Two weeks on from our last targa, and a straightened and sprayed bonnet and other bent bits fixed, it was time for our first Chelmsford MC/Anglian Targa Rally of the year. Matt had found the handbrake wasn’t working properly and had got it fixed, and for the first time on a Targa we had moved from 1A to 1B tyres; everybody else seems to do it, and we decided to follow the crowd, albeit picking them up cheaply as they are second hand.
Things got a little complicated at the last minute with tow car issues the day before we were due to leave, but we managed to hire a van so we could use the trailer; and what a good decision that turned out to be! Matt had driven the MG ZR during the week and all was ok, but come scrutineering and we had a reasonable leak. It turned out the water pump had failed, and without the trailer, I’m not sure we would even have started and taken the risk.
Jamie Turner (who knows anything and everything there is to know about Rovers and MGs and many other cars besides) recommended we found some Stop Leak, as it’s easier to clean out than K Seal. We asked around, and Sheldon Furby came up with the goods; a rally paddock is a great place to be as everyone always mucks in and helps each other.
We topped up the coolant as much as possible, loaded the car with extra water, and off we went. We were running Car 6 and were both driving, meaning 38 tests; I’m not sure either of us were too confident we would finish.
Matt added a digital gauge to the car last year so we could monitor the coolant temperature constantly and accurately. It clearly wasn’t happy, but after the first few tests with Matt driving it started to settle and there was less steam. The tests were busy; constant instructions being given as a navigator, but things seemed to be going ok. It was then time for me to drive, and I was quicker than Matt; not by a lot, but enough!
On the second loop of tests I drove first, and I went out committed but perhaps a little too much… Wethersfield has a mix of gravel and tarmac and I had my first spin in a few years on some gravel where I carried too much speed, but straight back into first gear and I carried on leaving behind a cloud of dust. Things seemed to be going ok, but Matt was coming back at me.
We ran the car with full heaters on all day with the extra fan always on to try and keep the engine as cool as possible. I will never run with the windows down (as per the regulations) so as the sun came out, it got a little toasty inside! But, if running with the heaters on meant getting a finish, it was worth it…
Our day continued to go well and touch wood, the car was holding together but by this time Matt was taking time out of me. I completed all 19 of my tests as a driver, and then it was time for Matt’s final loop, tests 16, 17, 18 and 19. All was going well until the end of test 18; the Stop Leak had done us proud and got us so far, but it had given up. Lots of steam, lots of leaking coolant/water, but just one test and 2.4 miles left.
We had nothing to lose, so in went more water, off we went and it seemed to be another day luck was looking down on us, as we made it to the finish in a good time for the test. We left a little trail of water for people to follow back to the paddock, and having examined the car, we wouldn’t have made it through another test; we were very lucky! It also highlighted to us that buying a trailer was a good move, as we wouldn’t have made it home under our own power. On the drive back, we dropped the car at The Rover Centre, and now we’ve asked them to replace the water pump and change the cam belts, ready for our next event.
Photos by M&H Photography.