Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A little turbulance!

Hi All, Last time I spoke to you I was finished Sweden and looking forward to Portugal. We added my home rally, the Willie Loughman Memorial Rally, which we won by over 3 minutes. Our perfect season was progressing and I was really happy! So, after a fantastic start of the year, our last SWRC event in Portugal was, well a washout really. The pre-event test was all in perfect sunny conditions, as was the recce. Usual Portugese conditions, apart from the weather forcast! Heavy rain was forcast for Thursday evening, and they weren't far wrong. The rally started in Lisbon on Thursday morning, with a super special stage on tarmac. We started well, setting fastest SWRC time in the blistering heat of Lisbon. As we headed south for three gravel stages in darkness, the weather changed dramatically. The heavy rain that was predicted came in, and made the three stages very tricky. After a long regroup we set out into the darkness. The first stage was going well, until we arrived at a ford a few km's in. Some water got into the spark plugs and the car ran on three cylinders for the remainder of the stage. With the problem cured we pushed hard on the second stage and set a time 9th quickest O/A and 1st S2000 car, and gained some time back on the leader, Haydon Paddon. On the final stage of the day we had a problem with our intercom and dropped a few seconds back, but we were glad to have made it back to service and be ready to stard the next leg. Friday morning and the conditions were horrific. The rain stayed constant all night, leaving a muddy murky mess on the Portugese stages. We started the first stage of the day, set to try and get into the lead of the SWRC. After 1km we passed Haydons car and were promoted to the lead, all we had to do know was drive sensible. However just 4Km down the road, we were to hit trouble too. As we went through one of the many fords on the water logged stage, the car stalled and wouldn't re-start. We spent 20 mins clearing water from the cylinder before finally getting it going again. We got to the end of that stage, and set off into the next. However only 8Km into the next stage the same problem hit again, accept this time it was terminal. It was a very bitter blow, considering our speed on the only clear stage we had. But unfortunatly there was nothing we can do, just prepare for our next SWRC event in Finland in August. Amongst all the SWRC outings, we were delighted to sign a deal with Sainteloc Racing and Peugeot Sport in the IRC for at least four rounds. It was great to get a deal to be back in the IRC after our good showings last year in Zlin and in Scotland. The first round in the Peugeot 207 S2000 for me and Gareth was my home IRC rally, the Circuit of Ireland. I was really excited about the prospect of doing an event at IRC level so close to home. However starting with a new car and new team wasn't going to be easy for me. We had a test in Monaghan before the rally, and I was resonably happy with my setup, given the limeted amount of time in the car, and was looking forward to the weekend. The rally started on Friday evening, and after the first 3 stages we sat in a comfertable 4th overall, and looking forward on increasing our speed. Unfortunatly, on the way back to the service car, we had a fuel pump fail and we lost 1 and a half minutes of road penalties for being late back to service. This dropped us back to 7th, but I was keen on making back up lost ground. Unfortunatly only one stage ran that evening and we had to settle with 7th place overnight. Back up and running on day two, and we made lots of progress. There was some small bits and pieces that I wanted to try out, and it seemed the perfect time to try them. We made some really big steps throughout the day, and I learned a lot about the car and my new team also. By the end of the event we were back up to 5th O/A, which would have been 4th O/A without our time penalty. I think it was a good weekend considering everything, and now I just can't wait to get back out again! My next event is in Corsica in two weeks time, and to say I'm excited is an understatment. Corsica has been one of my favourite events to watch on the TV as a kid, and to finally go there and compete is a dream come through. Peugeot Sport won there last year with Thierry Neuville, so I expect the will want a top performance again this time round! For now, all I can to is focus and train to the maximum, I will be giving it everything, I promise! All the best, Craig

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A flying Start!

Hi everyone,
I know I always start by apologising it's been so long since my last blog, but I really mean it this time, it's been very hectic! So, happy new year to you all, and I'll now fill you in on my season so far.
Between Christmas and New Year, things started to really pick up momentum towards our first full season in the SWRC. We decided to run with our own team, ran by Tom Gahan Motorsport, and use our very trusty Ford Fiesta S2000. Monte Carlo, or "The Monte" as it's well known, didn't give us much time to prepare, with the car leaving the first week in January, and by the 11th of January, I was in Valence and began testing. It was nice to be back on asphalt again, and even better to be back in the S2000 car. After ringing the neck of the R2 car all last year, it was a welcome change with some power! Testing went really well, and the road we had was brilliant, perfect for the event ahead. A long trek down to Monaco on Friday lay ahead in the recce car, a long long long way. I drew the short straw and drove the trip in its entirety, as Gareth sat quietly, giggling away to himself every few minutes as he watched Step Brothers on my iPad, lucky fecker! Anyway, on reaching Monaco we embarked on three hard days of recce, starting with the famous Col de Turini stage, and working our way all the way back up to Valence, just in time to start shakedown the next day. Shakedown went well, just a settling in session really, and no big dramas. By then it was Tuesday, and closing in on a full week in France without driving a competitive section, endurance rallying at its best. Ceremonial start over, we headed to bed.
With only 3 SWRC competitors choosing to go to Monte, a safe strategy for the event was key. As predicted, Proton works driver PG Andersson was the pace setter from the beginning, with his team mate Giandomenico Basso crashing out on stage one, it was a signal to be clever. PG was on his 4th Monte, and with an event requiring so much experience, I was not flustered by has pace or speed. With that in mind, we decided to stay at our own pace, not coasting by any terms, but defiantly no risks at all. We made a couple of wrong tyre choices on the ice and snow conditions that greeted us on the second stage, and a puncture, but with the chance to score second place points, I just wanted to finish. We ended the day in 15th O/A, and obviously, 2nd in SWRC. Day two was the same plan and attitude, and with no snow or ice forcast, the task was a little easier. We suffered two punctures, one on my favourite stage St Bonnet, and a further one on the last stage of the day, but still there, ready and waiting! Day three was a relatively short day, with only three stages, but with the monster drive from Valence to Monaco in the mix, it was a very long day. First stage of the day was very tricky, with bad black ice in places. Only for Andrew Purcell and Karl Atkinson doing such a good job with the ice notes, things would have been messy. The last 5km of the second stage of the day was hell. Pure thick sheet ice and slush, and with only winter tyres with no studs to get us through, we had to drive at snails pace. It was the same for everyone however, and being sensible paid off. There was times when the spectators walking at the side of the road were quicker, but I could do no more! After these two stages and a service, we embarked on our trek to Monaco. We travelled 180km, and entered the third stage of the day. It was a really nice stage, with a perfect abrasive surface. Wanting to prove that I could still have the speed, I went for a bit of a push. All was going well up until 7Km from the end, when I clipped a rock and punctured a front left tyre, ruining any chances of a good time, typical! Anyway, with two crepes each, bought out of a sweaty stall at the end of the stage, we continued another 200km to Monaco.
Day four, and the most famous stages in the world awaited. It was a late start, with the first stage not starting until 15:00, 24 hours after the last stage started the previous day. The plan was still the same. Fastest times on the two stages came as a welcome surprise, and still lying 15th overall, I was happy. A re-run of the two stages but this time in darkness. Again we were at our own pace, when suddenly as we approached one of the many hairpins of Col de Turini, here was PG stopped at the side of the road, rally over. It was a golden ticket for us, not the way we wanted to do it at all, but I had been handed first place, and the experience of the Worlds toughest event, it was perfect. We turned the pace right back down again after that, close to recce speed! We just wanted to finish, and with 14th O/A secure, and 1st in SWRC, it would be silly to push. We got around the final stage and back to Monaco harbour for service.
Day five, and only a 5km Power Stage to go. Again, just a gentle drive through, and we done it! An incredible week of endurance and speed, and finally to make it to the finish alone was a big achievement.
So, a great start. The most difficult rally out of the way, and already a maximum points hall, it was perfect.
A small break and then we were off to Rally Sweden. We decided to do a small test event in Norway before the rally, Rally Finnskog. It was a perfect test, a little cold however (-35c to be precise!). All did not end well though, on SS4 I misjudged my braking after a jump and hit the car off a bank. Ok the damage was minimal and we drove to the end of the stage, but unfortunately it was enough to put us out of a competitive position.
Onto Sweden, recce was good again - apart from the lack of snow?! Strange, temperatures of only -2/-3 greeted us in Hagfors, and apart from a good ice base on the stages, conditions were going to be tricky with no snow banks. I was happy with my Ford Fiesta S2000 setup and my confidence was high. The rally started with the KarlstadSuperspecial’ and picking up a puncture wasn't part of the plan, we only lost seven seconds but I was disappointed.

On Friday morning we began with the same type strategy that served us so well on the Monte. It was clear from the start that P-G (Andersson) would be the pacesetter so I decided to set my own pace and bed in over the first full day. Setting fastest SWRC on stage four was rewarding as it showed I had good speed and by the final Friday night test we were back up to second in SWRC and I had a nice cushion of round two minutes back to Pontus (Tidemand) in third.

Setting out for day two the rally moved back to Sweden and I was delighted with my speed over the morning loop. Fastest SWRC times on SS11 (first stage of the day) set the ball rolling and fastest again on SS13 had the confidence on a high. The rerun in the afternoon was a different story. I noticed a problem with the handling early during stage sixteen and after first thinking it was the front diff, we found out on the road section that it was the front right brake disc had shattered, with the caliper and disc removed I just nursed the car over the last two stages of the day.

As the final day dawned I was in no man’s land as regards to challenging leader P-G and I held a minute & twenty seconds over Pontus. With a potential 18 points up for stacks I took the realistic approach driving to the finish. Now, two rounds in, I’m delighted with our season start. After deciding to nominate Rally New Zealand as my round to drop, Portugal is effectively the halfway point for me. The Protons will not be there so it will be important to gain another good result.
And finally, last weekend I was given the pleasure of becoming Waterford Person of the Year 2011. It was a fantastic feeling to be nominated, but to win it is just incredible. The good news story that was last season has really encaptured the town of Waterford, and now the public have become aware of what I do, and that's all down to the fantastic local media that have always supported me, thank you!
So now, back to training and getting myself in prime shape for the next round of the SWRC in Portugal, I can't wait to get going!
All the best,

Friday, 2 December 2011

Living a dream!

Hey everyone,
We done it, can you believe it?! I sat behind this very keyboard on my last blog stating that I had to win 13 stages out of 17, and thought to myself, this is going to be a tall order. But it was just one, or three rather, of those days where everything just clicks! It nearly made me more relaxed, as I knew that it wasn't really expected that we could pull of such a feat, but to me, anything is possible. I again, put massive preperation into the event, pulling out all the stops to ensure I would be in the best position possible to win. The recce, pre-event test, everything all went really smoothly, and as the event drew nearer, I was feeling more and more confident in what I was doing, perfect.
I'm not going to go too indept into the whole weekend, but from our first stage on Great Orme on Thursday evening, we just settled into this perfect rhythm, and it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. We lost the first stage to Brendan Reeves by a second, but from there on, we were on a roll! By the end of the first proper leg, our stage wins were up to 9, and we were leading comfertably, all going to plan.
We started the last leg, with it all left to do, six stages and we needed four more, how hard could it be?! But we recieved a bitter blow on the first stage, when Egon was fastest, which now ment we had to win every stage to the finish! It was the most strangest feeling, the moment I realised that Egon had gone quicker, this calmness came over me, and I feel it was the biggest thing that helped me. I knew what I had to do, and there was only one stategy, flat out. We were quickest in Sweet Lamb which has always been a difficult one for me and again in Myherin, we were nearly there. Three stages to go, three stages between me and my childhood dream, I had to give it my all! We pushed to the limit in the first one out of service, perhaps even a little to hard, and were quickest by 18 seconds. Again in Sweet Lamb, quickest, leaving the final 28Km of Myherin to decide the series. We just pushed resonably hard, and tried not to think of the championship. We came to the end of the stage, and then the flow of emotion came over us. We had to wait a whole 11 minutes before Egons came to the finish. It was an agonising wait, but on the 11 minute, WRC TV's Julian Porter informed the crows, "22,1!" We had done it! What an amazing feeling, I don't think I could ever find the words to describe it. All our hard work and effort had finaly paid off, it was such a feeling of joy and elation, just incredible.
I couldn't believe that we had done it, after all the ups and downs during the season, we had proved that we had what it takes. And now, €500,000 better off thanks to the prizemoney, we have secured a season in the SWRC in 2012, perfect.
I hadn't any time to relax, as I was rushed off to Austria the following day for the FIA Institute Shootout in Melk. The week took in all the aspect of being a professional driver; fitness, media, pschology, driving etc.. I was honoured to be selected out of the 30 there to go into the final panel of 18, a very positive step in my career as a driver, and an athlete. It was also a proud moment for me, when on the last day I won the Race of Champions event, against some of the best racing drivers, in a race car, on a race track....a big hurdle for me!
So! A few days to relax before the exciting FIA Awards, this year in New Dehli, India. Can't wait to take the trip over and see a whole new part of the World for me, sould be very exciting! Then the first workshop of the FIA Institute in Edinborough, busy times ahead.
A little relax this weekend, Mel Harries Memorial Rally with Gareth in the 4 door Escort, can't wait!
All the best,

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Busy busy busy!

Hi all,
Okay, a series of ups and bitter downs this month, but still here with a smile!
We had Rally de France Alsace up first, and the penultimate round of the FIA WRC Academy. We were feeling really confident heading to the event. We put massive preparation into the event, ensuring no stone was left unturned, and I felt better than ever. Our recce was great, and the event started as a reflection of our preparation, perfect. We were a little slow on the first stage, bedding ourselves in, then from there, we put the hammer down. On the longest 35Km stage, we were quickest in the FIA WRC Academy by 23 seconds! We had a puncture on SS6 which knocked our lead back to 18 seconds, but by the end of the day we were back to a 24 second lead, perfect.
We had new brake pads fitted for Sunday morning, a routine operation, but there was to be a problem with the brakes on the first stage. The brakes were sticking on, and on the uphill sections the car was struggling badly, and I was sure I'd loose loads of time. I was a little surprised to learn that we only dropped 7 seconds to second place driver Yeray Lemes. So with the brakes fixed for the next one, we battled on. We settled into an excellent rhythm on the next one, and were quickest on the splits by a perfect margin, just a few seconds, all we needed to score stage win points. However it was all to no avail. On a very fast section downhill before a slow left hander, Gareth got a little out of time with his pacenote delivery and I couldn't slow the car in time by the time I heard the call, and we touched the bank on the outside. It was minimal damage, but we broke a driveshaft, game over. To be fair, Gareth has been a massive asset to my career to date, and the mistake he made could have happened to anyone. He's one of the best around, and was straight back to his great self the next time we were out. It was a bitter blow however, as to make matters worse championship leader Egon Kaur crashed also, and a maximum points score would have put us in prime position for the FIA WRC Academy Cup. However no time to dwell, we were off to IRC Rally Scotland and back in the Fiesta S2000.
It was my first gravel rally in the S2000 since Wales Rally GB last year, so it was wierd to be back in the car, floating around. We tested the car on Monday quite close to the stages of the rally, perfect. It all went really well, and we found a great setup to start the event. Recce again went really well and with typical British fashion, the weather was miserable. We had two stages on the Friday evening, both in darkness. We made a fantastic start, 7th quickest on SS1, and 2nd quickest on SS2, what a start! We were fourth overnight and were looking to take a cautious approach to the tricky Saturday stages. We still set some good stage times on Saturday, and only lost one place on the leader board, and ended the day 5th, 2 seconds off fourth place.
Sunday was our day to push, and I was ready for it! We started off with a 3rd place time on the opening stage, a great start to show our speed. However from there everything happened. Firstly, the exhaust manifold broke, causing the car to go seriously down on power. We were being chased hard by Czech Skoda driver Jan Kopecky, and we knew it was going to be difficult to keep ahead. 4th place was ours when Thierry Neuville hit trouble, so we knew all we had to do was get around. With only a remote service during the day, we knew we could do very little to aid our troubles, and when a rear diff fan broke, I really thought my rally was falling apart. But, we battled on, stage by stage we done enough to stay in front and got to the end in 4th overall and first privateer! We were thrilled, and we were further showing our speed at no better a time, I was so so happy.
A little (very little) gap to the next Rally in RACC Rally Spain, and back in the S2000 car again, and now part of the SWRC, no pressure! The rally had a new concept to me, mixed surface. Friday stages were based on gravel, with Saturday and Sunday ran on Asphalt. We tested on Monday near Vic on Asphalt, a really nice road and I felt confident that we had done enough to have a package to be competitive. Our recce was good, some long stages and mixed surface made it extremely difficult, but I was up for it. Starting on gravel I was little nervous considering we didn't get to test on the spanish gravel beforehand. However, we were on the pace, and with a fastest time on the second stage, we were within 0.5 seconds of the Rally leader Juho Hanninen. The afternoon was ok for us, the pace wasn't as quick, but we ended the day just 20 seconds off the lead and looking forwards to the monstor 46Km El Priorat stage on Asphalt the following morning. After trojan work by the boys (Thanks lads!) the car was converted to tarmac trim for Day 2.
We started the first stage, and planned to charge. However just 8Km in, we broke a rear driveshaft and were forced to drive the whole loop in front wheel drive, disaster. We got it fixed in service, but I was gutted we had lost close to 2 minutes, and we were back in fourth. In the afternoon, I struggled to find the speed I was looking for. However on the final stage, it started to come together, and I was hopeful to increase our pace on the last day.
The first stage on Sunday morning, the stage was ran in darkness. We had a really good run, and we were quickest in SWRC by some margin. Finally we had found the speed we were looking for, and I was confident there was more. We continued this pace for the rest of the day, and finished the rally 15th overall and 4th SWRC. I was disappointed that we couldn't fight for the victory after our issues, but still really pleased with our speed once again, we're going the right way finally!
Now, back to preparing for Wales Rally GB, the big one. A once in a lifetime opportunity to win a dream prize, and I'll do anything to get it. If we win and Egon finishes 2nd, we need to win 13 stages at least to get the win, so it's flat out! I'm really looking forward to it, there's no reason why we can't do it so bring it on!
Anyhow, off for a cycle!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

We done it!

Hi all,
Finally I'm sitting writing this blog with a big smile on my face, our first WRC Academy win, and what better way to get it but with another nail biting finish. This was the first asphalt round of the WRC Academy, and I was keen to try and get a good result amid the European tarmac experts within the Academy. After our test at the Stonethrowers rally back home, I was confident in both myself and the car before the demanding German stages. The recce was excellent. We made really good pacenotes, and I found the stages enjoyable, and quite easy to read. On Thursday we had a Shakedown, and again I was really please with the setup. Friday was a tough day, as anticipated, Spanish driver Yeray Lemes was the man to beat, but we slotted comfortably into second place. We were not able to match Yeray on the early stages, but towards the end of the day, we were able to come a little closer, and even after a scare when we touched a kerb on the final test of Leg 1, we were 30 seconds behind, with a massive amount of mileage the following day.
On the first stage of Leg 2, we dropped a little time to Yeray, but on the next test, Yeray went off the road and dropped 50 seconds, we were in the lead! I knew from then I had to pull something out of the bag, and we responded. We took a further 1.7 seconds on the following stage, and the fight was now on, now leading by 17 seconds. Yeray took a further 5 seconds on the first run of Panzerplatte, but with a stage requiring so much knowledge, I was happy to be so close to him considering it was our first time. We went to service for some new tires, and a repeat of the mornings stages lay ahead.
We had new pads and discs fitted for the second loop, and unfortunately, they didn't bed in properly on the run out, and stuck on over the test. We dropped 6 seconds to Yeray, and our lead was down to 6 seconds. It took a couple of K's to get the brakes freed up in the next stage, but with a good clean run, we opened the gap back up to 10 seconds heading into the penultimate test. Yeray pipped us by 1.3 on the penultimate stage to bring down it to the wire on the final Panzerplatte stage. Panzerplatte based in the German Army range in Baumholder, is a classic tarmac rally stage. This year it was 35Km in length and was so demanding. With over 120 junctions and varying surfaces, I knew with only 8 seconds in hand, it was going to have to be maximum attack! We pushed incredibly hard, on the limit everywhere, and crossing the finish, I had a feeling that we had done enough. Approaching the stop car we saw World Rally Radio’s Colin Clark jumping and pointing at us, and we knew we had done it! We took 5 seconds back, and our first WRC Academy win! It was overwhelming, so much effort, being close at every round so far, and eventually it had all paid off. But now, knowing what this feeling is like, I’m going to push harder, and prepare better, and be stronger, this feeling is amazing and I want it again, its an addiction!
However, we had no time to celebrate, as we headed straight to the Czech Republic for the Barum Rally Zlin, and back into the S2000. We had a great test near Bela on the Monday, although the weather was quite harsh, it was great to be back in the car, and the feeling was great. Our recce again was perfect, and I was confident heading into the weekend. We were 10th quickest in shakedown, further boosting my confidence.
We took it very steady over the super special in Zlin, aware that the kerbs that lined the stage could end my rally instantly, I was happy to make it round and ended the day 26th. Saturday started with a loop of four challenging stages. We started steady and increased our speed little by little over the next few stage. During the 29Km Trojak stage, it became apparent that we were on too soft a tyre for the stages and 40 degree heat, and would need a change of compound for the second loop. With that in mind, we got through the remaining stages and got back to service for a change to a harder compound. We headed back out for the second loop of same stages, already having moved up to 11th overall, and looking to improve. We had a steady run on the first one out, moving up two positions to 9th and confident that the tires were going to be better as the loop went on. We stayed in 9th for the next, and a big push over the repeat of Trojak stage pushed us up to 8th, with a 6th overall stage time! At last, making big progress! A 5th fastest time on the last stage brought us home in 8th overall ahead of leg 2, brilliant.
We started a little slow on Sunday morning, dropping back to 11th, but still all to play for. We had a great run on the last stage of the loop, and we were back up to7th, close stuff! Another repeat of the same loop, and now we were looking a little more comfortable. Toni Gardemiester was too far ahead realistically to catch, and we had a good gap behind, so the name of the game was to finish. However on the middle stage, Toni received a 10 second penalty for a jump start, and suddenly we started the last stage with Toni in our grasp. We tried to push, but unfortunately, the afternoon temperatures had raised a little too high for our compound, and around mid way through the stage we started to loose grip in the rear, and had to back off. I knew I had done all I could, and altghough we took a good chunk of time from Toni, it wasn't enough to get 6th.
But hey, 7th overall on my first proper IRC rally, what more could I ask for?! On such a challenging event, I was hoping to be getting close to the top 10 at the end of the event, but we were pushing hard from day 1, it was perfect.
This has now lead to a run in RACC Rally Spain in the SWRC class, but that's as much as I can say for now, watch this space!

So, a great month. A perfect month perhaps! Finally all our hard work is paying off and the results are coming, so hopefully it will continue when we get to France for the next round of the WRC Academy, we can still do this!
Anyway, in the mean time, keep an eye to my twitter, and keep the race in its place!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

So so close!

Hi all,
Finland has came and gone, and although it went well like previous years, we were just pipped to our first WRC Academy win by just 2 seconds. It was a difficult event for a few reasons. Firstly, my previous knowledge wasn't much use as most of the rally, in fact the entire second day, was focused on new stages based in the Lahti area, south of Jyvaskyla....bummer! A problem with a rear beam on Thursday evening also dropped us some time, but on Friday I was keen to make up lost ground. We had a very steady approach to the day, but it was enough to see us leading the rally into the final leg, back in Jyvaskyla, just what I wanted. So on Saturday, we got to work, on the first stage it got very rough near the middle and, rather foolishly now, backed off and dropped 3 seconds to Egon Kaur, who was now in front by 0.8, a bit close. But we went to Surkee and hit back, 8 seconds out of Egons lead and we were now ahead by 8. However on the next stage, Urria, a competitor in front crashed and the spectators were slowing us down way to much and we dropped our precious 8 seconds back, all our work undone.
We set to work once again on Jukojarvi and Isojarvi, taking a second out of him on both stages, we were now ahead by two.
Back to service and the mood was good, and I couldn't wait to get back out again. Sitting at the start of the next stage, we had been regrouped behind two Skoda Felicia's, the first time we had been behind them all rally. (WRC Academy ran at back of the field on leg 2) They gave us a two minute interval, and for a 15km stage I thought this would be ok. 5km in and the dust started, by 6km we were on his bumper and I could feel the seconds ticking by. Eventually we got past and pushed on again, only for another few km's up the road and here was the next one, I couldn't believe my luck. We battled for a while to get past, eventually squeezing past on a narrow section, loosing buckets of time. By the time we came to the end of the stage, we were catching our third car, what more could I do? Amazingly, we had only lost 2 seconds to Egon, a credit to how hard we were pushing in the stage before we hit this trouble. But, our lead was down to 0.3 seconds now, and we had to push. The final stage was Surkee, a repeat of this morning. We had a slow start to the stage, but come mid way through, we were clawing time and I could feel it. At the last split we were 0.3 in front of Egon, so you guessed it, dead level! But as we arrived to the end of the stage and waited for Egons time, it became apparent that we had lost two seconds in the last split, and we were second, all over!
Still, second place points and 5 stage wins bumps us up to second in the championship, and were going to tarmac now, and I can't wait!
To practice for tarmac, we went to the Stonethrowers Rally in Tipperary yesterday. It was nice to get back on the tar again, and the day proved well. We had very changeable conditions, and surfaces, all great practice for Germany. We finished up 6th overall and 2nd in class to Robert Barrable in his C2R2, a credit to what can be done with these kind of machines!
So, we're all set for Germany now, then Barum Rally the weekend after in the S2000 car, some great times ahead!
All the best,

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Rock is back!

Hi all,
A very emotional day is all I can describe the 26th of June this year. Six years after my Father Ray won the Ravens Rock for the first time, I was winning mine. The 15 year old back in 2005 destined for years on the racing circuits never dreamed of doing such a feat, but boy does it feel good now! I remember looking in awe at my Father when he won, looking back over the list of previous winners and seeing him more as an idol than my Father!
So as you can see, the Ravens Rock Rally is HUGE with me, far more important to me than any of my successes to date. It was a great event, okay a lot of the top guys pulled out over the days leading up to the event, but for me it didn't take away any of the pride. We were fastest on all but one of the nine stages, building a very comfortable lead and then just enjoying the spin in the S2000 again. I then headed away the following day to Portugal for a few days rest, it was a nice feeling I must admit!
So, at the weekend it was back to serious business, but back in the R2 car. Rally Estonia came as a perfect test for Rally Finland next week, so we set off to try and get a good setup in the test car that we could carry over onto the Academy Car next week. We ran on a Pirelli K4 tyre which is the control tyre for the Academy, which maybe wasn't the most competitive for the event, but defiantly was the right option to be in good shape for Finland. We had a great rally, 28th O/A and 2nd in class. More importantly we're all set for Finland.
So, Finland , the home of Rallying, and we're ready to win! We've had a disappointing WRC Academy Season so far, but I'm so keen on getting it back on track. Points for stage wins should really help our case, so we know what we have to do.
And now, some great news, we have decided to get back in the S2000 car and go to the IRC Barum Rally in Czech Republic in late August. It's a great event which is meant to be some bit similar to our roads here in Ireland, and I cannot wait to get there! It's the first tarmac rally I've done in the S2000 car outside of Ireland and the UK, and with the IRC competition as fierce as it is, it will be a great bench mark to see where we are on tarmac with the best S2000 drivers.
But for now, it's head down and time to get ready to fly in Finland! :)
Keep an eye out on twitter as per!
All the best,