Castrol / Evening Standard team make top 50 on day one of Smith’s WRC debut
Evening Standard journalist David Smith’s ambition to make his World Rally Championship (WRC) debut was realised yesterday, as he strapped himself into the Castrol / Evening Standard Ford Fiesta next to driver Tony Jardine for the ride of his life, at this year’s final round of the championship, Wales Rally GB (4-7 December).
FIA officials on the eve of the rally announced that most of the stages on day one would have to be shortened due to bad weather conditions, which meant both Smith and Jardine had to spend the evening with team boss Olly Marshall going over road books and pacenotes revising all their timings. Journalist Smith who was raring to take on the Welsh forests then woke up to find out that the first stage had been cancelled.
The Castrol / Evening Standard team saw limited action in the morning due to the icy conditions which caused special stage one at Hafren, which would have also been repeated as stage four, to be cancelled. The media pairing eventually set off on their first stage (special stage two) of the event to tackle the hazardous conditions, successfully completing it lying in 73rd overall.
Special stage three highlighted to the media duo the challenges that lay ahead and that the stages of national rallies are nothing compared to those at World Rally level, as they hit black ice but luckily kept control, not damaging the car.
After coming through the remote service, crewed by York based ProSpeed Motorsport, the team continued to progress through the afternoon stages, including the famous Walters Arena, and with each stage found themselves climbing through the field. At the end of the final stage of the day, Jardine and Smith clocked in at an impressive 47th overall and a well deserved third in class.
Jardine said, “It has been treacherous because you don’t know what’s around the next corner, one minute you’ve got grip, the next minute you’re slithering on black ice. Even before we got to the first stage we lost control on an icy downhill section, hit a bank and bounced back into the road. There have been dramas all day, but finally we enjoyed a brilliant stage in the mist and ice of Myherin, even dodging two stranded rally cars in the ford to make it back to Swansea. David has been sensational.”
Smith commented, “Absolutely awesome. I’ve been preparing for this for three months but nothing I’ve done leading up to this rally has compared to what we have experienced today. I’m just a novice at this game and I now have new found admiration for the professionals who tackle the most perilous of conditions far faster than we do. Having said that, I am totally in awe of Tony who has trusted me every mile of the way. He has driven brilliantly and I can’t wait to get back in the car tomorrow.”
The Castrol / Evening Standard team will be looking to consolidate and improve on their performance today, starting day two with the demanding Resolfen stage. The team will then finish the second leg of the event in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.