Last time out, mg-xpower.com editor Andy Stobart was sat in the passenger seat next to MG XPower rally driver Gwyndaf Evans. Despite Gwyndaf's high-speed antics, Andy remained calm. Now it's his turn to scare Gwyndaf...

Professional rally drivers are doing their job because they know what they are doing, and because they're good at it. But when part of their job involves PR days, where they have to sit beside a variety of members of the press and sponsors, the situation can often get interesting.

Frequently, it's a case of the professional drivers doing their thing and showing their skills to a collection of passengers, who will no doubt be impressed and in awe of their skills. Seldom does this go wrong, unless you're sat next to a particularly eager young Antonio Pizzonia, who famously started his Jaguar PR role as an F1 driver by rolling an S-Type with a journalist beside him...

More commonly the problems arise when members of the press take to the steering wheel of competition machinery with the professional driver beside them. Press days at race circuits usually mean the creation of rather a lot of scrap metal, and launch days often move this scrap metal creation to the public roads.

But here we are at Oulton Park, sat in an MG ZR rally car with me at the wheel, and Gwyndaf in the passenger seat. I've never driven a rally car before, but, of course, I consider myself to be a pretty handy driver...

Being one of the last to go out I've watched other members of the press out in action, and I'm pretty confident I'm going to put in a better performance than I've seen so far. There's two courses being used, one is mainly tarmac, the other far more muddier. The track I want to attack is the tarmac one as it'll be faster, and it was used as the entry road to the car park at the BTCC round at Oulton, so I can vouch that it's rather good fun.

Then, as the day nears its end, and my go in the car comes up, the heavens open. The track I'm to use is the mud one, and the tyres we're on are far from the correct ones for a wet, muddy mock rally stage. Should be fun.

Out in the car and for a practice lap. Things are very, very slippery. This should be about preserving momentum, as accelerating in these very slippery conditions is very difficult - despite the ZR only being the 1400cc model you can spin in first, second and third going up the gears, and if you were to try you could probably spin in the other gears too.

Of course I'm right on the hand brake, but it's the lack of front end grip that's catching me out. Boris the sopping wet photographer is enduring the rain to get some shots of the action, so we're got to get some silly sideways action, only my efforts mean we're very sideways, and the windscreen is filled with a rather large pole that holds the sign signifying the start of the stage. Oops.

I'm going to have to go cap in hand to MG Sport and Racing rally car supremo Brian Griffin and explain how the editor of the official MG Sport and Racing website was the only person to damage one of his cars, after an otherwise problem free day.

But, somehow, we miss the pole, though we stop millimetres short of it. A quick reverse, and we're back at it. Gwyndaf's doing a commentary now [ to appear in the audio section of www.mg-xpower.com ] and he's giving advice as well as enjoying my rather silly antics in the car.

Still haven't managed to scare him however. There is a big, wide corner at the top of the stage, and the corner drops away at the outside. It might be possible to roll the car there... but I'd have to go with rather more than cap in hand to the MG Sport and Racing team, and the lads would have more than a little extra work added to their jobsheets. Better not then.

I settle for a 270? handbrake turn on the corner, and which Gwyndaf laughs and exclaims for the commentary "and he's stalled it!" We drive back to the service area, this Gwyndaf's going to be rather more difficult to scare than first thought. Next time I want dry tarmac and the right tyres, there's nothing like a bit more speed to excite the senses.

I'll get you next time, Gwyndaf, next time...

 

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