Whilst away in December 2019 on holiday, there was head space to reflect on the year gone by. There were no realistic options on the horizon for 2020. I was un sure whether I was going to move forward for another year in the British Rally Championship. Not because I didn't want to, it down to circumstances out of my control.
2019 on the whole was successful, 3 outright rally wins, handful of podiums, albeit one sizeable accident on the Ulster Rally. Which only dented pride thankfully. I was never at one with car on that event, I had to push with out it coming naturally, Matt drove very well I could not get near to chinking his armour. I learnt a lot about my self that weekend too, I never voiced my opinions afterwards to anyone, I suppose I didn’t want to show a sign of weakness, but I was immensely disappointed, I knew the championship title was going to be a mountain climb blindfolded, near impossible! Fast forward to Galloway Hills rally, the minimum required was to win from my side, I didn’t feel the pressure, because I had nothing really to lose, it was all on Matts shoulders. We came out on fine form never the less, we won 8 of 8 stages and claimed the rally victory. This was a huge confidence boost, moving forward and a relief that I extracted a small positive from the past few weeks. Phillip and his army of mechanics, spent the best part of 2 weeks prior to Galloway Hills solidngly, working, cutting, welding, ALZ R550 back together again after the Ulster rally incident. That win was for them, in large quantise of gratitude towards their efforts on getting the car ready for Scotland.
Wales Rally GB: A new co driver, Dale Furniss. I had known Dale for many years on and off events. I was looking forward to working together. The event on whole was very good. We started with few a car issues, one to note was a complete re wire job of the steering wheel, there was broken wire which was causing intermittent responses to my wheel output controls, Anti Lag control, Boost control, wipers etc. In the end all controls were lost on the wheel, prior to stage 2 Elsi. We didn’t have anti lag, or full boost then onwards for elsi and penmachno. The long road section down to Dyfnant gave us a opportunity to have a go at a road side repair job. Much to Dales delight in the pouring rain, Ciaran our engineer sent us over a wiring diagram, find attached photo! And we attempted a successful fix, having to use our teeth to strip the wire back! The time loss was on average, 25 secs a stage to fastest R5 car, so over 2 stages we lost the best part of a minute to my frustration!
To put the overall result into perspective we finished 15.9 seconds behind 2003 WRC champion Petter Solberg & 59 seconds behind 1st R5 car, Kalle Rovenpera!
On reflection, It was a weekend of what ifs, whats ifs; Or like Guy Martin said I quote; “If, ifs and buts were pots and pans, we would all be scrap mental merchants” The result was my best finish to date on Wales Rally GB, 11th overall. It is an event I love, an event I looked upto when I was young lad, out spectating with my dad, and hopefully one day I get the opportunity to compete on WRGB in a WRCcar.
A new decade has began, it had been a tough 8 weeks, more from a personal perspective, a family bereavement, which puts added pressure on every one close to you, and you don’t realise how much it had niggled away in your own head in till you reflect back on it. We learnt an opportunity was possible do BRC again, in the Hyundai I20 R5. Heading to the Autosport Show at the NEC, discussions were carried out with our partners of 2019, and we agreed to go ahead with a programme in the BRC. As always these things never come together when you would like them to, but nonetheless I am grateful we have a programme to aim for, 4 weeks and counting to round 1, Cambrian rally.
Our pre event test was the first time I had been in the car since November. I knew we had a good setup from Wales rally GB, stages are similar on the Cambrian rally, same Pirelli Tyres. There wasn’t to much to learn from the test. We had a upgraded set of suspension to test, I felt the traction and feeling in the car was improved greatly with the upgrded shocks, so we opted to use these for the rally. Conditions were perfect, cold, crisp air & potent combination for a R5 car, engine felt strong all was happy heading into the recce.
As many of you have seen, the rally wasn’t successful. We came out fastest out the blocks, albeit Matt did stall on the start line of Stage 1. Matt fought back on stage 2 taking 1.5 seconds back over 8 miles. Heading into Penmachno stage 3, there was a small delay at the start. That gave us all a chance to have a catch up, chat abit of nonsense as we always do in-between stages.. I like to break out the Haribo’s keeps things sociable!
4.5 miles into the stage 3, the rear got away from me on a 3rd gear right hand corner, and the rear left wheel, struck a large rock. Consequently breaking the wheel, and brake disc into 3 pieces. I carried onto the next junction, I knew that was only 200 metres away. Luckily I did, because we could not get the jack under the car, thankfully the spectators lifted the car up enough to get the jack lined up with the jacking post, and we got the wheel changed, albeit 3 mins 35seconds have gone by. But it felt much longer working away on the side of the road changing the wheel in all the chaos, with cars hurdling past every 1 minute or so, and with hot wheel nuts to contend with, a VERY hot brake disc hanging off, the rally win had long disappeared into the horizon!
Overall result, we fought our way back up to 6th overall, scored crucial championship points, fastest times on the board too. Moving onto West Cork Rally in March; great event and based 2019, we showed good pace.
That is all for now, I hope you enjoyed my blog…
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Bye for now,