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.
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.
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.
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.
The build up to my 300th event was not conventional. Leaving my hotel in Jeddah, KSA at 4.45am (2.45am UK time) was hard work, luckily the flight home was faster than expected. Though the same could not be said about getting my luggage back…. A quick dash from Heathrow T5 to home and an hour of catching up on life and work and then it was out on the road to the Essex / Suffolk boarder for a Chelmsford MC 12 Car Rally. The M25 and A12 behaved just as you would expect on a Friday evening and we made it to the start just time for scrutineering. Overall it was certainly the furthest I have travelled to do a 12 car.
The rally was a great challenge in terms of the types of navigation used and the roads used. That part of the world is blessed with many great tight, gravel covered lanes which are ideal for such an event. The ZR behaved itself all night and provided a more than suitable platform when OTL was getting tight and time needed to be ‘made up’.
We along with most other crews missed the very first code board, I must have missed it as two other crews did find it. When it came to the results we weren’t expecting to be placed that high due to dropping a couple of boards and some time. However as they worked their way through them, it was very pleasing to finish up 7th overall (out of 11 crews) and first in class. I must thank Suze who was navving for me for doing so well after a reasonable period away from the maps.
Then it was on to a very long journey home as many parts of the A12 were shut, leading to many diversions. It was gone 1am by the time we got home, just shy of 24hrs after I had awoken many thousands of miles away the day before.
After 300 events in the sport, I still find myself wanting to do more and to still try and improve. I have been fortunate to take away many great results, many highs from various events but ultimately it the people who make the sport that I want to do at least another 300 more events in.
Within a week it was time to head back to Wethersfield. This time in the ZR for an autosolo. A slightly slower paced event compared to the stage rally the previous weekend, but still a great way to spend a Sunday.
The event was run by Cambridge Car Club, as part of AMSC. Although we had done an AMSC autosolo at Wethersfield just a month before, this time the tests were really quite different even though they mostly used the same areas of the airfield. The tests this time were a real mix of tight, twisty and fast and flowing. The fast and flowing section better suit my driving and also probably better suit the ZR which is a relatively wide car.
The morning consisted of four tests which were run three times, these went well with the car performing well. I enjoyed the tests especially the faster tests which involved the use of 2nd gear for quite a while.
By lunchtime I was tied to the 0.1 second for the class lead, but in reality I knew this would change as Mark Peterson who we regularly compete with had a large penalty he was working his way back from. I had also managed to hit a guiding cone in the morning, I didn’t even see or notice hitting this cone. Though I am told the marshal had to run out to put the cone back, so there was no hiding it!
The afternoon was two sets of the four test but run in reverse. Some tests in the afternoon felt quite different, but still as much fun.
In the end that one cone penalty came back to haunt me, as I was less than five seconds (the penalty for one cone) from taking the class win. Still it was a good days sport.
Just a week later it was on to Wetherfield airfield for the annual stage rally. Given last year at this event things all got very expensive with a retirement due to clutch issues. This turned out to be a worn out engine and gearbox, which resulted in a lot of work and new parts. So I was hoping to be able to get home all ok without having to limp the car home with a badly slipping clutch like I did last time…
After scrutineering and noise on the Saturday night, it was good to have dinner and a catch up with the main organising team.
The day started off with a bit of rain, which wasn’t forecast nor part of the plan. But a breakfast of a bacon roll and coffee got things off well.
The event used a new service park area, which meant there was a proper link road drive out to the stages. The first couple of stages went well, and the car was running well which was a relief after having a number of running issues in the days leading up to the event. On the Thursday night we ended up changing both the throttle body and the dizzy to solve a cutting out issue.
After two stages and a refuel of coffee and hot doughnuts, we headed out onto stages 3 & 4. The stages were very fast throughout, and in the reverse direction they felt faster still. The car was continuing to work well and Suze’s confidence in the car and the event was continuing to improve.
By the end of the event we finished 24th overall and a very pleasing 2nd in class, so a real turn around from last years event.
It was back out again in the ZR, this time for a Targa rally at Debden airfield for the Bomb along rally.
The event ran similar tests to the event run here earlier in the year, but they varied the layouts. Mostly making the course a lot tighter in place. The ZR is quite a big car (quite wide) and as standard they come with lock limiters on the steering rack mean they have a large turning circle. This meant that the day was spent being very busy with the handbrake just to try and get around the tests.
Although the tests were tight, they were also mostly good fun. The ZR mostly behaved itself, although the idle speed continued to vary around and made the drive home quite noisy due to the idle speed varying anywhere between 1500 and 4000 rpm! (Investigations after the event show this to be an issue with the throttle position sensor wiring or something related to the speedo sensor).
After a bit of a slow start we picked up speed throughout the day, and apart from one bot of reversing on one test an almost clear run. After lunch the test times were mostly top 3/5 times.
By the end of the day we finished up 10th overall and 7th in class on a dusty and busy day.
Well after nine years of marriage how else are you meant to celebrate your wedding anniversary? A day out at a windy and cold old airfield of course!
After a healthy start of a bacon and egg butty, it was on to walking the four tests. With Wethersfield being such a vast venue it allows for four tests to be running at the same time. Another advantage of this format is that you are always competing moving around between the tests all day.
As normal for the AMSC events, all runs on the test count which means consistency as well as speed is key.
The morning run of tests all went quite well, with both car and driver doing all ok. It was after lunch that things changed… On one of the longer tests, I managed to loose a whole load of time by a) hitting a cone and then wasting yet more time by reversing back and then carrying on. In hindsight (motorsport is full of what ifs!) I should have not even lifted off when I knew I was about to hit the cone. I would still have got the cone penalty but I would have dropped a lot less time overall….. Then it was time for the car to play up as well, the idle control valve started causing issues with the idle speed varying between 1k and 4k RPM! After a bit of fiddling and a complete battery disconnect this solved the issue. It was then on to swapping tyres, before dashing out to do the final set of tests.
By the end of the event I finished up 2nd in class and 13th overall. Sadly photography and videos are not allowed at Wethersfield so no photos or videos this time.