I have got my 2016 season off to a flying start on the Monte-Carlo Rally: the oldest and most prestigious event on the international calendar. I was using the Monte as a warm-up for my main focus of the season: the British Rally Championship, which was won for the first time by my father exactly 40 years ago. I’m also aiming to contest selected international events this year, to ensure that i have has a mixed diet of regular competition.
As a result, I wheeled out my own Ford Fiesta R2 to compete in Monte Carlo, where I finished fourth in the highly competitive RC4 class, against more modern factory-developed opposition. My car – Olga, as I call her – is getting a little bit old now, and I certainly noticed that over the weekend!. We were very close to the maximum limit of kilometres for the engine in Monte as well, so I was a bit worried that we would have a problem. Thankfully though, everything went fine and I enjoyed the rally a lot. But the pace of the newer cars was very quick: impossible for us to live with really. Nonetheless, on the stages where there was a completely level playing field, with long and icy downhill sections, I was able to show the best. In particular, I set a 16th-fastest time overall on the 17.13-kilometre SS10, which was the snowiest and most complex stage of them all this year. In doing so, I beat several more powerful cars, including two factory-backed World Rally Cars. That was definitely my best stage! I really liked it but at the same time it felt a little bit frustrating because if we had seen a few more stages like that, I think we could have achieved a really meaningful result. Instead though, it was mostly a dry Monte this year, although it is always a tough event no matter what the weather does.
The end result was not the overall focus for my though: instead it was all about getting me back into the groove of competition before I make my competitive debut with a four-wheel drive Ford Fiesta R5 in Britain. It was really useful to have some more time in the car and I feel ready to start our season for real now. This year is going to be one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced but of course I am looking forward to it. The revamped 2016 British Rally Championships gets underway with the Mid Wales stages from March 5-6. Nearly 20 of the headlining R5 cars have already registered for the all-gravel event.