By Ashley Haigh-Smith
Now in its third year, the 208 Rally Cup is contested over seven rounds (four gravel and three asphalt). We chose this particular French Championship because it is where the likes of Sebastian Loeb, ogeir ,thierry neuville and latest driver Kevin abbring have come from. We know if we can be fast here, we can be fast everywhere.
There are over thirty cars in our class alone – all the same Peugeot 208 R2’s prepped by different teams.
FIRST TIME IN THE CAR
We were lucky enough to get involved with Pit Stop Motorsport – a really high class team – and they gave usa brand new car for this event. Due to time restraints we were only able to do a total of eight kilometres of testing in the shakedown. To say it was a bit of a learning curve is an understatement…
A DIFFERENT TYPE OF RACE PREP
Apart from the short time in the car we also had to get used to ‘one pass’ recce on the same day as the rallying for day one, and again, for day two – ( No studying of notes…..) For context – normally you get two passes over the stages and you can review your notes, you get a night to study the footage before starting the race
The weather forecast predicted a big storm for the Thursday before the rally; unfortunately this arrived only on Saturday morning at 7:00am.The first five cars went off and got stuck in the stage which forced organisers to shorten the first stage from 13km to 2km.
It was a complete mud bath! In addition we were delayed by four hours so then the rally only started at 1pm. We did manage to set the 12th fastest time – basically still learning the car in the “snot bath” and just trying to get through the stage.
The second stage was cut in half and it had a really tricky section between the trees, this caused a lot of havoc and accidents. Our second stage, we had to start right at the back of the field because of seeding. We got caught up behind crashes and delayed and eventually this stage was deemed too unsafe to run and we had to settle for the median time
The third stage was the only full stage of day one. We caught up with a car and were delayed behind him, we also stalled the car on one of the corners because of the mud – we lost 42 seconds, if we take that away we would’ve been in the top five times easily, so we learned a lot… Then we ran the same loop again…
On stage one I was too conservative on my driving because it had dried up radically, we got ten seconds faster stage time but still only 12th fastest and we lost about 6 seconds to the front guys.
In stage two the car in front of us crashed so we got the nominal time again.
Going into the third stage – 10pm at night with headlights only – we came over a water splash and not knowing the car I turned off the headlights instead of activating the screen de-mister, the windscreen misted up and we had to stop! Did I mention it was a steep, steep learning curve?
We went into day two with the stages being more suited to me – very high speed and fast paced stages, Ireally liked them. However, 4km into stage one, the note said “5th gear into a 3rd gear corner” and it should’ve been just a “3rd gear “so I went into the corner two gears too high and we just went off the road and beached on a bank of a river and that’s where we stayed.
Of course it was disappointing for the first race but we know now what we have to work on and where to push – the pace is unreal and we do believe we can be there and do it, that is what we want to do as mentioned we know if we can be fast here we can be fast everywhere
Thank you to my sponsors and Pit Stop Motorsport for the car.