Marshall learns from the full Monte experience. Tuesday 27 January 2004. - [York] Yorkshire rally driver Olly Marshall contested his first ever Monte Carlo Rally at the weekend, and the 23 year old from Escrick came so close to grabbing his...
Marshall learns from the full Monte experience.
Tuesday 27 January 2004. - [York] Yorkshire rally driver Olly Marshall contested his first ever Monte Carlo Rally at the weekend, and the 23 year old from Escrick came so close to grabbing his first ever World Rally Championship point at the Monaco based classic.
Driving a ProSpeed Motorsport prepared Renault Clio Super 1600 car, Marshall and his Oswestry based co-driver Craig Parry were contesting the opening round of the 2004 Junior World Rally Championship in the mountain pass stages of the South of France. It was Olly's competitive debut in both the championship, the car, and the Monte Carlo Rally - arguably the most difficult and specialised rally in the World Championship due its never ending changeable road and weather conditions.
After a ceremonial start outside Casino Square in Monaco, the first competitive mileage lay around the hills of Gap, and Marshall had his first taste of driving on the tarmac, snow and ice that only the Monte Carlo Rally can offer. The Yorkshireman opting for a full snow tyre set up on the Clio for the opening batch of stages, as he learned just how treacherous the stages really can be.
Marshall and Parry picked their way through the opening tests with caution in the snow and ice, and held a solid top twenty placing within the ultra competitive Junior series. A brief flirtation with a stout wall on the final stage of the opening leg gave Olly some concern, but the ultra strong Clio had suffered only minor bodywork damage and the car was readied for the second day of competition, in the hills north of Nice.
Drier conditions greeted the team for Saturday leg of stages, with Marshall able to opt for slick tarmac tyres for the first time. Steady progress was being made during the day, with Olly sticking to his gameplan of learning the stages and keeping the car on the road. As the days action began to draw to a close, Olly had moved into a fine 12th in the Junior leaderboard, but disaster, as showcased by ITV in their rally coverage on TV, was literally just around one of the last corners of the last stage of the day.
Former World Champion Carlos Sainz had already been off on a left hand bend in the stage. Junior front runner Kosti Katjamaki had also fallen foul of the corner, and as Olly explained, he was soon to follow in the freezing hill fog:
"It was a fifth gear section, which is around 90-100 mph in the Clio. It was a deceptive part of the stage as the grip level had been relatively high in that final section to that point. In our notes we had the corner described as a "left 5", which is a fast corner in our pace note system. As I entered the corner, I could see the black ice appear just as we turned into the bend.
We came within inches of getting away with it, but the car hit the wall on the outside of the bend, smashing a wheel in the process. Unfortunately for us, this launched the car in the opposite direction of the road, and the car slipped off the road, ending up around 20 metres down the hillside. Both Craig and myself were ok, and on later inspection, it seems that the car is not too badly damaged, which is a major bonus."
Marshall was bitterly disappointed to have retired from his first attempt at the rally. The Monte had been a massive learning curve for the whole team, but Olly and Craig had both learned a great deal about the unique nature of the event. Attention turns to the next round of the JWRC - the Acropolis Rally in Greece. Rocky gravel stages in searing heat will be on the menu, so Marshall will have another examination of his car and team in Athens in June.
In the run up to the Greek event, Marshall is likely to contest a couple of National and International level rallies within the UK, starting with the Pirelli Rally in April.