AutoX’ing

It was back to another Bath MC event this year. This time it was a new event for the club, and a new venue. Based at Long Newnton airfield it was an ideal base for a AutoX (think of a sprint around a grass track, over 3 or 4 laps).

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The Micra was entered in the road rally class, where we had competition from the Watts family in their road rally MGZR.

The first day was very hot (in fact the hottest day of the year). After the practice runs the grass had soon gone and it was down to a hard well packed surface. We had three timed runs each day and the fastest time from each day counted. As the first day progressed I got faster on each run. Like in sprinting AutoX is good for making you think about what lines to take and how to make back small amounts of time. By the end of Saturday I had a small 0.6 second lead in the class.

Sunday came and the hot weather had gone, and the clouds looked threatening, the forecast was clear, rain was on its way. So we all knew the first runs would be very important. I worked hard on ensuring my first run was both fast, smooth and still enough in reserve that I didn’t spin out or go four wheels off. Chances could be taken later on if needed. By the end of the first runs I had again another 0.6 second lead in the class.

However by now the rain had started and at first it didn’t really make much of a difference but by the time I lined up to start my second timed run it had rained for quite a while and by the second corner I knew I wouldn’t be improving my times. Thankfully it was slippery enough that no-one else could improve either. So I did two final runs in the mud which was very slippery and good fun though very slow.

Thankfully my banker first run on Sunday morning was enough to hold on to the class win, which I took by 1.2 seconds in the end, and finished 13th overall out of 52 starters.

All in all a great weekends motorsport, though cleaning off all the mud took many many hours!

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World RX – Demo Rides

Nothing much to post, but once again I was giving demo Autosolo rides at Silverstone as part of the World RX. Here are some video of my demo rides some on-board, which gave me a chance to test out my new Go Pro start/stop lead. Plus some rare external videos.

 

Wethersfield Targa – Kings Lynn

Just a week later it was back to Wethersfield for another Targa Rally, this time though the venue was being used by a new club to the venue Kings Lynn. It was interesting to see how a different club makes use of a familar venue.

It was back to our normal double driving with Suze, but this time with Suze driving first for a change. This meant I had to navigate first and be on my A game straight away on the maps. Luckily all of the tests were clearly laid out, and with a good bit of local knowledge of the venue we got around all ok on Suze’s first run. This chance to learn the tests and also get into the zone competitively.

The day ran smoothly with the car performing well, and the tests all worked well. We both enjoyed the tests which made clever use of the venue and ranged from some short tests to some really quite long tests. We were running well within the top ten and looking at a top 5 result coming from a number of top 10 test results, however on the final run of tests the weather changed and the rain came down. This happened just before we were due to run on the muddiest test, this totally changed the conditions and the semi slick tyres we were running were not really suited to the conditions. I threw the car around as hard and fast as I could manage. At the end of the final long test I was knackered but it was good to throw everything into the car. However the conditions meant that the times would never be fast compared to those who got dry runs, and this dropped us down to 8th overall. Still not a bad result from 75 starters.

Kemble Targa Rally

After a couple of years away from Kemble it was time to return to Bath MC’s targa at the small but perfectly formed venue. Although the venue is small, it has a real mix smooth tarmac, old school WWII concrete and gravel.

For this event I was out with Lizzie Pope, who has navved for me many times. This meant I would be ‘single’ driving, which is did mean for a more relaxed day’s rallying but it did reduce the advantage you get from seeing the route from the nav’s seat.

The day went well and the car performed well, the tests were enjoyable with a real mix of tight and twisty sections and some real fast sections. The tests involved lapping which during the running of the tests meant we caught some cars mid test. This added a new fun dimension to the driving.

By the end of the day we finished up 5th overall in the Nat B event, and 9th overall in the combined event. Checking through the results, we finished up 2nd overall of the single drivers, which was pleasing.

Under pressure…

Well that was some weekend! Started off being told that our tow car (work pool car) will likely need a new engine which was surprising given it is 6 months old and only done 5k miles…. This created a dilemma about no tow car for Sunday’s Targa Rally. Thankfully Suze found a Transit van with tow bar for hire at short notice. So that was collected late Friday.

Then it was on to the rally, all was fine on Saturday with the Transit being an excellent tow vehicle even if it was a 10 year Transit with 140k miles on it, the van felt very solid and like it could do more than that mileage again.

Sunday morning and queuing for scrutineering I noticed a pool coolant under the car…. Not what you want to see at the start of an event.  Jamie Turner soon diagnosed it as a water pump leak. At this point hiring the van seemed like a very very good idea! So we filled up the header tank and ventured out on the first run of tests.

I’m not always great on the first run of tests, and this was compounded by constantly watching the temperature gauge for movement. Luckily the temps held even with some steam coming from under the bonnet. We returned to the paddock and then used some borrowed stop leak from Sheldon (many many thanks for this), and then headed out for Suze’s tests. This worked a treat and I can recommend the Ravenol stop leak.

The rest of the day we were able to push the car as hard as normal, the sticker List 1B tyres we had were great fun.

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Then in the queue for my and the cars final test, steam started coming out of the bonnet! We had come this far, so we chanced it and carried on. We both check the temperature gauge during the test a lot, but carried on pushing hard and got to the finish with barely enough coolant left. Thankfully there were no more tests as I doubt the car would have lasted…

After all that, we finished up 9th overall, which was pleasing after a slow start, which at one point we feared we may not even make.

Many many thanks for the help from the as ever great rally community, especially Jamie for his advice and guidance and Sheldon for the stop leak. I am amazed it lasted as long as it did!

The ZR is now off for a little holiday at the Rover Centre, for them to fit new cam belts (VVC’s have two belts) and a new water pump.

 

 

Bramley Targa Rally

The build up to this event had mostly been about travelling around the UK and Europe for work. The ZR was ready before the event, but with all the prep work and work and travel flu had hit, so I arrived at the event all rather tired and not in the best position before the event.

One new thing for this event is after 20 years of rallying, we now have our our trailer. We use of a work pool car to tow with, we can now tow to events. This does mean a bit more pre & post event work, but does mean there are less concerns about how to get a broken rally car home.

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We hadn’t done an event at Bramley, the only previous targa rally was run in snow so no real guide to how this event would work out. It was clear from the first test that grip would be at a real premium with the surface being tarmac and broken concrete mostly covered with mud/leaves/slime.

The first few tests went ok, but I didn’t feel on the pace and the car didn’t feel that great with very little grip and the handbrake wasn’t useful either. Then out of the blue just after a slight compression on a long straight the back end of the car stepped out. This then put the car into a tank slapper from which I couldn’t save the car from ending up in a ditch. We were very lucky that although we lost an indicator, damaged a headlight, and dented the bonnet we were able to carry on. Though I did need to use a ratchet strap to bend the cooling fan away from the radiator.

Although we were able to carry on, we ended up with a test maximum and this ruined any chance of a good result.

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After the event, I did find a few things with the car. The front tyres although they had enough tread were very hard. It seems the 40min session at Silverstone for the Pomeroy trophy overheated the front tyres, and this removed all the cold temperature rubber compound. I have also found that the handbrake although it would hold the car, wasn’t working on one side which made the other side less effective as well.

Hopefully for the next targa where we will be using some List 1B tyres and a working handbrake we can be back to setting more competitive times.

7Oaks Scatter & Bath Targa Rally

The chance came up to do one of 7Oaks MC’s Scatter rallies, this was run by Chin. We arrived at the start and it was pleasing to see that the clues we would be looking for were all of the same format, country names on engraved little plaques made by Chin (he runs a trophy company!). This really helps you feel more secure you have got the correct answer when you find the clue.

The event ran to the usual format, I was driving on this event and Suze was navving. We got the clues plotted quickly and then it was out into the lanes. There are plenty of good roads in the 7Oaks region, so we had great fun heading around finding as many points as we could. It is always tough to gauge how well you are doing, especially with only a few crews out so you don’t get to see how the others are doing.

So it was back to the finish, and we found out we had come first overall which was pleasing and made the long drive home (got home at 1.30am!) all worth it 🙂

The 2019 Festival Targa 5

A couple of days later it was time to head of the Wiltshire and the start of the Bath Festival Targa Rally. I was set to navigate for Mark Peterson, a regular Targa rally winner on the Eastern tarmac event, but a realative newcomer to gravel which makes up most of this event. The format was non competititve road sections linking up real quality tests round the Longleat area. The tests varied from a run around an old airfield to quality forest tests which felt like a real challenge.

This was my first time navving for Mark and my first time navving on this type of event, and in the forests, many firsts then!

We got started all ok and after a few tests got settled down into a routine of how we both work and how we like to operate. It was clear to see how Mark was fast on events with a very smooth and controlled approach to driving.

The first fuel halt came after just three tests but it was a welcome break for the car, us and a chance for something to eat.

Then it was off (now in the dark) to the real meat of the event lots of forest tests. The tests were all very clearly laid out, made clever and limited use of code boards, with lots of marshals in the right places to control speed and cars, and yet plenty of space to still press on and carry speed where appropriate. I worked off the test maps, with the details carried over from the tulip road book, this worked well though it did make Test 5 very much a real test as this was a very long test with laps within laps, multiple code boards, PCs, stop goes, and finding the correct route it was hard work!

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Results weren’t available until the end of the event, and we had no real sense of how well (or not) we were doing but I felt we had a good pace and as ever the key would be to going the correct way and finishing. We achieved all of that and by the end of the event we finished up 11th overall and 8th in class. Given the quality and size of the entry and the number of firsts for us as a crew that was very pleasing.