Sara Williams and new co-driver Mark Glennerster marked the 2015 Plains Rally by winning in the FMP Challenge in support of the Wales Air Ambulance Service. After a strong performance guiding her V-Ex Virtual Exhibitions sponsored Group N Subaru Impreza through the Welsh forests; Sara achieved 4th in class and 14th overall. The FMP Challenge is a highly competitive event, with entrant numbers growing every year. The result adds to a long list of accolades for Sara, with her smooth driving style and the support of Team Brecon Motors instrumental in hers and Mark’s success.
The FMP Challenge is run by FMP Motor Factors of Swansea in conjunction with Maestag and District Motor Club – with all competitors donating during signing-on in support of Wales Air Ambulance. Since the start of this year, the FMP Challenge had collected £1900 for the organisation. In its third year, the championship has grown exponentially as talented rally drivers across the country compete in this keenly contested and charitable series.
The championship runs a range of gravel and tarmac surfaces, with 12 separate events this year. At the end of the series, six scores are collated to crown an overall champion. The 2015 FMP Challenge has seen the introduction of a combined individual score for competitors who enter as a driver or co-driver, further increasing competition for honours.
The same stages counted towards the British Trial and Rally Drivers Association (BTRDA) Rally Challenge, an event Sara took part in earlier this year at The Somerset Stages. Sara gained further points in this challenge in conjunction with her FMP success. The BTRDA Challenge aims to find the best multi-surface driver across tarmac and gravel, with final standings taking into account a driver’s top results for each surface. All in all, the result was a great reward for a day’s diligent driving.
The rally started in Welshpool on the 16th May, the first car being waved off the line by the mayor, with the drivers heading immediately for the first stage of the day, Cwm Celli. It was fine weather for the rally, with sunshine and the stages themselves in good condition, constituting a perfect day for motorsport. Under the silent shadow of Cadair Idris, the first cars were released in anger onto the Welsh gravel. Sara and Mark set the 17th fastest time, only ten seconds off the lead car.
The next stage, Gartheiniog, would be run twice during the day. This famous stage had featured on the 2014 WRC Wales Rally GB, an event that saw Sara post her first international finish at WRC level. After 15km of undulating gravel, Sara and Mark sat 21st overall heading into the third stage.
With their Subaru running faultlessly, Sara and Mark took on Llangower. After a run of 4 minutes and 14 seconds, the duo climbed 8 places overall to joint 13th. The times were incredibly tight at the top of the leader board, with the leading drivers separated by seconds heading into the fourth stage of the day.
Penllyn, the next challenge for the entrants, made its international debut on last year’s WRC Wales Rally GB. This course
is characterised by long straights and sweeping corners, making it a particularly fast run. Sara and Mark finished the stage 16th overall, heading into stage 5, the famous Dyfi.
Another WRC stage located between Dolgellau and Machynlleth, Dyfi constituted the penultimate section of the day’s action. Sara took the Subaru over the finish line in 18th overall – with a final run of Gartheiniog to determine the final event standings.
Sara put the hammer down on the final stage of the day. The pressure was on for all competitors, as a tight leader board demanded a strong performance from all the drivers. Sara responded to the pressure, climbing to 14th overall and 4th in class, crossing the line as worthy winner of the FMP Challenge Award. The driver’s headed back to Rally HQ at the Royal Oak Hotel at Welshpool to celebrate the completion of an exciting day’s motorsport, as awards were handed out to the day’s winners.
For Sara, it signalled the end of a highly successful event, that saw her reunited with Welsh gravel and work with a new co-driver to great effect. As the established female number #1 in Britain and as a burgeoning international talent – Sara’s success shows no sign of diminishing. In fact, the Welsh star will be back on the road again on the 30th May for The Severn Valley Stages, a local rally that will further play to her strengths. No doubt Sara will be looking to build on her recent success and experience, with her family at Team Brecon Motors and her sponsor, V-Ex Virtual Exhibitions in support. Ultimately, rally fans can be sure that this will not be the last time Williams is making waves in the sport she loves.