By sambilham, Jun 28 2018 07:30AM
The 2016 John Easson Award winner Sam Bilham will return to active competition for the first time since March after securing a one-off drive in the Swift Group Ford Fiesta R2 at next month’s Nicky Grist Stages Rally (14th July).
The Bingley rally driver has only managed one outing this season after winning last year’s DMACK Fiesta ST Trophy which ran alongside the BTRDA Rally Series. Bilham will now compete on the fourth round of the series in a more powerful R2 specification machine, thanks to the support of the Swift Group, Greenlight Sports and Entertainment and the car’s owner Peter Smith.
The 21-year old enjoyed a successful outing at Rally North Wales earlier in the season behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Adam Cup Car, taking second in class despite having only driven the car during a short pre-event test.
As a pre-cursor to an R2 car, the Adam Cup offered Bilham an excellent base to learn advanced suspension and transmission technology from his previous Fiesta ST, enabling him to jump into the popular Fiesta R2 at the Builth Wells based event. He will be co-driven by Graham Wild and backed by DMACK Tyres.
Bilham enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, taking multiple class and category wins to take the coveted Fiesta trophy with two rounds to spare. After lifting the title, the 21-year old has been searching for the budget to progress his career ever since.
“We always knew that this year would be a difficult one as the ladder of progression really only leads us to the British Championship which is out of our budget at the moment” explains Bilham.
“After selling the Fiesta ST, we have been on the lookout for chances to compete again so when the offer came about to finally drive a full R2 Fiesta I was overjoyed at the prospect. I have to say a huge thank you to the Swift Group and Matt Edwards at ME Rallysport who will run the car, for this opportunity”.
Although this will be Bilham’s first foray into an R2, he has extensive knowledge of the stages used on the Nicky Grist thanks to his Junior and Fiesta title campaigns during the last few years. Whilst he realises it will be a steep learning curve, Bilham is excited to return to the sport and on forests he enjoys.
“The Nicky Grist is a fantastic rally so it’s a good place to ground yourself when you try something like the Fiesta as you don’t have to worry too much about adapting to the stages” he explains.
“I can fully concentrate on making sure I make the most of the experience as this is really where I want to be right now. The R2 Rallye Cup in the BTRDA is very competitive so I won't be paying too much attention to their times during the day, but it will offer a chance to see what my pace is like straight out the box.
“I've wanted to get myself into an R2 ever since I sold my Fiesta ST last year so this really is a bit of a dream come true for me. I guess there is a bit of pressure attached to the outing but I’m certainly going to be doing my own thing and just enjoy it. I can't wait”.
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.