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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.

 

 

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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!

The 2019 Festival Targa 7

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.

Pomeroy Trophy

This would prove to be the first chance I would get to use my race license, which is something I have held for a number of years but never used.

The event is a mix of driving tests in the morning (autotest, acceleration test, and braking test). This is then followed by a 40 min ‘race’. The true challenge is to complete a allocated number of laps, which the organisers calculate via a complex formula. I had to achieve 13 laps of the full GP circuit within 40mins. However there were 40+ others cars on the track as well at the same time, so clearly it all becomes a race. Hence why MotorsportUK require all drivers to hold a race licence.

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The early tests went well, and all completed ok. Then it was on to the ‘race’!

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After two sighting laps, it was a rolling start over the national pits start / finish line. To be honest I got a little caught here with it being my first ever race start and quite a few cars caught and passed me. However after the first corner, I zoned in and got my foot down. I was using the MGZR as Suze was using the Micra is the same event. Although she started to catch me at the start as we headed down to Maggots/Becketts the extra torque of the ZR pulled me well clear of the Micra. By the end of the first lap I had caught and passed quite a lot of cars including a 2.2 Astra, and many other classic cars. After a few laps the event became strung out over the long lap, so there wasn’t really anyone else around you. This was good for trying new lines and getting used to being on circuit.

Then the bonnet started lifting, thankfully it was only one corner but it was quite distracting and clearly not helping the aero of the car. After a few corners I spotted marshals seeing this and radio’ing it in. Knowing that coming into the pits was an lost of points situation and would affect results, I carried on with slightly less pace on the straights. However then the black and orange flag came out with my number of it. I came in and a scrutineer helped me sorted it out, also some others (many thanks whoever you are) offered to tape the corners down with tank tape. So I jumped back in and set off. Sadly this cost me a lot of time in reduced pace and then in the pits and I only completed 12 laps….

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The results are tough to calculate and to date they still not final, but current provision results show me finishing 19th overall and 2nd in class. Not too bad out of 119 entries for my first race event. Looking through the results, if I had completed my full 13 laps and not entered the pits I would have finished 5th overall and 1st in class. How annoying that one bonnet pins caused that!

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‘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.

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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.