Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Becky battles to world rally championship success

Rally driver Becky Kirvan ended her 2011 season in style last weekend when she successfully completed Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB. The four-day event proved to be a very tough test with several of the world championship’s leading crews failing to reach the end but Becky and co-driver Will Rogers battled through to finish in 39th place and first in class.

Day one of the rally took place in North Wales with the first two stages being a blast around the Great Orme tarmac toll road near Llandudno. Although this was a short stage it was very tricky with lots of twists and turns and unforgiving kerbs. With the brakes on her Cristal Global-backed Ford Fiesta not feeling quite right part way through the test Becky drove cautiously to make sure she got to the end of the Orme stages.

The crews then headed to Clocaenog for a long forest stage in the dark. Fog made visibility difficult but, after adjusting the brake bias, Becky had no problems and returned to Llandudno for the overnight halt in 51st place.

“I was pretty tense before the start of the Orme so it was good to finally get going after all the preparation work for the rally”, said Becky. “Other than the brake issue we had a troublefree run through the stages. The darkness and fog in Clocaenog was very challenging and I was pleased to emerge unscathed.”

Eight stages in Dyfi and Dyfnant forests greeted the crews on day two. Conditions worsened through the day with heavy rain and mist making driving hazardous and, with running near the back of the field, Becky faced the added challenge of a very cut-up road surface.

“The conditions in the later stages on day two were the worst I have ever competed in. It was impossible to see where the track went due to the thick fog and on top of that we had heavy rain and the darkness to contend with so we slowed right down as we did not want to risk crashing out. There were cars off all over the place and we did not want to join them!”

Blue sky and sunshine replaced the previous days rain and mist for day three with six stages scheduled including two runs of the spectator-packed Sweet Lamb. The first stage of the day was in Hafren forest and, at over 20 miles long, it was the longest of the event. Becky’s only problem was getting caught up by a foreign crew in a faster car. Despite indicating that she was pulling over to let them past, the driver behind drove into the rear of the Fiesta causing damage to the bumper. The rest of the day went well although a puncture in the second Sweet Lamb stage resulted in a large time loss. Despite this Becky ended the third day in 46th place.

“The third day could not have been more different in terms of the weather, visibility was good and it was a pleasure to drive the stages. In particular the stretch of stage through the wind turbines in Myherin was brilliant. I also enjoyed the first run of Sweet Lamb so I was disappointed to have to limp through on the second run of the stage due to our puncture. I could not understand why the crew drove into the back of us in Hafren, I indicated to pull over as soon as they appeared in my mirrors so I think causing damage to my car was completely unnecessary and something I have never encountered with any British drivers.”

“After service in Builth Wells at the end of the day all the cars and crews travelled to Cardiff where we drove down a crowd-lined street to the overnight halt, the atmosphere was brilliant!”

The fourth and final day took place on and around the Epynt military ranges near Llandovery. The opening two stages, Halfway and Crychan, both mixed tarmac sections with the more usual gravel forest tracks. Becky had a couple of spins on the tarmac as it had been made extremely slippery by the cars running ahead of her. One spin resulted in her needing the spectators to help extract her from a ditch, luckily there was no shortage of spectators on this rally! Other than that she had a clear run through the stages and moved up to 39th place by the end of the event which was rounded off with a ceremonial finish in the grounds of Cardiff castle.

“I am thrilled to have got a finish on a world championship event, it’s the perfect end to what has been a great rally season, I would never have thought at the start of the year that I’d be BRC Challenge Ladies Champion and a WRC class winner! It was a real challenge for me, the rally was a lot longer than any other I’ve done so I'm delighted to have made it to the finish ramp. I’d like to thank Cristal Global for their support which enabled me to do the event and all the Rally4Real team who worked very hard both before and during the rally on the car. Thanks also to Will for co-driving, he did a great job. I shall be doing all I can to try to find a budget to enable me to return to the event next year!”

After her successful season Becky is now concentrating on securing support to compete in 2012 when she hopes to contest the British Rally Championship. Please visit www.beckykirvan.co.uk or www.facebook.com/beckykirvanrallying for all the latest news and photographs.