Welsh rally driver Sara Williams – already a successful competitor on
numerous events in Wales and Internationally – has entered a new challenge for 2017, the six round Clio R3T Trophy France Championship, writes Roger Gale.
Sara is twenty eight and born into a motorsport family – her father Jonathan a rallying driver, and her first experience in competition was as co-driver to him.
A perhaps inevitable change of seats soon saw her at the wheel of a powerful Subaru Impreza, and a climb up through the rally world began, to Wales Rally GB, and a worthy win on the prestigious Red Dragon Forest Rally in Wales, Sara previously the first woman to win a UK rally outright for thirty years !
She has other distinctions, her talents at the family dealership in Brecon bringing recognition as a speaker at major trade fairs, and selection to represent Britain at the Qatar Desert Driving Camp, the FIA – Middle East event that hones talent for desert raids such as the Dakar Rally and Baja 1000.
However, now the challenge is in France, Sara and co-driver Mark Glennester just returned from the second round of the Championship, Rallye Antibes Cote D’azur, with fourteen asphalt stages over two days in the mountains of Southern France, from three to twenty six kilometres long.
Two days were spent on the pre-rally ‘recce’, making and perfecting pace notes, before the ‘shakedown’ test session on Friday with four runs over the three kilometre stage. The session doubled up as test for both Clio R3T and the crew, as following the retirement on the round one Rallye du Touquet when Sara and Marks car clipped a bank near the finish, having to retire the Barcelona based ASM Motorsport car after radiator damage, the Antibes mileage was invaluable.
The second round was also the first time Sara had developed her own pacenotes, a successful exercise, as was the opportunity to further develop the Renault set up to suit the iconic stages that ran so rapidly on the sides of mountains of rally legend, where no room exists for errors !
As Sara observed ‘so many corners, and so close together !’. Four stages were included on the opening day, all run twice, the longest Col de Bleine at nearly twenty six kilometres, a slight off line entry into a hairpin left on the third test resulting in a puncture, having to stop to change the wheel.
Less than ideal handling followed, Sara wisely backing off a little to get to Service, where the slightly bent hub was changed in less than thirty minutes, the Clio resuming on full pace for the four afternoon stages. The afternoon runs saw their times improve, the extra running in the Clio bringing rewards.
Day two consisted of three stages again all run twice, over Col de Braus, the eighteen kilometres of the legendary Col du Turini, the mountain pass over five thousand feet above the sea in and in the Alpes-Maritimes region.
Helter skelter corners with huge drops bordered by simple stone walls, and the Monte Carlo Rally usage has made the Turini the arena for the best drivers in the world to show their pace – and Sara and Mark did just that.
The result was a ninth place finish in the Clio Trophy France Championship and first place for Sara in the female driver category, adding some invaluable points to the duo’s championship chase.
The next round for the ASM Motorsport car – backed by Brecon Motors , Brecon Car Rentals, Millers Oils, Excedy Racing Clutches, Motordrive Seats, and the Mibau Stema Group – will be the Rallye du Rouergue in the Midi Pyrenees. The team hope to confirm a test session pre-event, details to be confirmed.