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bilham_trackrodBingley rally star Sam Bilham finished off his season in style last weekend as he became the 2016 Maxxis MSA English Rally Champion at the MEM Malton Forest Rally in Yorkshire.

The Fiesta ST Trophy front runner conquered the tricky conditions in the Dalby Forest based event, to seal the prestigious title with a slender two point advantage over his nearest rival.  In a weekend of success for Bilham, the 20 year old also took the Class 4 English Championship honours and became Junior vice champion in the process.

The 2016 season has been a successful affair for Bilham who finished every event in the BTRDA Rally Series, culminating in victory at September’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire in his Reis Motorsport Insurance backed Fiesta ST.  Having led the Fiesta ST Trophy for much of the year, he had to make do with second in the championship but his impressive finishing record had put him within arm’s reach of the coveted MSA English Championship title.

After finishing the BTRDA season in Yorkshire, Bilham would head back into the Dalby forest just a few weeks later in a bid to secure the English title. Joined by co-driver James Whitaker, the duo were faced with treacherous conditions after heavy rainfall made the stages extremely slippery. A wrong time on the opening stage did no favours for Bilham’s title ambitions and he found himself lying down in 13th in class after the opening test. With the championship points allocated based on class positions, it was looking a tall order for Bilham to clinch the title in the mud soaked final round.

But Bilham soon settled into the conditions and as the stages passed he began to climb the leader board. By the fourth stage he had fought his way back to seventh but with no time to work out the points situation, Bilham could not afford to back off. A final loop charge saw him move into fifth place as he crossed the finish ramp to take the prestigious title.

“It’s been a challenging year in the Fiesta ST Trophy after being so close to winning that this season, but becoming the MSA English Rally Champion is a real achievement for me and I`m overjoyed to have won” said Bilham at the finish.  “We started the year with the plan to build the pace whilst learning the car but it soon became apparent we were in the running for the English Championship as well so we came to the Malton Rally to see if we could do it. I think this will take a while to sink in, it’s been a long year!”

Bilham cites this victory as one of his finest. “It’s a real honour to have an MSA titled championship to my name and I’ve worked so hard for it this season. It’s a class based points system so it’s a tough championship to win and taking it by only two points really bring it home how close it was.  I must say a huge thank you to the team who have been excellent and very patient with me throughout the year and of course to all my sponsors who helped make this possible.”

Bilham will now use the closed season to plan for 2017 and weigh up his options for further progression in the sport.

Sam is supported by Reis Motorsport Insurance, Mechanical Solutions, Pertemps Recruitment, The Next Big Step, Gareth Hooper Motorsport Services, Calvert Construction and The Garage at Stanley Mills.

Image courtesy of Chicane Media

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