Cook climbs to 7th with 44 points after Wales
British Driver Louise Cook made her debut on the British round of the World Rally Championship this weekend; Wales Rally GB. The event is notorious for some of the most tricky rally conditions anywhere in the World, with the inconsistent grip levels and ever changing conditions.
The recce did not go quite to plan for the British Driver when the standard road car, used to pass the stages twice to write the pace note description of the stages, suffered a mechanical failure on the 2nd day of the recce. This left Louise with only 1 and no passes of some stages.
The rally started with a spectator stage around the Tir Prince Raceway, the stage went well, but an overshoot on the final corner cost the crew 8 seconds.
Photo by @galwaybaywatch
Day 2, the 1st full day was into the slippy forest. SS2 Clocaenog with Louise still getting a feel for the car on the slippy surface saw the crew set a time with 2.11 seconds a km from the fastest front wheel drive car. Spurred on by SS2’s time the crew were pushing harder in SS3 Brenig, but found the limit a few times, running a little wide on a corner, then an overshoot braking for a tight junction on the tarmac surface with the gravel tyres and then spinning full sideways down the road on a very fast narrow section.
“It’s a shame because the pace was really good, I had to do an Austin Powers milk float 30 point turn because the stage was so narrow and had big ditches either side. Then when we got going I saw one of my WRC3 competitors in the mirror so I knew I lost about 50 seconds. I just focused on getting away from them as fast as I could and got to the finish line with a gap. I am glad of the pre-season practice in Sweden to be able to save the car and not go down the ditch.”
The crew had another slight off on SS4 Penmachno – sliding wide on a tight muddy corner meant the crew had to pull on marshals and spectators to help them out.
“We ran wide about 2 foot, there was just no grip, we got stuck on a tiny mound of mud but could not get the car going on its own. Big thanks to the people that helped us”
On the 2nd pass through Clocaenog on SS7 the crew went faster with a time of 1.99 seconds per km off fastest front wheel drive.
On stage 8 the crew climbed to 3rd position in WRC3 when the car in front suffered a puncture. Though it was short lived as a really slippy tarmac section in SS9 Penmachno saw the crew spin out and the co-driver and a marshal had to rock the car back onto the track.
“It was hardly off at all. It was just that the wheels were on such slippy mud and the angle of the small drain ditch was enough to stop it going. Stefan got out and we rocked it a little and we were away but we were facing the wrong way so I had to reverse in stage direction for 40 metres to a place where we could turn around, then Stefan could get back in, so we lost a lot of time for not a lot.”
The 2nd day on the 1st stage SS10 Myherin the crew picked up a puncture.
“I didn’t hit anything, but something cut the side wall and it went down. I felt it from very early, maybe the first 2km. We checked the tyre pressures before the stage and they were fine, I must have been unlucky with a sharp rock somewhere.”
The next stage SS11; the Sweet Lamb Hafren stage, the car suddenly lost power and went into limp mode dropping 6 minutes to the fastest FWD.
“We tried resetting the car in the stage twice because it felt like an electrical issue.”
At end of the stage after checking lots of things and speaking with the team, they found a turbo hose underneath the headlamp had fallen off, they simply put it back on and headed over to SS12 Dyfi luckily without any time penalties and the car back to full power.
Louise set her fastest Gravel time of 1.3 seconds per km off the fastest 2WD and all with only 1 pass recce.
“I loved that stage, it is always a worry when you haven’t checked your notes with a 2nd pass. To be honest it is a worry with 2 passes, it never feels enough, but 1 pass feels very scary because you always change so much on your 2nd pass. The tyres went off a little on the rear towards the end, but I was happy with the stage.”
On SS14 Dyfnant the crew did get to see the stage at all before and only had pace notes made from a video. A dodgy pacenote on a distance which looked like 80 metres on the video, but actually it was 40 metres after a crest to brake for a tight hairpin right, saw the crew sideways down the stage and overshooting the corner and stalling the car.
“I just managed to stop the car before we hit the massive hay bale sideways, we actually slid and just nudged the wing mirror. We were laughing quite a lot, with relief I think. I shouldn’t have tried on that stage with the dodgy notes but you can’t help yourself when you are strapped in a rally car.”
The second loop of the stages the crew got through okay, but a problem with 3rd gear developed where it was getting stuck between 2nd and 3rd and was really distracting.
“The last thing you need on slippy stages is to lose drive on the tyres, they need the torque to create the grip so it was really distracting and knocked my confidence a lot.”
The last day was quite short and included the Great Orme spectator stage that finished with driving through the spectator filled streets of Llandudno. With the gearbox issue, the crew short shifted to keep the damage limited and ensure a finish, gathering 12 points towards the championship campaign bringing them up to 7th in the WRC3 championship on 44 points and with 2 scoring chances still to go.
“On paper we can mathematically win the championship but it would take a miracle, but this season has been all about miracles, getting to each round has been a miracle, so I won’t be giving up. I want to be fighting in Spain I just need to find the support to make it possible.”
The next round of the World Rally Championship is Rally RACC Catalunya – Rally de Espana on the 25th of October