#1 British female rally driver Sara Williams marked her return to The Somerset Stages in 2015 by clinching 16th overall during a compelling day of rallying. Accompanied by her co-driver, Patrick Walsh, the pair climbed 14 places from their position after stage 1 to post a strong result in a day that typified consistency from the Welsh rally star. This season opener of The British Trial and Rally Drivers Association Rally Challenge was organised by Burnham-on-Sea & Minehead Motor clubs, with drivers and spectators alike revelling in a day of blue skies and intense competition.
As the sun rose over Minehead on the morning of the rally, the initial blustery conditions gave way to patches of cloud and sparkling sunshine at the starting line. Not too long later, the first rally car took its first gulp of petrol and morning air, bursting into life like the myriad of drivers kept awake by anticipation the previous night. It would be a hectic day for Sara, 12 competitive stages and 109 miles separating her and her fellow drivers from the 4pm finish line.
Two runs of the tarmacked Porlock toll road started the day’s festivities. With many different set ups employed by the drivers to balance between tarmac and gravel, the stage threw up a number of early morning moments. Sara in her V-Ex sponsored Subaru Impreza N12 started well, rising from her first run in 30th position to 28th overall – a trend that was to continue throughout the day.
Following hot on the heels of Porlock, stage 3 Knowle 1 constituted the first gravel stage of the rally. On a surface she knows well, Sara put the hammer down to leapfrog 8 places to 20th overall.
At 10:30am, the first of two runs of the spectator stage, Kennisham 1 began. Motorsport fans of all ages made the walk into the forest to witness the action. Sara and Patrick gained a place in front of their supporters, posting the 16th fastest time on stage.
Stage 5, Chargot 1, was more of the same from Williams. Sara’s great experience on gravel paid dividends as she posted an impressive joint 14th fastest stage time. This pushed her up a further 3 places overall, leaving her and Patrick heading into stage 6, Croydon, in 16th position. Team Brecon Motors jumped up to 15th overall after this forest stage, leaving Sara and Patrick to head back to the service park in Minehead pleased with a successful mornings work.
The patchy brightness of the morning had by mid-day transformed into skies and seas of blue – the view from the service park out to sea of particular beauty as teams toiled tirelessly over their cars. After sunshine and some much need mechanical sympathy, Sara and Patrick were ready for the climax of The Somerset Stages 2015.
The competition reignited on another forest stage, Timberscombe. The top 20 cars marked the restart with consistency, this top echelon holding their positions until stage 8. After running Knowle 2, Sara and Patrick still held their 15th position.
Fans were treated to another run of Kennisham at 2:20pm for stage 9, the final run of the designated spectator stage. Those watching Sara were not disappointed, as she saved her fastest stage finish for her fans, achieving a lightening quick 13th fastest time. Sara and Patrick remained in 15th after stage 10, Chargot 2, leaving only two stages left to go.
The first of these, Chargot 3, saw Sara hustle the Subaru into 14th overall. Stage 12, Bats Castle, saw Sara and Patrick meet the chequered flag in 16th position. Sara and Patrick had kept the pressure on all day, even staying in touch with cars of higher power output.
As Sara and Patrick rolled over the finish line on Warren Street, Minehead, one of the South West’s biggest national rally events drew to a successful close. The rally was won outright by Dave Weston Jnr and his co-driver Kirsty Riddick in their Subaru Impreza, scoring a victory against determined opposition. Sara spent the day showing the consistency needed to compete at the very highest level of rallying – showcasing the skills on tarmac and gravel vital to attaining fast stage times. Furthermore the maturity to drive her V-Ex Subaru to its limit and achieve a commendable finish again illustrates her racing craft. All in all a very successful rally for the Welsh team – with great encouragement for the future.