Javalin’s Jumbo Targa Rally

Two weeks on from our last targa, and a straightened and sprayed bonnet and other bent bits fixed, it was time for our first Chelmsford MC/Anglian Targa Rally of the year. Matt had found the handbrake wasn’t working properly and had got it fixed, and for the first time on a Targa we had moved from 1A to 1B tyres; everybody else seems to do it, and we decided to follow the crowd, albeit picking them up cheaply as they are second hand.

Things got a little complicated at the last minute with tow car issues the day before we were due to leave, but we managed to hire a van so we could use the trailer; and what a good decision that turned out to be! Matt had driven the MG ZR during the week and all was ok, but come scrutineering and we had a reasonable leak. It turned out the water pump had failed, and without the trailer, I’m not sure we would even have started and taken the risk.

Jamie Turner (who knows anything and everything there is to know about Rovers and MGs and many other cars besides) recommended we found some Stop Leak, as it’s easier to clean out than K Seal. We asked around, and Sheldon Furby came up with the goods; a rally paddock is a great place to be as everyone always mucks in and helps each other.

We topped up the coolant as much as possible, loaded the car with extra water, and off we went. We were running Car 6 and were both driving, meaning 38 tests; I’m not sure either of us were too confident we would finish.

Matt added a digital gauge to the car last year so we could monitor the coolant temperature constantly and accurately. It clearly wasn’t happy, but after the first few tests with Matt driving it started to settle and there was less steam. The tests were busy; constant instructions being given as a navigator, but things seemed to be going ok. It was then time for me to drive, and I was quicker than Matt; not by a lot, but enough!

On the second loop of tests I drove first, and I went out committed but perhaps a little too much… Wethersfield has a mix of gravel and tarmac and I had my first spin in a few years on some gravel where I carried too much speed, but straight back into first gear and I carried on leaving behind a cloud of dust. Things seemed to be going ok, but Matt was coming back at me.

We ran the car with full heaters on all day with the extra fan always on to try and keep the engine as cool as possible. I will never run with the windows down (as per the regulations) so as the sun came out, it got a little toasty inside! But, if running with the heaters on meant getting a finish, it was worth it…

Our day continued to go well and touch wood, the car was holding together but by this time Matt was taking time out of me. I completed all 19 of my tests as a driver, and then it was time for Matt’s final loop, tests 16, 17, 18 and 19. All was going well until the end of test 18; the Stop Leak had done us proud and got us so far, but it had given up. Lots of steam, lots of leaking coolant/water, but just one test and 2.4 miles left.

We had nothing to lose, so in went more water, off we went and it seemed to be another day luck was looking down on us, as we made it to the finish in a good time for the test. We left a little trail of water for people to follow back to the paddock, and having examined the car, we wouldn’t have made it through another test; we were very lucky! It also highlighted to us that buying a trailer was a good move, as we wouldn’t have made it home under our own power. On the drive back, we dropped the car at The Rover Centre, and now we’ve asked them to replace the water pump and change the cam belts, ready for our next event.

Photos by M&H Photography.

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A new Targa for us… Bramley

Last year we were on holiday when Farnborough ran the Bramley Targa for the first time, but this year we were around and in our entries went in our MG ZR. The venue is a little over 75 minutes from home making it a more local event for us.

We were double driving, and didn’t quite know what to expect! Having recently bought a trailer, it was our first event using it and travelling together was an added bonus.

Scrutineered, signed on etc and it was time for us to start as we were car 3. The tests were tight, all first or second gear, but clear and easy to see where we were going. They were very slippery, with mud and leaves. Matt drove first and then it was my turn. We were both struggling with a lack of grip and a handbrake that wasn’t reliable or working properly; the car wasn’t giving much confidence but we were not too sure why, we just knew we were both finding it a little bit of a battle and it wasn’t really flowing.

On Matt’s second loop of tests, we had a little “moment” (no photographs exist!). We ended up 90 degrees to the road, nose down in a ditch… not ideal. The test had to be stopped (sorry everyone) as we were blocking it. My biggest relief was that we didn’t roll, as it was a carbon copy of a roll I once had with a tank slapper before going off, but this time luck was on our side.

We thought we were going to need a tow but some creative, woodland engineering worked and we got out with the help of many marshals. We pulled out of the way so the test could restart and it seemed we’d got away with it; a damaged bonnet, bent spot light bracket etc but no damage to the radiator. We drove out of the test and carried on; lady luck was on our side!

We didn’t have much time in service before my run, and so it was the lunch break before we tried to straighten things out (a tree and a ratchet strap did the job!). There was nothing too spectacular to talk about; I picked up more cone penalties than I’ve ever received before but things were going ok.

We finished up with 7th in class, 29th overall with me driving and 8th in class, 37th overall with Matt driving and me navigating as well as taking home the best mixed crew award. One of those days that luck was on our side, and we were extremely grateful to get a finish!

Photos by M&H Photography.

Navigating on the Bath Festival

The Bath Festival was a new event for me, and with Matt and I both out navigating, we took a road car to the event which should have been a nice luxury. Unfortunately we had a puncture on the way down, and having topped the tyre with air twice, ended up changing it so not quite the relaxed journey we had planned!

I was out navigating for Luis Gutierrez-Diaz in his MG ZR and having met up at scrutineering, we signed on. I went over paperwork and had the option of navigating from maps or tulips, however whichever option I chose would mean transferring some information from one to the other. I initially chose maps, but ended up using a combination of both (and relying on tulips), which had worked for us on the Exmoor and worked again on this event.

The drivers’ briefing was 1445 as the tests were running into the afternoon and evening, and before too long it was time for us to head off. The first test was around a farmyard with greasy concrete; I think I enjoyed it more than Luis! Then, it was off into the forests and we seemed to be doing ok.

Luis and I were running in the Clubman class because whilst I have a Motorsport UK competition licence, Luis doesn’t due to some additional costs from the Spanish ASN as he is Spanish. We found out we were leading the class from some messages and all seemed to be going well. There were a couple of petrol halts, but not long to get ourselves together.

When we got back to the finish we were still 1st in class but when the final results were announced we’d dropped to 2nd; it turned out one crew had been in the wrong class during the day and it was corrected on the final results. Still a very good result for us, just not quite what we thought!

The tests were very different to the Exmoor and just showed the difference in forests and regional variation; they weren’t quite as smooth, but therefore there were less manoeuvres needed to keep the average speed down. I’ve enjoyed both events, and would happily go back again.

We got home just before 0230 in the morning so a long day, but worthwhile!

Photos by M&H Photography.

Scatter win!

Matt and I both miss competing on scatters locally, and so a day off for me and Matt working in London (meaning he could get the train out to Kent) saw us enter the Sevenoaks & District Motor Club event. There aren’t any clubs near us running scatters, hence having to travel.

We decided I would navigate, which would be good practise, but the thing I always find hardest on a scatter is picking a good route and it being as efficient as possible. The idea of a scatter is that you’re given a number of clues which you have to plot, and then you drive to these points to find answers to clues at those locations. These are “scattered” over a map, hence the name, and you “just” have to be back at the finish venue by a set time.

I decided we would head West first to pick up a few “outliers” for valuable points, before using an A road to get us to the East side of the map and start, where more clues were located. This worked well, although one wrong call from me did lead to us passing over a clue as we should have been on a local road underneath the bridge!

I was a little concerned we arrived back at the pub a little too early (six minutes in hand) but there were no obvious other clues to collect, and there was a location we’d visited but couldn’t find the answer.

When results were announced, we found we were first overall which was a pleasant surprise, and a welcome result! I’ve won a few scatters as a driver but never as a navigator, so it was good to pick up a win in the left hand seat.

Taking on the Pom

The VSCC Pomeroy Trophy has been an event I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’ve never got around to it! It’s held on or near the Goodwood Stages and as that’s a championship round we’ve prioritised that. However this year, having decided not to do stage rally championships and selected events instead, it gave the opportunity for us to enter it.

The event requires a race licence and Matt and I both have ours. Matt said he didn’t mind which car he drove, so I chose the Micra leaving him with the MG ZR. We scrutineered and signed on during Friday evening, and headed over early on Saturday ready for the day ahead. Our friend Haydn came with us in-case we needed a hand as we were running two cars, which was appreciated.

The morning involves various tests, including a slalom (held on the old start/finish straight), a speed test on the Hangar Straight and a braking test on the “new” start/finish straight. I did slightly regret not going harder in the brake test, but it was a balance between speed/time (which was measured) and ensuring I stopped in the right place (also crucial to not receive a “fail” for not stopping astride a specified line).

As fun as the morning was, the “piece de resistance” is a speed trial run on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit during the afternoon, held under race conditions (one of the reasons a race licence is needed, as well as the many cars on track). We had two warm-up laps and it was a rolling start. It was 40 minutes and we’d each been given a set number of laps we had to achieve; mine was 12. I intended to count them, but after three or four I couldn’t remember how many I was on so I soon gave up with that and just kept lapping!

I found the event mentality for the driving test interesting; I wasn’t driving on my limit, but was trying. Penalty marks could be applied for spinning, going off the track, etc and I wanted to make sure I got my laps in without pushing myself to my absolute limit. I was passed by a few cars and I passed a few, including three in four corners!

Come the end of the driving test and I’d completed my set number of laps, which was good! Matt unfortunately had a problem and had to pit (a bonnet pin came loose and the bonnet was part lifting), and he was one lap short. We both had a good day, and when results were published, it shows me as 2nd in class and 11th overall and Matt 2nd in class and 14th overall. Lessons for next time? Push harder in the brake test (probably the difference for a top 10 for me) and Matt, without his pitstop, would have had an extremely good result. Until next year!

A video of my 40 minute speed trial is available on YouTube.

Thanks to Toby Galbraith for the solo “on track” image & Sarah Tibbetts for the group shot.

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!

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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