This weekend saw the welcoming of the world’s best rally drivers to the Welsh countryside as they fought it out for the British round of the World Rally Championship, WRC Wales Rally GB. There was also a new face to rallying in the supporting National Rally with the debut of Rally Team GB’s 3rd Driver Facebook competition winner, Scott Larder, a 26 year old factory worker from Cwmbran, taking the wheel of the Production World Rally Driver Louise Cook’s Fiesta ST.
A massive 6,000 fans entered the competition with a simple page ‘like’ of the rallyteamgb Facebook page and a quick email to confirm entry. The Facebook fans were then given the opportunity to earn their way into the finals with multiple tasks with a view to win a free rally license and a free drive on Wales Rally GB National Rally.
“We simply want to see more people coming into the sport and want to help as many as we can to find their way. The sport is difficult and entry to the sport is not easy and quite hidden when you are on the outside looking in. The competition was more about that, but we wanted to get people thinking about being out in the sport themselves, of course there would only be one drive at the end and Scott Larder was lucky enough to be chosen” said British Rally Driver Stefan Davis.
For Scott Larder it was a true baptism of fire. The stages of Wales Rally GB are renowned as some of the toughest in the world and with Scott only sitting in a rally car for the first time just 2 weeks before, to pass his rally license test, it was an immense task to try and get through such a massive event.
Scott, despite his inexperience, did incredibly well, finishing all three days of the rally and in the end finishing in 32nd place from the 45 starters.
The 3 days in the challenging Welsh forests were far from easy. The learning curve was near vertical for Scott. Learning how to rally and getting the Ford Fiesta ST across the 9 stages of gravel, mud and slick rock was far from a normal day for the South Wales Factory Worker.
Scott was taking it all in being on the right side of caution to get familiar with the Rally Team GB car, the racing lines, the braking points, throttle control and steering, as well as the alien driving conditions and terrain.
“Making my debut on Wales Rally GB is stuff of dreams, it really is. I was keen to try and get things right for my first outing. I wanted to get the most experience I could from the event and that meant seeing every corner and condition I could.” Said Scott
“I was so nervous when I pulled up to that start line of Stage 1, Dyfnant, I still could not believe that it was happening. If someone had said to me last year when I was out spectating ‘Scott that will be you next year’, I would have not thought it was even possible, but the Rally Team GB Facebook competition made it happen” said Scott.
“It was so difficult, not just the driving, but listening to this new language of pace notes describing the road and then taking in all the coaching that Stefan was giving me, i
t was CRAZY!” said Larder.
Day two saw Scott starting to feel more at home in the car and becoming more comfortable with the concept of someone describing the road ahead through an intercom.
“The second day was better, another 3 stages complete, but every stage was totally different from the other. I felt a little calmer, though the stages were more cut up, rutted and bumpy in places. It was a lot dryer than the first day and each stage had a mixture of rock, fine gravel and tarmac which was very difficult to adapt to, but I was really happy to get to the end.” Said Scott.
The last day of Wales Rally GB was further south in the damper forest of the valleys. Some rain overnight meant the forest had become very slick.
“I had a fair idea that it would be hard work to keep the car from sliding too much through the forest. The stages were more like mud tracks with less gravel base, so I had to fight with the car a bit to keep it on line. I suffered a puncture when I ran slightly wide on a hairpin in the Port Talbot stage. I went off line which made it really difficult to brake in time and I just panicked and hit a large rock with the front near-side tyre. It was a shame because it cost us about 7 minutes and a few places in the rally.” Said Scott.
“I think the puncture reminded Scott that it was not going to be simple to finish a rally like Wales Rally GB. After the puncture, he started to tidy the car up a bit more and focussed on getting to the finish of his first ever rally” said Stefan.
“My only goal on the rally was to finish the event but when you’re in the car there is so much going on it is easy to forget that. There were a few times during the weekend where my brain was totally fried. When I crossed the finish line of the final stage Walters Arena, I can’t tell you how amazing that felt. I was so happy, I had a lump in my throat and couldn’t speak! I was totally thrilled!” said Scott.
“The whole weekend was just so surreal I can’t thank everyone enough for the support that they have given me. I saw people jumping for joy in the corner of my eye and a lot of British and Welsh flags flying which made me feel good to know they were behind me.“ Said Scott.
“Rally Team GB are amazing people and they are doing amazing things for the sport. I would like to thank them for what they have done for me with getting me started and the knowledge that has been given to me. Stefan was so patient with me – he is a legend! I’m really happy with what I have achieved over the weekend and I know it’s not easy.” Said Scott.
“It was the most amazing experience and one I will never forget especially making my debut on an event this big. I was thrown in at the deep end and I think I proved I can keep it together, just and keep it on the road. I really want to make something of myself as a competitor in this fantastic sport and I have to concentrate on making my own career now for next season. I will be working non-stop to trying to find some support and sponsorship to help me start a real rally career so I can put everything I have learned into practice.” Said Scott.