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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, May 14 2019 09:07AM

BTRDA Rally Series contender Sam Bilham was on track for the best of result of his career last weekend, before a puncture caused his retirement from round four of the championship, The Plains Rally (12th May).


The Greenlight Sports and Entertainment backed driver had taken his front-running Fiesta R5 into a career best fourth place after the second of five stages, only to suffer a puncture on the third, sending him tumbling down to sixth. Sadly, the puncture had subsequently caused more issues than first thought and Bilham would be forced to retire on his way to the penultimate stage of the day.


The 22-year-old has had a mixed introduction to four wheel drive this season, suffering misfortune which has been contrasted by an impressive showing on his first season in a top-flight car. Thanks to sponsors Greenlight Sports and Entertainment and the Swift Group, Bilham’s drive on Wales Rally GB in a Fiesta R2 last year was rewarded by a season in the powerful R5. Whilst he hasn’t had much time in the car outside of the events in the calendar, his pace on each round of the championship has been inspiring.


Guided by co-driver Patrick Walsh, Bilham overcame a retirement on the opening round to sixth place on the following two rounds and would head to Oswestry last weekend in a bid to better his form.


The signs were good on the opening 10-mile Dyfnant stage as the Bingley driver stopped the clocks fifth quickest and would do so again on the next test in Aberhirnant. Despite struggling to find a comfortable pace through the damp morning stages, Bilham would find himself equal fourth overall and just four seconds away from a podium spot.


Sadly, Bilham would misjudge one of the corners in the second passing of the Dyfnant test, causing an instant puncture. He managed to limp the Fiesta through the remainder of the stage but on the following road section, it was apparent the puncture had caused further problems and Bilham would be forced to retire.


“I have to hold my hands up and say this one was my fault entirely” said a dejected Bilham.


“Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don’t. Today was one of those. It’s been another very steep learning curve for me this weekend but I really need to take the positives away from the stages that we could complete cleanly, especially the first half of stage three. That was the best feeling I’ve had in the car so far, everything felt to be working really well and flowing perfectly.”


Despite the retirement, Bilham is already focusing on the next round.


“It would be easy to get dejected but if I look at the pace I had today then that’s a huge improvement over the first few rounds this year so that’s very encouraging for the future. The team, especially Chief Technician Andy Townend have produced a perfect car and Patrick has been spot on with the notes as always. I just need to bring everything together and make it work on the Nicky Grist Stages in July. A huge thanks to all my backers and sponsors for keeping their faith in me, hopefully I can return that on the next round”.


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, Apr 15 2019 12:46PM

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.


-Ends


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.

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