Natalie Barratt (25, Wilmslow) will be embarking upon her second Finnish rally adventure of the year next week when she takes part in the Neste Rally Finland (18-20 August), the 9th round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship. Natalie's ...
Natalie Barratt (25, Wilmslow) will be embarking upon her second Finnish rally adventure of the year next week when she takes part in the Neste Rally Finland (18-20 August), the 9th round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship. Natalie's previous trip to Finland was to Lapland for the Arctic Rally in January, where she endured temperatures as low as -30*C, and extremely hazardous driving conditions, to finish 47th overall and become the first British all-woman crew to finish the event since the 1970's. She will be looking forward to significantly milder conditions this time round. "The Arctic Rally was a great experience and we did well to finish in the snow, ice and freezing temperatures. But this is different, there'll be no snow this time and the forest roads are fast and flowing. It's one of the fastest events on the WRC calendar with lots of top gear stretches and I've heard there's plenty of yumps."
The Neste Rally Finland will be Natalie's third FIA World Championship Rally of the year, having previously competed in the Swedish (10-13 February) and the Catalonian (30 March-2 April) rounds. She is disappointed with her seeding for Finland which will see her start from 110th position, as opposed to the more representative 77th and 70th place start positions that she enjoyed in Sweden and Spain. However, it certainly takes the pressure off and will enable her to make serious in roads into the rest of the field as the event progresses.
In preparation for this and other forest-based events, Natalie has recently been working with British Rally Legend, Jimmy McRae, at Sweet Lamb in Wales, to enhance her technique on forest gravel. In their two days together Jimmy helped Natalie work on a number of areas she was struggling with and has instilled in her a new level of confidence before next week's event, but has prudently advised her to take it easy on her first visit to the Southern Finnish forests. Many British first timers have previously fallen foul of the temptation to go flat out in the lightning quick event and suffered early elimination. The event will be an important part of Natalie's learning curve and it is important that she finishes all three days to derive maximum benefit.
Natalie, along with the other Brits taking part, will be doing battle with the Finns in their own backyard. In no other event is home advantage so telling. Finland's Tommi Makinen has won 5 of the past 6 events, with compatriot, Juha Kankkunen winning last year after the four times world champion had been forced to retire. Invariably, the top ten places are dominated by Finns but close attention will be focused upon Britain's Richard Burns after his impressive second place finish last year.
Natalie's rallying tuition with Jimmy McRae also focused upon the preparation of her pace notes - an important tool for next week, particularly in light of Natalie inviting Joanne Lockwood (32, Bradford) to co-drive for her for the first time. Joanne was the winner of last year's Daihatsu Challenge and has had works co-driving experience alongside Geoff Jones in a Proton. Natalie comments:
"Joanne is an excellent co-driver and has a great record so far. Although it's her first World Rally Championship event, I'm confident we can work well together in Finland."
The Neste Rally Finland represents a return to serious rallying for Natalie; her previous two outings having been promotionally-motivated with members of the media alongside her as co-driver.
Natalie and Joanne are one of only 4 all-female driver/co-driver pairings in the rally, and the only all-female British entry. Natalie will be looking to get as close as possible to her Swedish counterpart, Pernilla Walfridsson (seeded 44) who is currently setting the standard for female rally drivers on the world stage and will be aiming for a top 3 finish in Group N. Natalie's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI qualifies for the Group N4 category in which there are no less than 49 entries and hers will be one of 50 Mitsubishi Lancer Evos starting the event. -ends-