Cookie delighted with 6th place points in PWRC on Acropolis Rally debut

Louise Cook is well in charge of the 2WD Production Car World Rally Championship and took points for an impressive 6th place in the Production World Rally Championship on her WRC Rally Acropolis debut.

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The Acropolis Gods are kind on Louise

The British Female Rally Champion Louise Cook contested the 2nd round of her World Rally Championship career this weekend, her toughest to date, the WRC Acropolis Rally Greece, based in Loutraki, Corinthia. The Acropolis or maybe ARockolis is notorious as a car wrecker and of being the most demanding on machinery. Louise and her team knew getting the showroom class Fiesta ST to the finish line was going to be a big survival game. To come away from the event with a remarkable 6th place in the Production World Rally Championship and 29th overall from the 54 starters was an amazing result.

The Acropolis Rally kicked off in front of the impressive Zappeion in the centre of Athens. Thousands of spectators attended to wave the crews over the start ramp as they headed out to the opening stage.

The strategy for the Acropolis Rally was to see as many stages as possible and a finish would be amazing but doubtful. Louise was looking to gain on her limited mileage and experience and to absorb the most that was possible from the event.

“It was really difficult to get the right balance, I just wanted to go flat out, but I knew if I sacrificed seeing the stages for extra speed and fun on one stage, I would miss out on vital experience the Acropolis Rally had to give. If the car is on the trailer, I would learn nothing.”

“It was only my 7th gravel event so I was happy with my progress throughout the long days. Having no money to practice meant I had not even seen a gravel road since September last year, a crazy situation, but with raising this massive WRC budget, the priorities have to lie with getting to the 6 nominated events to avoid the 16,000 Euro fine and loss of license.”

The longest day of the rally, Day 2, offered 170.8 stage kilometres and a whopping 534.31 road kilometres and with only a couple of 15 minute services to patch up the car if there were any faults.

“It was a tough day. My Co-Driver had some sort of food poisoning in the morning and was vomiting most of the way to the first stage. I had to stop a few times on the way whilst he did his bit to making the car lighter! He did well to carry on.”

The remote base for the day was in Itea some 200km away from the main Service in Loutraki, so a long day for both service crew and the crew in the car. The afternoon brought some twisty but smooth stages which Louise enjoyed.

“The notes worked well in the Bauxites stage, only around four notes were wrong which is good for me. It was a nice stage and it was nice not to be smashing the car through rough terrain. The last couple of stages we were struggling with power. The little Fiesta was not pulling up the hills at all. I reset the main power switch and it would cure for a little while, but then it kept coming back. Little did I know this would cause retirement on the next day.”

The 3rd day Saturday was full of the roughest stages of the rally.

“It was not fun avoiding the sharp bed rock and massive boulders, it was a different type of driving. The Fiesta took some serious impacts despite my best efforts.”

In the first stage of the day, the poor Fiesta was bouncing over some seriously rough holes and knowing that the next stage was the roughest of the entire rally, Louise took a cautious approach.

“Some corners we had to note STOP and literally had to roll slowly over the sharp bedrock.I came to one rough hairpin, slowed right down, but then the car wouldn’t rev enough to get going again. I re-started her and got going again on. We continued for another 3 km, but it was clear that the Fiesta was not going to make it through the full stage let alone the days rallying. Nightmare, it was unfortunately retirement for the day.”

After retrieving the car from stage 11, the service crew had a maximum of 3 hours to discover the cause and get the car in shape for the final day of the rally. The mechanics found a sensor plug had come apart and this was causing the car to cut-out.

At the end of the first stage of the last day the PWRC class leader Nicolas Fuchs fell victim of the rough conditions. The rear suspension failed and Nicolas who had a massive 5 minute lead going into the final day was now leaving the rally with 0 points. This reinforced Louise’s strategy to go safe and bring the car home. The retirement of Fuchs meant Louise gained an extra 2 points now an amazing 8 points for her PWRC position.

“To be 6th in the Production World Rally Championship in a rally like this was something I never imagined, I was convinced that the Fiesta would not sustain the impacts the rally had to offer. It would be great to return next year with a stronger car.”

“The fans were so encouraging and supportive; it would be nice to see some Greek females compete on the rally next year. I made lots of new friends and I was given two very cute teddies for luck from kind people. It was such a great atmosphere.”

Louise now looks on to the long haul to Rally New Zealand in 4 weeks time where she will take the wheel of a rented Fiesta ST to gain experience of the cambered New Zealand roads.

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