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.