The Chelmsford MC Bonfire Targa Rally date had been in our calendar for many months. In 2015, we found all of the targa dates across all of the local clubs clashed with other events or commitments that we had, and we really wanted to be back competing on a targa this year.
We entered the rally car, rather than the MG, and decided a hotel the night before would be better than the early start needed to make it to Wethersfield. I hadn’t driven the rally car for some time, competitively or otherwise, and the first time I drove her was pulling up to the start of test one. Having looked after the event, the last time I had driven her competitively was August 2015 so some 15 months ago, and that was on an autocross so a rather different type of event.
We started with Matt driving and me navigating, and going back to targas was a bit of a shock to the system initially. We both took some time to find our rhythm, myself calling and giving Matt information and Matt listening to me (perhaps a long term issue not confined to competing?!). By the end of the first loop of four tests, we were getting back into it, and then it was my turn to drive.
Having not driven the rally car “in anger,” I forgot how much fun she is to drive. I sit here now and think “why have I not driven her for so long?” but I think it’s easy for me to forget that a considerable amount of time away from driving competitively myself has been down to illness over the last 12 months. That made driving competitively myself impossible, and life a little challenging for some time, but touch wood I’m now back on my feet and life is back to the “new” normal.
Halfway through the first test I had a huge grin on my face and told Matt how much I loved Muriel, and the grin didn’t disappear. I made some mistakes, nothing catastrophic and I didn’t hit any cones, and at times I was in danger of overdriving a little, but getting back into the car and getting used to her and pushing both Muriel and myself once again was enjoyable. You can’t film on targa rallies (I always find onboards useful to review to highlight my mistakes!) but I know I improved during the day and what I did ok, and what I need to work on.
After the first loop of tests I had a four second lead over Matt, although he got quicker throughout the day and finished ahead of me by the end. My test times improved during the day, with the highlights being a 10th fastest test time (sadly on a test that was later removed from the results!) and a 15th and 17th fastest time on other tests. Matt got quicker throughout the day too, with a number of top ten test times including a second fastest overall, slower by just one second than the quickest time.
The day started off dry but very cold and bitter, and by the final loop of four tests heavy rain came down; not fun for the many marshals out there allowing us to compete. It was an enjoyable day, and having been off the pace in the morning as we found our feet, to finish 2nd in class and 9th overall navigating, and 3rd in class and 17th overall driving, was a really pleasing result. Hopefully it won’t be so long until I’m next back out on a targa!
Photo courtesy of M&H Photography.