Damien Smith cruelly robbed of class win

Castrol / Motor Sport Magazine bow out of Swansea Bay Rally

On his rally debut Editor of Motor Sport Magazine, Damien Smith, was cruelly robbed of his class win when a seal on a gearbox shaft failed and started spewing oil on to the clutch, sending the Castrol / Motor Sport Magazine team into retirement.

Having conquered his fears at the start of the rally Smith had competently called the pace notes of each stage to driver Sky Sport’s Tony Jardine sending the media duo into first in their class. The pair were on the fourth and longest stage of the day when the fault occurred.

Commenting in service after the first two stages Smith said, “I will never forget the feeling before the first stage, it was so nerve wracking. But once we started you had to forget all of that and concentrate to get into a rhythm. I was pleased with how the first stage went, I only lost my place in the pace notes once and TJ is driving really well.

“It didn’t really have time to sink in as when you come out of the special stage you go straight into a road section. You just have to keep concentrating all the time. I am thoroughly enjoying it and I am only feeling a little bit queasy!” Smith accepted Jardine’s challenge to become his co-driver for the Swansea Bay Rally and was given a crash course in co-driving just days before his debut. With no rallying experience Smith had a very step learning curve and limited time to get his head around all the skills required to become a rally co-driver.

Commenting at the first service of the day driver Jardine said, “I have never known anyone as nervous as Damien before the first stage. I actually started to feel sorry for him, but when the lights turned green he got straight into action and he was absolutely brilliant on the first stage. “As someone who has never done anything like this before everything hits you at once and as a co-driver you have a lot of responsibility. Swansea Bay is a big national rally with serious World Rally Championship stages. We have not been holding back and have been absolutely flying round taking jumps flat in fifth.

"Damien is doing really well but needs to make sure that he keeps on his toes to ensure he does not make any mistakes.” Despite his extreme nerves before the start on the rally Smith is keen to complete the task set by Jardine, “If you had told me before the first stage that I would be disappointed not to be going flat out downhill through a stage I would not have believed you, but having to nurse the car through the end of the Resolven stage and back to service was so frustrating.

“The rally organisers have done a brilliant job of preparing the stages and we were going so well. I will definitely have to come back and try again,” said co-driver Smith. The Castrol / Motor Sport team were supported on event by  York based ProSpeed Motorsport and McLaren Engineer Andy Beale, from Lightwater near Camberley, who have both provided support for Jardine since 2006.

 The whole team worked frantically to repair the fault with the Kumho shod Ford Fiesta during the second service of the day but unfortunately it just was not possible in the 30 minutes allowed. Commenting on Smith’s progress ProSpeed Team boss Olly Marshall said, “Damien has done an incredible job of learning all the skills it takes to be a successful co-driver. A lot of work and preparation went into his entry into the rally and it is shame that he did not get to finish. We would like him to come back and rally with us again to complete his challenge.