Monte Carlo Memories
I chose Monte Carlo as my debut in the World Rally Championship – may as well chuck yourself in at the deep end.
I was undecided whether to submit an entry. The consequences of a 16,000 Euros fine for any round I missed was the scariest thing ever. To be honest failure would ultimately mean bankruptcy and a career down the toilet. I asked my family what the hell I should do, “do what you think is best”, worst advice ever! After a long time thinking, I thought, if I can’t raise enough sponsorship in the top level World Rally Championship environment with all the amazing things it has to offer everyone, then the reality was there is no hope for me in the sport. Yolo, I went for it and entered, though on a stupidly tight budget… British winter road tyres, that just about work for getting you to a ski resort, not so great for racing down an alpine pass with 2000m drops.
I was driving a Ford Fiesta ST. The goal for me, first time out in the WRC and Production WRC Championship was simply learn, don’t crash, don’t break the car and get to the finish, sounds simple! I really did not want my debut WRC event going any other way. It was such a weird feeling being on the ceremonial start ramp, surrounded by all the amazingly loud WRC cars and me in the trusty slightly modified road going Fiesta ST. It was surreal. I definitely felt like I should not have been there, looking back I probably shouldn’t have, the WRC was such a massive leap.
The Col de Turini, it was insane. On either side of the road there were bonfires, thousands of fans leaping out in front of the car willing us on and as you approached the Col, letting off fireworks and aiming right in front of the car. I could barely see the road at times for the smoke and explosions. I was chuckling inside and finding it hard to concentrate, the fans enthusiasm, I’d never experienced such passion. You could hear them shouting and cheering above the flat out revs of the engine, proper loud. It was the most amazing atmosphere and like nothing I’d experienced in my life, just so special and you take that energy away with you.
On some of the Monte Carlo’s stages, you can enter a corner on dry tarmac but after the apex there can literally be ice covering the entire road. I am glad we chose to have an ice crew to run the course 2-3 hours ahead. At some points I literally could have walked quicker, with the tyres we had, there was no grip, only wheel spin, in fact, in only the second stage, I almost hit a bridge. I had to pull on all my Sweden techniques just in that one braking zone, nearly over so early.
There are some other strange memories that stick out. I do remember someone’s black Labrador running out on one of the stages and also a spectator in a van doing a three point turn in the middle of the same stage… I know. The best memory of all though, is being at the glamorous ceremonial finish outside the gorgeous Prince’s Palace and as I drove down the narrow street someone shouted in a very familiar accent “GOW MAYDSTOWNE!!” (…go maidstone) I will never ever forget that. You travel all the way to Monte Carlo and there is someone from your home town cheering you on, lol.
I was really proud to make it to the finish on a total budget less than my competitors tyre bills alone. I probably drove slower than your average granny at times on the ice just to guarantee the result. As an unplanned bonus we secured second place in PWRC and I became the first female driver to gain a podium place in the PWRC championship, who would’ve thought.