After a successful targa rally at Rushmoor in November (yes, we won overall!), it was my turn to drive on a stage rally. I’d enjoyed Rushmoor last time we were out on the event and I was looking forward to driving Muriel again.
SS1 and 2 could have been quicker, but 14 months away from driving on stage rallies and the speed came back as the stages went on. I even managed to finish nose to tail having caught (but not passed) the car who started 30 seconds in front.
After some issues at Down Ampney in 2020, I now make my own tyre choices and I was happy with what I ran on the day. I picked up two punctures, both found in service, which was a little frustrating. I don’t remember cutting/where I picked them up from but clearly something happened!
Although the results showed me as finishing 5th in class, I decided it was 4th. The 1400 class was won by a 998T so not quite right!
Another different event, and this time it was Extreme E at Bovington. Bovington is a familiar venue having done stage rallies there, and run a test on an endurance rally, but this event was rather different. Extreme E markets itself as “the first sport built out of concern for the climate crisis. The series’ goal is to use electric racing to highlight remote environments under threat of climate change issues, and to encourage us all to take positive action to protect our planet’s future.”
Having headed down on the Friday evening, it was an early start on Saturday to report for marshalling when we were asked to assist with running the paddock. In reality, this meant a lot of chasing drivers/teams to ensure the drivers and cars reached scrutineering on time, so they in turn reached pre-grid in time, so they would be at the grid in time for the TV schedule. Although I’m normally ok at being on time on rallies, friends and family will tell you I’m always late and I felt for the full two days I was constantly clock watching! I manned parc ferme at the end and aside from ensuring people didn’t get in, at least I didn’t have to watch the clock.
I spent most of the two days with one of Extreme E’s staff and through conversations found our paths had crossed on many events; we had mutual contacts but we’d never met. It was extremely muddy (probably the muddiest event I’ve been to!) but good to see and try something different.
The Preston is known as a tough event; it was my first road rally in 2008 when I drove, and I returned in 2009, managing to finish both events. I hadn’t entered before as a navigator, but Mike Thomas asked if I would navigate for him in his Peugeot and so it was time for me to navigate on the event for the first time. I dug out my original beanie hat (not that I’m superstitious, but I thought I would!) but it wasn’t to be.
Unfortunately, we did not even make it to first petrol as the gearbox cried no. It felt like it was going well, and on the first section we were 17th fastest having overtaken some other cars and across various sections got around some people who were stuck. However, we retired on the first timecard and the the fourth section just after midnight with the gearbox seized. We found various ways to initially keep awake/entertained especially once it was just Mike and I left in the woods awaiting recovery. It took four hours (the second timecard) between breaking down and getting the car onto the trailer having been to Snetterton and back to collect it.
Thanks to the Frys for finding us and getting us to the road when finding recovery who could lift the front was proving challenging. All my warm clothes paid off as we could not run the engine, but it was surprisingly mild. We were very grateful for Luis Gutierrez-Diaz and Lucy Fryer coming with us to the car, and Brett Townsend and Dean Claridge for the lifts and also helping. With the front wheels not moving and no winch on the trailer, it was a lot of man handling and rachet straps to get it on… not an experience any of us particularly want to repeat and rather time consuming.
Matt was out marshalling elsewhere, and so I decided for the third timecard I would hang around where we’d collected the car with Mike heading home. Andy Merchant appeared ready to run the start for Fox Pin 2 (the section was reversed for the second run) but alone so I offered to do the clock (I had nowhere else to go at this point but grateful for the offers of lifts!). Tiredness then started to kick in so I had more espresso and opened jelly babies, and I was fine – it opened around 0500 so I was not far off 24 hours awake at this point. It was good to see crews even if I wished we’d still been one of them! Only 32 appeared…