Bilham gears up for four-wheel-drive debut
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.