Duckhams supported rally driver, Louise Cook made her debut on the British round of the World Rally Championship earlier in October; Wales Rally GB. The event is notorious for some of the trickiest rally conditions anywhere in the World, with the inconsistent grip levels and ever-changing conditions.
The recce did not go quite to plan for the British Driver when the standard road car, used to pass the stages twice to write the pace note description of the stages, suffered a mechanical failure on the 2nd day of the recce. This left Louise without a pass on some of the stages.
The rally started with a spectator stage around the Tir Prince Raceway, the stage went well, but an overshoot on the final corner cost the crew 8 seconds.
Day 2, the 1st full day was into the slippery forest. Special Stage 2 at Clocaenog, with Louise still getting a feel for the car, saw the crew set a time with 2.11 seconds a km from the fastest front wheel drive car. Spurred on the crew were pushing harder in Special Stage 3, Brenig, but found the limit a few times, running a little wide on a corner, then an overshoot braking for a tight junction on the tarmac surface with the gravel tyres and then spinning full sideways down the road on a very fast narrow section.
“It’s a shame because the pace was really good, I had to do an Austin Powers milk float 30 point turn because the stage was so narrow and had big ditches either side. Then when we got going I saw one of my WRC3 competitors in the mirror so I knew I lost about 50 seconds. I just focused on getting away from them as fast as I could and got to the finish line with a gap. I am glad of the pre-season practice in Sweden to be able to save the car and not go down the ditch.”
The crew had another slight off on SS4 Penmachno – sliding wide on a tight muddy corner meant the crew had to pull on marshals and spectators to help them out. On the 2nd pass through Clocaenog on SS7 the crew went faster with a time of 1.99 seconds per km off fastest front wheel drive.
The crew suffered a couple of punctures, that Louise puts down to bad luck;
“I didn’t hit anything, but something cut the side wall and it went down. I felt it from very early, maybe the first 2km. We checked the tyre pressures before the stage and they were fine, I must have been unlucky with a sharp rock somewhere.”
On the Sweet Lamb Hafren stage (11), the car suddenly lost power and went into limp mode dropping 6 minutes to the fastest front wheel drive car, thanks to a turbo hose underneath the headlamp having fallen off. The crew simply put it back on and headed over to Special Stage at 12 Dyfi, luckily without any time penalties and the car back to full power.
Louise set her fastest Gravel time of 1.3 seconds per km off the fastest front wheel drive car and all with only 1 pass recce. Louise was overjoyed,
“I loved that stage, it is always a worry when you haven’t checked your notes with a 2nd pass. The tyres went off a little on the rear towards the end, but I was happy with the stage.”
On the fourteenth special stage at Dyfnant, the team suffered from the lack of stage recce before the rally and overshot a bend,
“I just managed to stop the car before we hit the massive hay bale sideways, we actually slid and just nudged the wing mirror. We were laughing quite a lot, with relief I think. I shouldn’t have tried on that stage with the dodgy notes but you can’t help yourself when you are strapped in a rally car.”
The second loop of the stages the crew got through okay, but a problem with 3rd gear developed where it was getting stuck between 2nd and 3rd and was really distracting. Louise explains,
“The last thing you need on slippery stages is to lose drive on the tyres, they need the torque to create the grip so it was really distracting and knocked my confidence a lot.”
The last day was quite short and included the Great Orme spectator stage that finished with driving through the spectator filled streets of Llandudno. With the gearbox issue, the crew short shifted to keep the damage limited and ensure a finish, gathering 12 points towards the championship campaign bringing them up to 7th in the WRC3 championship on 44 points and with 2 scoring chances still to go.
The next round of the World Rally Championship is Rally RACC Catalunya – Rally de Espana on the 25th of October and we will bring you a full report here on the Duckhams news blog.