A local rally driver is gearing up to compete in this year's Brean Rally in memory of her father.
Cheryl Spencer will be driving in the 22nd Brean Rally, which will be held during the weekend of 27th and 28th January 2018.
"I am taking part in the rally as a local girl returning home in memory and tribute to my late dad, Walter John Harris, who sadly passed three years ago this month," she told Burnham-On-Sea.com.
"He loved cars and speed and I have spectated many times and always said one day I would come and do this event."
"This year my wishes have come true and Brean Sands will be my first UK competition rally."
She added: "It will be a great opportunity for all our family to come together in memory of my dad and to support us."
"My rallying career began 11 years ago when we went to Barbados on holiday to spectate at the rally. I was invited by the Barbados rally chairman to take part as a first female driver the following year - and this is exactly what happened."
"I have been back four times and also taken part in rally days and track events. Last year I had the great honour of being accepted into the British Women Racing Drivers Club (BWRDC)."
"Im also involved with Rally For Heroes, who raise money for SSAFA, the armed forces charity, through motorsport events driving through Europe."
Cheryl and Barry Spencer from Portchester on the English south coast will be rallying in the Caribbean for the third time this year when they take part in Sol Rally Barbados 2014 slated for May 30 and June 1.
Cheryl will be the lone female driver, as local competitor Shannon Kirton has returned to co-driving for this year's rally. There are another ten female co-drivers include seven more from overseas, four of whom are newcomers to the event.
Having enjoyed a holiday in the island at rally time the previous year, Cheryl (Bell, as she was then) and Barry returned to compete in a Vauxhall Astra and got married at The Boatyard two days before Sol Rally Barbados 2008. Their first trip ended in disappointment, a wiring loom fire four stages from the finish causing retirement, but things went better the following year. They finished 31st overall and second in Production 3.
This year they will compete in the popular Clubman class in the Ford Fiesta formerly campaigned by Danny Williams.
Cheryl said: "I'm so excited to be doing Sol Rally Barbados 2014 and I'm back to burn rubber for the girls . . . so bring it on! A big thank-you to Chris Williams, who asked me to drive the car when he heard we'd booked a holiday to spectate, and to all our sponsors."
It's an age-old battleground for husbands and wives everywhere. But Barry Spencer actually gets a thrill when his partner, Cheryl, pulls on her driving gloves. While other couples might find themselves embroiled in petty disagreements over missed turns and their partner's bad driving habits, the Spencers are untroubled by such matters. In fact, Barry's only too happy to pass the car keys to his missus – especially when they're clambering into their rally car and charging around at speeds of up to 90mph.
Bucking the stereotype even further, Barry takes the role of map reader and serves as Cheryl's co-driver during rallies.
The husband and wife team will take on the Rally of Barbados next month and this will be the second time they've competed in the event. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, they combined taking part in their first ever rally there in 2008, with getting married. And as they prepare to fly out to take part again, they're looking forward to celebrating their first wedding anniversary as part of the build-up.
These passionate motor sport fans first attended the Barbados rally as spectators. But when the organisers urged them to take part – and suggested that Cheryl should be the driver – they decided to return as competitors in 2008. Cheryl was the only female driver and attracted hordes of fans on the hunt for her autograph.
This year she'll be the only woman driver again, when she gets behind the wheel of their £4,500 Astra – although there will be nine other female co-drivers.
‘I absolutely love it, I've always been a bit of a petrol-head,’ says Cheryl. ‘I wanted to drive and Barry's supportive.
‘Being grandparents, and having grown-up children, I always thought I wanted to do this, but never dreamt that we would.
‘We thought we'd got to do it. When you've got the opportunity, you've got to take it.’
Barry adds: ‘I always played with the idea of co-driving and looked forward to the challenge of that. Cheryl tends to do the driving at weekends anyway, because I do a lot of miles through work.’
‘She's a very good driver.’
The car-mad pair, from Portchester, have to stay 100 per cent focused on the job so there's simply no time for petty squabbles while competing. One wrong turn can spell disaster. If proof were needed that rallying can be dangerous, then the sight of Cheryl and Barry's blood types displayed in bold on the side of their car should be enough.
Cheryl, 47, is solely responsible for driving the car during the 24 timed stages, while Barry shouts out instructions from his notes, over the helmet headset. The couple recce each timed stage together before the start, working out how fast each twist and turn can be taken, and looking for obstacles that might get in their way.
‘We totally trust each other's judgment so I guess being married does help,’ explains Barry, 49.
‘I'm always thinking ahead around the next corner. You keep yourself focused on that next corner. I totally trust her.
‘Maybe 90 per cent of the time I'm reading off the instructions, with just a quick glance up to confirm that we are where I think we are.
‘I'm not looking at what she's doing, I'm reading off what comes next.’
Cheryl, a bodyshop administrator, adds: ‘You can't think where you are, I don't know whether there's a corner. I rely completely on Barry. I'm driving to what he's telling me. If you turn left, instead of right, it's a brick wall.
‘The trust comes in because you really rely on what he's saying.’
So far they've not crashed the car but there was a close call last year when Barry mistakenly called out the wrong direction.
‘We didn't hit anything,’ he explains. ‘I called 90 right and it was the corner that was 90 left. We approached that at about 60mph.
‘Cheryl was on the left-hand side, ready to turn into the right, until we turned the corner and I looked up and saw the ditch. We stopped and skidded, half side-ways.
‘It shook our confidence for a couple of corners but Cheryl took a deep breath and we got focused.’
Despite the setback, they did well but were forced to retire on the penultimate stage, when their car filled with smoke. This year, they are desperate to finish what they started, when the two-day event kicks-off on May 30. They've already attracted vital sponsorship from Cheryl's employers, A&J Lawrence, as well as ABS embroidery and other businesses, to fund their attempt.
In 2008, they were sponsored by Eden Vauxhall and decided to keep that as their team name, despite not receiving funding from the garage this year.
Without their sponsors they would have to find the money to take part themselves so they're grateful for all the help they receive. And they love the fact that taking part gives them a passion to enjoy as a couple.
Barry, a restoration supervisor, says: ‘It's a big joint effort. It's a shared dream.’
That's exactly what Cheryl and Barry Spencer thought when they decided to go to Barbados and take part in the country's annual motor sport event. Not even the fact that they would have their hands full taking part in their first rally could put them off making the decision to tie the knot at the same time.
While other brides might like to plan every detail of their big day down to the last detail, Cheryl had to hope and pray her preparations would come together. And just one day after getting hitched, they were putting their marriage to the test when they began charging around in the rally car together.
‘The flowers turned up on the day of the wedding and it was just the finishing touches that we had to do,’ says Cheryl.
‘We didn't see any of it until we got out there, it was really difficult, but with the decision to do the rally as well we thought, what will be, will be.’
Rally driver, Ryan Champion, gave Cheryl away and Stand By Me was playing in the background.
‘It was just what we wanted, probably better than we wanted,’ says Barry. ’It was fantastic.’
Their official honeymoon lasted one day before it was back to business and they were sitting in their car, waiting for the start, just 24 hours later. Barry says: ‘I was exhilarated more than scared. The adrenaline just kicks in and you just have to do what you can. It was unreal.’ Cheryl – who likes to carry a lipstick in the pocket of her race suit – adds: ‘The hardest part is the heat. There's nothing glamorous about it. It's 90 degrees celsius outside the car and inside it's even hotter.’
Last Updated: 07 April 2009 3:31 PM
Source: The News