel organised I remember as one of the very best events I have ever done. As far as I can recall it was based at a hotel outside Cardiff and an accommodation deal was available which was so good that everyone stayed for the prize-giving dinner at the end and it was one of the best rally parties I have ever been to. I can remember from our NW Area we had Mike Colledge / Don Barrow who came 3rd and I was with Colin Evans and we came 4th. I think Neil Wilson and Willie Cave won. Also there were David Russell, Peter Boyce and John and Elaine Hunt (in the Herald). It was a 2 day rally with an evening section on Epynt and an overnight stop at Llandrindod Wells. I remember the Epynt section was a jogularity, in the dark and some fog, using every lay-by and minor track possible over the Epynt Army ranges – a real challenge and typical of the thorough job Hywel had made of planning and executing such a good rally.
In his quiet way he made a major contribution to rallying – he will be much missed.