Beaten by the Bagger

Nine years since I first competed on the Carpetbagger, as a driver, it was time to return but this time as a navigator; my first time navigating on a road rally.

Having met up with Rich, we headed for scrutineering and then to the start. Having signed on there was plenty to keep my busy with plotting, and getting my head around the navigation had been one of my pre-event concerns. Whilst I was kept busy, and with a few pointers from fellow competitors, I managed to get everything down and sorted even if it did take me a few hours.

It was our first event competing together and I was annoyed to miss a slot early on, meaning we missed a control. We started to settle into things but for the first time ever the thing I’ve always dreaded happened; I was sick! I was wearing travel bands and had Kwells with me, but I understand I wasn’t the only one to feel a little worse for the wear.

We decided to cut to petrol, but I could see we could try and collect some controls and boards on the way and we managed to get those (thereby reducing penalties). Having filled up with fuel, we headed off for the second section, and it seemed we weren’t the only crew to cut; it was going to be a long and tough night.

The second section felt like it was going much better. Having settled in to things, we were finding all the slots and things felt like they were going well. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, and we ended up having to retire with car issues just before 4am in the morning. Thanks to the other competitors who stopped, and the marshals nearby and Rich’s Dad, Brian, who came and picked us up with the trailer.

We headed to the finish where I waited for Matt, who was also out competing (I’d turned down navigating for him!). He finished a respectable 12th overall and once he’d had his breakfast and packed up, we headed home.

A disappointing end to the event, but we’ll be back!

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Driving on a 12 Car

Having finished our 2018 competitive season on 30th December, our 2019 competitive season commenced on 4th January; not much of a break!

I persuaded Matt to navigate for me as he would be classed as a Novice, whereas on Boundless events I’m classed as an Expert (Boundless have you as an Expert after one class win, and the one and only time I tried to navigate as an Expert it all went horribly wrong!).

The start was just under an hour from home and we got there in reasonable time to sign on and get ready. Then, it was time to head off. Matt hadn’t navigated for over a year on a 12 Car so as always it takes a little time to get back into juggling maps, timecards, plotting the route, doing the maths etc.

We felt like we were having a good night, and the timecard showed how many code boards we should be collecting in each section and we seemed to have them all. We got to the finish and found ourselves finishing second in class and third overall, finishing on 0 fails and 26 minutes. Our time lost on the night was really due to plotting, but we wouldn’t have found enough time to creep up to second on the night so a very good night from our perspective, close to home and a good result to commence 2019.

 

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Co-driving at Deepcut

After spending all of 2018 driving on stage rallies, we wanted to do an event for Matt to drive on and this new event at Deepcut aka the Mini Tempest Stages fitted the bill. The Newtons arrived before us and saved us a service space, right by Rally HQ, the food wagon and the toilets – perfect!

We knew the stages were short but technical with a holding control at the other end, before tackling the stage in the other direction to come back to service. It was our first time doing an event set up like this and it worked well. The stages had a little bit of everything and were definitely a challenge, but good and well suited for the Micra, with them being tight and twisty.

We didn’t really have any dramas to speak of, bar finding SS3 blocked due to the car in front blocking the stage but we got around them and carried on. We managed to catch a 1600cc car which started 30 seconds ahead of us and were on their bumper as we came across the finish line, not too bad for a three mile stage. We were on and off the pace with the Newtons in their new car; I think at our closest we were four seconds off them, but sometimes they’d pull out 12 seconds. They had a problem on SS2 and lost time (the exhaust came loose), meaning we inherited the class lead where we stayed for the rest of the day.

After a second in class for me as a driver at Wethersfield in September, once we had that class lead, we didn’t want to lose it! We knew we had a healthy gap (over a minute) to the car behind which was increasing, so it was a case of keeping on it, doing what we were doing and not making any silly mistakes. Matt was driving well and pushing on, and come the end of the day, we finished 1st in class and 12th overall.

Whilst winning the class was a great return to driving/co-driving for both of us, the 12th overall represented our best ever overall stage result in the Micra as well. The stages definitely suited us, but it was a really enjoyable day out to fill the festive period and also enjoyable to compete on two events in two days, after the autotest the day before, and do something different. There were lots of familiar faces marshalling as well, so good to see lots of people and a really good way to finish the year.

Autotesting, thanks to Facebook

“How to find entries” seems to be a common theme in motorsport, and we discovered a new event to try over the festive break thanks to social media. Cannock & District Car Club advertised their Stuff the Turkey Christmas Autotest at Curborough on Facebook, we saw it, entered, and the rest is history.

Curborough is around 90 minutes from home for us on a good run, so closer than many of the events we do in East Anglia. We had both taken leave between Christmas and New Year and this event seemed a good way of blowing off the cobwebs and still enjoying competing.

The tests used two sections of the sprint track as well as the paddock and Matt and I were both feeling quite competitive with each other. On the first test I overcooked the final hairpin thanks to using the handbrake and lost time, and then clipped a cone on the next test. Those two incidents combined cost me over 10 seconds, and without any test times being dropped, they proved costly for my final result.

After that, Matt and I were either setting the same time on tests, or I was one second ahead of him, or he one second ahead of I. This led to some healthy in-car competition and with it being a Production Car Autotest, passengers had to be carried, meaning it was one of the first autotests we had done with the other person alongside.

It was a good event with Matt finishing 2nd in class and myself 7th; “what could have been” again for me as the pace was there, just not the accuracy! I still came away with an award (a massive box of chocolates) and hope to get back to Curborough to compete again this year.

 

Car Trialling – back to where it all began!

The first motorsport event I ever competed on was a Car Trial, and it’s a discipline I don’t do enough of now but still love. It was an early start to head to Suffolk but after a night of heavy rain, a bright and crisp December day greeted us.

I made a couple of mistakes on early hills which proved costly against Matt, and was frustrating. Matt had worked hard to fix the car after breaking the driveshaft on the Rushmoor Targa, and everything seemed ok. There was a hill that I managed to get to a 1 where Matt got stuck at the 11 with a tricky ditch (the line was everything and millimetres mattered!) but then on my second attempt, I was ever so slightly to the left and got stuck as Matt did. I was also the only one of us to clear a hill (meaning a zero score) but apparently I brushed the 4 on the way up which was a shame.

We were first car on a number of hills, and this meant that when a route was changed in the afternoon we were the first to find for a road car, it was almost certainly not passable in one section. It was extremely soft and boggy and perhaps the specials would have made it through, but not us! The car dug down and we were lucky not to do too much damage with a damaged bumper, and the radiator and crossmember pushed back which required some post event fixing.

We really enjoyed our day and with a jet wash located on the way home, made it home with a little less mud on the car than we finished the day with.

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Rescued from the Rushmoor Targa…

The 18th November had two events on that we wanted the enter; our original plan had been the Bovington Stages, to give Matt a chance to drive on a stage rally in 2018, and then Farnborough District Motor Club announced a new Targa Rally at Rushmoor. We decided to enter the Targa as it was a little closer to home, and it would be good to try a new venue.

Whilst it was an early start, an event just 75 minutes from home is quite a novelty for us. We arrived, set-up and as Car 1 (Matt driving first), made sure we were ready to get going as soon as the crew briefing was over. Up to the line we went, and through the first two tests; slippy and challenging but enjoyable.

It was then my turn, and I was around 20 seconds up on Matt. More seat time in 2018 has improved both confidence (and aggression!) so I was pleased to be on the pace following the targa rally two weeks prior and more events in 2018. I think this time had me around the top five overall.

We went out for the second run, and Matt completed the first test around a second off my earlier time. We pulled up for the second test, were counted down by the marshals, pulled away for a split second and “bang.” Lots of smoke, and no drive.

Having been concerned it could be the gearbox, it turned out it was “just” the driveshaft. Whilst we had a spare with us, it proved challenging to change and so we called a friend who kindly came with a trailer and brought us home; one downside of driving the car itself to events.

A day of what could have beens; good pace, but a frustrating early bath and just two tests for me to enjoy driving on.

Photos by M&H Photography.

12 Car confusion

Sometimes, the least said the better! Luis and I had a good night on the Autumn Leaves 12 Car, but were disappointed and frustrated to pick up a fail for a board that wasn’t on the given route (as per the navigation – we checked afterwards and queried!). A lot of work goes into these events from an organisers/volunteers perspective which we both know, but it’s tricky to have a result affected by things completely out of our control.

Targa class win at Wethersfield

I’d last won my class on a Targa on 13th November 2011 so it had taken nearly seven years for me to win my class again as a driver, but finally it happened!

Winning my class all those years ago in a borrowed car meant I’d moved up to the “Master” class, as someone who had won a class. I sat in that class for five years without ever being near the front, before dropping down a class. After almost two years there, I won the class…

For this event we used Muriel (the Micra). It had turned out that I’d broken a front strut on the Wethersfield Stages, so having had to buy a new pair of front struts (with a slightly different design), this was an opportunity to shake the car down.

Matt drove first and didn’t seem to have much grip so I was a little apprehensive, but I went out and was happy with the car. The confidence I’d found in her on the stage rally was still there and I was happy with my pace.

One of the key things for me was keeping clean and tidy, and that I managed to do. Matt was finding some pace and we were trading times and I was really enjoying driving Muriel, especially her being a little smaller than the MG for twisting and turning through cones.

Coming to the last loop of tests, Matt had pipped back a few seconds on me and was slightly ahead. Having looked at the results, I had over 60 seconds ahead of the person second in class and so decided not to try as hard on the last loop, whereas Matt needed to really try to get a good result as possible.

The end result was a class win for me and 15th overall, 1 min 42 seconds ahead of 2nd in class. Matt was 3rd in class and 12th overall, just 18 seconds ahead of me. This year has proved for me how valuable seat time is as I’m now regularly trading times with Matt, so I’m looking forward to seeing what future events bring!

Photos courtesy of M&H Photography

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The Exmoor Targa Rally

Competing on The Exmoor as a Targa Rally was a new one for me, and especially being in the left hand seat. I’d competed on the event when it was an Endurance rally and marshalled on it as a Targa, but Luis Gutierrez-Diaz had asked if I could navigate for him and so down to Somerset I went.

Matt was meant to be out navigating as well but his driver had to withdraw at the last minute, and Matt couldn’t find a seat, so he marshalled instead. We stayed in Wellington the night before so it as a leisurely start for scrutineering and signing on, before the rally got underway at noon. I prepped my roadbook (with valuable assistance from Luis’ five year old daughter, Valentina), and then off we went.

The whole event was based on a Tulip roadbook including the tests in the forest. Junctions in the forests typically had manoeuvres around cones and I was a little slow and rusty at first at calling them accurately/early enough as well as ensuring we had the many code boards and passage check signatures correctly. However, we soon got into it and Luis was driving well for his first time in the forests. I’d heard that the event could be rough, but any rough sections were clearly marked both in the roadbook and with signs by the test so you could drive accordingly; particularly important for Luis as he wanted to drive the car home again afterwards!

We’d entered the Clubman event as Luis doesn’t have a competitor licence and the class was not split into engine size/experience. We seemed to be going well without too many moments and for our first Targa together, it was working! We got back to the lunch halt and then it was off for another loop of forest tests and a couple of runs up Porlock again. There was a point Luis seemed very interested in the view having not travelled to the area before, but shouting at him seemed to do the trick… He also took a route up a bank for reasons unknown, but he seemed happy enough.

From the photos taken on the day, we’re not really smiling in many/any of them. We both really enjoyed it and finished 6th Clubman which was a good result. Whilst a little bit of a trek, and it being in the middle of a busy work period, I was pleased we’d made the effort and perhaps we’ll do some more targas together in the future…

The organisers offered a small financial incentive for providing a marshal so many thanks to Rob Thomson for marshalling for us, and it was good to see lots of other familiar faces out too; some of whom contributed to the below selection of images (with latter images by M&H Photography).

 

 

12 Car class win!

I’ve not navigated for Matt on a 12 Car for a while (nearly two years), but I have enjoyed competing on them with Luis. However, I’m Luis’ “stand in” navigator when Lucy Fryer cannot make events, so with Luis and Lucy entered I asked Matt if he fancied entering… The slight fly in the ointment was that Matt was due to land from Jeddah at lunch time, but he was up for entering and so in our entry went. Thankfully, he landed on time and we battled our way through M25 traffic to make the start by the skin of our teeth.

With six months having passed since last navigating on a 12 Car, I knew it would take a little time to get my brain back in gear, but I struggled to plot the first section. It should have been one of the easier pieces of navigation; “pass these features that touch the road.” The clues were letters, spot heights etc and I knew (and was prepared for) crossing a map, but I couldn’t for the life of me see where “r” touched a road. It eventually turned out to be the second “r” in “Water works” but I took a long time looking for it. The rule I was taught was “if you can’t plot the navigation forwards, plot it backwards” but I couldn’t get it to work backwards either!

Being rusty, for the first few sections I didn’t manage to plot on the move until the latter half, which did help. There was another section I struggled to plot (avoiding sections of grid squares) as I struggled to see a route that worked, but eventually we got it down.

Along with nine of the twelve crews, we missed the first code board and unfortunately a mis-plot by me at the end saw us miss the last board too. The navigation worked going two different ways and if this is the case, you take the shortest route, but I hadn’t spotted the navigation worked two ways. A frustrating error and one I thought would prove costly! It was costly in terms of overall results, but to walk away with a class win was a pleasant surprise.

Having had a look back through past results, it turns out I’ve won my class on the last three 12 Cars I’ve done, but more interestingly, that’s been in three different cars with three different drivers; Ben Cutting and a Micra, Luis Gutierrez-Diaz in a MG ZR and now Matt in our MG ZR. It looks like I’ll be out on the next CMC 12 Car in November, but with Luis, so time to get some more practise in!

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