By sambilham, Jul 18 2018 09:52AM
Sam Bilham made the most out of a fantastic opportunity by securing second in class R2/B10 and 24th overall at last weekend’s Nicky Grist Stages (14th July) behind the wheel of the Greenlight Sports and Entertainment Ford Fiesta R2.
The Yorkshireman was offered the opportunity to pilot the front-running machine in a one-off drive on round six of the BTRDA Rally Series in Builth Wells, Wales. Bilham didn’t disappoint his backers and along with co-driver Graham Wild returning to the passenger seat, stormed to an impressive podium position on his debut in an R2.
Bilham, 21 years old from Bingley has secured a confidence-boosting list of accolades in the sport during the past few years but since winning the Fiesta ST Trophy in 2017, has only managed one outing since taking the title in September. Wanting to progress his career, the required budget to step up the rallying ladder has not been forthcoming, and he has been unable to secure a drive for the entire season.
However, a drive on Rally North Wales back in March would prove fruitful, taking the Vauxhall Adam Cup Car to second in class and gaining valuable experience of a sequential transmission unit, similar to that installed in the Fiesta he would pilot last weekend.
Backed by Greenlight Sports and Entertainment, The Swift Group and ME Rallysport, Bilham would be able to fully enjoy the experience of driving a top-level R2 car thanks to having prior experience of the stages from his BTRDA outings. However, he would need to ensure the car returned to the finish ramp, so a measured approach was required from the youngster.
Despite being unable to test the Fiesta, Bilham wasted no time in acclimatising to the new steed, slotting into third in class after the opening test of the day. With the R2 class dubbed as one of the most hotly contested in the BTRDA series, Bilham was pleased to find himself second after the opening loop and would look to keep that spot over the closing stages.
As his confidence grew, the stage times tumbled and Bilham began to close in on the eventual class victor. His lack of experience in the R2 was certainly not apparent and he returned a mature drive to net second in class on his debut in the car.
“Wow, what can I say about today,” said Bilham at the finish.
“It was a real honour and privilege to have been given the drive by Peter Smith and I`m really glad I could repay his trust with a decent result. The car was truly superb and a joy to drive. It felt so natural being behind the wheel and I felt my pace pick up after every stage.
There was more to come as well so it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if there were a few more stages, but I`m just over the moon with the experience and the result. A huge thanks to Greenlight Sports, The Swift Group and ME Rallysport for their support and of course DMACK Tyres”.
Whilst there is still a budget shortfall for the remainder of the season, Bilham is confident which direction he would like to take his rallying career.
“This weekend has just re-affirmed that I need to be in a front-running R2 car to progress. I feel I have the ability to get the most from the car and I’d really like to see what I could do with a full season ahead of me. We will be working as hard as we can to get a deal together for the future.
Sam is supported by The 2300 Club John Easson Award, Calvert Construction, Reis Motorsport Insurance, DMACK Tyres, The Garage at Stanley Mills and Gareth Hooper Motorsport Services.