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MSA Academy member Sam Bilham took a convincing Rally First 1.0litre win this weekend at the Nicky Grist Stages Rally which was held across the forests of the Epynt Military Ranges in Wales. As if his runaway victory of over four minutes in the class was not enough for the youngster, the 17 year old was overwhelmed to be awarded the Andreas Mikkelsen “Star of the Day” for Rally First competitors who showed raw talent and speed throughout the day, named after the World Rally Championship driver for the Volkswagen team.

The sixth round of the BTRDA National Rally championship was based in the Welsh town of Builth Wells and like all the other rounds of the series, was Bilham’s first visit to the gravel stages on the event. Having built a solid lead in the RF1.0 class and Junior series, Bilham would be forgiven for approaching the event with a goal of a simple finish in mind to add to his already healthy points tally.  But by his own admission, that’s not his style and Bilham with co-driver Graham Wild alongside, immediately set the pace for the others to follow from the opening stage of the day.

The Next Big Step star was once again punching well above his weight on the stages, beating many cars in the much more powerful 1400cc categories and despite a puncture on the second stage of the day, drove to a trouble free run across some the infamous stages used on past World Rally Championship events. “It was a fantastic event all round for us and the stages as good as people say they are” he said.  “Despite our puncture we led the class from start to finish and that’s really encouraging in my first year on gravel. To win the Andreas Mikkelsen Star of the Day award was a really special moment for me; there are some very quick guys in Rally First so it’s great that people have noticed our performance today.”

The Bingley rally star is pleased with how his season is progressing so far, but is well aware that complacency over the last three rounds of the series is not an option. “Our championship hopes are looking really good at this stage, but anything can happen so we have to keep pressing on at this pace regardless” he says.  “I won’t relax until I`ve crossed the finish ramp of the last event this year”.

His achievements are largely down to his grounding in the Junior Rally Championship and not content with a long day in the forests, he headed back to his roots the very next day to assist the current Junior contenders at the Brawdy Stages, offering encouragement and advice to competitors looking to progress through the sport as Bilham has done.

His success in Wales leaves him in a strong position for his championship aspirations. Bilham now occupies third in the Rally First overall category which includes the 1400cc contenders and the overall Junior award which is open to all competitors in all classes. He also tops the Rally First 1.0litre and Junior category positions.

The next round of the series will take Bilham to the popular Woodpecker Stages Rally on the 31st August which is based in the market town of Ludlow in Shropshire.

For more information on Sam and his rallying career, visit http://www.sambilham.co.uk

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