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British rally driver Sam Bilham

2014 MSA RSF Young Driver of the Year, BTRDA Rally First 1.0, F1000 senior and MSA English Rally Junior Champion. 2016  MSA English Rally Champion, 2300 Club John Easson Award Winner, DMACK Fiesta ST Trophy and BTRDA N3 Champion

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By sambilham, Mar 11 2019 11:17AM

Sam Bilham proved his worth in the Greenlight Sports and Entertainment - Ford Fiesta R5 last weekend, by recovering from 66th place to finish the Malcolm Wilson Rally with a career-best sixth overall at the second round of the BTRDA Rally Series (9th March).


Bilham, 22 from Bingley West Yorkshire, overcame treacherous and wintry conditions in the Cumbrian forests and a first stage impact with a rock, to fight back up the leader board and take a top-ten position. Co-driven by current British Championship leader Patrick Walsh, Bilham’s sixth place also secured him the B14 class win, taking victory in the category by well over three minutes in the process.


Less than four weeks ago, Bilham would make his debut in a top-level four-wheel-drive Fiesta R5 at the Cambrian Rally after spending his career behind the wheel of two-wheel-drive examples.


After a confidence-boosting opening stage time, his rally would end on just the second test after a damaged radiator and he would head to the Cockermouth based Malcolm Wilson Rally in the hope of securing a much-needed finish to aid his championship aspirations.


The weather would play a significant part in the proceedings, with low temperatures and significant snowfall affecting most of the stages during the opening loop of the day. Many crews would get caught out by the several inches of snow that lay on in the already slippery forest tests.


Bilham tip-toed through the opener but his caution would not be enough, the Fiesta suffering a significant impact with a rock mid-way through the stage, picking up a puncture. He would limp through the remainder of the test and opened his account with 66th overall.


Normal service was resumed for the second stage of the day which would offer Bilham his first real chance of attacking a stage since securing a drive in the Greenlight Fiesta. And he didn’t disappoint. Despite less than 25 competitive miles under his belt in the car, Bilham set third fastest time overall to begin his climb up the leader board as he acclimatised to the potent machine.


He would back that up with second quickest on the third, which was run across the M-Sport World Rally Team’s test venue, Greystoke Forest. Despite its notorious ditches and unforgiving camber, Bilham’s pace launched him into 16th spot by the time crews headed into the first service of the rally.

Bilham continued his impressive run of form throughout the remainder of the day, never straying outside of the top-ten stage times, even with a half spin in the long Grizedale stage. His impressive pace over the remaining six tests saw the Yorkshireman move into sixth overall after 42 miles of competitive driving.


He was understandably elated at the result.


“I really couldn’t believe it when I clipped that rock on the first stage this morning, I really thought this would be Cambrian Rally all over again,” he said at the finish ramp.

“But to finish sixth overall after that start is really special it’s everything I have always ever wanted in my rallying career. To be in a car like this and at a pace good enough for top-three times was unthinkable a few months ago. I really can’t thank Greenlight Sports and Entertainment and the Swift Group enough for this opportunity”.


Bilham was also pleased with how “at home” he felt in the car despite the limited mileage under his belt.


“Something really clicked on the second stage and when I saw the times, I was really pleased with the direction we were heading. I wasn’t pushing too hard either which is easy to say now, but I was keeping risks to a minimum especially in those conditions and still setting some good times. The car is immense and having Patrick’s experience alongside me certainly helped. I really can’t wait for the next round to see if we can capitalise on this result”.


The next round of the BTRDA Rally Series is the Rallynuts Stages Rally which takes place in Builth Wells, Wales in April.


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


-Ends


By sambilham, Mar 4 2019 09:46AM

Greenlight Sports and Entertainment - Ford Fiesta R5 driver Sam Bilham will be aiming for a solid finish at this weekend’s second round of the BTRDA Rally Series, The Malcolm Wilson Rally (9th March).


After ending his maiden outing in the top-spec machine with a holed radiator in the early stages of the Cambrian Rally, Bilham will be hoping for better fortunes in Cumbria and will head to the home of the Ford World Rally Team, Dovenby Hall at M-Sport in Cockermouth.


He will be joined in the co-driver’s seat by the current leader of the British Rally Championship, Patrick Walsh.


The 22-year-old from Bingley would enjoy his first outing in the four-wheel-drive car in February as he kick-started his inaugural season behind the wheel of a car that can potentially win the championship outright.


Having spent much of his career in two-wheel-drive examples, Bilham was offered the chance of a lifetime, to contest this year’s BTRDA in Greenlight backed Fiesta R5.


After setting an impressive time through the opening stage of the North Wales based event, Bilham overshot a junction on the very next stage, which caused leaking radiator, forcing him to retire on his debut. Now, he will head to the second round of the series with a fresh approach and will be aiming to secure his first result of the season.


“I guess the pressure was on at the Cambrian Rally and pretty much everything was new to me so it was a surprise to set such a good time on the opening stage,” says Bilham.


“But my inexperience showed on the second and it was just really unfortunate that the radiator was damaged as we could have carried on. But look, I've got that out of the way and I can really concentrate on getting my first finish of the year. I have no expectations on a result so just being there at the end will be the main focus”.


Bilham had only had a brief pre-event test to get acclimatised to the car before the rally in February and believes that despite only a handful of miles in the car in North Wales, they will prove valuable for the weekend ahead.


“There is no substitute for competitive mileage and I probably learnt more about myself and the car in those 10 or so miles that I did in half a day testing. I`ll need to find the pace that I'm comfortable with and build slowly this time.”


The Malcolm Wilson Rally offers over 40 stage miles in classic forests such as Grizedale which will be a tough test for the 100 crews in the event.


“Staying on the road will be so important this weekend. The stages are notoriously tough in Cumbria so I`ll need to keep in the middle of the road as much as possible. Having Patrick alongside me will certainly help as his knowledge of the Fiesta and its capabilities are second to none. I’m looking forward to this one and finally getting a finish under my belt”.


By sambilham, Feb 21 2019 09:42AM

Sam Bilham believes there is “more to come” after his maiden outing in the Greenlight Sports and Entertainment Ford Fiesta R5 was curtailed by a second stage off at last weekend’s BTRDA Series opener, The Cambrian Rally (16th February).


Bilham, 22 from Bingley headed to the North Wales based event with hopes of getting some valuable seat time in the four-wheel-drive machine and bringing the Fiesta home with a finish.


Despite an impressive time through the opening Clocaenog stage of the rally, Bilham overshot a junction in the second, damaging the front bumper of the rally-winning Fiesta. The subsequent damage would force the Yorkshireman out of the rally on his debut.


With a season primarily on the sidelines in 2018, Bilham enjoyed selected outings behind the wheel of the Greenlight Ford Fiesta R2. His performance at Wales Rally GB National, taking ninth overall and first two-wheel-drive home, helped to secure him the seat in the more powerful Greenlight Fiesta R5 in 2019.


His campaign would kick off in Llandudno with the traditional season-opening Cambrian Rally which would utilise stages previously used by the World Rally Championship qualifier, Wales Rally GB. The tricky nature of the North Wales forests has caught out many champions in the past and although the expected rain didn’t materialise, the slippery and rocky stages would be a familiar sight.


Bilham and co-driver Graham Wild would head into the opening 4.6-mile test with ambitions of nothing other than a solid start to the event. With only a brief test beforehand, Bilham would use the stage to acclimatise to the handling of the car and build confidence as the miles passed.


His calm approach would actually see him stop the clocks in 13th place overall, just five seconds shy of a top ten place on the opener.


Sadly on the second test, Bilham misjudged his braking and overshot a junction, hitting the banking and subsequently pushing the front bumper in, damaging the radiator in the process. To conserve the car, and the engine, Bilham elected not to continue.


“I feel pretty numb to be honest, and It`s certainly not how I wanted to repay my backers Greenlight Sport and Entertainment and the Swift Group’s faith in me,” he said.


“It didn’t seem too bad at the time but I know these R5’s are quite fragile so don’t take impact too well. It’s just so disappointing after feeling pretty comfortable in the opening stage. I wasn’t taking risks and it all seemed to flow really well. I'm just sorry for the team and my sponsors”.


But Bilham was eager to look to the future.


“It was only round one and I guess it's good to get these mistakes out the way now. I didn’t have any expectations coming here but I did want to finish the rally. I know there is more to come from me in the car as I learn more and more with every mile. I really want to secure a result at the next round and get more miles in the car but I`ll be using the same approach as this one. I`ll certainly be ready”.


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

By sambilham, Feb 11 2019 01:56PM

Sam Bilham says he has “no expectations” ahead of the opening round of this year’s Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series which sees the Bingley rally driver make his debut in the Greenlight Sports and Entertainment Ford Fiesta R5 at the Cambrian Rally this weekend (16th February).


The 2017 Fiesta ST Trophy champion has recently secured a deal to drive the rally winning four-wheel-drive M-Sport R5 machine after his top ten performance on last year’s Wales Rally GB National was spotted by Greenlight’s Managing Director Guy Smith and Swift Group Chairman Peter Smith.


The 22-year-old will tackle seven forest rounds in the popular BTRDA Rally series and the Cambrian Rally will mark his debut in machinery capable of winning a rally outright. Having previously campaigned a Nissan Micra, Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Adam, Bilham is well aware of the task ahead of him in the forests around the Llandudno base in North Wales.


“There is no doubt that I won't be able to draw the full potential out of the car on round one” remarked Bilham.


“A few months ago, I was doing everything I could to pull the budget together to drive a Fiesta R2. Fast forward a few months and I’m just about to embark on the biggest challenge of my career driving a four-wheel drive for the first time in a car that can theoretically win the rally. I`m under no illusion though, I`ll be a long way away from being competitive first time out of the box. The Cambrian will be all about seat time and learning the car”.


The Ford Fiesta R5 is vastly different to that of the R2 which Bilham campaigned last season. The M-Sport built machine develops 285 brake horsepower via its turbocharged powerplant and is driven by all four wheels. The car was recently used by Guy Smith to win the Cadwell Park Stages and will be converted into gravel specification for Bilham’s campaign.


The Cambrian Rally utilised stages that Bilham tackled during his Rally GB outing last season, but he believes that experience will not be a factor this weekend.


“Everything will look very different in an R5 car and I`ll be going much faster than ever before” he explains.


“I`ll have to change my braking points, when to turn the car in and get used to the corners coming up a lot faster than normal so there will be a lot to learn that’s for sure. My main focus is getting the first stage out the way and then building my pace up from there. I’ve had one gravel test in the car so I’m still learning as I go. I really don’t have any expectations about a result, bringing the car back in one piece is the priority”.


The Cambrian Rally takes place in Llandudno in North Wales and offers seven stages totalling around 44 competitive stage miles in the nearby forests. Crews will leave Llandudno at 8 AM on Saturday morning, returning to the Llandudno finish mid-afternoon.


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


-Ends


By sambilham, Jan 21 2019 06:36PM

Bingley rally driver Sam Bilham will embark on the biggest challenge of his motorsport career after securing a deal to drive a Greenlight Sports and Entertainment Ford Fiesta R5 for the 2019 season.

The 22-year-old will receive backing from the sports and marketing agency to tackle the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series which offers seven all-gravel rounds across the UK. Bilham will use four-wheel-drive machinery for the very first time on the opening round, the Cambrian Rally in February.


Bilham has long been regarded as one of the most progressive rally drivers in the country, following the motorsport career ladder to the letter. His first taste of driving a rally car came at the tender age of just ten years old before embarking on his first full season in the Junior 1000 championship.


After becoming a member of the MSA Academy for aspiring youngsters, he continued to build experience in the sport, becoming BTRDA Junior Champion and MSA RSF Young Driver of the Year. Winning the MSA English Rally Championship in 2016 helped him to become the 2300 Club John Easson Award Winner, before winning the Fiesta ST Trophy in 2017.


Sporadic outings hampered his progress in 2018 but he was handed a lifeline by Greenlight Sports and Entertainment, The Swift Group and ME Rallysport when he was offered a Ford Fiesta R2 for the Nicky Grist Stages. Despite his inexperience in the potent R2 machine, second in class was the reward which led to a second event in the car, Wales Rally GB in October.


In one of the most ground-breaking drives of the event, Bilham stormed to ninth overall, first two-wheel-drive and a class win, taking fastest time on 13 out of the events 14 special stages. It was this performance that led to Greenlight Sports and Entertainment’s Managing Director Guy Smith and Chairman of the Swift Group Peter Smith, offering Bilham a season-long campaign in the firm’s state of the art Ford Fiesta R5.



Greenlight Fiesta R5
Greenlight Fiesta R5

Both Guy and Peter are no strangers to the world of motorsport with Guy having contested the prestigious 24 Le Mans with Team Bentley, and Peter a regular sight on stage events across the UK in various machines. Their vast experience in the sport meant they could see Bilham’s potential which led to supporting the Yorkshireman in 2018.


“We are in a very lucky position to be able to support progressive young drivers in rallying and Sam stood out as someone we would like to help last season,” said Guy.


“He drove our Fiesta R2 on the Nicky Grist and was immediately on the pace despite his lack of seat time so I thought he certainly had the potential for the future. We were able to repeat the outing at Wales Rally GB and were rewarded with a sensational result against some much more powerful machinery. It made sense to continue the relationship in 2019 and we believe that getting Sam into the Fiesta R5 is the right thing for his career right now. It’s a great partnership and we are looking forward to seeing how he develops during the season”.


The Ford Fiesta R5 is a vastly different car to that of the R2 which Bilham used in Wales. The M-Sport built machine develops 285 brake horsepower via its turbocharged powerplant and is driven by all four wheels. Capable of winning events outright, Bilham is now armed with the most powerful car in his career and will make the leap to top-specification machinery in just a few weeks’ time.


“Its still sinking in to be honest,” said Bilham.


“It was such a tough year in 2018, sitting out on so many events was one of the hardest things I’ve done and I’ll forever be indebted to Greenlight, The Swift Group and Matt Edwards for offering me the opportunity to drive the R2. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would lead to a season-long drive in one of the most up to date rally cars of the modern era.”

But the youngster is aiming for a solid finish rather than podiums on his debut.


”This really is a career-defining moment for me and I`ll never get this opportunity again. But at the same time, I need to ensure I don’t put too much pressure on myself and go out there and just do my own thing. We won’t have much time to test beforehand so I`ll need to learn as I go but I mastered the R2 pretty quickly so with the huge experience of the people I have around me, I’m hoping the R5 will be very similar. I really can't put into words how grateful I am to Peter, Guy and Greenlight, I just hope I can return their trust in me this season.


The Cambrian Rally marks the opening round of the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Rally Series and takes place on the 15th February in Llandudno, North Wales.


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




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