|James Wilson in action on the Cavan Stages Rally (Pic by Adam Hall).|
What an exciting year in rallying it is for twenty-three year old James Wilson from Keady, as now the family team prepare the left hand drive Philip White Tyres backed Peugeot 208 R2 for the Ypres Rally in Belgium, the second round of the British Rally Championship (BRC), writes Andrew Bushe. The event based around the famous town of Ieper, so poignant from the World War 1 battles, will witness some of the best rally stars in the world battling from the 21 - 23 June.
The famous Belgian tarmac closed roads await James for the first time and he’s heard a lot about them. “Some of my main rivals have competed on the rally before and it’s a reputation for being tricky. The weather will be hot but we could be on softer compound tyres than normal due to the smooth roads and the big cuts that are taken. It’s a big experience for us and we have to treat it as part of our learning curve this year in the British Championship” said the young engineer whilst working at his day job in Road Tankers Armagh.
Rallying is a national sport in Belgium and current World Rally Championship leader Thierry Neuville will be present on the event, which counts for the Belgian Rally series and is one of the most famous rallies on the globe. It’s a long trip from Keady, County Armagh to Ieper Belgium, and the back-up crew of Trevor Wilson, Nigel Wilson and Phil Gillespie will set off on the Tuesday evening to reach there on Thursday, whilst James and his Co. Derry co-driver Gavin Doherty fly out on the same day to arrive and engage in the pre event recce making the all-important pace-notes. “It’s totally new for us, the first time the family has really rallied abroad as such, it’s an adventure for sure. We know there will be some local crews who will be very fast, but we need to try and see where our BRC rivals are and aim to finish also. We have a fourth placed finish on round one of the BRC in Carlisle forests to build on and try to keep the points coming in.”
As a warm up to Ypres, and with help from faithful sponsor Tec Industrial, James and Gavin took the Peugeot 208 R2 to the Cavan Stages Rally, trying the Kumho tarmac tyres for the first time, and ended up an impressive nineteenth overall, and second in R2 by just six seconds. “The tyres were excellent, they worked really well, and we think we can make further improvements to the car to suit them also, so that was a good confidence booster.”
Another confidence booster came in April with a nomination from Motorsport Ireland for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award, a prize worth €50,000. It was following James’s debut R2 win on the opening Valvoline Irish Forestry round in Carrick on Suir that the nomination was announced, and it’s given the team an extra goal to aim for. “It’s an award that would mean so much, there have been many great drivers to win it and to be nominated was an honour, I still can’t believe it.”
With final car preparations undertaken at the James Wilson Garage Services premises in Keady, under the watchful eye of his father Trevor, uncle Glenn, granddad James Snr.and grandma Hilary, all seasoned rally competitors, the Wilson family effort is all being directed to James Jnr. He has already added to the family tally of Irish Tarmac Championship class wins last year, but can he take the family rallying legacy further? Now the team set sail for Belgium and to battle in Ieper, and hopefully they can continue the excellent run in 2018.