Sam Bilham

Sam’s fast-track success

by Eric Beardsworth

Sam Bilham has been driving vehicles ever since he was able to reach the pedals aged seven, and now at the age of 20 he’s a rising star of motor sport having just clinched the MSA English Rally Championship.

I was thrown in at the deep end

Gunning his Ford Fiesta ST at speeds of up to 100 mph through the forests tracks, Yorkshire lad, Sam finished runner-up in the Fiesta ST Trophy. Along with his English title, he hopes to go one better in 2017 and add the Fiesta Trophy to his ever growing list of awards.

His achievements were recognised at the end of 2016 when he was awarded the £5,000 John Easson Award by the 2300 Club to help towards his 2017 campaign in a sp ort where success doesn’t come cheaply.

Motors run through Sam’s blood and he has been supported his by family and friends from day one. His dad Tony owns The Garage at Stanley Mills, Bingley and has been involved in motor sport for many years. Tony allowed him to drive an old Transporter van on private lanes as soon as he could reach the pedals.

For his 10th birt hday, Sam was given a day at a rally s chool where his turn in a fairly standard Ford KA so impress ed the operators that they let him drive a much quicker car later on his first day. At age12 he took up Go-Karting at an indoor track in Guiseley, managing to fit his hobby with his studies at Bingley Grammar School.

From Go-Karting Sam progressed to production car auto tests at clubs all over the country on private land such as car parks and airfields driving a bog standard Nissan Micra. There are plenty of e vents such as these all round the country and anyone interested should look on the go motorsp ort website, it will tell them where and how they can get involved.

When Sam turned 15 in 2011 he competed in his first actu al rally events, the final two of the 2011 season. “I was thrown in at the deep end,” he says, “but it was just a quest ion of trying to get to the finish and get my confidence up.”

In 2012 his first full season in The Junior 1000 Rally Championship Sam finished 11th overall in his Micra and was runner-up best new comer. The following year Sam finished fourth and was nominated for the Junior Rally Driver of the Year at the World Motorsport Expo Awards in
Cologne, Germany. He also earned The Next Big Step Scholarship giving him free entry into the BTRDA Gravel e vents in 2014.

Sam revelled in the forests still in the trusty Micra and took a whole host of class and championship wins in 2014 culminating in being awarded t he English Junior Rally Championship and also the RSF/MSA Young Driver of the Year Award. The latter award being presented at a star studded black tie dinner at the RAC club in London.

For 2016 Sam replaced the Micra with a 150bhp Ford Fiesta ST and entered the Fiesta ST Trophy events. It’s a very different car to the Micra, firstly it’s left hand drive and much more powerful. The car has a close ratio gearbox for quicker acceleration roaring up to 100 mph as the uprated suspension rides the bumps of the gravel forest tracks.

The events cost between five and six hundred pounds to enter, and that’s just part of the young driver’s cash outlay. Apart from the initial costs of the car, parts have to be replaced even when only part worn to avoid failure. Add the cost of lugging the car all over the country on a trailer and Sam’s sport costs at least £15,000 last year. “Unfortunately that’s the downside, but you have to accept the costs if you want to do it,” says Sam, whose full time job is an apprentice quantity surveyor and project manager with Calvert Construction of Addingham. He’s also studying for qualifications at Leeds College of Building.

Working, studying and rallying, that’s me in a nutshell

“Working, studying and rallying, that’s me in a nutshell, I don’t really do anything else. I guess I’m a bit boring. I get my kicks and adrenaline through rallying,” he laughs.

Sam is supported by Reis Motorsport Insurance, Mechanical Solutions, Pertemps Recruitment, The Next Big Step, Gareth Hopper Motorsport Services, Calvert Construction and The Garage at Stanley Mills, and if you get a split second to see his car flash by you’ll now see Northern Life stickers there.