Autotesting at Brands Hatch

Following the recent Witney autotest, we entered the Brands Hatch evening autotest.

The event started off dry but then it started to rain a little. My times seemed good, and I realised I was leading Matt. It was one of those days where I and the car just clicked, she felt like she was dancing, she was doing everything I wanted her to and I also knew what she was going to do. Driving days like this are bliss!

It can always be a little bit tight to get around the tests at Brands Hatch due to the strict 8pm curfew, and we lost time as we were told we could not run the tyres we turned up on (despite them being allowed in the event regulations etc!). This meant we had to change and Matt and I didn’t get to do all of our runs, which was three attempts at each test and the best two times to count. This didn’t help, and unfortunately on the last run of the last test (where I didn’t get another go) Matt just pipped me to the class win. I was disappointed, but two seconds difference over eight minutes of driving is close.


Frantic Golf preparation

With three days between the Kemble Targa rally and an autotest locally (only about half an hour away from home), and the MG entered for both, we had a bit of an issue after the Kemble retirement.

A conversation between us ascertained we did both want to compete on the autotest, and so Matt set to work getting the Golf ready (the damage I’d done on the trial was one of the issues!). Christopher Newton kindly offered to come over and help, but Matt managed to get it all done by himself.

The autotest itself was extremely slick to start with, but gripped up a little as the fresh grass cleared. 8th in class and 8th overall was ok, but really it was good to get back out and get some seat time. I found the Golf a bit heavy at first but we got there.

The MG has a rebuild plan thanks to Ian Mepham of Performance Automotive, so now it’s onwards and upwards.

A DNF and a very sick car…

We were both really looking forward to Bath MC’s Kemble Targa Rally, a new multi-venue event in Gloucestershire. Bath MC normally run a single event at Kemble but were trying something new. Once again, the event was popular for entries but we got in. Being a multi-venue event meant only single driving (not double driving) was possible and it was agreed Matt would drive with me in the left hand seat.

The day was going well and on the South Cerney test in the morning we reached 100k on the engine. Tests around Kemble, South Cerney and Charlton Park were a mix of tarmac and gravel with real variety and were good fun. After two tests, we were fifth overall and enjoying ourselves (although we could have done without a puncture!).

Photos by me and  M&H Photography.

The first test after lunch was at Kemble and we seemed to be a little bit smokey. We had a conversation and decided we would keep going as we didn’t know what the problem was, and what was going to happen was going to happen… C’est la vie!

We checked with friends who had been marshalling at South Cerney (tests before lunch) and they hadn’t noticed anything, but we knew we had an issue. We headed over to Charlton Park and the smoke got worse and worse; a marshal at a passage check told us and wanted to hold us but we were very aware! We didn’t seem to be dropping anything (i.e. liquid impacting other crews behind) so a conversation mid test saw us agree to get to the finish, do the full test without cutting a loop and then start deciding what to do. The smoke can be seen in one of the images above.

Unfortunately, there were other ideas and within the test the driveshaft snapped, which is technically what put us out but clearly there were some major engine issues going on. We think the engine is scrap, so not the best day out on what was a very good event. My parents living locally was helpful, as a quick call meant my Mum was able to collect Matt so he could get the tow car and trailer whilst I awaited recovery out of the test.

A mid-week 12 Car

Having not been able to compete or marshal for a while, Oxford MC running a 12 Car designed for beginners and novices felt a good opportunity to get back out again and would give us our fourth different discipline in four events, since we’d been able to compete again.

For this one, Matt offered to navigate and I drove. I often prefer driving, so I was quite happy with this arrangement!

The navigation was relatively straightforward and bar one section where I gave Matt a hand the evening went smoothly. Second in class and fourth overall was a good result for our first navigational event in a while.

Co-driving at Down Ampney

Our third event of 2021 was a stage rally, and this time I was in the co-driver seat.

Once again, entries were popular but we managed to be quick enough and secure our place. Our class was a reasonable size, with ten finishers. We both had to work hard for the result and 2nd in class was pleasing, with a 37 second gap to the crew behind in class.

The venue required masks at all times (or balaclavas) and I don’t always wear a balaclava these days, so on a warm day that took a little getting used to but was an easy thing to have to do in order to get to compete! Last year, we bought a new car so we could be self-sufficient towing and this was the first time we’d got to use it for the Micra. The new set up worked well and was much easier, which will be good for future events.

Thank you to the provider of the on stage photos – unfortunately I can’t find a record of who this was.