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).