A raft of engine upgrades to his turbocharged Citroen DS3 R3T proved key to success for rally driver Chris Wheeler, as he put in a strong drive to tenth place overall at the Get It Sideways Rally on Saturday (April 17th). Initial natural caution after the long Covid-enforced layoff soon turned to confidence in both the car and his partnership with co-driver Shaun Layland, allowing them to pick off rivals on their way up the leaderboard and finish fourth in Class D, for over 2-litre machines.
Wheeler and Layland were among a full entry of 70 crews at Down Ampney in Wiltshire, for 50 miles of competitive motoring. Organisers, Cheltenham Motor Club, had laid on ten Special Stages and with dry, sunny conditions at the former RAF base, the pace was high from the word go.
Having not rallied for 15 months, Wheeler took the opening five-mile stage cautiously, settling into a position just outside the top 20. However, as he got more familiar with the Citroen’s new power and handling set-up he pushed up the pace to set consistent times on the fringes of the top ten. The Citroen’s distinctive staccato exhaust note echoed across the airfield as he set about overhauling his rivals, climbing from 19th spot to 10th in just four stages. At the finish, a beaming Wheeler said “It’s great to be back with Shaun and the team. The car felt better with every stage, and we were really pushing the limits in the closing miles. Even so, the new set up will take some getting used to, but we are confident the potential is there for a successful season.”
Wheeler’s next outing is at Lydden Hill in Kent on May 8th, when he will make his debut in the BTRDA Clubman’s Rallycross Championship at the wheel of a 1600cc Ford Fiesta.
Writer: Ian Harden.