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Sam Bilham (GBR) Next Big Step Nissan MicraHot on the heels of his BTRDA National Gravel series title, 18 year old rally ace Sam Bilham headed to the far reaching corner of the South Wales coats to tackle the Peter Lloyd Stages at Pembrey race circuit last weekend in a bid to increase his lead in the second of his title chasing efforts this season, the Formula1000 Tarmac Championship. With only two contenders making the trip to the rain soaked venue, a win and the required maximum championship points was a likely outcome for the Bingley youngster, but an opening stage trip into a tyre wall would end any hopes of a victory in Wales.

Bilham was joined by a new co-driver for the event in the shape of Ryan Jones and despite only having a combined age of 36, the duo gelled well through the pre-event checks and set about making a plan for the day ahead. A victory in the class would certainly cement Bilhams place in the F1000 championship and if past form in 2014 is anything to go by, it should have been a comfortable day’s motorsport. But The Next Big Step award backed Bilham certainly did not anticipate crossing the finish line of the very first stage with a damaged radiator and bodywork.

“It was unbelievably slippery on the opening stage and truthfully I just got caught out under braking when the back tried to overtake the front and ended up in some tyres” said Bilham.  “Once we got going again I noticed the engine temperature had rocketed so rather than risk terminal engine damage, we crawled back into service.  I must say a huge thanks to my Father and Mark Williams who patched the car up and did everything they could to repair the car so we could re-join the event for stage two.”

Despite the surprise opening stage for the Yorkshire ace, the next step would be to consolidate their championship position and a mature approach to the rest of the event would be needed if he would return home with more points to add to his tally.  A conscience reminder of his morning accident would be the red temperature light that was flickering on the Nissan Micra’s dashboard whenever he would push too hard, so Bilham would need to back off over the remaining stages to be sure of a finish. Driving conservatively throughout the afternoon and with baited breath, he crossed the finish line in second place, collecting some much needed points for his F1000 aspirations.

“I`m still kicking myself about this morning’s off” said Bilham. “I knew the conditions were tricky out there and we could see there was so much mud on the road, I just left my braking too late and that was that.  On the shorter stages I did manage to almost get back up to full pace, but I couldn’t risk a non-finish so we nursed it back to the end. Not one of my best days really but I`ll certainly learn from it for the future”.

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

Image courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography.

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