Hughes wins on Fabia Cup Debut.
'Simon slides to Fab Success!'
Colwyn Bay rally driver Simon Hughes made his mark on the opening round of the 2005 Skoda Fabia Rallye Cup in the Czech Republic, as the 21 year old claimed a convincing win on the icy Mogul Sumava Rally.
Based in the small town of Klatovy in the Plsen region, the Sumava Rally was a combination of snowy and icy roads, where polished ice and melting snow meant conditions were treacherous throughout the 170 stage mile event. Hughes, with Stranraer based Ulsterman Glenn Patterson alongside, was making his first attempt at the Skoda Auto backed one make rally championship, and was looking forward to a good battle with the best of the local Czech drivers.
Tough conditions would greet Simon in his Michelin shod Skoda Fabia 1.4 as he left the start on Friday morning. The stages were covered in a mixture of snow, ice and soaking wet tarmac - making tyre choice difficult. However, much to the surprise of the competition, the young Welsh driver started impressively, as he covered the first stage in a time some 21 seconds faster than his nearest rival. A further three seconds were added on Stage 2, and another six seconds were added after stage three. At first service, Simon held a comfortable 30 second lead over his main rival on the event, Josef Sedlarek.
The snow covered stages were making life difficult for Simon, as every corner of every stage had to be perfect to avoid a costly slip up that could throw away the lead. The MAX Racing prepared Fabia was running perfectly, and Hughes was able to open his lead out further over the next loop of stages near to the town of Mochtin. Hughes's pace was un-relenting in the Fabia, and he ended the day with a near two minute lead over main rival Sedlarek.
The Saturday leg brought more consistent stages in terms of conditions, as patchy roads gave way to a more solid packed snow and ice covering. Using Michelin studded tyres for the very first time, Hughes knew that he just needed to control the pace from the front in order to win. Around 100 stages miles stood between Simon and an impressive debut victory. Sedlarek however, had other ideas. He began with an impressive display of driving and closed the gap to Simon by around 20 seconds on the first loop. Hughes responded with a string of fastest times over the next batch of stages to push his lead up over the two minute mark in the process.
With just three of the twenty stages remaining, Simon just had to keep the Fabia on the road, and that he did. Sedlarek took time back off Simon on the final loop to close the gap to one minute and forty eight seconds, but there was no denying Hughes and Patterson as they carefully picked their way through the final stage to take a fabulous victory.
'Its a dream start to the championship campaign' said Simon at the finish ramp. 'Josef (Sedlarek) has shown that he has the pace to be a real threat this season, as he took time out of us on a few stages, and we also took time from him. It was a really tough event to come and do - the level of concentration required was huge. You had to be so careful not to slide the car off the road - but at times it was so treacherous even 10mph felt too fast! MAX Racing also did a great job in preparing an excellent car - and also Glenn did a fantastic job on the notes and we both worked really well together.
Our tyre choices were good throughout and I have learned a massive amount on this rally, so the experience gained has been so worthwhile. With the next event likely to be on dry tarmac, I'm sure I'll get a better idea of the pace of the other drivers. Our margin of victory was flattering, especially as Sedlarek was very much on the pace with us through the event. I'm really looking forward to the next event now, and I will certainly try to match our 27th overall result on this event!'
Hughes will tackle the Valasska Rallye Vsetin next at the end of March, and takes a five point championship lead into the event. The Welshman will be keen to extend his lead in the series further after an excellent start. The twisty and sometimes hilly stages of the Vsetin based event will be another different challenge for Hughes and Patterson to cope with.