Newark based rally driver Eddie Lewis battled through gruelling conditions in his M-Sport Fiesta R2T to secure a solid finish on his FIA World Rally Championship debut at last week’s Wales Rally GB (3-6 October).
The talented junior driver braved torrential rain, deep mud, foggy conditions and one of the biggest sporting events in the UK to finish 14th in the RC4 class and 44th overall. Lewis and co-driver Dom Adams also overcame a second day off into a ditch, to ensure a confidence-boosting WRC finish for the pairing.
The 17-year-old ace has enjoyed a successful rise through the sport after starting in the F1000 Junior Formula, designed specifically for drivers under 17 years of age. Once able to contest full events, Lewis adapted quickly to both asphalt and gravel surfaces, with the acquisition of an M-Sport Fiesta earlier this year a signal of his intent for the future.
Backed by Mechanical Solutions, Lewis would embark on the biggest challenge of his career as he headed for Wales Rally GB. Based in Llandudno, North Wales, the event would see the world’s best drivers face one of the toughest events on the world tour.
Twenty-two iconic stages in mid and North Wales were on offer, spread across 192 miles of flat out action, with driving rain and standing water making each test more and more treacherous as the event progressed.
After the ceremonial start in Liverpool’s historic Waterfront on Thursday night, the opening spectator-friendly test around the Oulton Park race circuit kicked off proceedings before the first full day in the forests on Friday.
Lewis took his WRC debut in his stride, firing his Fiesta R2T inside the top ten of the hotly contested RC4 class during the opening loop of the event. Sadly, on the fourth stage of the rally, a tricky section in Dyfnant fired Lewis into the scenery and despite the best efforts of spectators, the car would be stuck.
“We just came around a difficult set of corners with a little too much speed which pitched us off the road,” said Lewis. “We tried to get it out of the ditch it landed in, but I think we broke the steering, so we have had to retire for the day”.
Thankfully, the team managed to repair the Fiesta overnight and thanks to Rally2, Lewis was able to re-start the next day. Dubbed as `Super Saturday` thanks to its ultra-long leg, the Notts driver would take a mature approach to his pace to ensure he could remain in the world-class event.
Thankfully, a trouble-free run over the arduous day and Sunday’s five tests ensured Lewis was able to record his very first World Rally Championship and Wales Rally GB finish.
“It’s an amazing feeling to reach the end of Rally GB and my first WRC event, especially as at one point I thought it was all over,” said Lewis.
“Every day was so very tough, both mentally and physically but then you look at the conditions of the stages and the problems the top guys were having and you realise just what a battle we had to keep the car on the road and in the rally”
Lewis was pleased with his performance on the world’s stage.
“It wasn’t really about coming here to get a result; it was more about the experience for the future and building up slowly. So, it was really encouraging to see that we were setting some good times against the Junior WRC contenders and that’s despite being only my second event in the new car. Progression is key for my career so to be at this point already is positive for the future. Huge thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for their backing on the event, it’s been a tough one”.
Eddie is backed by Mechanical Solutions, SSSI Ltd, Andrews Waste Management, Newark Steel, Walker & Son (Hauliers) Ltd, John Haugland Winter Rally School, Speedline Corse & Pirelli