After nearly three years away from driving on stage rallies (March 2015 at Bovington), it was time to get back in the driving seat! A mixture of things; illness, Matt and I swapping seats etc, meant I had been out of the stage rally driving seat for longer than intended.
For 2018, our plans are for me to drive in the championships and Matt to co-drive, so with Brands Hatch opening both the AEMC/ASEMC and ACSMC championships it was an early start to the year. I took Friday afternoon off and headed to Brands Hatch for noise, scrutineering and signing on to take a little pressure off Saturday morning.
When Saturday morning came, it was a cold morning. Richard and Emma Olsen were helping us to service and it’s always great to have people there to help as it takes the pressure off us a little. After the compulsory crew briefing, before long it was time for SS1. I knew it was cold and slippery, but aside from one lockup and an overshoot early on things went ok. Chatting it through afterwards, Matt and I realised I’d not driven on rally slicks before and not in the damp; they were the right tyres from the options we had given there was no standing water, but I hadn’t appreciated the bit of time they take to warm up!
The stages after SS1 all merge into one a little bit, but the day went well. I started to enjoy more and more being back in the car, I started to build up the confidence in the car and things were going well. I was in a position of being behind 4th in class but ahead of 6th in class with a bit of a cushion either side, so it was a case of not doing anything silly! Because Brands is a single venue, by it’s nature you sometimes see other cars on laps, and Ian Crocker pictured me passing another car up the inside going the “wrong way” (i.e. the opposite to normal circuit direction) at Druids.
Photo thanks to Ian Crocker
There was one particularly sideways moment going through Graham Hill Bend which was captured on our onboard, with Matt shouting “power power power” and me “flat” in return, but thankfully she (the car) came back and we carried on our way. As the day continued, it got wetter and wetter and we changed to wets in the afternoon which were tyres we hadn’t run before (some Dunlops, not out and out rally wets – unfortunately out of budget!). These worked well and it was definitely the right choice to swap with the standing water appearing.
To finish 5th in class and 53rd overall was a good return. Unfortunately with the nature of these single venue events sometimes other people’s events can impact on your own and we finished one second behind the car in front. We did get impacted by others getting stuck at the hairpin and some other incidents, but that’s the nature of these events, and you don’t know who else has had similar challenges too!
You can view an onboard from our MGJ Engineering Brands Hatch Winter Stages, including the sideways moment, by clicking here.
The 2018 MGJ Winter Stages
Photos thanks to M&H Photography