Yorkshire rally driver Sam Bilham had the best possible start to his BTRDA Fiesta ST Trophy campaign last weekend by taking the category win by over two minutes from his nearest rival at the Malcolm Wilson Rally.
The 2300 Club John Easson Award winner led the nine competitors in the hotly contested single make series from the second stage of the event and was never bettered on the remaining tests in the Lake District.
The 20 year old Bingley driver had finished last season as runner up in the Fiesta Trophy so was looking to make amends in 2017. Joined by the first time by Scottish co-driver Cameron Fair, the newly formed duo would head to the event with a tough challenge ahead thanks to almost double the entrants in the series from last year.
Despite the lack of pre-event testing due to a parts shortage for his Fiesta, Bilham was in a confident mood as he began the opening round of the seven event championship.
Perhaps understandably, Bilham had a tentative stage time through the opening Hobcarton test as he and Cameron found their feet in the slippery conditions.
But any sign of pre-event uncertainties were soon banished when Bilham quickly found his rhythm in the car and ended the opening leg with three fastest stage times to lead both class N3 and the Fiesta ST Trophy at the first service halt of the day.
The Cumbrian forests are notorious for the changeable grip levels and the recent damp conditions made going tricky for the some 120 crews on the event.
Two stages in the Grizedale forest complex had all the potential to unseat Bilham’s performance but the Calvert Construction and Reis Motorsport Insurance backed driver emerged with a commanding lead.
All that was left was a repeat run through the Greystoke stage and with a healthy lead, Bilham took a mature approach to the 5.6 mile final test to cross the finish ramp with an almost two minute gap to the second place Fiesta.
“I think that has truly been the perfect event for us” said Bilham at the finish.
“We had a few things against us going into this event and it’s always difficult to have a new co-driver as you need time to gel. But everything just clicked today and once we got the first stage out of the way, we found a comfortable pace and just stuck to it for the rest of the really. No risks, no heroics and it just seemed to work well for us”.
“We couldn’t have had a better start to the season” he continues. “The Fiesta ST Trophy was such an unknown this year and with 11 crews out everything was pretty much up in the air as to who would come out on top. But it was really important to get this win under our belts so we can head to the remaining rounds with a points buffer and renewed confidence. I have to say a huge thank you to the team and our supporters for believing in us and helping us get our season off on the right foot.”
The next round of the series, the Somerset Stages Rally takes place on the 8th April in Minehead.
Sam is supported by 2300 Club John Easson Award, Calvert Construction, Reis Motorsport Insurance, The Garage at Stanley Mills, Northern Life Magazine and Gareth Hooper Motorsport Services.
For more information on Sam and his rallying career, visit http://www.sambilham.co.uk
Image courtesy of Chicane Media