Astonishing Wales Rally GB for Jackson
Halloween weekend saw hundreds of the world’s finest rally drivers, co-drivers and teams descend on North Wales for the much anticipated return of Wales Rally GB to the infamous Welsh forests. Among those set to battle out for honours on this year’s event was Warwick’s own rally driver Matt Jackson and co- driver Claire Williams. The pair who regularly compete on national rallies throughout the United Kingdom in the BTRDA, MSA English and Welsh Rally Championships looked to the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB to bring their mixed 2016 season to an emphatic end.
The weeks of meticulous planning eventually culminated as Jackson and Williams greeted the thousands of fans as they crossed over the ramp at the Ceremonial Start Ceremony at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay on the eve of the rally. The following day, the high octane action erupted in the classic stages in the forests of mid Wales and crews were faced with a tough introduction to the rally with visibility being extremely limited as heavy mist and fog menacingly lingered like a blanket over the stages. On top of the hefty task they already faced of taming the 300bhp TSD Motorsport Subaru Impreza on Jackson’s momentous 4-wheel drive debut along with battling the poor conditions, the pair faced an even greater challenge when Jackson fell ill on the morning of the opening day of the rally. Driven by sheer grit and determination, they soldiered through each of the day’s stages and it was much to the pair’s relief when organisers took the decision to cancel the monster 21mile Hafren stage following a car fire. To mark the end of the first day of tough competition, rally crews stopped off in Chester City Centre where they dazzled fans who had gathered in the streets to catch a glimpse of the cars and the stars of the rally. “We have had a very tough day with the illness that has come on in the past 24 hours, we almost didn’t make it this far, but I am so glad we did as the fans here are just amazing. There are so many people here and it’s a tremendous way to inspire the next generation of drivers and co-drivers”, Jackson told onlookers when interviewed under the famous Chester East Gate Clock Tower.
Despite the challenges they faced with sickness taking its toll and with Jackson’s limited experience in a 4wheel drive car on gravel, much to their amazement they would end day 1 of their 2016 Wales Rally GB campaign in a phenomenal 14th place overall out of 79 starters. Luckily after a night’s rest, Jackson was almost back fighting fit for Day 2 and this was reflected in the impressive stage times he and Williams produced in the opening stages. With each mile, the pair rapidly grew in confidence as they began to get to grips with their new machine and settled into that all important rhythm that eluded them throughout day 1. While they simply looked to consolidate their position, their consistency and pace soon elevated them further to a remarkable 11th overall entering the overnight service at the end of day 2. With that all important finish podium in Llandudno within touching distance, day 3 of the rally dealt yet another blow as Williams was struck by a similar illness that hampered Jackson on day 1. Driven by sheer determination to not let such an outstanding result slip out of their gasp, the pairing opted to continue, whilst battling through the sickness, for the remaining 16 stage miles at a safer, more controlled pace to consolidate their overall position Given the numerous challenges they tackled throughout the whole event, the pair were both ecstatic and relieved to cross the finish line of the final stage and clinching 11th overall, especially following a few dubious moments which could’ve sent them crashing out in the closing miles. Both Jackson and Williams relished in their hard fought result as they celebrated crossing the finish podium in front of the thousands of spectators who lined the streets in Llandudno’s town centre. “It has been an incredible event. Filled with ups and downs but I think we have showed what we are made of. We didn’t expect this result and it’s a testament to a faultless car and team. We have far exceeded our own expectations and those of others too. To come here with no four wheel drive experience and to be within reach of the top 10 overall really is a dream come true and has now given us the taste for more experience in the future” explained an elated Jackson Williams. Wales Rally GB not only completes one of Jackson’s dreams, but also rounded out the 2016 season in style. Too add to the achievements of Rally GB, Matthew has also managed to clinch a number of rally awards for his and the teams’ efforts this year:
BTRDA Class 1.4S Driver Champion
ANWCC Junior Driver Champion
ANWCC Class A – 2nd
ANWCC FWD Driver – 3rd
Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship Class 3 Driver – 2nd
Wales Rally GB would not have been possible without the help and support of:
2300 Club John Easson Award
Ammanford Motor Club
Mr Tyre Motorsport (DMACK Tyres)
Moving into 2017, plans are currently undecided with many options available to the young pairing. Please keep up to date with our rallying exploits on Twitter (@MJRallying) or on Facebook (Matthew Jackson Rallying).