Paul Smith left to ponder on what could have been after off-track disaster
PUBLISHED: 11:30 26 October 2015
Kingsbury rally driver Paul Smith was left to rue what might have been after an off-track incident put paid to his chances of reigning victorious in this year's Rally Yorkshire.
Smith, out to make amends for the mechanical failure that befell his 1.4L Volkswagen Polo in the previous event at the Woodpecker Stages in Shropshire, teamed up with Twickenham co-driver Ian Harden for the course.
Just like last year, it was held at the Pickering Showground and saw competitors tackle iconic forestry roads in the North York Moors, including the legendary Dalby forest.
The Yorkshire event, which has been running every year bar one since 1977, was made up of 10 rally championships, most recently including the MSA English Rally Championship and the BTRDA Rally First Series.
Smith and Harden enjoyed an impressive start over the first two stages, beating a collection of more powerful cars as they looked on course for victory.
However, disaster struck on the penultimate stage that ultimately proved fatal to their chanches of finishing the rally and picking up crucial championship points.
Within a few hundred metres of the finish of the 6.35 miles Staindale stage of the course, the crew slid off the road at a tight left-hand corner, which had already claimed 19 other cars that day.
They landed heavily in the undergrowth of tree stumps and bracken after being launched into the air by a bank of earth that had formed on the outside of the corner, due to the passage of preceding cars.
The crew eventually extracted their VW Polo with the help of onlooking spectators and managed to limp to the end of the stage with steam pouring out from under the bonnet.
On the following road section linking the Staindale stage with the final stage, Dalby, the crew pulled up to have a closer look at the damage. They found that the landing had pushed-in the front bumper, radiator and fan and a large portion of soil had attached itself to the front of the car.
After spending the best part of 15 minutes extracting rocks, branches and mud from the lower-front-bumper section of the car as well as the engine bay, the crew attempted to continue, but it was soon apparent that that the car’s cooling system had been holed and it would be wiser to retire from the rally than cause further damage by destroying the engine from overheating.
Speaking after the event Smith said: “This was the only mistake we made all day, but mistakes in rallying are, more often than not, cruelly punished.
“Unlike circuit racing there is no artificial grass or tarmac run-off area where you can run wide before re-joining the track unscathed.
“There is just no room for an error like this in rallying – a minor misjudgement will often end your event, as it did for me.”