Burton upon Stather rally driver Tim Rodgers overcame major pre-event car problems to win the Co-Part Fiesta Trophy on last weekend’s Wales Rally GB, Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship. Rodgers was driving his RoLEC, FMS Autoparts, Sabelt, Peart Auto Services, The Tortoise Shop.com, Maple Garage Ltd, CRG Selby, Glow Feast and JFK-supported Ford Fiesta ST.
It had been Rodgers’ lifelong dream to compete on the event but two days before the start it looked like his dream would be over. All the cars taking part must pass a very stringent scrutineering check to ensure they are safe to compete and that they comply with the many regulations and homologation rules. Unfortunately, along with several other machines, Rodgers’ car failed the test on technical grounds. The TimSport team were up all night working on the car, including a 140 mile journey home for parts.
The car was re-tested but still the event scrutineers were not happy, stating that the seat rails were 8mm undersized. With the correct seat rails not available to purchase, Rodgers had to call upon Ford’s world championship rally team M-Sport to fabricate a set of rails in the event service area. After eight hours work these were fitted and the car finally passed scrutineering at 6:30 on the morning of the rally.
With just a couple of hours sleep in two nights Rodgers was not in an ideal position to be starting three days of hugely tough competition but, unlike many of his rival crews, he successfully completed the six stages of the opening day with the car needing nothing more than a precautionary balljoint change in service. Despite his lack of sleep Rodgers ended day one in second place in the Co-Part Fiesta Trophy, a category within the event for all those driving a Fiesta ST.
“We didn’t have the best of starts,” said Rodgers. “The scrutineering is always very tough on a world championship event and we had several issues to sort out. The car still wasn’t ready for the ceremonial start so my co-driver Stefan Arndt and I were forced to walk over the start ramp with no car. Thanks to the M-Sport team we managed to sort out the seat rail issue which meant we could start the action on Friday morning.”
“The stages went pretty well really. Conditions were awful but I quickly got used to them. It didn't feel like it had been well over a year since I last drove in a rally. We had a great battle with the other Fiesta STs and were just 2.7 seconds behind the leader at the end of the day.”
Day two was the longest of the rally with nine stages running from early hours of the morning right through to late evening. Rodgers again went well, his pace only dropping on the last two stages as tiredness kicked in. He did enough to lead the Fiesta Trophy as well as lying fifth in class despite being up against much more modern and powerful opposition.
“The weather continued to be very challenging, it rained pretty much all day and the stages were very slippery. Lots of cars were crashing out but we managed to keep going. We had a few issues with the suspension but we kept putting in good times and moved into the lead of the Fiesta Trophy. Tiredness was a real factor on the last two stages though, I was struggling to take in the notes from Stefan and the stages were very rough, I was pleased to get back to service at the end of the day."
A third day of wind and rain greeted the crews on Sunday as they faced four more stages, including a run around the tarmac of the Great Orme near Llandudno. Despite almost putting the car in a ditch on the Brenig stage Rodgers managed to bring the car home to the finish in Deeside. As well as winning the Fiesta Trophy he also finished fifth in class and 38th overall.
"I'm absolutely delighted with the result, especially after all the issues before the event. It's been a rollercoaster of emotions from the despair at scrutineering to the elation of finishing. I'd like to thank all the team for their help and support before and during the event and all my sponsors without whom I'd not have been able to afford to take part. Competing on Rally GB was my dream and I'm over the moon to say that dream has been fulfilled."