to drive at Wales Rally GB
Wednesday saw London’s spectacular Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home to so much sporting success, host its first rally event. World class cars and drivers descended on a specially created rally ‘stage’ to demonstrate what their cars were capable of. To add to the excitement two special guests were unveiled to the media, both of whom are embarking on major rally challenges with their ultimate target being to compete at Wales Rally GB.
Ashes-winning former England off-spinner Graeme Swann, the BT Sport presenter and ambassador, is set to join the exciting finale of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) by competing at Wales Rally GB in November. Swann will contest the event in a Ford Fiesta R2 rally car that will be run alongside the M-Sport team that enters two Ford-supported cars in the top WRC class for Elfyn Evans and Mikko Hirvonen. Swann’s training, preparation, as well as the main event, Wales Rally GB, will be filmed by BT Sport for an exclusive documentary to be aired later this autumn.
The former England cricket international is a passionate motorsports fan who grew up near to Silverstone and holds an ARDS motorsport licence. Swann has featured in BT Sport’s MotoGP Tonight show this season. Additionally, he is a regular at key motorsports events including the Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
He will undertake rigorous training to gain his national rally licence under the supervision of the MSA, the UK’s governing body for motorsport over the coming month, refine the art of driving the car and learn the unique demands of the Wales Rally GB course located in North and Mid-Wales.
Swann said: “I just cannot wait to get started. I am champing at the bit to train, get my licence and learn the car and the famous Wales Rally GB course. Growing up close to Silverstone meant cars and bikes were never far away from me. I’ve raced sports cars in the past and am never too far away from races and Grand Prix but this is a whole new level for me. Stay tuned to BT Sport to follow my journey."
Also aiming to take part at Wales Rally GB is Peta Todd, former glamour model, Help for Heroes patron and wife to Mark Cavendish, widely considered the world’s fastest cyclist. She is now undertaking her own high speed challenge, to co-drive for Sky Sports Pundit and Wales Rally GB veteran Tony Jardine. The pair competed together for the first time at the Yorkshire Rally on 27 September, finishing an impressive 13th overall at the highly competitive event, the first of three rallies they will have to finish as part of their qualification for Wales Rally GB in a month’s time.
‘Wales Rally GB comes to London’ was the first time that Peta had been in the ProSpeed Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 rally car since she suffered a collapsed lung a few weeks ago. Despite this serious injury, she is determined to complete this challenge, and can’t wait to get back in the co-driver’s seat in her race against time to qualify for Wales Rally GB.
Peta said: “It’s great to be back in rally overalls so soon after my operation and I’m excited to be down here at the Olympic Park to support Wales Rally GB.”
“When my consultant told me I needed to have an operation I said to her; this might sound a bit strange but what is the chance of competing in a rally next weekend, to which she just laughed. I’m competing at Galloway Hills (Scotland) next weekend and although I won’t be one hundred percent I’ll just have to grin and bear it.”
Neil Simpson, European Rally Championship driver, commented on Peta’s back to back rally’s to qualify for Wales Rally GB, saying: “It’s like the steepest learning curve you’ll ever see, it really is, it can’t be underestimated.”
At the Olympic Park event alongside Graeme and Peta were two drivers aiming to compete in this year’s Wales Rally GB and both were happy to offer advice and showcase their talents on the London special stage.
One of these drivers was former Volkswagen Motorsport test driver, and current European Rally Championship (ERC) driver Neil Simpson. The founder of Britain’s largest SKODA dealership has returned to competitive rallying after a 12 year sabbatical, and intends to mark his comeback season with an entry into Wales Rally GB in his Simpsons SKODA - SKODA Fabia S2000.
The most experienced rally driver at the event was Wug Utting from Surrey. The 59 year old has been rallying since 1976 and has won several regional championships in his time. He is currently second in the MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, with the final round taking place at the Cambrian Rally this weekend, and he skilfully demonstrated his Subaru Impreza STi for the assembled media.
To come and see the stars competing in the 2014 World Rally Championship finale, you can get your Wales Rally GB tickets at www.walesrallygb.com