Rally ace Claire speaks of race death sorrow

ON COURSE: Neil Matthews and Claire Williams at the Jim Clark Rally before tragedy struck. Pic: James Ward/Chicane Media.

SORROW: Rally ace Claire Williams has offered her condolences to the families of the three spectators who died at the Jim Clark rally.

First published in Sport

Ammanford rally ace Claire Williams has spoken of her sorrow after three spectators were killed at the Jim Clark Rally in Kelso.

The 24-year-old co-driver had teamed up with Neil Matthews in a Vauxhall Nova for the BRC Challenge Trophy and the pair found themselves holding fourth-spot overnight despite a series of technical problems when tragedy struck as one of the cars left the road and collided with a group of fans.

The event was immediately abandoned and although Williams was not involved in the incident, she – like all those competing - was deeply affected.

“The dangers of motorsport became a reality,” said Williams.

“The rally was immediately cancelled and there was a very sombre and sad feeling among competitors, organisers and spectators alike.

“The thoughts of everyone within the rallying community go out to all who were involved and the family and friends of those injured and deceased.”

The rally, hosted in the Scottish Borders town of Kelso, is held over two days and makes up one of the three tarmac rounds of the championship is the only closed road rally on mainland UK.

Following their solid 2nd place finish in the opening round, Williams and Matthews were gearing up to challenge for honours despite tarmac being far from Matthews’ preferred surface.

Williams however is more than at home on country lanes after forging her early career in Welsh lanes while competing in numerous road rallies before progressing to stage rallying.

“I have never competed on the Jim Clark before but I am very confident that my road rallying experience will serve me well especially at night,” she said before the event.

“Competing on navigational road rallies, I’ve always strived to compete on a closed-stage road rally.”

The first of 18 special stages was held in the middle of the Berwickshire town of Duns with hundreds of spectators gathering along the 1.2-mile stage on the cobbles around the town centre.

The slick surface proved an early undoing for the pair and they lost time due to a spin on the opening corner.

Their lack of grip was a sign of things to come for the remainder of the evening as their lack of confidence in the set-up and tyre choice saw them slide down the leaderboard.

“The set-up and tyre choice was all wrong and Neil had no confidence whatsoever in the car,” said Williams, “and I struggled to settle into a rhythm as a result so we were lucky to be fourth overnight.”

The pair’s service crew worked into the night to make necessary changes to the suspension and other components and early into the first stage on Saturday morning, the alterations looked to be paying dividends as they set a competitive time and moved up into third.

However, their rally came to an abrupt end when the Nova crashed through a hedge after coming over a small bridge at speed.

They came to a stop in a field without injury.

However, a short time later the fatal tragedy occurred elsewhere on the course and the competition was abandoned.

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