Rally Coeur Du France 2018

Sara Williams and co-driver Patrick Walsh made an impressive return to the Renault Clio R3T France 2018 Trophy Cup series in late September, driving on the Rallye Coeur De France, based around the medieval town of Vendome. The event was included in the asphalt rally championship of France for the second time, with very fast special stages over the two days of competitive driving. Seven stages around Savigny–Sur–Braye opened the first day, Sara and Patrick setting the second fastest time over the first 25 kilometre run through the Besse 1 stage that had a tortuous mid and end section that suited the agile Clio, that encouraging result coming despite Sara and Patrick not having been back in the ASM Motorsport Renault since July. Some last minute set up difficulties were overcome during the pre-rally ‘shakedown’ runs, that the first time the pair had driven the car competitively since the Rouergue Rally in July. The on hand Renault rally engineers were consulted and at their suggestion the ASM team mechanics made some more adjustments. – there was no time however to test the car again so it was with slight concern that Sara and Patrick went into the first stage, with not a full understanding of how the car would handle, but the result proved that both car and crew were perfectly set up, as that second fastest time showed.

The nature of the rally was similar to many of the Belgian events, fast stages and time saving cutting of corners possible, over the narrow grass verges, and steady progress was made through the remaining six stages of the first day, some ninety five kilometres in all, before the final ‘Super Savigny’ test through the streets of the town, a mere 1.5 kilometres but thronged with enthusiastic rally followers cheering the cars on to the finish at Mairie Vendome at around 8.00 pm.
Four special stages remained for Sundays run, the first a long thirty kilometre test in the Bonneveau region to the east of Vendome, a twisting tight opening section opening into very fast tarmacadam near the opening stage of the first day, Sara and Patrick setting the fastest time on that longest special stage in the event, giving her another distinction as the first female driver to win a stage in the Renault Clio R3T France 2018 Trophy Cup series, their ASM Renault fastest of all the Clio Cup contenders and bringing them more into contention for the podium spot Sara had wished for at the start. Next came a figure of eight stage of 28 kilometres, the Grand Savigny east of the town, and another two shorter stages rounded off the competitive distance of that second day, the penultimate another crowd pleasing run through the town, this time Vendome itself, before the final four kilometres of Villerable, a short but testing run east of the host town, before the run back to the Podium Finish back at Mairie Vendome.

Both Sara and Patrick knew that the coveted podium spot was close, though as it proved they missed that honour by a mere twenty four seconds after two days of flat out rallying ! They finished fourth in the Clio R3T battle, sixteenth overall and Sara took the honour of First Female Driver, quite a distinction, as French Rally forums were listing her post rally as having the best result for a female driver since the mid 1990’s, so another distinction for the young Welsh star, to add to her recognition as The British Women Racing Drivers Club Gold Star Elite winner of 2018, and winner of the Louise Aitken-Walker BWRDC Trophy, Louise going on to become a World Champion. Now a UK Representative to the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission and supported in her rallying by Brecon Motors and Brecon Car Rentals, plus Burnsides and Renault Sport France, Sara will surely achieve a great deal more behind the wheel and in motorsport generally. That support from Renault Sport France will also enable Sara to arrange ‘hospitality’ at any of the Championship events. Her plans for the 2019 season are well underway, work ongoing to secure the budget for a further competitive year in the Trophy Cup . The final round of this years Renault Clio R3T France 2018 Trophy Cup series will be the Rallye Du Var on the 23rd to 25th of November, in the Provence Alpes near Saint Tropez on the Cote D’Azur.