World record adventurer Richard Parks swapped his ice pick for a co-driver’s crash helmet yesterday in Builth Wells as the world’s top rally crews revved up for Wales Rally GB, the final and title deciding round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. The former Welsh rugby international was ‘blown away’ by a passenger ride alongside top British rally ace Matthew Wilson.
It was a new and thrilling experience for Parks who has already experienced multiple highs this year having conquered the globe in 2011. After being forced to take an early retirement from rugby in May 2009 due to a shoulder injury, Parks decided to embark on an epic challenge which would see the 34-year-old set a new world record via a unique 737 Challenge. In July he became the first person to stand on the highest summit in each of the world’s seven continents as well as all three poles (the South Pole, the Geographical North Pole and the summit of Everest) in the same calendar year. Amazingly Parks completed this remarkable feat in less than seven months, raising funds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.
“Wow! That was absolutely incredible,” grinned the intrepid Parks after his memorable ride in the Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car run by the M-Sport Stobart World Rally Team. “I’ve always been interested in motor sport but that just blew me away. I had no idea what to expect but the speed and especially the stopping power I experienced was out of this world. These guys have phenomenal car control. I’m very grateful to Matthew, the M-Sport Stobart team and the WRC for this unforgettable experience. I wish him and the team the best of luck over the weekend and hope that they can end the year with a good result for the British and Welsh fans.”
Following yesterday’s non-competitive pre-event ‘shakedown’ test, Wales Rally GB bursts into action tomorrow afternoon with a spectacular opening pair of speed tests on the winding cliff-face road around the Great Orme headland on the North Welsh coastline. The timed special stages then switch to more familiar territory on muddy tracks in the slippery Welsh forests before the 2011 WRC World Champion is crowned in Cardiff on Sunday.
French star Sebastien Loeb, competing for Citroen Total World Rally Team, enters the event gunning for an unprecedented eighth straight WRC title and with it eclipsing Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven FIA World Championship crowns. The Frenchman, though, only holds a slender eight-point lead over Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen who lines up for the UK-based factory Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. With 25-points available for a win, the title race remains wide open and a dramatic finale to the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship is guaranteed.
– Credit: www.wrc.com.