Mechanical woe for Marshall in Wales
[York] Escrick driver Olly Marshall enjoyed his debut outing on the World Rally Championship this weekend, as the 22 year old took on the very best in the world at the Cardiff based Wales Rally GB in his Peugeot 206 Super Cup Car with Welshpool's Craig Parry on the pace notes.
Marshall had climbed to an impressive 44th overall on the four day rally held in the famously challenging forests of South and West Wales. Unfortunately for the Kumho Tyres shod driver, a differential failure in the Peugeot's transmission forced Olly to retire on SS13 of the rally.
Marshall started the long rally steadily in his ProSpeed Motorsport run machine. The final round of the World Rally Championship is nearly twice or three times as long as the rallies Marshall has been contesting this season, and the young Yorkshireman decided to settle himself into the rally on the long opening stages of Brechfa and Trawscoed.
As the rally moved into the forests around the village of Glyn Neath, Marshall encountered his first problem of the event, when the Peugeot's rear suspension dampers overheated in the near 43 kilometre long Resolven stage. The stage contained rough sections which didn't help the Kumho backed machine, as Marshall returned to service for a precautionary suspension change.
A switch to a slightly harder compound Kumho gravel tyre also gave Olly renewed confidence as he headed for the final loop of second day stages. The Peugeot crew ended the day with a blast round the Cardiff Bay "Super Special Stage", where Marshall was unfortunate to lose the car's washer bottle after a heavy landing on the spectator friendly test. Despite that problem, Olly and Craig returned to the overnight halt in Cardiff happy to have kept the learning experience going, after an enjoyable but tiring day of rallying.
Saturday morning would see the crews venture north to the forests of Halfway and Crychan. Early riser Marshall was very much into his stride on the classic gravel stages, as he began to climb the leaderboard that was being dominated by more powerful front and four wheel drive opposition. With the ProSpeed man running near the back of the field, conditions could be very changeable in the stages, so concentration and focus was vital as Olly continued to press on.
Overheating dampers had given a slight cause for concern on the second visit to Resolven once again, but the ProSpeed Motorsport mechanics immediately restored the Peugeot to full health for the final loop of stages on the penultimate day, both held within the Margam Forestry complex.
Despite having driven on some of the roughest sections of stages he could remember in his short driving career, Marshall had not had any punctures on the rally up until the twelfth stage of the rally. A front right puncture with five miles to go didn't cost the team a huge amount of time, and Marshall and Parry changed the tyre at the end of the stage before setting off to Margam Park for the thirteenth stage. Unfortunately, it was to be an unlucky 13 for Olly and Craig.
Approaching junction 10 of the stage, Marshall accelerated out of a hairpin, but the car immediately revved far higher than normal, without any forward motion. Olly tried to select a gear, including reverse, but unfortunately the cars differential had broken, and all drive to the wheels had gone. It had been a hard fought battle to keep the 206 on the road at times due to the ruts in places, but Olly had no option but to retire. The biggest challenge of his rallying career had unfortunately come to a premature end:
"I was really disappointed to have to retire" commented Olly after being towed from the stage. "The Kumho Tyres had been working really well on the event once we switched to a harder compound, and the 206 also stood up really well to the rough stages. There was no warning that the differential was going to let go, so it was incredibly frustrating to have to park up so close to the end of the penultimate day.
However, you have to take the positives out of the weekend. We wanted to gain experience of the World Rally Championship, and we certainly did that. The other key objective was to get as much mileage as possible from the event, to gain better knowledge of the stages. With a few of the stages being used more than once, we were able to gather a lot of information from the stages.
The Rhondda stage was the only test that we didn't get to compete over, so we really have learned a lot, and we've also shown that the ProSpeed Motorsport team can cope with the rigours and demands of rallying's biggest stage. Overall, both Craig and myself were delighted with what we achieved as a whole team, but equally, we were both very disappointed not to reach the end of what was a brilliant rally.
Marshall now returns to the team base in Sherburn-in-Elmet near York to prepare for the final of the Prospeed Motorsport Rally Scholarship this coming Friday. Six drivers will compete for the prize of a fully funded drive in the Peugeot 206 Winter Cup, held over three rallies in 2003/4. Judges on the day include Jonny Milner, the double British Rally Champion, and other industry experts who will choose a worthy winner from drivers based in such diverse places as South Africa, the Czech Republic, and North Wales!