Journalist defies car wrecker rally ..

to achieve international rally status  

Perilous conditions have the Castrol / Evening Standard team on the edge David Smith, motor sport journalist for the Evening Standard, was all smiles as he climbed out of the  co-driving  seat  of  the  Castrol  /  Evening  Standard  Ford  Fiesta  ST150  that  he  had  just successfully  navigated  through  the  challenging  forests  of  North  Wales  on  the  Cambrian  Rally  (1 November). 

Smith  and  driver  Tony  Jardine  were  delighted  to  finish  the  event  as  several  close shaves on the treacherous stages could have robbed the media duo from a second in class finish and their chances of competing against world class crews on Wales Rally GB in December. It  was  essential  for  Smith  to  secure  one  last  signature  on  his  national  licence,  on  this  event,  to upgrade  to  international  standard  in  time  for  Britain’s  round  of  the  World  Rally  Championship (WRC) held in the South of Wales.

The demanding stages of the Cambrian Rally presented Smith and Jardine with the challenge of overcoming bed rock surfaces, boulders and avoiding big drops, all of which could spell disaster of a non-finish with even top rally crews falling victim to the harsh conditions. 

These  treacherous  conditions  saw  many  retirements  from  the  rally,  and  the  Castrol  / Evening Standard team had their fair share of breathtaking moments. On  the  very  first  stage  the  media  pairing  got  off  to  a  good  start  with  Smith  continuing  with  his rhythm and confidence shown on previous rallies.

Despite giving quick distinct directions, the tricky road conditions got the better of the team, as the pair got caught out, losing control of the Fiesta sending it into a spin narrowly missing a set of gate posts. This minor accident saw the team drop from first in class N3 and lose 15 seconds on the stage. At the first of the two services, where the team could change over the Kumho tyres both Smith and Jardine were frustrated that they lost time, but made it clear they were not going to give up but keep pushing for a third successive class victory.

Starting the following stage with immense speed and skill saw them claw back an impressive eight seconds on their class leader, but then disaster struck again,  when  they  dramatically  slid  across  the  gravel  and  hit  the  bank  with  their  rear  left  wheel.

When  the  team  eventually  got  back  to  their  second  service  they  found  themselves  16  seconds behind the class leader, with another competitor from their class just  eight seconds behind them, setting up a crucial battle for the final stage. On  the  final  stage  where  they  had  previously  lost  control  of  their  Castrol  owned  Fiesta,  this  time round there were no problems and their strict determination paid off for the media pair, with Smith and Jardine claiming second in class, just eight seconds behind the class winners.

Smith after having his licence signed by the clerk of the course said, “I have come a long way from where I started two months ago as a novice navigator. At first all I wanted to do was finish on this rally, but now I feel really disappointed not to win the class today. However saying that, this rally was a real car wrecker, we saw plenty of our competitors lying defeated by the side of the road, and to survive some really tough tracks was an achievement in itself.”

Team boss and Managing Director of ProSpeed Motorsport, Olly Marshall said, “I am delighted they both  got  through.  David  thoroughly  deserves  to  be  in  the  position  he  is  in  and  take  his  place  at WRC level at Wales Rally GB. He has approached everything in his path with such professionalism and has shown great commitment throughout the campaign.”

Still  in  his  Alpinestars  overalls  at  Rally  HQ  as  Smith  had  his  licence  signed,  driver  Tony  Jardine commented on the day’s events, “David has made the grade and how! He instantly found his feet today, and continued with his great navigational skills, he even took us into the mammoth battle for the class win at the end, which earlier in the day looked hopelessly out of the question. He now has to carry this form on to the WRC, I am very pleased for him.” Finishing  the  Cambrian  Rally  and  securing  the  final  signature  on  Smith’s  national  licence  means that the media duo can now set their sights on their final event together, the last round of the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB (4-7 December).