Louise Cook runs with Duckhams stickers on her WRC Ford. She is FIA WRC Production Car Cup Champion 2012 and British Female Rally Champion 2011. At Duckhams, we are great followers of Louise Cook and enjoy her regular updates through these pages.
Louise took the risk of driving all the way to Turkey not knowing if she would have the sponsorship to compete, but had to take the opportunity to gain more points after missing out on Rally Finland. The rally had offered a free entry to all competitors, normally near £4,000, so this allowed Louise to enter.
“We knew that there was a big risk of driving to Turkey and not competing, but the financial risk was £700 in diesel for the little Fiesta and we just felt it was a risk worth taking.”
The road trip took Louise and her co-driver 37 hours of non-stop driving to get to Turkey. Taking it in turns at the wheel and sleeping. The crew drove through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey to reach their destination of Marmaris with the aid of their new TomTom Sat Nav system.
“We were very lucky to have such supportive people jumping in to make it happen. On the Sunday in Turkey, we had the final great news from some more fantastic companies and it meant that we now had the minimum needed to compete thanks to; United Worldwide Logistics, RDS Tailored IT Solutions, TomTom, My London Home, and Be Wiser who kindly came on board and also a Turkish hotel chain, Green Nature Hotels who sponsored and gave a room for the rally week meaning that there was no sleeping in the car this rally. It was a little crazy, there is last minute and then there is this, being at the rally still trying to pull it all together.”
The plan was for Louise to test the car on the Monday before the rally, but the team ran out of time on the test day.
“It was a shame because I had never driven the R2T on gravel before. I had only drove it once before on the Tarmac of Rally Germany and I knew the turbo would take a different technique on the loose surface to make work.”
Louise did the reconnaissance of the stages on Tuesday and Wednesday, driving over the stages twice to write the notes in the little Fiesta road car.
“The stages looked rough, even before the rally had started we suffered 3 punctures just on the recce alone, which also sadly meant we missed seeing one of the stages at all. We knew it was going to be a tough event for the rally car and being a R2 car with a lot of the components being slightly modified standard parts, they have nowhere near the strength of the WRC cars.”
The rally got underway in the packed streets of the city of Marmaris on the 13th of September. It was a short stage of only 2.5km around roundabouts, over man-made jumps and chicanes. The stage went cleanly for Louise and the car was safely back in Parc Ferme ready for the Friday morning loop.
SS2 was the 1st stage in the morning, Louise’s placement in the order meant the road conditions were very rough. Louise sadly was caught out when coming around a tight hairpin left avoiding a large rock pulled out by another car further up in the field. Louise drove slightly inside the rock but the sandy inside of the road collapsed and dragged the car down the bank with no way of retrieving without proper recovery support.
Louise spent 10 hours in the forest waiting for the car to be recovered. The organisers sent 3 different trucks, but each could not help because of the steep angle of the bank that the car was on.
“It was in a really awkward position. We were very lucky not to roll down the ravine. The car was perched on a few branches and dug into the loose ground. We were waiting in the forest for 10 hours. Luckily a kind marshal shared with us some water and one of his sandwiches. A driver of a historic car also chucked out some water for us as they drove past. Another marshal, after both loops of the stage had finished and the road was closed, left us with some more water and sandwiches. It was very kind of them”
“It was going dark when another tow truck came, but they could not extract the car either, they drove us 8kms down the stage towards the start and the stage commander was driving up from the start to meet us. We were about 10 kms in but the stage was near unpassable by road car and it took them 45 minutes to drive the 10 km to meet us, so we had to walk through the dark forest to meet them.”
The recovery crew did a great job of rescuing the car unscathed, meaning the crew could re-join the rally the next day under Rally 2 rules. The crew would have a massive 42 minutes of penalties for the stages missed and this left Louise miles away from her competition and lying in 13th place in WRC3.
“The only strategy we could make was to get through cleanly, not damage anything on the car, costing more money and be there at the end if there were any positions to gain.”
“It is hard to just keep driving slowly, it is very frustrating, but I knew it was the best strategy to have any chance of salvaging anything from the rally with the situation we were in.”
Though even with the slower pace, the crew still managed to pick up a puncture.
“It is just impossible to dodge everything, if you miss 80% you are doing very well. Most of the roads were just destroyed by the big cars in front”
On the last day SS15, two of Louise’s WRC3 competitors suffered mechanical failures, no doubt from the constant pounding on the rough terrain and another WRC3 competitor sadly rolled out of the rally. On the penultimate stage, another WRC3 competitor crashed out, promoting Louise to 9th position and gaining a valuable 2 points for the WRC3 championship.
“It is never nice to see people breakdown or crash out. It was the reality of the only way we would gain any places after what had happened in SS2. We knew we had to keep to the strategy of just being there and 2 points is much more than I thought was possible after what happened Friday.”
The valuable 2 points means Louise now holds 8th position in the WRC3 championship as she looks to compete on her home event for the first time in just a few weeks at Wales Rally GB, 4th to the 7th of October.
We’ll keep you updated with her latest endeavours right here on the Duckhams news pages.