I made my debut in the production class of the World Rally Championship (PWRC) in 2012 at the Monte Carlo Rally.
It was all rather last minute. I'd competed in the British Rally Championship in 2011 and a feeder series the year before.
The day before the deadline to enter the PWRC, we were undecided whether to submit an entry. We decided to go for it. We had to pick 6 rounds to compete in out of the 8 and Monte Carlo was one of them.
I can't remember exactly why we chose Monte Carlo as my debut PWRC round (no pressure!) but it did mean there was a 5 month gap before the following round I would compete in (Greece) which gave us time to focus on further fund raising from sponsors. We made it to Monaco, working to a tight budget meant we ran with some 3 year old intermediate tyres and British budget winter tyres.
I was driving a Ford Fiesta ST, the goal for me, first time out in PWRC was to simply to get a finish. The rally has a ceremonial start in Monte Carlo, it was such a weird feeling on the ramp, being surrounded by all the amazingly loud WRC cars. Sat on the line, it really hit me, "I'm in the World Rally Championship!!"
My stand out memory has to be going over the Col du Turini, it was insane. Either side of the road there were bonfires, there were thousands of fans and as you approached the Col, the fans we letting off fireworks right in front of the car, I could barely see for the smoke and explosions!!
It was my first ever PWRC round, I was desperately trying to concentrate, which was hard given the fans enthusiasm, I'd never experienced anything like it. Fans were leaping out in front of the car willing us on, they were so loud you could actually hear them shouting and cheering above the revs of the engine. It was proper loud! It was the most amazing atmosphere and like nothing I'd experienced in my life.
We had debated not hiring an ice crew, I'm so glad we did have one in the end. You can start some of the Monte Carlo stages on perfect dry tarmac, but you then start to climb up the mountains and face some extreme changes in conditions. You can enter a corner on dry tarmac but after the apex there can literally be ice everywhere. At some points I literally had to drive at walking pace as we didn't have the tyres for the conditions, had we not had the ice crew I dread to think what may have happened as if I'd attacked some of the corners that looked perfectly safe going in to them, we'd certainly not have come out the same way!!
I was proud to make it to the finish in Monte Carlo and we secured second place overall, becoming the first female driver to gain a podium in the championship.
The whole of Monte Carlo was absolutely buzzing before, during and after the rally, the atmosphere was just so special and you take that energy away with you.
To top a memorable first season in PWRC, I've been able to get advice from 8 times WRC Champion Sebastien Loeb and his team mate Daniel Sordo. They have shared some of their knowledge and skills with me on using pace notes, this is the area I'm now focusing on to increase my speed and competitiveness with a view to moving into a 4 wheel drive car in 2014.
Louise shared this memory for the Replay Motorsport project at the www.chelseaautolegends.com show on 3rd September 2012. Our thanks go to Chelsea Autolegends in making this memory possible.
Memory added on September 11, 2012
1 Comment (Add your voice)
Vivid account of your first experience of the Monte Carlo WRC Louise. Great result, great team effort, great to see BWRDC girls working together Cat Lund and Andy Rowe providing the ice-notes! Good to see you enjoying the HR Owen supercar parade in the Maserati Sport Auto at Chelsea AutoLegends! Go girls.... Thanks to Sporting Memories, HR Owen and Chelsea AutoLegends for making this 'memory' possible.
– Georgie Shaw, September 11 2012 at 10:11