MH Motorsport ensure team finish at Wales Rally GB
Hampshire based MH Motorsport overcame a “difficult” four days to ensure all three cars in the team finished the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Dayinsure Wales Rally GB (26-29th October). After a successful season in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship where they secured the hotly contested Cadet Cup in the hands of Ford Fiesta R2 pilot Josh Cornwell and a podium in the Junior category thanks to Norwegian Oscar Solberg, MH Motorsport would field a three-car squad in one of the hardest events in the WRC calendar. British Rally Championship ace Tom Williams ace and co-driver Phil Hall would make their debut with the team, using the firms Ford Fiesta 1.0l EcoBoost R2T and use the potent R2T for the first time in a bid for RC4 class honours. After becoming 2017 British Ladies Champion with MH Motorsport, Nabila Tejpar would embark on her first WRC round at the event, piloting her usual Ford Fiesta R2 with co-driver Richard Bliss alongside. Teammate Alex Waterman and Harry Thomas would also look to put their BRC experience to good use as they made their WRC debut in only their first full season in the sport, also using their Ford Fiesta R2. Based in Deeside, Wales Rally GB would see a record entry tackle over 300km of special stages in the Welsh forests and typically slippery and muddy conditions would greet the crews. After a short spectator stage on Thursday night, the rally would get underway with a repeat trio of stages in mid-Wales on Friday and the chance to get sample stages of up to 35km in length. All three of the MH Motorsport squad would have a decent opening day with Williams predictably heading the way and returning some impressive times to sit third in the RC4 class. Waterman would kick off his WRC debut in style, beating many more experienced drivers in the process as he eased his way back into a gravel surface, finishing the opening day inside the top ten of the RC4 class. Tejpar continued to build her confidence and pace throughout the first day, relieved to reach the Deeside service park after a slipping clutch would get gradually worse on the road section back. The team would need to act quickly, with just a 45 mins service available to change the offending item. Setting to work, they duly replaced the clutch with two minutes to spare ensuring Tejpar could start day three penalty free.
Alex Waterman and Harry Thomas on the Wales Rally GB finish ramp. Image credit Jakob Ebrey Photography. Saturday housed the longest day of the rally with nine stages and 142km and would be the sting in the tail for the MH Motorsport squad. Despite a good run through the opening test, disaster would strike on the very next stage for Waterman when driveshaft failure ended his run on the Dyfnant stage of the rally. Once the car returned to the Deeside service halt, the MH Motorsport team could fit a new unit to the car with ease and thanks to the Rally2 format, Waterman could rejoin on Sunday. Tejpar would continue to build her confidence as she progressed through the rough stages but her hard work would be undone with a double driveshaft failure on Dyfi 2 stage and she would be sidelined for the remainder of the day. Like Waterman, she would head back out for Sunday's stages once the team replaced them in service. An errant rock would damage the subframe for Williams’ R2T and despite nursing the car back to service, it would need to be repaired before he could continue. Sadly this would mean that he would be another to use Rally2 and resume his Rally GB on the final day. Sunday would consist of a short sharp blast of five stages and with the previous day’s issues, it would be imperative for each of the MH Motorsport team to cross the finish ramp in Llandudno later that afternoon. Back on form, Williams would continue to set a string of impressive times in the RC4 class to be the first squad member to complete the gruelling event in 51st overall and 5th in class. “That was definitely one of the best and most challenging rallies in the world,” said Williams. “We have now got some solid mileage in the new car and felt really happy with our pace on our first outing. We managed to get up to 2nd in R2 throughout Saturday until the subframe problems. There is definitely more to come in the future”
Nabila Tejpar & Richard Bliss in action. Image credit Jakob Ebrey Photography.
Waterman overcame his lack of Saturday mileage to have a much better final leg, securing a finish on his WRC debut in 63rd overall and 10th in class. “We are delighted to be here at the end of such a tough event and it’s been an amazing experience,” said Waterman. “On the whole, it went really well for us. Of course, it’s a shame that we used Rally2 after breaking the driveshaft but we set some really positive times on the Thursday, Friday and Sunday stages and showed our potential. There is a lot that we can take away from this experience too such as how to look after the car, tyres and of course ourselves”. Eager to make the finish, Tejpar returned a mature drive over the final leg of the event to cross the finish in 65th overall and 11th in RC2. “That was most definitely the toughest challenge I've ever had to face and it truly lived up to its reputation as one of the hardest events in the rallying calendar,” said Tejpar. “I thought I was prepared for the event but it really did surprise me just how difficult it would be and the days were really long. But when you get to compete alongside the best drivers in the world on stages that are 35km long it doesn’t take you long to remember why you are there and how privileged you are.” MH Motorsport Team Principle Mick Harris was pleased with how the event had gone for the squad, despite the rally taking its toll on the later runners. “Historically this has always been one of the biggest and toughest enough on the World Rally calendar and this year has been no different for us,” he said. “But the important thing was that we got each car to the finish and overcame the issues that were presented to us on Saturday and the entire team worked tirelessly to ensure the rally was as enjoyable and successful as possible for our drivers. There are certainly plenty of positives to take away from the week in Wales”.
Images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography
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