Headache and celebration come hand-in-hand in motorsport as we’ve seen this weekend. For Richard and I the biggest heartache came on Rally GB 1997.
In motorsport there are always winners and losers but you couldn’t help feel the pain of those ‘nearly’ winning this weekend; the #7 Toyota at Le Mans, Ott Tanak in Sardegna or Anton Marklund in Norway. For Richard and I Rally GB 1997 was ‘nearly’ our first WRC victory when we picked up a puncture midway through the final day. Although we had won New Zealand in 1996 that was not a full WRC round that year but we didn’t have long to wait for the first victory to come on Safari in 1998.
We came to GB in 1997 off the back of 4x fourth places in a row and were keen to buck that trend, although after the first day of ‘Mickey Mouse’ stages round various stately homes and race tracks we were in our now usual fourth place, 14secs behind Colin who was leading. At just before 07:30 the next morning in Radnor Forest that all changed. It was only just getting light and was really foggy when we started the stage. The first thing Richard did as we left the start line was switch off the spotlights. They were just reflecting back in the fog making it even harder to see anything so he preferred to rely on shadows and his pacenotes. We would often make alternative ‘fog notes’ for straights so that I could count down the distances accurately and that certainly worked well that morning. Looking back it was pretty brave, if not actually stupid for me to be telling him not to lift or brake as there was still a couple of hundred meters before the corner.
We started to see some tail lights near the end of the stage and realised it was Didier and thought he must have a problem especially as he didn’t stay with us after we passed him. Then we saw the times at the end and we were 1min 33 quicker than Colin and had taken the lead. The rest of the day Colin fought back hard and we ended equal overnight. The final morning we were 14secs up after 2 stages when we got a puncture in Rhonnda and lost over 4mins when the car fell off the jack. We were gutted, and finished fourth, again...