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.

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