This year, our second year competing in the AWMMC Heart Of England Stage Rally Championship has been another great success! With growing confidence in the car and more seat time my driving is becoming very competitive and this is showing in our stage times.
We have been finishing consistently towards the middle of the class on events and unlike last year where we had a major crash on the Mewler Stages rally, this year we finished every event. That said however, we didn’t get through this year’s Mewler rally without incident after hitting a couple of dare devil sheep that decided to run out right in front of us!
The Mewler Stages rally also saw us win 3rd in class, our best result on a rally yet!
Our strengths defiantly seem to be tight technical sections and breaking. We seem to be able to stop our little Toyota Yaris on the spot and she just feels so comfortable and confident being thrown into tight corners at high speed. Handbrake turns are also not only fun to do and watch, but I’ve got to the point where they are helping our stage times too.
With our car being mostly standard, I’m always impressed that we are able to keep up, and be competitive with cars that have been modified. We even find ourselves mixed in with cars with much bigger engines on events.
This year also saw us take part in ASDA’s On Your Marks Charity event that raised tens of thousands for charity. We gave passenger rides around a small rally stage, I’m not sure who had the best time here, the passengers or me seeing their reactions! Not sure anyone that got into our little Yaris expected the thrill they got! We did manage to finish off our front shock absorbers on the stage, but it was honestly worth it!
Unfortunately James Bowles, my co-driver decided to quit the sport after taking part in the Mewler Stages Rally due to other commitments. Fortunately fellow Quinton Motor Club member Matt Walk and service crew member Nick Baker stepped in allowing me to complete the season. Both did a great job adapting to my pace note style and I enjoyed working with both. Matt has a lot of experience co-driving for his dad in the BTRDA stage rally championship and competes as a driver in a sprint championship. Nick has a history of co-driving on rally events and has been a valuable member of our team for a long time. Many thanks to them again for helping me to finish the season on a high! It was honestly awesome working with you both!
The highlight of the year, as it was last year has to be the Dukeries Rally at Donnington Park Race Circuit. What an amazing event! We found great speed here and were very competitive. If it weren’t for stage 1 being cancelled giving us a slow nominal time and us having a slight technical problem on stage 5, we would have been fighting for another 3rd in class finish. But regardless of these issues, this was by far the most fun and competitive event we have had all year.
In the background our championship points were slowly building, with each rally we consistently finished towards the upper middle of our class. As we got further through the year it started to become clear that a podium finish was becoming more and more likely.
The final championship results see us 1st in class and 2nd overall. An awesome achievement that I’m very proud of.
Progressing forward I feel it’s now time to get more performance out of the car. We seem to be proving that we are competitive when it comes to cornering and braking, but we defiantly lack traction out of the corners (Limited Slip Differential is needed) and our gear ratios are not the best. So we aim to have a new gearbox with a LSD installed before the next season. This should give us that little extra that we need to grab those all-important few seconds off of the guys in front of us.
Next year’s championship is undecided at the moment, the current plan will hopefully see us entering the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship along with some odd HoE events but this is yet to be confirmed and depends on sponsorship, costs and the development of the car.
And finally a huge thanks to the service crew and sponsors that have helped make this year possible. This is an expensive hobby so support from sponsors allows us to be more competitive and without the crew, who volunteer their time competing in events would be impossible.
The core service crew of Pete Bowles, Nick Baker and Lee Dyson do an amazing job, getting up way too early, servicing the car and keeping the crew fed and watered in all conditions. Epic thanks to you all!
We look forward to see what 2017 brings!