The Day Stuart got serious...
The good people of Valence really love their motorsport and as a couple of years back we were welcomed by a fan with photographs they wanted signed: This time of the EFG crew on the Tour Auto and in a blast from the past a picture of yours truly racing a LMP2 Le Mans car back in 2004!
Once again the Fulvia was sitting with a flat tyre which we pumped up but by the middle of the first stage I was struggling to tuck the nose into left handers and there was a distinct smell of rubber in the cabin... Having to try and protect the tyre might have cost us a little on this stage and the following one, but we were still 50th equal on both! A pre-departure analysis of our regularity technique (and also not being totally shattered) seemed to have helped... We switched the leaking tyre onto the rear at the lunchtime fuel stop but not before the edge had been badly rubbed...
The day was notable by the huge number of spectators who turned out for the St Bonnet Le Froid stage where we started and finished in the same town giving them a great viewing opportunity. The legendary Monte stages like Burzet are always fabulous to drive even when they lack snow but especially when they are packed with fans!
The 2 afternoon stages saw us with great confidence in the car and Stuart at the top of his game: Even telling me to "Ssssshhh" at one point in stage when I started reminiscing about driving the same stretch in the snow a few years back. It paid off as we came home 17th and 9th: Incredible results given that unlike my stage victory last year all the competitors had the same conditions.
The amazing sunshine also meant we got fabulous views across the Ardeche and also back across the Rhone to the snowy alps where Tuesday route takes us back to Monaco with 3 stages then some 5 hours later we leave on the night loop of the Turini where this rally will really be decided.
However right now we're 43rd overall and the only all British crew in the top 100 and desperate to hang onto would be an incredible result given the lack of cutting edge technology in our car compared to those around us and also given that we didn't recce the entire rally like most of the guys at the sharp end.... We really are just here for the adventure (and the beer).
Your "hoping we can avoid a silly error and bring this one home" correspondent,