Snetterton is somewhere that for me holds fond memories, having taken my ARDs there back in 2007. It’s not somewhere that I get to visit very often but given the 2017 event was a round of the 2017 AEMC/ASEMC stage rally championship, which we’ve entered, it was a good opportunity to do a stage rally there.
The event seemed to come around quickly and with an overnight in Telford to make things easier, it meant we could complete noise, scrutineering and signing on the day before to save things to do on the Sunday. Soon it was time to head to SS1, which went well with no dramas. We pulled back into service and were going over the map with any annotations for SS2 when the people next to us started shouting “your car’s on fire!” I’m not sure I’ve ever unplugged/unbelted and jumped out so quickly, but by the time I got round to the front right there was smoke and no flames; the caliper slider bolt boot had caught fire but had gone out quite quickly.
The next few stages passed without much drama. We caught a few cars, Matt took a “keen” cut on one of the sausage kerbs seeing a two wheeled moment, and things seemed to be going ok. We were in a “solid” position in class; likely to progress if others found misfortune, but with a comfortable gap behind.
Then came SS6…
Matt and I have competed together for long enough for me to know when his driving changes and when something is wrong. Asking if everything was ok on SS6, to be told “we have no brakes” was not a nice feeling, particularly not at somewhere like Snetterton which is quick with heavy braking needed for man made chicanes. The calling changed at that point; easy brakes, need brakes, setting him up for what was coming both with corners and with braking expectations. We cruised to the end of the stage knowing we were dropping time, and were welcomed by a crowd of people as the smoke had been radioed through and marshals and officials duly reacted just in-case needed (thankfully they weren’t).
Back in service we found the issue; the brake pad had disintegrated on the front right, welded itself to the caliper piston in the process, and popped the caliper piston out causing brake fluid all over the brake disc meaning lots of smoke. After some time and a run around service seeing if anyone else had the right spares (Matt thought we had what we needed, we didn’t), Matt told me to hand the damage dec in. I refused, saying we would wait until we were OTL, and then the co-driver next to us thought he could fix it so we decided to give it a go as pistons and calipers are his day job. An angle grinder and hard work later, and we were just ready for SS7.
We agreed we would see how it went, because we would not endanger ourselves or others, but everything seemed ok. This time we got to the end of the stage to find the finish crew stood up and clapping; we had got back out against the odds, but only thanks to the kind actions of many within the service area. The feeling of finishing the stage with one left to go was fantastic and we believed we could do it and finish the rally.
SS8 came and went, and that was it. 5th in class and 51st overall; not one of our best results, but one of the ones we have had to work hardest for, and only possible thanks to the help of both old and new friends. They say you know who your true friends are in motor sport, and this event emphasised it once again.