WRC challenge just a week away ..

for co-driving journalist  

Evening Standard journalist ready for Wales Rally GB  

Nicky Grist to give expert advice in the build up to WRC event

It has taken four hard months, one exam and three challenging rallies, but Evening Standard journalist David Smith is just days away from completing the task set to him by media man, Tony Jardine, the challenge to compete in and finish a rally at World Rally Championship (WRC) level. Smith has now earned his upgrade to an international co-driving licence, enabling him to compete alongside top drivers, such as five times World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb and multiple MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi at this years Wales Rally GB (4-7 December).

Smith, who had never sat in a proper rally car before September has now taken part in three national rallies in the build up to this international event, taking to the sport with immense enthusiasm. The first thing the rookie co-driver had to complete was his BARS course, which he passed with flying colours at Silverstone Circuit back in September. The media duo then took a fantastic first in class finish in their first event together at the Trackrod Rally, then capitalised on their triumph with another first in class on their second outing at the Bulldog Rally. Their final event at the Cambrian Rally in North Wales pushed the pair to the limit.

The ever changing weather  conditions  gave  an  insight  to  what  life  would  be  like  at  Wales  Rally  GB.  Smith  and  Jardine  were pushing hard to take their third successive class win, in their Castrol / Evening Standard Fiesta, but had to settle for second, just 8 seconds adrift but it was still enough to secure the final signature on Smith’s national licence to take him to WRC status.

After Smith secured his final signature at the Cambrian Rally it was a race against time to finalise his upgrade to international standard. Smith needed to take an in depth medical and having just returned from America, where he flew directly after the Cambrian Rally, he had to take the medical even though he was still jet lagged so that the MSA (Motor Sports Association) had all the necessary documentation by the deadline. Wales Rally GB will be the final event that the Castrol / Evening Standard team will compete in together this year, with the backing of ProSpeed Motorsport.

As Wales Rally GB as an annual event enters its 76th year, it also marks the 16th time that Jardine will have entered. “Even though I have a lot of event experience I am always in awe of the World Championship drivers around me and the challenge of the event. This year will be the  most  difficult  event  in  10  years. 

"There  are  longer,  tougher  stages  which  require  a  lot  more  work  and concentration, as we will be in the dark for longer period of time than before. David is in for a major test, so I hope he remembers everything and takes in the final tips from Nicky.  He will have to be sharp and stay on the ball, so he will need plenty of stamina.”

With  just  days  to go before the event, the Evening Standard journalist will sit down with rally legend Nicky Grist, WRC Championship winning co-driver to the late Colin McRae, for the second time of the campaign.   Grist and Smith were introduced in the build up to the Trackrod Rally, where Nicky gave invaluable advice. The final ‘teach in’ will act as a refresher course, a final tune up for Smith as he has not been rallying for a month.

The WRC winning co-driver will be passing on valuable knowledge and World Rally tips including details of the 17  demanding  special  stages  that  make  up  the  Wales  Rally  GB  course  that  has  been  modified  to  include challenging forests in mid Wales as well as the South. This will be 55 year old Smith’s first ever appearance in a sport at international level and when asked about the challenge ahead, he said, ‘it’s a dream come true’. 

Now with the event only a week away Smith is naturally feeling apprehensive, “As start time approaches the enormity of the challenge we have taken on is beginning to dawn on me.

“I thought the three one-day rallies Tony and I have completed together were tough enough, but he insists they were nothing compared to the pressures, physical and mental, of a three-day world championship event. And I am feeling the pressure already. Every member of the team has been so supportive that I desperately don’t want to let them down by making a stupid mistake that might cost vital seconds, or worse, commit the kind of error that might send the car careering off the track and out of the rally.  Having said that, Tony and I have proved that when we get ourselves in gear we can be competitive. For me, simply getting to the finish is no longer good enough. I want us to make a mark on the results sheet. Bring it on!”

The  Castrol  /  Evening  Standard  Ford  Fiesta  will  be  managed  and  be  prepared  by  York  based  ProSpeed Motorsport,  who  have  had  many  years  experience  at  World  Championship  level.   

Managing  Director  Olly Marshall has competed in the event himself twice before, and has been working closely with Jardine for two years, and knows exactly what to expect, “We are now at world rally level, which represents a big difference. The competition is going to be tougher and the stages far more demanding, which means as a team we have to  up  our  game.  We  have  totally  rebuilt  the  car,  making  sure  everything  is  working  to  its  best  as  it  will  be subjected to the equivalent of 35,000 hard road miles for a normal car in just three days, over rough terrain. David has been working so hard to achieve the almost impossible task set for him, I am delighted he is about to embark on the final part of his mission.”

Kumho  have  been  working  with  the  Castrol  /  Evening  Standard  team  throughout  the  duo’s  campaign, supplying  the  latest  in  tyre  technology,  with  this  event  being  no  exception.  Steve  Thompson,  European Motorsport  Manager  of  Kumho  said,  “We  have  kept  a  close  eye  on  how  Tony  and  David  have  been progressing. We are delighted that they have reached their goal of competing in a WRC event together, and are more than pleased to help them try and get to the finish using Kumho tyres, but it will be a tough event.”

Andy Beale, a McLaren Development Engineer from Lightwater, Surrey, will be with the team for the weekend lending his expertise and jumping into action when the car comes into service. The McLaren man said,

“We have shown that we can compete with the best of our class at national level, now we want to push even further and  perform  at  international  level  as  well.  The  team  know  it’s  going  to  be  a  rollercoaster  ride,  but  we  are determined to finish what we started in September. There is a great atmosphere amongst the team, and we will do whatever it takes to keep the car going.”

Both  Tony  Jardine  and  ProSpeed  Motorsport  have  not  had  the  best  of  times  at  Wales  Rally  GB  in  recent years, seeing them dramatically retire two years in a row. They are eager to put the bad results behind them and turn things around with their new journalist co-driver, David Smith, and finish with a flourish.

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