Junior British Rally Championship front-runner Ruairi Bell proved he is one to watch for the future by winning the RC4 class and first two-wheel-drive on his debut in the FIA World Rally Championship at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Blackheath’s Bell, 19, overcame searing heat and rough stages to bring his Protec International Ltd and Marex Spectron-backed Peugeot 208 R2 to the top step of the podium, despite having never contested a WRC event before.
He and co-driver Darren Garrod were also able to secure fourth in the Peugeot Rally Cup Iberica section of the event which took place over the opening leg of the gruelling rally.
The youngster has honed his skills in Europe, choosing to develop his career contesting the Latvian and Estonian Rally Championships. Thanks to a lower minimum age to contest rallies in the Baltic’s, Bell has been competing in full events since his 16th birthday, gaining a valuable advantage over competing in the UK.
This season Bell has been dovetailing the Junior British Rally Championship and the Iberica Cup, with Rally Portugal counting as a round of the single make series.
“I’m really proud of my achievement and it’s pretty remarkable to say I only contested the full WRC event to gain experience for the future,” said Bell.
“It was a real challenge and one of the toughest events that I’ve done but my pace was controlled, and we spent a lot of time preparing for the rally, reviewing on-boards and looking for areas where we could improve.
“Tyre management was crucial as well and we nailed that perfectly despite the rough stages. It’s a great feeling to be a class winner and first two-wheel drive home.
“I feel there’s a lot more to come too and there is plenty in reserve.
“That was only my second time on gravel in the 208 and fourth event in the car so I’m still adapting to the different surfaces and characteristics of the Peugeot.
“But now I need to look ahead to my Junior BRC Campaign as we switch back to asphalt and a Ford Fiesta R2T. I’m heading to Belgium to contest Rally van Wervik before the Ypres Rally a week later to get an introduction to Belgium roads and get a good set-up ready for Ypres. There is lots to do, but the confidence is high right now.”