The Exmoor Targa Rally – as a driver

12 years since I last drove the Exmoor on an endurance rally, when Muriel was a rather different specification as she was much less developed, it was time for my first multi-venue targa rally as a driver. For this event I had Georgina Clark navigating for me, ten years since our last event together.

The event had two loops, with each loop comprising of four forest tests and two tests running up Porlock toll road. We were warned the first couple of tests were slippery and we knew we also needed to find our rhythm in the car with code boards etc as we hadn’t competed together for so long. The first test went well but we knew we could be quicker through the code boards and I knew I could be more confident in the car, so to find we were 9th fastest (out of 70 cars) was pleasing.

I tried to pull it together through Test 2 and we were quicker through the boards, and caught the car who started 30 seconds in front. Better still, we set the fastest test time of everybody – my first ever fastest test time as a driver, which was very pleasing. The handbrake wasn’t doing much which would have been helpful in some of the cone manoeuvres but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Little did we know these two good runs put us 4th overall – I would have laughed if someone had told me this in advance of the event!

We headed off to the next two forest tests which were longer, and picked up where we had left off, having a good run and catching multiple other cars; some of whom were better at moving than others. This test didn’t flow as well, with things outside of our control, but we were through. A quick check of the car at the end of the test and we went into the same forest for test four, only to have some more issues in test, again outside of our control. I also suddenly had no third gear; Muriel hadn’t been used since Down Ampney in May, when we had gearbox issues, and this was the first event with the new box. I really needed first, second and third (with sometimes an early change up due to slippery conditions) so I had to start thinking about my driving a little more.

Having got through the Croydon test for a second time, off we went for two runs up Porlock. My tyres were working beautifully in the forest but not so well on slippery tarmac and I felt off the pace, and didn’t find much more time on our second run before it was time to head for lunch. My view is always the car comes first, so whilst George offered to get me food (and gave me some of her pasty!), a toilet break and a good poke around and under the car was what I wanted and was what I did – although I did find us a couple of Freddo bars for the next road section.

We booked out of the control and headed off to Kennisham to run through the test twice, and again set good times here – over the day we had quickest on Test 2, a couple of other top ten times and a couple of top fifteen times too, which was pleasing. Through Kennisham twice and it was off to Croydon. Our first run through went well, but a car issue on our second run through saw us pick up a maximum and have to miss the final two Porlock tests.

Whilst I really enjoyed driving, and George was spot on with her navigating and encouragement, it was a day of what ifs. We were going well, but the car issues unfortunately hampered our day and impacted our result (we finished 4th in class 28th overall).

It was an enjoyable event, I loved driving Muriel again and enjoyed the forests far more than I expected to, but it wasn’t quite meant to be. Thanks to all marshals and the organising team (especially those marshals who came out to marshal for us!).

Photos by M&H Photography.


Back to Debden

Having competed on the Debden Targa in May with Cath Woodman, we teamed up again for Chelmsford’s October event, with me driving the MG (and Cath navigating) and Cath driving the BMW (and me navigating).

We’d had good pace in the MG back in May and the first loop of tests felt as if they went well. I was running better tyres compared to May, and my times seemed ok with fairly clean runs – and no code boards at this event, which was good as it flowed better. There were a couple of “not as map” bits on the first loop of tests and it was reassuring to get back to the paddock and find friends had found the same, as we’d hesitated a couple of times to ensure we went the right way, rather than the potential of big penalties for a wrong route!

We had a clean run round in the BMW (bar one cone we found) and then it was time for me to drive again. Pushing on, I’d find the back end would just snap a bit at times but we got through with some quicker times and were finding our rhythm, and had another good run in the BMW.

After lunch, things were switched around so Cath drove first and I drove second. We had a spin in the MG but otherwise nothing in either seat to really comment on. We were going well, although we weren’t sitting as high up as we had in May, but it felt quick and I was relatively happy with how things were going and my driving and navigating. We finished the day 17th in class, 24th overall in the MG and 12th in class, 51st overall in the MG – good results with 77 starters and a strong field.

Photos by M&H Photography.

A night in the lanes

South Oxon Car Club were running a 12 Car based near Chipping Norton and with me wanting more plot and bash practise, it was a good opportunity to get out on a Friday night on maps. I was navving for Gavin and we were Car 1, so having met up we went off to the start lay-by but the heavy rain meant we weren’t very sociable with others and stayed in the warm and dry car.

There was a short run out to MTC1 (Main Time Control) to start. Once there, we had a few minutes wait before “checking in” on our due time (the event used RallyApp Live, reducing the need for marshals) and the app telling us the first section of navigation to use. It was crossing grid lines and I plotted as Gavin drove, and we reached the next control on time.

The next section was tulips, and took us through Traitor’s Ford, before a couple of map references. So far so good, we were on time (average speed of 30mph) and we had all the passage checks and code boards. The next section was longer, with spot heights, and although we were always moving whilst I plotted we dropped a minute in this section. The next section saw us go through various grid squares, and we were on time, before a section of navigation neither of us had seen before but had been mentioned in the finals, “4Y, 3Y, 1Y2R” etc. I couldn’t get it to plot at first but as always we kept moving at a steady pace, and then it clicked. We dropped two minutes here, although we were only three seconds into the second minute (I’d kept trying to check in and pressing the button but not quite quickly enough).

From here it was a herringbone (one of my least favourite types of navigation!) but we worked through it together and then it was onto grid lines, a good type of navigation for the section as the vertical and horizontal numbers were the same which always makes things harder. A quick pause to discuss and we were sorted without dropping any time. The final section had 12 grid references and we decided we’d be better off stopping so Gavin could read them as I plotted them. This worked well, as it can be hard plotting accurately whilst in a moving vehicle. We had only dropped three minutes throughout the event but we dropped six minutes here, taking us to nine minutes in total. That was good enough for 3rd in class and 3rd overall but more importantly, we’d got the practise I was after and it was an enjoyable event.