12.11.2011 - P7 of 17 teams at first rally abroad and on gravel together with WRC Academy in Wales
Just in time to the season’s end there was still one special highlight for Valentin Hummel and Katja Geyer left: they made their debut abroad at Rally Wales GB together with FIA WRC Academy, where both finished with a solid 7th place among 17 teams from all over the world. 3 days with 17 SSs, a total distance of more than 1,000 km and a predominant share of gravel, however, were a completely different challenge, as well as the Academy's own rally car, a Ford Fiesta R2 from M-Sport. After a whole season with the rear-driven BMW 120d Coupe, the Fiesta with front-wheel drive was also a new experience.
FIA WRC Academy 2011
With a first pre-recce briefing on Sunday evening a hard-working week began, but this was also a good opportunity to meet all drivers of the Academy personally and there were first interesting conversations. Valentin and Katja were received open minded and helpfully by the crews of the Junior World Cup team and the coordinators took explicitly care for the new crews to explain the next days and to answer the most important issues.
On Monday and Tuesday the daily routine was mainly predominated by the tight recce schedule and in the evening the Admin checks and the Scrutineering took place at the Servicepark in Builth Wells. "Meet Your Team" also offered on Tuesday evening the opportunity to meet their own service team and to make themselves familiar with the Fiesta.
#122 - V.Hummel/K.Geyer
On Wednesday morning 4-hour training began on a 3 km long test SS, where the crews had the opportunity to train under similar conditions as for the upcoming rally and to optimize the car’s setup. Especially for Valentin, who has only few experience on gravel and with a front-wheel driven vehicle, this was the essential chance to prepare for the rally. Thanks to the upcoming rain they could already guess how the track surfaces and the vehicle behaviour could change during the rally. Both felt quickly comfortable with the Fiesta and became increasingly familiar with the vehicle and the loose ground and at the end they could already get consistent lap times. The test was followed in the afternoon by several press conferences, photo shoots and short interviews in the frame of the WRC Academy.
SS13/16 Sweet Lamb
The main rally finally started on Thursday with a total of three SSs and on SS1/2, the only tarmac stage on this weekend, along the coast of Llandudno, they remained only a few seconds behind the fastest time. On SS3 both made their gravel debut already in the dark, where they also noted that the lights’ and the car’s setup had still to be optimized for the next day.
On Friday the typical Welsh weather with a rain and fog arrived for all rally participants and the majority of the 8 SSs promised with slippery and wet conditions hard work for the drivers. Darkness and a visibility under 10 feet made it especially on the last SS difficult for the teams, who didn’t have the appropriate experience in Walter Röhrl’s way of driving, to reach a fast time. In the middle of the impressive medieval castle of Cardiff the overnight parc fermé took place on this evening, but most crews took rather the direct way to bed. With 5 to 6 hours of sleep on average and little time to breathe, you better should be prepared for a world championship...
SS13/16 Sweet Lamb
The clear sunrise on Saturday promised better conditions and against all expectations, rain and fog stayed away all day. The first section with 3 of the 6 SSs went smoothly that day and during the service both answered lots of interested questions by the journalists and enjoyed the numerous encouragements. Highly motivated and increasingly familiar with gravel and car Valentin wanted to increase his speed in the last section, but the heavily damaged tracks forced in many places to respect. Although both already achieved top 3 times in some sections among the Academy teams, they couldn’t be as much brilliant as they wanted due to a defective 3rd gear on the last SS.
In the end, they were all proud of a 7th place within the 17 best teams from all over the world and happy with their successful international gravel debut. They celebrated in a typical local Welsh pub, where they both thanked not only their driver colleagues, but also all those responsible for the organsation of WRC Academy for an educational and very exciting week.