James Watkins ended his first year of rallying with a faultless drive on the Pembrey Christmas Stages last Sunday, bringing his MakeFast-backed Skoda Favorit home inside the top fifty.
The Welshpool based teenage, who was co-driven by Geoff Mayes, had never contested this particular rally before but still impressed by surviving the carnage inflicted opening stage which used not only the main racing circuit but also a number of the perimeter roads. With temperatures hovering just above freezing the circuit, particularly in the shade, was still icy and a number of cars failed to finish the opening test.
As the day progressed and his confidence built James, a sales assistant at Rally Marketing, began to push the little Skoda much harder and found that he was able to keep up with the more powerful cars through the twisty corners. But with the Skoda being possibly the most underpowered car in the field James and Geoff were embroiled in a battle with themselves, improving on the repeat runs through the stages all day long.
The only dramas were on the very last stage when the pair caught and past two other cars before sliding wide on a large patch of frozen mud, but James was able to gather it all together and returned to the finish with a fine 49th overall and eighth in class.
“I am very pleased to have finished this rally as I've had a few reliability issues recently,” said Watkins.
“So for that I must thank Geoff Jones Motorsport as the car did not miss a beat all day long. I must also say a big thanks to the organisers, who put on a smooth running rally.”
Watkins is planning to continue with the Makefast supported Skoda for 2009 as he aims to broaden his experience and is anticipating a run out on February 8.
The 19-year-old will be back in the public eye before then though as he will be assisting at the forthcoming Rally Forum in Welshpool, an event which will see a number of rallying celebrities in attendance. All proceeds from the evening will go directly to the Wales Air Ambulance. For more information on the evening please phone: UK 01938 553764.