While most of us will be spending this week in Scotland thinking we’re pretty lucky to get 19 degrees of warmth and a few extra hours of sun, Colin Smith and Craig Chapman are experiencing a whole different kind of hot in Sardinia. They’re away for a few days of sunbathing, swimming and leisurely lunches in olive groves. Oh, and I nearly forgot to metion they also have the small matter of a rally to tend to.
This weekend sees the Rally d’Italia Sardegna, the latest round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Having set the stages alight in a battered Peugeot 205 GTi and stolen the show at the season-ending Rally of Scotland in a hired Honda Civic, Colin and Craig opted to try something a bit different for 2010. Rather than doing a full season in a Subaru or Mitsubishi, the young gentlemen from Aberdeenshire pulled together a four-event programme that would see them challenge for honours in the IRC’s two-wheel drive championship. A left-hand drive Honda Civic Type-R (EP3 shape for the nerdier among you) was acquired from the Low Countries, shipped back to the UK and stickered up with Smith and Chapman’s sponsor logos. With no other Scots competing on either the World Rally Championship or the IRC to this extent, it means that Colin and Craig are effectively Scotland’s highest-level ambassadors for rallying (well, until Dave Weston Jr’s planned IRC debut later in the year).
The rally doesn’t start until Friday, but the boys have been out in Sardinia for a few days already, and today began their reconnaissance runs of the stages. Unlike Scottish Championship events, in the IRC crews make their own pace notes – this is a vital skill for any aspiring rally competitor to learn, and is one of many reasons Smith and Chapman opted to go down the international route for this year. Craig says that he and Colin were in the car for eleven hours straight doing their recce today, and more is scheduled for tomorrow. With an itinerary like that, I suspect the crew will be asleep the second their heads hit the pillows tonight.
Colin reports that the service crew – and just as importantly the car – have made it to Sardinia in one piece, so the driver and navigator can relax a little now that they know they’ve got something to drive and somebody to fix it. There was talk of some good food and brilliant weather yesterday, and the pictures I’ve been sent of their living quarters are enough to make Donald Trump jealous (yes, I know I’ve just been in Japan for a month, but the grass is always greener on the other side and all that…)
Everything seems to be on track for SCR Sport and their Honda Civic Type-R at the moment – but the trip nearly hit trouble before the team had even left the UK. On arrival at London Gatwick on the first flight of the journey, Colin picked up the wrong bag from the luggage carousel and continued to the hotel he and Craig would be staying in overnight before their connecting flight, blissfully unaware of his error. It was only when he turned his phone on before going to sleep that he received a voicemail from the airline telling him that he may have collected the wrong luggage – leaving his actual suitcase with helmet, race suit and other accoutrements behind at the terminal! Thankfully the airline had identified Colin’s luggage and a painless swap was made a few hours later, at no cost other than several hours’ sleep.
The recce continues for Colin and Craig tomorrow, and the rally itself gets underway on Friday. I’ll be keeping you all posted on their progress as and when I receive information, but you might also want to check out http://www.scr-sport.co.uk to find out more about the team and their IRC campaign. As I said, at this very moment they’re arguably Scotland’s highest-ranking rally crew…