04 Jun Essex rally driver Nabila Tejpar takes maiden World Rally Championship class podium
Nabila Tejpar battled searing heat, relentless dust and tough road conditions to score her first FIA World Rally Championship class podium at Vodafone Rally de Portugal last week (31st May – 2nd June), taking third in RC4 and 31st overall behind the wheel of her Peugeot 208 R2.
In only her fifth ever WRC event, Tejpar overcame a puncture and a trip into the scenery to secure her best result in the series. Co-driven by Max Freeman, the duo would also contest the Peugeot Rally Cup Iberica section of the event which took place over the opening leg of the arduous rally, finishing 11th.
Tejpar, 25-year-old from Maldon in Essex would head to Portugal as part of her Iberica Cup campaign but would seize the opportunity to contest the full World Championship round in a bid to gain more experience of the events for the future.
Over 300km of special stages were on offer packed into three long days with Saturday housing over half the competitive distance. From the rally base in Coimbra, the tests would centre around the mountainous windfarm-clad scenery high in the hills, with a very soft and sand-like surface to contend with.
An iconic event on the world tour, Rally Portugal would be a test of both crew and car with many front running crews hitting issues early on. Tejpar would indeed suffer the same fate, with a spin on the Gois stage, losing a chunk of time in the process. A sensible approach to the remaining morning loop was required as Tejpar soon discovered the second pass of the stages in the afternoon brought their own issues.
“I had an idea that that the conditions would be difficult out there, but I didn’t think the stages would be this rough on the second pass,” she said.
“I’ve literally had to pick my way through the ruts and boulders just to make sure we get around. It’s certainly not giving us great stage times, but I need to keep getting the mileage under my belt”.
Just six stages made up Saturday’s leg but the gigantic 37.60km Amerante stage run twice, took the overall distance that day to over 165km. The notorious stage would also hamper Tejpar’s progress through the day after getting the Peugeot beached in the soft surface. That was followed by a puncture and having to stop and change the offending flat saw her drop down the timesheets.