‘Bagger Road Rally

The organisers of possibly the toughest road rally in the UK stated that the 2019 ‘Bagger Rally would be the last time it would run. So I thought I should try and get back for another try at this legendary event.

Entries were at a premium, and with a full 75 car entry. Many crews who would normally be seeded in the top 5 were down in the 40’s were we were as well. This showed the class of the field, and it was said to be the best entry on a UK road rally in many years.

I teamed up with Kevin Ablitt who I attempted the Carpetbagger rally back in 2010, this wasn’t a great night with a trip into a field and a puncture after cutting parts of the route. Our plan for 2019 was to try and improve and get all the way round the route.

Scrutineering all went very quickly and smoothly, and then it was off to the start. Once we parked in the very muddy car park it was signing on and for Kevin many hours of work plotting the route. This in itself was no small task, but he managed to get it all done before our start time.

After extracting the ZR from the now very boggy car park field, where my recent car trial experience came in very handy. It was into the rally…

The actual rally now feels like one big and long blur, with a route of 180 competitive miles there was very little time to catch your breath. The only time between the start (about 11.30pm and the finish about 7am) we stopped was for fuel twice and only at the second fuel stop did we have about three minutes of rest. Apart from the runs in/out of petrol every section was competitive. The route was very cleverly designed, made great use of the miriade of roads in Devon/Somerset. It was an endless route of junctions, rough roads, a few whites, very muddy roads, more junctions. We had a few wrong slots as a result of errors on both sides of the car.

I did wonder at the start was running on Michellin PS3’s (a fast road/race tyre) a good move, but a couple of years of running them on targa rallies convinced me they would work and they did. No punctures, despite what the event threw at us, and plenty of grip on all but the muddy’est of whites.

Kev did a fab job of keeping the maps under control. Towards the end of the event we had a number of marshals commenting how few cars they had seen, and when one marshal said we were running 14th car on the road I got thinking we could be on for a result. By the end of the rally we finished 12th overall, which given the quality of entries which included many top Welsh Road Rally crews including the current Welsh Champions was a very pleasing result. We completed the whole route, got all the boards, all controls and from second petrol onwards held 12th overall.



12 Car

It was nearly two years since I have navigated on a 12 car rally. So just days into 2019 we headed off to take part in a Boundless (CSMA) 12 car which was quite local being just beyond St. Albans.

As a Novice class nav I got the navigation in envelopes for each control, thankfully these had the next control location. This proved to be useful on one section which I could only make work in reverse. The organisers had cleverly used tulips (normally easy nav) and defined a long way round triangle (LWR) which made one junction into three separate instructions. Tricky but clever use of nav by the organisers.


Most sections I could get plotted within a few minutes, which although this meant we dropped time we were collecting all the code boards along the way. There were some good lanes used, and the organisers made good use of the code boards to check all loops, and also positioned them near junctions to add to the navigators work load.

Apart from a few ‘where are we moments’ it all ran relatively smoothly, the car behaved itself and the event was a good pre-Carpetbagger test.

Back at the start / finish pub we found out that we finished 3rd overall and 2nd in class with 0 Fails & 26 Mins.  A great way to start the year 🙂

Curborough PCA & Deepcut Stages (Christmas Rallying)

In between Christmas and new year two events came up which gave a chance to get out over the holiday break and blow away the cobwebs.

It was an early start to head of to Curborough, this is normally a sprint circuit but it also makes a for a great autotest venue.

There were three tests all setup, walking through the tests it was interesting to see a different clubs setup of tests. The tests were a good mix of tight and twisty to more open and flowing. With clever use of lapping on the tests the tests were quite long meaning you had to work hard in the car. With the circuit being used for sprinting the smooth surface made for some good grip levels but also minimal tyre wear which was pleasing.

By the end of the day I finished up 2nd in class and 7th overall.

You can see a sample of all the tests in this video

The very next day it was an even earlier start to head south in the Micra for a stage rally at Deepcut Barracks. This was to be my first stage rally driving in the Micra for over a year. This was a small venue with not a lot of space for service, luckily the Newtons (out in their new Nova) saved us a space next to them. The class A battle would be lead by them, with us facing challenges from others in the class.

The venue featured a short 3 mile stage, a holding control and then the same stage in reverse. This setup worked well, the organisers worked hard to accommodate this different system, and even provided coffee to keep crews warm during the short wait between stages. The stage had a mix of almost everything you can think of, tight hairpins, high speed sections, mud, grippy tarmac, kerbs etc.. Sadly no photos or videos are allowed due to it being a live MOD venue but it was a real challenge. Sadly the kerbs caught out a number of cars including a mini in our class on the very first stage. It was not a day for taking chances especially under braking on rarely used slippery roads.

We had a good clean run all day, with more than a few people commenting on the speed of the Micra (making up 30 seconds on a C2 GT 1600 in one stage was good fun!)  and the speed being carried through smooth driving. Sadly for the Newtons in their newly built Nova they lost their exhaust on one stage, which was an annoying teething issue for them. But it did give us a chance at the class win. By this point in the event we could see that they weren’t taking large amounts of time out of us, and others in the class either had kerb induced car issues (ZR) or were way off our times (other ZR ~30 secs+ per stage). So after an early lunch (usual burger!) it was a case of continuing with the same pace but not taking any real risks.

Going into stage 7 out of 8 we had a good lead in class. On stage 7 I pushed on to try and secure a decent lead into the last stage. By now the other in a ZR had found a curb, so it really was just a case of getting round to secure the class win.

We finished up 1st in class and 12th overall, the pace overall was pleasing with some stages where we were only a handful of seconds of the pace of a number of Evo’s.

Stuck in the mud

The very first event we did in the ZR (the day after we bought it) was a car trial, and we thought we would try it again.

The weather before the event was very wet, and driving to the venue there was a lot of localised flooding. So it was clear it was going to be muddy.


It certainly proved to be a muddy day, and we got stuck many times which required us to be towed out many times including one winching. The venue is normally a MotoX track which meant a lot of steep sections, and some challenging sections which were not really designed for normal cars, but we survived and although we finished near the back of the field. The fact we had a slipper diff, meant we were in our own class so a first in class was the end result from a muddy day.


Luckily there was a jet wash we could use on the way home, although I still removed a LOT of mud from the car whilst sorting out the damage from various moments during the day. To sort some of the damage required some skills I hadn’t used for quite a while. The use of a ratchet strap as a winch to pull out the front of the car. I then repaired the bumper and added additional bracing and strengthening to the front of the car and the spot light mounts.

Old school engineering


This should be a ‘normal’ post Targa event write up, however this is a little shorter….

A new targa rally was setup to run at Rushmoor arena, the venue has been used for rallying and motorsport including stock car racing before never before a targa rally. It is always good to try out a new venue, and the previous targa rally gave good results meaning the pressure was off so we could hopefully enjoy the event.

I ended up seeded at Car 1 which to start with seemed like a disadvantage, and did mean we had to do a bit of waking up of marshals. However the test routes were very clearly set out, and it was clear it had been setup to encourage Autosolo drivers many of whom were on the entry list.

The first run of tests went well, although there was little grip at times where the event was using parts of the venue not used for many years. However….

I was on the start line for the fourth test, I raised the revs, let out the clutch and then BANG and a lot of smoke…. and we were going nowhere. We pushed the car out of the way, and then found (luckily) the smoke was from CV grease on the exhaust and not gearbox oil. The drivers side driveshaft had snapped. It looks like the grease in the inner joint had seized up causing the shaft to snap. Up to now I had run competition spec CV grease in the outer joints which under go a lot more forces. When I cleaned out the inner joint it was clear the heat from the nearby exhaust causes the grease to dry out leading to joint to seize up.

So sadly it was an early bath for us, and we ended up going home on the back of a trailer. Many thanks once again to Haydn for coming to rescue us 🙂

Back to Wethersfield

It was back to Wethersfield once again for another event. This time the final AMSC / CMC Targa rally of the year. Due to the time of the year, and shorter days the event was slightly shorter than other with just three lots of tests.

The tests were all quite short and sharp. However they were some of the best targa rally tests we had done all year. They were clearly well designed, with a need for the navigator to really be aware of what was going on but not so much of a navigation test that it felt like going the right way was a lottery like some events.

The 2018 Bonfire Targa 43a

Due to having to replace the front suspension struts on the Micra we decided to use this on this event. This would allow us to shakedown the new suspension and test damper settings.

This would be the first time out in the car for me driving in nearly a year, so it took me a little while to get used to the car. It was certainly great to be out in such a small car again, though the lack of effective handbrake was disappointing though it probably made my driving neater! Early on I got a cone penalty as I completely destroyed a cone running it over as I locked up in an early test. this cost me ten seconds in penalties and also left me rather cautious for the rest of the day under braking.

The rest of the event ran quite smoothly, with more speed coming along with me getting used to the car again. Grip was at a premium all day, with us using up old Yoko List 1A tyres we had lying around. Most other top crews were running List 1B which are allowed and with it being a cold but dry day this would have given them a fair bit more grip. A move to using List 1B tyres in 2019 really must be considered now…

The rest of the tests ran smoothly and I really enjoyed the bomb dump test which was a real challenge. This test along with another one was quite fast paced, which lead to two tests where most crews beat the bogie time. This was a little disappointing as it reduced the number of tests where I could try and make back time lost in the morning.

By the end of the event, we finished up 12th overall and 3rd in class.


Bovingdon Solo

I like the current format of the Autosolo’s at Bovingdon. The morning only running is a noise / planning permission restriction, but with this being a local venue this means you can still enjoy the rest of the day as well as enjoying some good sport.

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The event ran in it’s now familiar format of a fast and flowing test and a tight and more technical test. I like both in differing way, the fast and flowing test requires more commitment and of course the speed element is good fun.

However the results from my most recent visit and other visits show that the tight and more technical test is where I can make back the time. I think this is because I like trying to ensure I keep the car flowing throughout the test.

By the end of the event I finished up 2nd in class and 3rd overall.

Here are a couple of videos from the event, the onboard with the data was a test run. Hopefully a new mount will improve the quality of this camera angle.