Rally Mont Blonc September 2017
Brecon rally driver Sara Williams and co-driver Mark Glennester has just returned from the fourth round of the Renault Clio R3T Trophy France championship, the Rallye Du Mont-Blanc- Morzine, high in the mountains between Geneva and the infamous Matterhorn, the rally based below Lac Leman, near to the Swiss border. As a round of the French Automobile Championship it attracts a big entry established over a twenty year history, and now Wales is also a part of that legendary rally. Two days were allocated for the pre-rally reconnoitre, lulling Sara and Mark into a somewhat false sense of security, with temperatures in the mid twenties and sunny alpine scenery all around. However by Thursday – as rally crews prepared for the ‘shakedown’ test stage that all changed – as the skies darkened and the heavens opened with torrential rain ! The Renault Clio R3T was fortunately on the perfect tyres for such conditions, running Michelin PO1 wet weather compound, with huge amounts of grip despite the roads being awash with water. The shakedown stage was a short one, of just two kilometres, but Sara and Mark managed five runs through the test, invaluable mileage to get used to the Clio again, not having driven the car competitively for some six weeks on round three of the series.
The rally start on Friday morning saw the only British crew start in forty sixth place from an entry of one hundred and forty six, with those ahead of Sara and Mark driving state of the art R5 and WRC cars from manufacturers Ford, Skoda and Citroen, plus some very fast Porsche machinery. The rain still fell, and fog shrouded the mountains, though at the start line visibility was better it did not last. At quarter distance into the opening stage the Renault rocketed into dense fog lurking at a hairpin left, Sara braking too late and missing the tightening corner, clipping a stone wall on the outside of the bend, and damaging a wheel too badly to allow the Clio to drive on through the stage. Fortunately the ASM Motorsport team were able to reach the stranded Clio rapidly and effect repairs, allowing Sara to return the car to the Service Area for a full check. That ruled the Welsh attack out of the rest of the first day, but meant that under ‘super rally’ rules she and Mark could return to the competition for day two, and still score championship points, provided they made it through that second days six special stages. Saturday remained foggy and very wet, though hard experience of the previous day at least meant the Renault crew now knew how quickly fog could take away visibility. Despite the treacherous conditions being added to by mud and gravel spread over parts of the stages they successfully made the finish of those fast and technically difficult mountain roads, setting some decent stage times, and gaining more experience of the French events and the Clio R3T. The second more successful day repaid the support of ASM motorsport, Renault Sport France, Motordrive Seats, Burnsides, Brecon Motors and Brecon Car Rentals, Exedy Clutch Europe, Millers Oils, Mibau Stema Minerals, FIA Women in Motorsport , Brecon Motor Club, and the International Rally Drivers Club. The next event is now not far away, on 29/30 September, Rally Coeur in Mid France, between Versailles and Le-Mans.