Junior British Rally Championship ace Ruairi Bell picked up where he left off this season, by setting a string of impressive stage times on his debut at Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB (3-6 October).
Bell, 19 from London had already won the BRC Fiesta Trophy in 2019, handing him a sizeable €60,000 towards an FIA Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) campaign thanks to M-Sport and Pirelli, but would head to Llandudno in a bid to gain more experience for the future.
Sadly, a technical issue on the `Super Saturday` leg of the event forced the young star to retire, although he was able to return on the final day to complete the prestigious event.
Wales Rally GB is often dubbed as one of the most gruelling in the WRC tour with four days of action, 192 miles and 22 stages for some of the world’s best drivers.
Although the predicted Hurricane Lorenzo did not materialise, driving rain and thick mud offered an additional challenge in the North Wales forests.
A blistering pace saw top three RC4 class times on the opening morning of the rally, beating many of the Junior WRC contenders in the process. A mature drive over the repeat loop saw equally impressive times, ending the opening day of the rally in fifth spot from 16 world-leading contenders.
Bell’s impressive pace continued as the rally ventured into mid-Wales, moving up to fourth overall before being forced to retire on the 13th test – Sweet Lamb Hafren, with an issue with the Fiesta’s throttle body.
With the Baltic Motorsport team working through the night, Bell was able to re-join under the Rally2 system on Sunday, albeit now down in tenth place in the RC4 category.
Electing to drive for a finish around the tricky stages of the Llandudno base, Bell found a comfortable pace on the final day, eventually crossing the finish ramp with a top ten position.
“Of course, I’m frustrated with the result on paper but I only have to look at some of the stage times over the whole weekend to see that it could have been so much different” said Bell on reflection.
“To be firing in stage times alongside the top three Junior WRC contenders who are fighting it out for the title is pretty mega and although this could be classed as my `home` event, I have never competed on most of these stages before, so it was all new to me really”.
“Of course, winning the Fiesta Trophy has given me a real cash boost if we were to head into the World Championship next year and this weekend has shown that I can mix it with the pace of the current crop of Juniors. But we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do over the winter to raise the budget to get there. Either way, I’m really pleased with the stage times this weekend, without taking too many risks and it is certainly a positive sign for whatever the future holds”.
Bell will now head to the next round of the World Rally Championship, Rally Spain as part of his Peugeot Iberica Cup campaign at the end of the month in his 208 R2.
Photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography