Motorsport in lockdown

After four months in lockdown, like many others, I’ve missed my sport. It’s hard to know how much of it is missing the sport and competing and how much is missing friends and the social side, and exactly where the balance lies. However it lies, it’s certainly been a change for everyone (for all the right reasons) as we adjust to a new way of living.

Fairly early on into lockdown we decided to buy a PS4 and steering wheel, pedals and seat. That has proved fun and interesting, and we deliberately went for PS4 games that were more sims than games (Project Cars 2.0 and Dirt Rally 2.0) and it has provided entertainment.

Aside from the PS4, the one thing I’ve really enjoyed is doing a variety of scatters and the like, using clues, plotting and then finding answers via Google Earth or Street View, across a variety of clubs.

My first event came about by accident, when with about two minutes before an event I teamed up with Lucy Fryer. It took me a little while to find a reliable grid reference website that was free for use (I use Streetmap) but we had a good night.

From there, we progressed with the highlight of our seven events together being winning consecutive events; a 1st overall on the Ilkley & District MC Raven Scatter in May followed by winning the South Oxon Car Club Virtual Walkabout a week later.

The Ilkley events made up a Championship, and we came fifth overall which was a great result. The virtual events really did give something to look forward to on a Wednesday evening (as well as a proving a challenge!). The irony is, Lucy and I have now competed together virtually (seven events) far more than we have in real life (one event).

We competed on events run by three clubs over the seven events we did and they would all have been a considerable effort to organise, so I’m grateful for the enjoyment, entertainment and problem solving challenges to keep me occupied and amused.

That winning feeling

Three events in eight days – it was a busy week!

Having navigated for Mike on a Scatter and had Matt navigate for me on a 12 Car, it was my turn to navigate for Matt on a 12 Car.

It was one of those weeks that had been extremely busy and I wasn’t truly feeling competing on the Friday evening. I’ve had it before, and they’ve ended up being the best nights and this one proved to be no exception!

It was our first SOCC event and having signed on, we were ready to go. The first lot of navigation just clicked, as did the next section, and the next section. Nights where everything clicks feel rare! It was all going well, until a particular lay-by where I just couldn’t get the next section to work. I tried, and tried, but was convinced I had been too slow and had cost us a good night. I got it down eventually, but it had cost us many minutes.

We got back to the pub where the club had put a buffet on, and it was results time. We were first! A real relief having thought I’d been too slow at plotting, and a great team effort. Matt commented on how well it had gone, my confidence and my improvement in map calling. I’ve always been able to do it, but the more events, the more knowledge and experience grows and maybe, just maybe, it’s starting to show. It was one of my most enjoyable events on the maps in a long time, especially having been disappointed with some minor mistakes costing the win the week before with Mike on the Scatter.

I really enjoyed the 12 Car, and with the benefit of hindsight I’m so glad we did three events in eight days with three different crew combinations, because little did we know how much things would change with lockdown and competing again is currently an unknown prospect.

Two nights out in a row

Following navigating for Mike the night before on a Scatter, it was Matt’s turn to navigate for me on a local 12 Car. It was an event and start venue we had been to before, and I knew there was a tricky lay-by slot that the organisers could use early on. Instead, however, they took us in the opposite direction – where there was another tricky slot that saw us drop some time and caused a little confusion and debate on the correct route.

I had the benefit of having navigated the night before and being “match fresh,” but it was nice to drive too; that’s the challenge of having two drivers in the house. We soon righted ourselves, and like the night before, the lanes were really flooded. Some of them were like nothing I’d driven through before, but we got round.

The organisers did a good job in challenging conditions with reroutes etc required, and it was good to be out driving with Matt alongside again. We finished second in class which was a pleasing result.

The event went through lanes in an area where I used to live (and which formed part of my old commute), so it was good to drive some familiar areas and again, know some of the trickier junctions and tricks the organisers could play!

Clueless in Kent

With Matt due to be away with work (his trip ended up being cancelled due to Covid-19), I agreed to navigate for Mike Thomas on a 7oaks Scatter in Kent.

It had been pouring all week and we expected to find the lanes flooded, and they sure were! I was wearing almost knee high waterproof boots and at one particularly large puddle offered to wade through to see if it was passable – it was, but it was at that moment I discovered a hole in my boots…

Mike and I hadn’t competed together before, and one of the things I can find hardest on a scatter is cryptic clues and, of course, planning a good route. The clue planning had shown my lack of knowledge of roman numerals (swiftly resolved the following week with the addition of a new crib sheet for my nav bag!) but with Mike’s help, we’d got everything plotted.

It felt like we were having a good night, but unfortunately there were a couple of locations we got to and we couldn’t find the clues. We knew we had answered 24 questions which was the maximum score for the night, but it was all going to come down to whether we’d got the answers right.

The long and short of it was we got two wrong when we had been at the right locations – one was a maths error on my part. The clue was “add up the mileage on the signpost” and I had 31.5 when it should have been 32 – frustrating when you know you have been in the right place! I’d just miscalculated all the different distances to the local villages, there had been more than 12 and I’d miscalculated when doing it on paper (I felt a calculator wasn’t in the spirit of things!).

The second question we got wrong was “what is the make and type of padlock?” We got the make correct, but not the type and so whilst we’d been to both locations, we got 0 points for those answers.

With Matt’s work trip cancelled, he had entered with Kevin Ablitt on the maps. They beat us by one correct question – two wrong answers and two clues we couldn’t find cost us the win. I like to learn from events, but that was a rather frustrating result.

Second is good but it could, and should, have been better!

Heading back “home”

Competing on the Bath Festival is always enjoyable as it is a well run event, but for me, it’s also a chance to head back to some of the lanes and haunts of my childhood. We moved to Wiltshire when I was 7 so whilst I’m from Hampshire and a Southampton supporter through and through, Wiltshire comes a close second and there were many familiar areas.

I was navigating for Luis Gutierrez-Diaz in his MG ZR, and he passed through scrutineering and noise before I met him at signing on. Having signed on, it was time to go through the road books and highlight anything I thought was pertinent and before I knew it, it was time to start.

The tests were a mix of farms, forests and other venues such as Castle Combe circuit. I don’t mind navigating from road books but without a tripmeter, I still have some work to do on always being able to confidently estimate distances once I’ve called them, especially with few references at times! My sweet distribution to marshals can at times also be a little wayward, but that’s another story, and one to also work on…

Matt was out marshalling on the event, and it was good to see him along with our friends the Mephams and many other familiar faces. There were no real “moments” to speak of, but there were some epic venues such as Castle Combe which utilised as much of the venue as possible.

Our result was not quite as good as 2019, but respectable none the less. We also performed our first wheel change as a crew with needing to change both front tyres during the day which I think we did very quickly – there wasn’t much time to be saved!

A great event as always, and a 3rd in class was a good result to back it up.

Photos by M&H Photography.


Whilst the husband is away…

…the cat will play!

With Matt away on a work trip, the opportunity to go to Essex for a 12 Car was tempting and with Lucy Fryer free, we decided to team up and formed the first all female crew on a Chelmsford MC 12 Car for many years.

The M25 was kind (it was closed but after I’d passed through!) and I had plenty of time to get petrol and dinner, as well as the normal scrutineering, signing on checks etc.

Lucy is a very good navigator, so I was hoping I would be up to scratch as it is a team game! She may have a different viewpoint, but I think I listened fairly well all evening; we seemed to be picking up code boards and it didn’t take too long for us to settle into a rhythm.

We had a few moments of double checking/sense checking but saw few other crews and had what felt a reasonable night, although we knew we had dropped a little time.

We finished 2nd in class and 3rd overall, which was a great way to start our competing together and a very good result. Hopefully, we might get to do another event together in the future and may find some fellow female crews!

Starting 2020 on New Year’s Day

Having bought the red Rover 25 in 2019 for a few Car Trial events, a New Year’s Day Car Trial seemed a good way to start the year with Matt and I both driving.

We found a little cottage locally to rent for a very reasonable rate and headed to Suffolk. The start time of the event was not too early either, which helped for a gentle start to the day.

The venue was more favourable for us compared to our previous Car Trial in the Rover; we were not bottoming / grinding out and getting stuck and beached as much as we had been previously. Having a car that was specifically for trialling is great as we really did not have to worry about any damage to the car or needing to drive home in it!

Whilst our results may not have been spectacular, we had a fun day and are grateful for these photos shared by the organisers.

The Rover 25 is going to get stripped for spares now and sold, but we had fun in it for a few months. Let’s see what happens next!

Stage rally success – signing off 2019 in style

Our final event of the 2019 season was the Rushmoor Stage Rally. Having entered the Micra at the targa rally there in November and having good results was a good move, but we knew the stage rally would use different parts of the venue.

Whilst the venue is one of our closest (just under 90 minutes away), it was still an 04:30 alarm to make sure we were there in time. The Newton brothers had saved us a spot in service so we could be together and we unloaded, passed noise and scrutineering, signed on and we were ready to go.

It did help a little knowing the venue, but conditions and the new bits were also an unknown. The organisers had recommended walking to see the split/flying finish/stop as they said it was tricky and we had done this. I tried to keep it neat and tidy but felt I’d been really slow, so to find I was about my “normal pace” off the Newtons in the Nova was pleasing after SS1.

The next couple of stages went well, but then SS4 was a little interesting. We came off the start and through the merge and all was fine, but then I couldn’t see anything except white smoke. It then became clear there was oil down and we tiptoe’d round the bend and I spotted the car in front (on their second lap) was on fire. It wasn’t a nice thing to see as we were completely helpless to warn them, but it seemed to self extinguish and they pulled off albeit leaving their mark with a trail of oil!

Coming round for our second lap, a Fiesta came through the merge just in front of us. He of course did not know about the oil… so having dropped back ready to tip toe through the 90 degree right hand bend and hairpin left, we watched him sail straight off when his car would not stop. We found out afterwards they were fine and continued after meeting the kerb and a couple of pallets.

The Newtons in the Nova unfortunately had to retire with diff issues around this time, which meant we knew we were second in class; dropping a few seconds per stage to the class leaders but with a comfortable gap of over a minute to 3rd in class. I didn’t feel I drove my best at the event and wasn’t fully pushing Muriel, but the times were ok and I think 15 months out of stage rallying did show a little. Aside from a rather interesting tank slapper over a crest on SS7 (which thankfully came back to me), the rest of the event was fairly uneventful for us.

Finishing second in class equals my best ever stage rally result. With over a two minute gap to third and just over 40 seconds off the class winners it was a good way to end our 2019 season.

Trialling the new car

Matt and I recently acquired a new car, and what better way to test it than entering it into a motorsport event! I didn’t see the car until the day before the event, I sat in it for the first time on the morning of the event as it came off the trailer and drove it for the first time when I drove it to a test. Whilst it runs, it really is a bit of a shed (and smelly inside!) but to have a car that we didn’t truly worry about was good.

There had been a lot of rain before the event and people were getting stuck in the paddock when we arrived, which there was absolutely nothing the organisers could do about apart from blocking off the boggiest bits, which they did. We unloaded near the entrance (which itself was up an interesting white) as having seen 4X4s getting stuck, we knew we had no chance in our front wheel drive tow car.

As a non-road legal car, we were in a class with various modified cars. The Rover 25 is, in reality, a bit big and long for a car trial and we were towed and winched many times during the day, often ended up stuck on the “belly” of the car. However, being out competing was good (although I’m not convinced about having to push Matt and being covered in mud!). We’re going to hang onto it for one more car trial and then it will be time to move it on.

Thanks to the organising club for some of these images.

Navigating on the Harvest Rally

For our third weekend of competing in a row, we headed down to Newton Abbot for the South Hams MC Harvest Rally. Having not finished a similar event earlier in the year, I wanted a finish under my belt before 2019 was over which saw us put in an entry.

Map 202 is Matt’s “home” map and I had heard lots of stories about what a difficult map it was to navigate on. I was a little apprehensive after the Carpetbagger but after some intensive plotting, we had everything on the map ready to go.

The first timecard went ok, we were working well together and didn’t miss any slots and I didn’t get lost on the map which is always a bonus. Unfortunately though, I was feeling rather travel sick and we ended up cutting time card two which was a shame. Having seen the results up until the end of timecard one we weren’t first and weren’t last but respectfully in the middle so it was a shame to have to cut and miss a chunk of the route, but I felt it was the only way I was going to make the finish given how I was feeling.

Devon’s definition of lanes is somewhat different to mine (think pure mud and ruts!), having grown up in Hampshire and Wiltshire, but once we got back on route at petrol things went well. I had a double espresso cold coffee drink, had lots of fresh air and the rest of the event went well for us. Again the lanes were tricky but we didn’t get lost or have any wrong slots which was really pleasing. With lots to juggle from the map to special not as map junctions (NAM) we did unfortunately drop a couple of code boards where I didn’t spot the NAMs and there’s a plotting and map marking lesson for me there in the future.

We finished 8th overall on the National B rally (16th overall with the Nat B and Clubmans combined) but most importantly we finished and had a good night as a crew which was the aim.