Gravel Autotest

Bedford Car Club run a small little gravel autotest in a farmers yard, just outside of Northampton. This seemed like an ideal event for the MGZR, and a good way to test to see if the sealants have done their job on the headgasket.

The only downsides to using the MGZR are a) it has a useless handbrake and b) the steering lock is like that of an oil tanker. Luckily the surface in most places had a good covering of gravel, which provided at least a chance for the handbrake to work.

The first few tests we good fun and flowing, the MGZR was holding up well and it was good fun throwing the car around on the gravel. We had entered the PCA event, which meant Suze could nav for me and I for her. This gave a benefit of helping where needed to give a sense of direction.

The fourth test of the day involved some reverse driving, which had a new rule (to us) which was that when reversing you had to stop the car between the line of cones. Usually you can go past as this just means you take longer. This caught me out on my first run, and made me cautious on my second run. Luckily it was the best score to count.

After this it was, some more longer tests which challenged the mind but were all good fun.

By the end of the day I finished up 4th overall and 3rd in class, which was pleasing since it was our first time at the venue, and our first autotest in the car.


Here is a video, which was streamed live during the test via Facebook


Car Trial

So with the purchase of a cheap ‘play’ car, we had to find an event to use it on. So the day after buying a MGZR 160VVC, we were heading to Essex to compete on a Car Trial.

The event started off very wet, and on the long grass the cars wide 17″ wheels were rather useless. However the morning dried out and we were soon onto the hills and making good progress.

The MGZR isn’t the best car for trials, as it has limited steering lock and the disc rear brakes mean the handbrake isn’t much use. However this meant we have to be careful in how we drove the hills, and the cars torque which is available at very low revs is very useful.

During the day we started to pull away from the Yaris in our class, which was pleasing and onto the last set of hills Suze and I were just one point apart. By luck and good fortune I managed to do well on one hill, which off set my poor attempt at another hill, which in the end left me winning the class by one point.

So two Sunday’s and two class wins, in real grass roots motorsport🙂

Two hours of sleep…

Two events in 19hrs, well it seemed like a good idea when I entered the events….

The plan was to do the Powerush 20/20 rally down on Romney Marsh and then head to Wethersfield to do the ECMC Autotest.

The Powerush 20/20 is like half a road rally. The event started at 9.30pm and finished about 1.30am. The event was based down on Romney Marsh, which features some amazing roads, in a remote area of Kent. It allowed us to really push on and enjoy the roads, and also get a little lost at times with the maze of roads and some tricky navigation. For this event I team up with Ian Phillips, who last navved for me 12 years ago so he was a little rusty on the maps, however he coped well with some taxing navigation and we got round well within OTL, and had a good drive on the epic roads of the marsh.


By the time results came out we finished up exactly where we were seeded 7th, and 5th experts. A good result, beating many other crews, many of whom were a lot more match fit than us.

It was then a 2 hour drive through the night to Wethersfield, I pulled up in a field near the venue to try and get some sleep in the rally car. However a cold rally car is not the best hotel in the world, so I managed some sleep but not much. So just over 2 hours later I headed into Wethersfield to sign on the ECMC Autotest.

During my limited sleep the weather had changed, and rain had come in. This made the surface at Wethersfield very slippery. The event was very popular with nearly 50 entries, so the organisers set up four tests, these were run three times in the morning and twice in the afternoon in reverse. With all runs counting the key to the day would be speed and consistency.

The first set of tests felt good, and when the results came in, I was leading the Autotest event and 3rd overall. This came as a surprise as I haven’t done many autotests this year and there was a number of seasoned competitors out there. At this point I thought my performance was down to the wet start to the day, where the more powerful cars where unable to use their advantage. However as the day progressed my lead on the event continued and by the end of the event I was FTD on the Autotest and second overall in the combined results of the Autosolo / Autotest / PCA, beaten only by a very well driven 2ltr Clio.

So perhaps the key to doing well on an autotest is to have no real sleep!



Wethersfield Stage

A couple of weeks after the sprint at Hethel I was meant to be doing a Targa Rally at Debden airfield however military movements lead to this now hopefully taking place in November.

This  ended up being a good thing, as during this down time I found a front spring had snapped. So a new pair of front springs were duly fitted, thanks to Matt Humphris of Oxford for holding them in stock and helping with the swapping of the springs.

Next up then was the stage rally at Wethersfield Airfield, a venue I know well from other types of events, but never a stage rally. The venue is good for staging as it offers both fast flowing sections, and tight technical bits – a real test of car and driver.

The day started off warm, and set the scene for the rest of the day. We were close in a class battle for 2nd in class. 1st in class being miles away with the Newtons even more lightweight Nova. It was a good Chelmsford MC battle between us, Jim Bowie & first time nav Antons, and David Lobb and Lizzie Pope. With us all in roughly similar specced cars, it proved to be a day long battle.

The stages were good fun, I especially enjoyed the fast flowing sections near the hangers where you were cornering flat in 4th gear (80/90 mph).

The hot weather though good for the marshals (thanks guys) was not good for out tyre wear and mid-way through stage 4, the front tyres fell apart leaving us driving on cords. This un-surprisingly lowers the grip levels and thus, meant a load of time lost.

Over lunch a new set of Hankook’s were purchased from Slicks tyres, in an effort to try and make back the time lost and get back to 2nd in class. The class positions on this event being critical to the AEMC / ASEMC Regional Championship I am chasing this year.

Stage five started off a little slow, as the new tyres needed a bit of time to bed in and for me to adjust to them. By the end of stage 5 we had 13 seconds to try and make up on 2nd in class (David & Lizzie).

So on the start line of the final stage, I decided to really try and go for it. I have never driven the Micra so so hard during that stage, all thoughts of how to drive the car home, or saving tyres (like I was trying on SS2 & 3) all went out of the window. There was a clear improvement in my pace as it took the very fast 1600 Escort of the Dawsons nearly a lap to catch and pass us, but on the previous stage they caught us within a few corners. Ben commented to me at the end the real change in pace. By the end of the stage we both agreed there was nothing more that could have been given in that last stage. However we only made back 7 seconds, leaving us 6 seconds short of 2nd in class….

At the time this felt like real blow, and I really cursed those tyres letting go with no warning costing us a whole heap of time. However the whole day was great fun and a great challenge and in the end the 3rd in class should be enough for me to secure 1st 1400 in the AEMC / ASEMC Regional Championship.


A day out in Norfolk

After talking to a few people about different sprint venues, the Lotus test track at Hethel came up as a good venue which is fast and challenging. Looking at some on-board videos I could see why it was popular.

So I headed off to deepest Norfolk and the home of Lotus. The track is very very smooth, and is designed to F1 test standards. So not the normal home for a rally car. After unloading to probably the most expensive car there a McLaren MP4-12c, I looked over parts of the track to get my bearings.

The day was made up of two practice runs and then two timed runs. The first timed run was a bit of a sighter lap, the second timed run showed me getting closer to the class lead but not close enough. This was being lead by a highly modified Fiesta 1.0 Turbo, showing just how much you can get out of a small modern engine (170bhp+). With this being a fast circuit the lack of power did show up. However it was a good challenge to try and carry as much speed and as the car, tyres and myself would allow through some great twisty sections. The best part was around the pits, which was a flowing section taken flat out in 4th.

After the first timed run I had closed down the gap to two seconds (it was 4 seconds at one point), so it was all down to the final run. This is what I like about sprints, it really focuses your driving on to one run, trying to think where to get time back, and carry speed the most. On the last I really tried hard, and used my best rally cutting techniques to ‘trim’ the grass a little, but it was all a little too late as I got the gap down to 1.1 seconds. However it was a good battle, and a challenge to get me to think hard about my driving. The Micra and the rather standard Yoko A539’s performed faultlessly, and the competition pushed me on hard and beat 3rd in class by nearly 18 seconds…

Sadly there was no photography or on-boards allowed on the venue, but I do have some data logging traces recorded on my iPhone (hence the odd view).

Here is one from my first practice run.

To Poland and back…

Regular readers may have spotted it has been quiet for a good while and that is because we have been away for two plus weeks, marshaling on the Euro leg of the Peking to Paris rally.

We drove out to Poland to meet the rally, and then followed the event all the way through Europe to Paris. It was a tough two weeks with early starts, and many late nights plus very changeable weather from baking hot 36’c sun to 0’c and snow and ice.

This though meant a quiet June and July for the rally car and in the garage.

However August will be busier, currently planned is a sprint at Hethel (Lotus test track), a targa rally at Debden and hopefully a stage rally at Wethersfield at the end of the month.

So to get ready for these events, the weekend has been busy doing :-

  • Scrubbing in x4 Yoko A539’s
  • Oil & filter change
  • Hopefully curing a small oil leak on the dipstick tube
  • Fitted new grooved front discs and EBC Black pads
  • Full bolt check
  • Bleeding front brakes

On the Stelvio pass