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Louise Cook on the WRC Rally RACC Catalunya, Rally of Spain

The Rally of Spain is the penultimate round of the WRC and the World Rally Championship’s only registered female driver from the 109 driver entrants, Louise Cook, was still in with a shout of claiming the WRC3 Championship, the 2 wheel drive support class of the WRC.

Louise, needing to win both of the final rounds to have a chance of the title, made it to the start line with fantastic support from Duckhams amongst others and some amazing support from the public through crowdfunding.

The weekend started with the recce and this time, all was well.

“It has taken a long time, effort and training to get to a point where I can write sensible pacenotes with only two passes. They are still far from perfect, and I am tweaking them in the stage when we are able to attack still. To know all of the correct racing lines of every compound corner and to know exactly where you need to be on the road and then translate that into a pace note is really not easy. The concentration that you need on the recce is extremely intense, you cannot get distracted for even a split second, which is tricky when it is on open public roads with oncoming vehicles!”

The 1st stage was the glamourous and very popular Barcelona City Centre stage. Louise got the event underway, driving through the Barcelona streets and back to service trouble free ready for the following day’s gravel stages. Louise climbed to 2nd place in WRC3 before the long 40 km stage, with rival Brazzoli in 3rd position, keeping a little pressure on the Italian driver to fight back up the leader board for the championship points.

Louise explained,

“It was a tricky stage, it must be around 20km of tarmac roads with gravel tyres and the tyres were destroyed half way through, but what can you do. I just hoped I had enough for the gravel section at the end.”

The stage was going well for the British Driver when suddenly the car started to feel like it had no fuel, a quick check on the electronic dash showed plenty of fuel in the tank as per calculations. Louise tried to crawl through the stage at around 20 mph to get to the end hoping that whatever the problem was, would be a simple fix.

Eventually, the team found that a simple engine wiring harness connector had slightly loose terminals to the high-pressure fuel pump sensor. The car was now running, but the time penalties had virtually ended Louise’s WRC3 championship hopes.

Lario, who was also another competitor battling for the 25 points, made a mistake in the road section going the wrong way which also saw him incur 10 minutes of penalties, meaning the fight for 1st place could have then fallen into Cook’s hands without the electrical issue.

“It is sad we didn’t get a chance to do our part in the championship and keep the pressure on, a win here in Spain would have taken the championship to Australia and finishing these demanding events is never easy”

On the Saturday the rally changed from gravel to tarmac and the weather changed also. The plan for Sunday was to finish and gain the 15 points to creep up the championship to 6th place in WRC3. However, it was not meant to be as further issues, this time with the turbo, beset Louise’s Ford.

“We managed to finish Rally Spain and were glad of that, we nearly didn’t, for us it really was not the most enjoyable event. If we return to Spain in 2019 maybe it will be kinder to us.”

Rally Australia is the final round of the season, but now with WRC3 already won by Brazzoli in Spain, the only gain for Louise is the possibility to climb to 4th position in the WRC3 championship from 6th position from the 24 WRC3 registered competitors and as ever, she needs as much funding as possible.

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