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Sam Bilham proved that his career-best sixth place at the Malcolm Wilson Rally was no fluke, by equalling the result at round three of the BTRDA Rally Series last weekend, the Rallynuts Stages Rally (13th April).

The Greenlight Sports and Entertainment backed rally driver overcame an opening stage puncture to set a string of top six times against one of the best entries seen on a championship round in recent times. After finding himself 15th overall at the end of the opener, Bilham climbed back up the leaderboard to take sixth spot in only his third event in a top-flight Ford Fiesta R5.

Bilham, 22 from Bingley has adapted quickly to his new surroundings and despite failing to finish the opening round of the season, has ensured his championship aspirations remain firmly on-track by scoring two impressive results in Cumbria and Wales.

Last weekend’s Rallynuts Stages Rally was based in Builth Wells and would take in stages such as Hafren and Sweet Lamb, each made famous by the World Rally Championship qualifier Wales Rally GB. Unseasonably dry and dusty conditions would greet the 130 competitors who assembled for the event, alongside a top quality top ten which would see competitors from Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland vie for the top spot.

Bilham would call on his experienced team to ensure a strong finish in the R5 and the West Yorkshire pilot would be eager to build on his continued progression in the car. Co-driven by current British Rally Championship leader Patrick Walsh, Bilham was in a confident mood having contested the stages in the past and would draw on Walsh’s experience to guide him through the tricky tests.

But, much like the first two rounds this season, the opening stage of the day would be Bilham’s nemesis, with the Swift Group backed Fiesta picking up a puncture on the five-mile test. Subsequently, he stopped the clocks in fifteenth spot and would have some work to do over the remaining five stages during the day.

It wouldn’t take long to undo the issues on stage one however. Putting the puncture firmly to the back of his mind, Bilham launched himself to seventh fastest on the following Sweet Lamb test, making four places up in the process. His impressive comeback continued on the next two, and by the time the service halt came, Bilham had broken into the top ten.

With just two stages remaining, the gauntlet was thrown down and the two long stages that rounded off the event offered Bilham the chance to shine. Shine he did. Fifth fastest on the penultimate test was bettered with fourth quickest on the last, vaulting him from ninth to sixth on the closing stage.

Bilham was delighted with the result and his comeback drive during the day.

“I’m really happy with this result and after our troublesome first stage, everything just seemed to go right from there really,” he said.

“I was really encouraged by this afternoon’s pace as well and when I could get stuck into the longer stages, it all flowed really well and I felt right at home in the Fiesta, it’s a mega car.”

Bilham still doesn’t underestimate the size of the task ahead of him as he aims to get the most out of the car and himself.

“There is a still a little way to go yet and I said coming into this rally that I wasn’t going to be a hero. It was very important to get a solid result and get some consistency today and I managed that, so from that point of view it was mission accomplished. There is much more to come, but getting the mileage is more important at the moment so I`m happy to keep putting in a result like that until I’m comfortable. The car and team have been great today, huge thanks to all my backers for their ongoing support. It’s turning into a great year”.

Sam is supported by Greenlight Sports & Entertainment, Swift Group, Pirelli, Calvert Construction Ltd, Speedline Corse, Morris Lubricants and The Garage at Stanley Mills.

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

Image Credit Paul Mitchell

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