Simon takes charge of Jersey Rally

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‘LOGISTICALLY, it’s a nightmare.’

For the last five years, the lead organiser of the Jersey Rally has been Mick Cotillard.

But this year, he has handed over control to Claire Simon.

She has been involved in the rally for 25 of the 39 years it has been running.

It all started when she was a machine operator at Plémont sandpit and her dad said she should use her big digger to pull some of the cars out of whatever ditch they found themselves in.

Simon fell in love with the rally and she has fulfilled various roles ever since, from marshalling to clerking and competing.

With Covid-related restrictions now more or less in the back-view mirror, this year’s edition is expected to be bumper edition, with many drivers and their co-pilots bringing their car to compete from the UK again.

The attraction, according to Simon, is the relativeness uniqueness that Jersey offers as a rally event, compared to those in Britain.

‘It’s attracted so many people,’ she says. ‘It’s very technical. The roads are small. It’s got fast bits and slow bits. It’s very different and very hard on the driver.

‘We’ve got a lot of people who come back on a regular basis and a lot of new faces too.’

One of those newbies to the Jersey Rally experience is talented young driver, Frankie Bird.

The 23-year-old currently competes in the ADAC GT Masters Series in touring cars in Germany.

But he is trading in his Mercedes AMG GT3 for a Ford Fiesta Rally 2 this week.

With names like Bird flying over, it provides spectators with an added attraction alongside local household names such as last year’s champion Ross La Noa – and for Simon the onlookers are as much a part of the experience as the drivers.

‘We get a lot of support,’ says Simon. ‘A lot of people love it. Residents have called me and said they can’t wait to go and watch it.

‘It brings in a lot of revenue to the Island too. We’ve got hotels and ferries all fully booked up.’

Since she was involved in rally driving, doors have opened for Simon to be involved in UK rallies too, including the prestigious Wales Rally GB and the Roger Albert Clark rally.

‘The best thing I have done with rallying apart from compete is going for a drive with [former World Rally champion] Petter Solberg around the Prodrives track. And I have also had the privilege to drive the late Drew Bowler’s very own Bowler.’

Now she is focused on doing the final bits to get the Jersey Rally ready and without a hitch.

‘It’s always a challenge. There’s always a few things that throw up in front of you.

‘It takes a lot to organise. I have enjoyed but it’s a hard slog. But I have been helped by some incredible and amazing people.’

The 2022 Jersey Rally begins on Friday and continues into Saturday.

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