A chat with Chris Wheeler- The comeback is on.

Last year during The Nicky Grist Stages, Chris Wheeler suffered a big accident. He very kindly agreed to have a chat with me about his recovery and the rebuild of himself and his DS3 R3.

Chris looks pretty happy!

Warren

Your accident was last year in June, if my memory serves me correctly?

Chris

My accident was in July last year on Epynt. This year have been a rebuild year, using just small events to get my confidence back while the DS3 has been rebuilt.

Warren

Yes, a good thing to do. Back in your Fiesta. Must have been a bit of a shock, after the high tech DS3?

Chris

The DS3 is a completely different world compared to the Fiesta, it has been enjoyable to drive but it has been a shock to the system. On the Stages it feels like the time is just bleeding away down the straight’s as it is under-powered compared to the DS3, but it has been the ideal way to get back into a rally car & get my pace built up again.

Warren

Yes, it was a good plan indeed. Tell me, did your dad co-drive you when you first started? He’s been alongside you through all the events this year.

Chris

When I first started, I did not have my dad co-drive for me, I had a family friend sit in with me first of all before Yan came along. This has been the first year that my dad has sat with me.

Warren

Ah, that must have been interesting!

Chris

It has been very interesting season, even though it’s been dad’s first season in the car with me he has done a great job getting me through the stages.

Warren

Would you say you’ve got closer because of it, or were you very close anyway?

Chris

We were close anyway before this season as we do work together on a daily basis but if anything it has made us closer together.

Warren

That’s good. Just thinking about the car rebuild then- What did you first think when you first saw the damage to it?

Chris

I first saw the damage when I got lifted out of the car soon after the accident, I got the doctors to turn me round so I could look back at the car, I was devastated once I saw it. My personal opinion was that it would never go again, but luckily, I am proved wrong.

Warren

I think I can imagine that. When did the work start to rebuild the car?

Chris

The work started just one week after the accident, & has been a long & hard journey since then to get the car running again.

Warren

Wow, yes. 15 months? Could you list what was done?

Chris

To list the full, rebuild but would take too long. Here’s a few ideas, Complete new feline end right up to the windscreen. Bumper, bonnet, windscreen, engine, radiator, gearbox, under guard, water pipes, scuttle, the roof had to be done to get them dents out & also the rear quarter of the car.

Warren

Yes, I realised when I asked that one that it might be a long list… Who did the work to get him stage ready?

Chris

All work was done by my dad to get this car ready again, every weekend putting in a lot of hours to get me back out there again.

Warren

Oh, wow. Just to ask, what is the feline end?

Chris

Opps sorry, autocorrect, meant to say front end.

Warren

Ah, hahaha!

Chris

Haha that’s phones for you.

Warren

Definitely! Just thinking back to the beginning, did your dad think the car could be rebuilt?

What a cool car. Ready for the night stages!

Chris

It was touch & go for a while, nothing was ever certain until our first test to see if the car would handle & steer straight. Once we got our testing, it all became worth while, the car is perfect & now ready to go!

Warren

Right, so until you actually drove him, you didn’t really know for definite if was going to be okay?

Chris

No, it was never certain until our first test, we were confident, but never certain.

Warren

Okay. Thinking then about the test, where did you go and did you have a list of things to kind of tick off?

Chris

We tested at Llandow Race Circuit in South Wales. This was just a small track but it was enough to test the car & to get myself confident with the car again. Once we started we could test the steering, brakes, suspension, performance & also the set-up of the car. We did everything possible & it all went to plan. We now will be testing for the build-up of 2018.

Warren

Of, course, it wasn’t just the car that needed rebuilding. You weren’t in a good way either after the accident.

Chris

At the time I had a broken knee, my left knee had a crack the whole way through the knee, also I had torn all my ligaments, had internal bleeding all in the same knee. I had internal bruising across my chest & in my middle to lower back. I was in a huge amount of pain. It took me six weeks to walk. My body took around three months to be semi normal again & I have also been using 2017 to get fit again & let my body rebuild over the course of the year.

Warren

That’s excellent news. Now, when do you plan to have your next test and what’s happening about co-drivers?

Chris

We will hopefully be testing again in November. Late this year/early next year we will be running a test with a few Co-Drivers to see who I get on with in & outside the car & also a test to see how well they do on the notes.

Warren

Good to hear. I guess that you won’t know which event you’ll enter yet, or have you got something in mind?

Chris

We have a few things in mind for 2018, we have a good idea of where we will be heading but we will have it confirmed this side of the Christmas break.

Warren

Ah, okay. Brilliant. Great stuff.

Chris

Should be a big year ahead.

Warren

Now, perhaps you could give a bit of detail as to how different the Fiesta and DS3 are to drive?

Chris

The Fiesta is far easier to drive compared to the DS3. First of all the Fiesta is a H Shift gearbox and the DS3 is paddle shift, with the Fiesta you do have to use to clutch to change gears, but the DS3 is six speed & you can change gears without using a clutch making the gear changes without any loss of time.

The DS3 has a turbo charger too, the power is far more advanced & to top it off has a few different modes on the car which controls which surface you’re on, how much anti lag you’d like & if you’re on a road section or stage.

The Fiesta on the other hand has none of this. It’s a simple get in & go. The other big difference with the DS3, is once the car is started which isn’t easy in itself as there is no key to turn (all done my switches & buttons) the DS has to warm up properly before moving, otherwise it does not like to select gear or even begin to work properly without being up to temperature. There are major differences between the two, even down to set up, tyre choices to use, compound of tyres & suspension set ups. It goes into a huge amount of detail.

Chris Wheeler with his rebuilt Citroen DS3 R3

 

Warren

Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?

Chris

I’d just like to add a thank you my dad for all his hard work rebuilding the car which we thought was gone for good & also for doing a good job all year on the pacenotes getting me through this Southern Championship.

 

Warren

Thanks for your time Chris. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Here’s a video of Chris testing his rebuilt Citroen DS3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFEnjWcAmiw&feature=youtu.be