Competing at international level for the first time, number #1 British female rally driver Sara Williams and her co-driver Patrick Walsh marked the occasion with a day of consistent improvement, finishing the day in 42nd. Driving her V-Ex Group N Subaru Impreza N12, Sara ended the day still in touch with official WRC teams, in spite of encountering early difficulties.
Sara and her fellow drivers began the event in slippery conditions on the Gartheiniog stage – the first car of Wales Rally GB 2014 being released in anger just before 8am. Rain the night before had doused the forest roads, causing drivers problems throughout the day. Following a gruelling 14km Sara finished the stage 2 minutes 24 seconds behind overall stage winner and 2014 WRC champion, Sebastian Ogier, despite suffering a 10 second penalty for a jump start.
After navigating the perils of standing water on stage 2, Dyfi, Sara had climbed 3 places from 56th overall to 53rd. Sara continued this trend throughout the day, looking to strengthen her position after the setback.
The Hafren Sweet Lamb stage is 23.55km of unforgiving gravel and long sweeping corners rising to 504ft above sea level; on its route passing by the source of the River Severn. The longest and highest stage encountered on the first day saw Sara climb an impressive 7 places to 46th.
Stage 4, Maesnant, is the southernmost stage driven during the rally, and new to the event this year. Made up from pieces of the Hafren stage from 2013, this gravel track meanders close to the banks of the burgeoning Severn. In this idyllic setting Sara again moved up the leader board, this time to 44th place, setting a stage time of 9:36.2. Sara’s time was only 1 minute 43 seconds off race leader Ogier.
Newtown services comprised the next stop for Sara and her fellow international competitors; who were jovially greeted by the local residents. After rapid repairs on the town centre car park, the action resumed.
The afternoon section of the rally is a repeat of the morning – following the same loop. Stage 5 is a return to the starting line; again Sara climbed the standings, this time to 43rd overall. Stage 6 was a reunion with Dyfi and Sara stayed consistent and consolidated her place, gaining over ten seconds on the car behind her.
For stage 7 it was another run through the lengthy Hafren Sweet Lamb and Sara reignited her charge, climbing to 41st in the standings, an impressive 15 places from her position after stage 1.
The final run of Maesnant saw Sara drop a place for the first time, dropping to 42nd to end the day in position to break into the top 40.
Another taxing day of concentration and skill lies ahead of Sara and Patrick, as tomorrow marks the halfway stage of Wales Rally GB. After a day of overcoming adversity, Sara will start all over again tomorrow.
From everyone at the V-Ex Virtual Exhibitions team, good luck to you both.