By Ashley Haigh-Smith
MAIN TAKE-OUTS: We are up to the pace where we need to be and ready to be competitive.
My ‘home’ event just seems to be an unlucky one and I couldn’t shake that “monkey” in 2016 – this was the ninth time that I have tried to (just finish) the Swartland Rally, but came up short again.We had just come back from the Lozere Rally where we had a very encouraging result and were looking to carry that momentum onto the fast hard-pack of Malmesbury and surrounds. Our week started off well – the car was all ready and we had a good test on Wednesday. We did however pick up a few small niggles in the engine. This prompted a few tweaks in the evening and we decided to run a short final test on Thursday morning.
We had just come back from the Lozere Rally where we had a very encouraging result and were looking to carry that momentum onto the fast hard-pack of Malmesbury and surrounds. Our week started off well – the car was all ready and we had a good test on Wednesday. We did however pick up a few small niggles in the engine. This prompted a few tweaks in the evening and we decided to run a short final test on Thursday morning.
On that Thursday morning run I knocked the lumber sensor off of the exhaust, which lead us to running a bit lean. This caused a hole to burn straight through the piston. What it meant was with less than 24-hours before the start of the rally we have to rebuild the engine. My crew, along with Colin from Master Mechanics, worked until about 4am in the morning and got the job done.
Friday went very well and we started the rally at 16:00, we got second fastest on stage one, fourth fastest on stage two despite the fact that our gearbox went on that stage. We had lost both third- and fifth-gears and my guys had only an hour to change the box. They managed to get it all done in about 40-minutes (this is with them not sleeping the night before) and have been working for 48 hours! We went into the last two stages with no lights because I had smashed them up when the gears locked up and pushed into a barrel. We ended day one lying third in our class, just four se-conds off second, and some 18 seconds back from first.
Day two started with a stage I know well and love. On a familiar corner I hit the same line as what I have done in the past, but there had been overnight rain and the road had been pre-graded, and we clipped the grading bump on the exit of the corner which torpedo’d torpedoed us into a roll.
Fortunately there were many spectators on hand who who helped push us back onto our wheels in no time at all – thanks a lot to everybody who came and helped us! We made it to the end of the stage limiting our loss to only 1:30 mins.
We got into service and yet again my crew put in a massive effort to get us back up and running. Unfortunately it was soon clear that the damage to the car was simply too much and going into the next stage would’ve caused more damage, so – very sadly – we had to withdraw. Yet another painful DNF in my home rally.
We walked away with the knowledge that we had the pace – I think we showed that on Friday – and that when everything falls into place we will be well competitive. We are getting there and now working on getting the car ready for the next event in a month’s time.
A BIG THANKS TO
- My team who did a monumental job all weekend long without much sleep. Also the other person-nel behind the scenes who put so much in to make sure we could compete.
- The spectators for coming out and bravo the cold on Friday but also for getting us back on the road, the support of my local crowds
- My wonderful sponsors, as well as my family and navigator Nial Burns who did a phe-nomenal job.