Race queen Claire ready to claim chequered flag
3:16pm Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in Sport
An Amman Valley rally queen had claimed a UK title just 13 months after breaking her back.
Claire Williams from Betws clinched the 2013 FMP Rally Challenge at the weekend despite suffering a horrific fall last August that kept her out of racing until just seven months ago.
Undaunted by her injuries, fearless Claire, aged 24, was never in doubt she would reclaim her co-driver berth once back to full fitness.
“I was a nervous wreck getting back in the car afterwards,” said Claire, "but throughout my recovery, I focused on a return.
“In that first rally I could really feel every bump all the way up my spine.”
The FMP title – coupled with the Junior FMP Rally Challenge trophy – may well have seemed an impossible dream as she lay in agony just 13 months earlier, but claiming the championship is all the more incredible considering Claire only took up the sport in 2010.
“To be honest I had no interest in rallying when I was younger, but then I watched the Wales Rally GB in 2007 and it started to grow on me. In 2009 I went to watch the rally in Finland,” she said.
Bitten by the racing bug, Claire and her former partner – Brynaman racer Arwel Davies – got themselves a car and took up road-rallying.
“The better we got and the more finishes we achieved, the more I got noticed as a co-driver,” said Claire.
“I was approached and asked if I was interested in co-driving on some small-stage rallies and it began to grow from there.
“I have been slowly climbing the ladder ever since.”
Of late, it seems her progress has been anything but slow – apart from the major set-back of a broken back.
But her return to racing was never in doubt and it was at one of her first rallies back that she agreed to form a partnership that looks set to take UK rallying by storm.
“Although it was hard work, I was back co-driving on the Wyedean Rally in the February,” said Claire. “That is where I met Rachael.”
Rachael Patterson, a 25-year-old six-foot-two driver from near Bristol, was looking to team up with a new co-driver and after a few conversations a match-up with rising star Claire made perfect sense.
The glamorous duo will form the first all-female pairing anyone can remember for this year’s Wales Rally GB – back where it all began for Claire – in November and have agreed to compete together throughout 2014 in the Rachael Patterson Motorsport Peugeot 106 GTi.
“It is something I am really looking forward to,” said Claire. “Teaming up with Rachael is going to be great fun.”
The pair aim to use the spotlight that is sure to follow their starring role at Wales Rally GB to promote the work done by Refuge UK and raise awareness of domestic violence against women and children.
Next year they will look to compete in the BTRDA 1400cc Championship.
“Rallying has taken over my life,” she said, “and I cannot wait to get started.”
Despite her rise, Claire has no interest in getting behind the wheel.
“I have no interest in becoming a driver,” she said. “I am happy being a co-driver.
“After all, the co-driver is always right.”
Claire and Rachael would welcome new sponsors for their partnership and with the cameras sure to be focussing on the exploits of the race queens, there looks set to be plenty of businesses queuing up to share the spotlight.