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Early Christmas gift for university’s motorsport students

Christmas has arrived early for a group of students at a Shropshire university who have just finished a season competing in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship.


The students from Harper Adams University, Newport emerged from a meeting with key sponsor Malcolm Wilson, head of M-Sport, last Thursday with a new deal that will see them step up a class in 2018.


M-Sport, who won the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, loaned a Ford Fiesta R2 National rally car to the students this year. The company supplied the car shell and a kit leaving the engineering students to do the rest.


The motorsport giant has agreed to supply an upgrade kit for the car to be converted into an R2T for the 2018 season. This time, however, they have been invited to work alongside the M-Sport Poland team to prepare the new engine. A trip to Poland is planned early in the new year.


“Our meeting with M-Sport couldn’t have gone much better,” enthused Gareth Clarke, who will be stepping up from sponsorship manager to co-driver to James McDiramid in 2018, as predecessor Max Haines-Messenger has now graduated.


“M-Sport is to continue its support and is supporting upgrades to the car. They were happy with what we achieved this season and how we conducted ourselves.


“Our goal for 2017 was to finish the season, but we managed to do even better by achieving third in the Cadet Cup class consistently and were first in class and 14th overall in the last round on the Isle of Man, which was a massive high to finish on.


“Max was overall second co-driver in the championship and James was the overall fourth driver. They are scored individually and a lot of the other drivers swapped their co-drivers during the season, whereas Max stayed with James throughout.”


Harper Adams Motorsport team has been supported every step of the way by Shrewsbury-based Morris Lubricants, one of Europe's leading oil blenders and marketers.


The company began its association with Harper Adams Motorsport when the team was launched four years ago. Now the team is supported through the Morris Lubricants Racing (MLR) ambassadors programme and the company has been impressed by the students’ venture into the British Rally Championship.


The MLR programme aims to support grass roots British motorsport whilst at the same time promoting the company’s premium quality oils and lubricants.


“Morris Lubricants has supported us since our grassroots rallying days, when we bought our first car and competed in single venue events,” said Gareth. “We run the car totally on the company’s quality products.


 “It has been amazing to go to the next level with the company and they have helped us out with lubricants so many times at short notice.


“Trying to organise a rally team and study at the same time is really hard and there is no way that we could compete without the support of our sponsors. We are grateful to everyone for taking a chance on us.”


All but two of the students involved in the motorsport team are studying for a Masters degree in engineering.  Apart from the driver and co-driver, there are five mechanics and team manager, Will Coldicott. Many other students also provide support during prep and build fazes.


Dividing their time between their studies, preparing the rally car and organising the logistics of competing in rallies across the UK and as far away as Belgium is a major challenge.


The conflicting demands on their time often leave them with a dilemma: studies or rallying. In fact, the students had to pull out of the third rally of this season because they had an important exam the next day, although it was a close run decision.


“What we learn at Harper Adams theoretically can be transferred and applied straight onto the Fiesta which makes it brilliant real-life experience for us, especially to compete in the BRC – the pinnacle of UK rallying,” explained Gareth.


“Our experiences have already shown the benefits, as we have been approached for jobs when we graduate from Harper.”


Convincing the university about the merits of motorsport was a challenge, but the students are grateful for the “amazing” support of lecturer Ianto Guy and the engineering department.


The students are now excited about competing in a new car and stepping up to the junior class next year. “Our goal is to prove that we are not just here to take part anymore,” added Gareth. “We aim to be competitive and to continue our success in 2018”


“Next year is going to be even more difficult as we are starting to compete at a higher level. However, we have a lot more experience under our belts and I’m confident in the whole team’s abilities.”


The students are grateful for the camaraderie and support they have received from other rally teams this year. Mechanics from Spencer Sport helped the students during a challenging service in Belgium and supplied a gearbox and clutch for an overnight change after the Ford Fiesta R2 developed a problem on the first day of the Wales Rally GB.


“The guys from Spencer Sport saved our rally,” said Gareth, “and to top it all off we ended up finishing the Wales Rally GB seventh in the front wheel drive class.


“All the other teams didn’t know what to expect this season because we were unknown, but the atmosphere on the service parks is amazing with everyone wanting to help each other. Hopefully, we can repay them for helping us.”


Andrew Goddard, Morris Lubricants’ managing director, congratulated the students on their performance in the BRC this season. “It’s good to see that the Harper Adams University students are finding a successful balance between competing at a high level of motorsport whilst keeping up their education.

“Hopefully, this valuable experience will help them to build fulfilling careers in motorsport in the future.


“The MLR programme supports talented British drivers and riders whether they are already established in motorsport or climbing through the ranks. It also gives the company a platform to demonstrate that our quality oils and lubricants can cope with the highest demands of motorsport.”


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