Mobile phones on a rally

With Covid-19 impacting what can and can’t be done in motorsport, a timing app has been developed and is being promoted as an alternative to needing as many marshals on 12 Cars.

With a test event being run locally, I agreed to navigate for James Hall in his MG ZR. With lots of events on in the weeks running up to the event, and having just started a new job, I didn’t manage to make a training session on how to use the app. I ordered the recommended mount from Amazon, spoke to others who had used it and read the instructions so I was ready to go.

The event had navigation as per a normal 12 Car, and started from a pub on the Sunday morning. It was plot and bash, so although we knew we were turning right out of the car park, we had to pull up quickly so I could ensure we didn’t miss a junction as I started plotting the section.

The app was easier to use than I expected, and I pressed to confirm passage checks as they popped up to prove we were on the correct route. When approaching controls, I’d been warned by others the control “areas” could be small and if you “overshot” the virtual control, reversing could see a wrong direction penalty given, but we didn’t have any issues with this.

As the event was plot and bash, but there were not any marshals to check envelopes had not been opened, we were given an A4 sheet of paper with a scratch card type material on it and far more navigation than we would need. Once we got to a control, the app (on a mobile phone) would tell me which letter I needed to use for the next set of navigation. This all worked well, until unfortunately none of us could get a control to “trigger.” I used the “cheat sheet” (i.e. scratched the foil) to find out where the next control was, and we headed there – but unfortunately it was the same problem again. I tried the help button on the app (no luck, turns out it was not connected!) so called the organisers. They told us which bits of navigation to use which we did, but later (and quite rightly) they decided to scrub the affected sections.

There’s more work to do with the app, but it worked better than I expected and it will be interesting to see how it develops.


Trialling the Golf

Having picked up the Golf earlier in the year, we thought we would enter it in a local car trial. With event entries at a premium, I travelled to the event separately as I was not sure what internet provision would be like at the venue, and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure an entry for a stage rally in a few weeks as entries opened on Sunday morning (I was successful!).

The Golf can feel a bit heavy and clunky, so we weren’t quite sure how it would do on the trial. There were some points where it simply wasn’t high enough and the front would hit a ledge or bump or similar hindering progress, however overall it performed better than expected.

With Covid-19 rules in place, rather than the event having a driver and a passenger it was a driver only event. I’d not done a car trial without a passenger (or “bouncer”) before, but all worked well and it was an enjoyable day in the Autumn sunshine.

A day for boats, not cars

The Ilfracombe Targa was quite a long way to travel (approximately 200 miles from home), but with events at a premium, we were happy to be able to travel for motorsport and have the opportunity to compete. We travelled down the day before and used a local Premier Inn, before heading to the venue on Sunday.

Upon arrival, it was clear it was going to be a difficult day with strong winds and heavy rain. There was little social element (what’s apps don’t really count!) as the conditions were grim and so everyone stayed in their cars. We hadn’t been to the event before, but spoke to friends in advance to have an understanding of what to expect.

The tests were long, with lots of code boards – but also a huge amount of standing water. Each time we did a lap you could see the water rising up the cone, which was something new! The photo below really is of us, but gives an idea of how difficult conditions were (particularly for marshals etc stood outside).

Photo thanks to Paul Morris Photography.

The standing water and damp conditions meant we also had challenges with windows and the windscreen misting up, not an issue we normally have. We got through the first loop with Matt driving and myself co-driving, and then it was my turn to drive. A hair raising moment when I found someone coming wrong direction at me was all to report.

The weather got worse as the day went on, and I found myself getting frustrated at being repeatedly held up by the same crew – who were also not stopping for any code boards, which made it worse! (The rules were you had to stop before the code board at a “C” board, then pull forward to the code board to note it before continuing). As they were not stopping at all, let alone twice, I would catch them up between code boards only for them to pull away as I stopped. Oddly, they received no penalties at all for this to rub salt into the wound.

The organisers had a tough day on their hands with the weather, and decided to call it a day early. With a long way to travel home, the conditions and other circumstances we weren’t too disappointed. Dinner came via services at Bristol and it was a late arrival back home.