By Ashley Haigh-Smith
RESULT: 18th overall, 9th in class.
MAIN TAKE-OUTS: Massive progress made since the previous outing.
Our next international rally was the Lozere Rally, and what an absolutely phenomenal event! We flew up directly after the last National in Heidelberg. We travelled to France with rather high hopes and carrying a fair amount of confidence, as we had just finished fourth (in Heidelberg) and wanted to carry that momentum abroad.
We had a good test with the team on the Tuesday before the event out in the mountains. It was really good just to get to know the car a bit more. We got in about 50kms testing and the team gave me a lot of great input and advice and it really was good to feel comfortable instead of just jumping straight into the car as we had done on the previous outing.
On Thursday we headed up to Lozere. We didn’t really know what to expect as it was the first time the event had been run (as a big inter-national), although a few of the other guys had done the regional there before.
The Saturday so saw us start with the recce (as is the format in this series). Stages were super narrow and super quick but also really technical in the sense that you’re climbing up a mountain with a bunch of hairpins and coming down the side with some flowing sections. In a way it reminded me of the Sasol Rally back home.
We ran well early on and after the first stage we were told that our splits were the fastest and that we were leading up to about 3/4s of the way. It meant that we had gained at least a second per kilometre on the times we were running at the previous rally. We also got a puncture on SS4, which we had to drive out for about 5kms, but we still managed to post the eight fastest time.
Post day 1 we changed a few things. Also, that night my navigator Nial and I sat down and analyzed the footage. We managed to pin-point where we had gone wrong like I had set up my notes incorrectly and also highlight a few things that needed changing on the car in the last service.
We then approached the Sunday as a whole new day and a whole new rally, with the main goal of just finishing the event.
Sunday started well and we posted a string of fast times in the stages: 8th, 5th, 8th. It was great to continuously run in the top 10.
The day saw us end 18th overall and 9th in class. If you’re in the top 20 of the event you get to go over the podium, which was really cool. We were really chuffed with the progress made and encouraged to take this to the next level and step it up. The result raised our seeding and we’re looking forward to taking that to the next rally.
*For some extra context: The event started with 155 cars, 130 in the National Section 20 in the classic section. We were car 65 on the road and there were 28 cars in our class.