In 2018, a retirement at the Rushmoor Targa Rally led to us calling a friend and asking to be collected on a trailer. It was the turning point that led to us buying our own trailer, and one of the lower points of us competing.
With the announcement of a stage rally at Rushmoor in December, which we entered with me driving, we decided to change our entry from the MG ZR to Muriel (our Micra) as it was a chance for me to get a bit more seat time in her and some more confidence ahead of the December event. From our experience the previous year, the tests are not as tight as the other FDMC event at Bramley in March, and so we were hoping the lack of effective handbrake on Muriel would not be an issue. The tests are a mix of tarmac, gravel and mud with 1A tyres only so an interesting challenge.
One of the keys to any targa is collecting code boards and ensuring the driver and navigator work together as a team, going the right way. The early tests showed penalties for many other crews who had not gone the right way, had hit cones or had missed boards, but Matt and I were both having a clean run and things were looking ok whenever interim results were published. We had both made a few little mistakes, but things seemed ok.
I knew I was challenging for my best result ever as a driver, but I was trying not to think about that and just enjoy the driving and get round. There was a section through some woods which I knew I was losing time on but I just tried to keep the momentum and push on where I felt more confident. The final two tests were run in the dark and I felt I lost time driving, but it was ok just nothing special.
However, then the attention switched to ensuring I sent Matt the right way and kept him calm. We knew we were about two seconds behind Ben Griffin (who was leading overall) going into the final test so it was all to play for. On the start line for the final two tests Matt found main beam wasn’t working which made me a little concerned but he was sure all would be fine. Going through the woods we had a bit of a moment but Muriel came back and all was fine. I remember shouting at him to keep it flat as we came to the finish and encouraging as much as I could but there was little else I could do.
In the paddock, we exchanged times and knew it was going to be very touch and go for our first ever targa rally win. In the end, we found that we had made back seven seconds meaning a five second lead. Ben had unfortunately missed a code board (which is not how we would want to win and thankfully was not the deciding factor) meaning we won by 25 seconds, but the time we had pulled out alone was enough and we took our first outright win with Matt driving and me navigating!
We also discovered I’d pedalled well as a driver, and I won the class (as Matt won overall I was promoted to first in class) and came 5th overall, by far and away my best result as a driver. An absolutely epic day.