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Oxshott rally driver Alex Waterman and co-driver Harry Thomas from Amersham overcame driveshaft failure in their EDSL backed Ford Fiesta R2 to finish Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Dayinsure Wales Rally GB last weekend (26-29 October).

Despite being in only their inaugural year in the sport, both Waterman and Thomas would embark on the biggest challenge of their short career by contesting the WRC qualifier. After a season in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship, the duo finished the year in third place in the Cadet Cup and would be set to tackle the daunting four day, 300km event in the Welsh forests.

Following the theme of progression which has been the goal of the duo’s season so far, they would head for the world stage in a bid to gain more experience ahead of next year. Despite only contesting a handful of events, they would look to finish one of the toughest events on the world rally championship calendar, a feat in itself.

The Deeside based event kicked off with a short spectator stage at Tir Prince on Thursday night and despite completing the tricky test without any problems, the duo were aware that the “real” rally would start in earnest the very next day.

Friday would consist of a loop of three stages which were repeated later in the afternoon and with the Myherin test being over 35km long, ensured the challenge was as big as ever for Waterman and Thomas. Typical Rally GB conditions greeted the best drivers in the world in the Welsh forests with slippery, treacherous stages ready to catch the unwary.

With several months away from a gravel surface, they began easing their way back onto the loose and maintained a solid pace throughout the open loop of stages on Friday morning. The repeat run offered the chance to step up the pace with the knowledge of what lay ahead, finishing the opening day inside the top ten of the RC4 class.

Saturday housed the longest day of the rally with nine stages and 142km of flat-out action ahead. A solid opening run through the opening Aberhirnant test was a positive start for the World Championship debutantes but disaster would strike on the very next test when driveshaft failure ended their run on the Dyfnant stage of the rally.

Once the car returned to the Deeside service halt, the MH Motorsport team could fit a new unit to the car with ease and thanks to the Rally2 format; crews are able re-join at the start of the next leg. This thankfully meant Waterman and Thomas’ rally was not yet over and even though they missed out the remainder of Saturday’s stages, were able to return on Sunday.

Despite being conscious of driving for a finish, the duo returned a string of competitive times over the closing stages of the rally. Enjoying a trouble-free run through the five remaining tests, they crossed the finish ramp in Llandudno town centre on Sunday evening to record a result of 63rd overall and 10th in class on their WRC debut.

“We are delighted to be here at the end of such a tough event and it’s been an amazing experience,” said Waterman at the finish ramp.

“On the whole, it went really well for us. Of course, it’s a shame that we used Rally2 after breaking the driveshaft but we set some really positive times on the Thursday, Friday and Sunday stages and showed our potential. There is a lot that we can take away from this experience too such as how to look after the car, tyres and of course ourselves. The pre-event recce was also really important in our learning process to find out where we can and can’t push. That will be really valuable for next year”.

Thomas was equally as pleased to make it to the end of the event.

“It was certainly physically and mentally draining and with stages as long as 35km in there it was a tough rally as you can imagine. But we were prepared for it and I’m so glad that we made it to the finish.”

Waterman and Thomas are supported by Pirelli, Speedline Corse UK and MH Motorsport.

Image credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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