Loton Park – my first hillclimb!

A hillclimb is an event I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I’ve never quite found a date or event that has worked. There’s always been a championship that we’re doing or a clash with something else on. I thought my first hillclimb would be at Wiscombe last year, but it didn’t quite happen. Working with someone who regularly competes at Loxton and also has an MG ZR 160VVC meant it was time to find a date and go hillclimbing for the first time…

I took Friday afternoon off so we could drive up to the venue, sign on and walk the hill. Being one of the first cars due to start, we knew we were due to be one of the first cars to be scrutineered and with scrutineering starting at 0745, as much sleep as possible was preferable!

Having signed on and walked the hill on Friday evening (with Rachel’s help and guidance), we got some dinner and an early night. I was really pleased to have done the sprint the week before and was looking forward to the event.

Matt went first and set a respectable time in the 60s, which was my aim for the day. I then had my go and it felt slow and slippery and not flowing at all, but I did a 73 something so wasn’t too disheartened. I’d sat on the start line for about 20 minutes after the car in front of me had gone off (he and the car were fine) which had given me plenty of time to remember and visualise the course and think about what was to come! Having waited for the other classes to run through, it was then time for practise 2 and we both went quicker again.

There was a wedding taking place nearby which meant the event had to have a compulsory lunch break from 1255 to 1410, but as we were running in batch 1 (Matt) and batch 2 (me), we just managed to get our first timed runs in before lunch. We both went quicker again, with Matt on a 67 something and me on 70.23 – just 0.23 off my pre-event target. As much as I love my motor sport, there are also things I love about being female too so having had lunch, Rachel braided my hair whilst we chilled out waiting for our next run.

With the compulsory lunch break and the majority of other cars needing to run, it was nearly three hours before our second and final timed run of the day. I knew two key places I was losing time and what I needed to focus on (and had also consulted with a friend called Rob who has competed there and gave me some pre-event and on the day pointers). The run felt good and whilst I tried, I can’t say I was really on my limit on Sunday which I had been the week before. I’m not quite sure why, it just never truly clicked and whilst I was pedalling reasonably, I wasn’t pushing to my limit – perhaps it was the lack of class battle? Who knows.

I got to the top of the hill and saw the time thanks to the ticker tape at the top… 70.09. I was absolutely gutted; 9 hundredths off my pre-event target isn’t bad but to be so close but so far is disappointing. Others have said for my first hillclimb and first visit to Loxton Park I shouldn’t be too disheartened, but I am my own worst critic and I know the car had it in it; the limitation was me! We have onboard videos and I’ve watched them a number of times and know a number of areas I could have improved, so maybe next time.

Whilst I may have finished just outside the target I set myself, I really enjoyed my day and first experience hillclimbing, and of course being able to drive the car home again afterwards is also good. Until next time!

Comparison video of Matt’s Timed Run 2 v. my Timed Run 2 (not Matt’s quickest run of the day).

Full video of my Timed Run 2, my quickest run of the day (70.09).


Image thanks to CaptureYourCarPhotography – more to come once proofs have arrived and I’ve purchased the full package!


Sprinting at North Weald

My second ever competitive motor sport event was sprinting at North Weald, and it had been a few years since I’d last competed there on a sprint. The course was completely different to anything I’d done before, and after weeks of sunshine the forecast was for heavy rain. The main reason for entering was that we’ve entered our first hillclimb, and having only used the car on slower events, I’d said to Matt I wanted to do a speed event to understand what the car can (and can’t!) do and to have a little more confidence before going hillclimbing.

The day really was the perfect test, with heavy rain and standing water in the morning before dry conditions in the afternoon. Before the event, we were expecting 3rd and 4th in class as the other entries in our class were a 1.6 turbo Ford Fiesta ST and a Honda S2000. Our class catered for cars up to 2300cc and with 1796cc in a standard engine MG ZR which we picked up for £300, we weren’t expecting to be that competitive.

The first practise run was “interesting” given the conditions. Heading down the long straight into the hairpin left I really thought I’d braked early, but I locked up and there was nothing. I was heading to the wrong side of the cone and pumping the brakes (no ABS here!) but a quick grab of the handbrake and she all came back together. It felt very, very slow and scrappy but it was the same for everyone and after P1 Matt was leading the class with me second.

The rain started to relent a little for practise 2, but it was still wet with standing water. I had a good run and took just over 2.5 seconds off but it felt a much smoother drive. This event offers three timed runs, and before I knew it, it was time for Timed Run 1 – a run that would count in the results and really mattered! I took a second off my time so things were going the right way. After T1, Matt was leading the class, the Fiesta had just pipped me to 2nd, and I was 3rd, with the S2000 behind.

Conditions started to dry out, which whilst pleasing for some cars and of course the volunteers, wasn’t really going to suit us as it meant others could get their power down. We went out for Timed Run 2 and I took nearly three seconds off my previous time, and was just six hundredths behind the Fiesta – it was all to play for!

There wasn’t much (anything) we could do to the car before our final run as we didn’t have any other tyres to use or changes we could make to improve performance. We saw the Fiesta was changing wheel sizes and from list 1As to list 1Bs (all completely within the rules) and I knew it was going to be hard to pip him and for Matt to stay ahead of him, but we wanted to give it our best shot. I decided my final run had to be all or nothing, and I had nothing to lose…

I can only say that I really, REALLY went for it, and took the best part of five seconds off my time. I was delighted with my time, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough. Matt, the Fiesta and I all took time off our earlier bests and really made each other work, but it hadn’t changed our class positions. Matt finished on 87.31 and won the class, the Fiesta on 88.08 and I was on 89.13. It was an enjoyable day and met my aims of a test session, but it was very competitive in class too and pushed me very much towards my limit.

Comparison video of Timed Run 2 for Matt and I (unfortunately we don’t have onboards of our quickest runs).

Video of my Practise 2 run.

Video from Timed Run 1.

Video from Timed Run 2.

Photos thanks to Nick Cook of Harrow Car Club.

Autotesting and BBQing

Oxford MC run an annual autotest and BBQ and if we’re about, it’s always a good event to get to. In 2017 the event was dry for the first 20 minutes before the heavens opened and we all slipped and slided around the field and tried not to get stuck. Given the recent warm spell, the weather forecast was much better for this year.

Having lent my brother Mark our car on the Oxford MC PCA last year, he now has a road car that he can compete in too and he had also entered the event, his first grass autotest and only his second event on his own. Mum was roped in to ensure someone could keep an eye on Elouise, my five year old niece, and so we were all set for a fun family day out. Matt was away the night before and thought he would just make it back in time to enter; he arrived one minute after the event started but as I’d been through scrutineering etc, he signed on quickly and was able to join in.

The event was a complete contrast to 2017 with sunshine and dust rather than mud and rain, and I felt like my first test went well. I had managed to jog around the test before starting, but didn’t manage to walk any of the later ones but it didn’t seem to cause me too many issues. The handbrake was working nicely and I felt like I was driving ok.

My times seemed to be reasonable, but finding out Mark was only a few tenths behind me really spurred me on in the afternoon for the final two tests, having enjoyed the BBQ. I pulled out a few seconds on Mark, but wasn’t quick enough to challenge Matt who won the autotest overall. I finished up 4th in class and 9th overall but most importantly, had a fun and cheap competitive day of grassroots motor sport with friends and family.

Photos thanks to Tim Green.

Marshalling at the Festival of Speed

For the last 12 years plus, I’ve marshalled on the rally stage on the Friday at the Festival of Speed at Goodwood. I’ve only missed one year, which was 2017; the FoS date changed thanks to the F1, and I had an existing commitment which couldn’t be changed.

We stay in Rustington and did the same again this year (with our normal chip shop dinner on the beach!), and had an easy drive in to Goodwood on Friday morning. Having signed on and collected our white overalls, we were ready for the day.

Other than one driver deciding the stop line and clear “stop” signage didn’t apply to him, our time on the stop line was very much run of the mill with nothing too exceptional to report. At the end of the day with overalls etc returned, we headed home without our normal stop for pizza in Midhurst. The traffic was kind, and we were home just after 9pm ready for the weekend ahead and having given a very little back to our beloved sport.


Waiting to start our marshalling duties.

Returning to Debden

It had been quite some time since I’d last competed at Debden on a targa rally. Work and other commitments meant I’d missed a number of events there and Matt had competed with other people, so aside from remembering there was lots of gravel, it all felt a bit unfamiliar.

Our day started off with an amusing start as we parked up and Luis Gutierrez-Diaz looked up saying… “I’ve dropped my wheel nut down the drain.” Matt has one of those magnetic extending poles so having rescued Luis’ wheel nut, we scrutineered and signed on ready for the day ahead.

As well as the gravel, Debden does have tarmac but the gravel/tamac ratio has more gravel than other venues we tend to compete at. There were lots of “bus stops” and the quickest way really was to use the handbrake, but I’m not sure I’ve done that many handbrake turns in one day before!

Our day was going well and Matt in particular was on the pace and as high as 2nd overall at one point. Unfortunately his “cone magnet” seemed to be on and he picked up five cone penalties which equates to 50 seconds. Whilst he finished 5th in class and 7th overall driving with me navigating, those penalties really did make the difference between a great and a good result.

I picked up a couple of cone penalties and normally I know when I’ve hit them, but I didn’t on this day and I finished 3rd in class and 17th overall. I think a little more recent familiarity on gravel would have helped, but it was an enjoyable, and very dusty, day. Matt had insisted we flew back from holiday a day early in order to make the event so it was good to both finish and be able to drive the car home again afterwards.

Photos thanks to M&H Photography.

Stage rallying at Abingdon

Having never driven at Abingdon, and only co-driven once for Matt, we decided to head there again this year. It’s one of our most local rallies and given it was a round of both championships we’re doing (ASEMC/AEMC and ACSMC) it was a good opportunity to try and pick up some championship points.

All signing on and scrutineering takes place on Saturday, so we headed over on Saturday afternoon and got ourselves all sorted. It was by far and away the biggest class I’ve ever competed in with 40 competitors in Class A, thanks in part to 22 classic Minis also partaking in the event as a round of their championship.

We’d had brake issues (i.e. a lack of brakes…) the last time we competed at Abingdon but have upgraded things since, and whilst it was a warm day, we were hoping the Micra would put up with the heat. We had solid stages, and nothing too spectacular to report; I was trying to keep it neat and tidy but unfortunately couldn’t keep up with the class pace. There were people around me though all trading times, so plenty to try for!

Going into the final two stages, I was tied on time with a Ford Fiesta in our class. A push on from me and I pulled 30 seconds ahead of him on the last two stages, which was good. The event was the inter-association stage rally and I was part of one of two AEMC teams entered. The AEMC B team came 1st overall, and we came 2nd, so a good result!

We finished 10th in class which was better than I could have hoped for at the start of the day, although I’d have liked to have been a little more on the class pace. More commitment through the corners is needed really, but good to know what I need to work on in the future. I remember hitting a hole at one point and pleased everything seemed ok, but afterwards it did become apparent I’d bent a wheel when we got back into service.

We’re not planning on competing on any stage rallies for a couple of months now, but have two to marshal on instead.

Sunny Wethersfield Targa

The Wethersfield Targa was one of a few “what ifs?” for us both… which of course is always part and parcel of motor sport! Once again we were out double driving in the MG ZR.

Our first targa of the year took place on a swelteringly hot day at Wethersfield, which ended up being a little more than the car could handle. In 2017, we’d had some issues with the car (fuel) overheating. Matt had worked to try and combat these issues but it was a case of not knowing if it had worked until the next time we were double driving on a hot day…

Wethersfield gives a mix of tarmac and gravel, and I enjoy the mix (and think Andy of M&H Photography got some good photos to show for it!). For the first loop of tests, Matt drove first and I drove second, and then vice versa for the second loop. My morning loop was fine, bar a couple of cone penalties, but unfortunately for Matt the fuel vaporisation issues started just as we got to the final two tests of the morning loop. This meant he picked up maximums and he dropped from 11th overall to 22nd overall; thankfully though, just back into the paddock in time.

Our afternoons were fairly uneventful, and for Matt it was a case of trying to claw back as many places as possible whilst I tried to pick up the pace having slipped back a little. There were no real dramas or anything to speak of (other than the fuel issue reappearing just as we completed the tests), and we finished 9th in class, 15th overall with me navigating and 6th in class, 25th overall with me driving. For now, it’s time to try and figure out what else we can do to the car… The problems reappeared at the end of the day so thanks to those who helped us with the car so we could drive home.

Photos thanks to M&H Photography.

Driving at Down Ampney

Almost a month since my last competitive event, and nearly three months since I last drove on a stage rally, it was time to head to Down Ampney for a round of the ACSMC Stage Rally Championship.

I headed down after work on Friday and got to scrutineering just before 7pm. Having passed, it was off to stay locally for the night before returning early the next morning. Signing on completed and after a little breakfast, it was time to head to SS1 and finally for the first time in years, it was time to drive on a dry stage rally!

I’ve driven at Down Ampney once before, as has Matt, so I had a little idea of what to expect from the venue. SS1 went well and I felt I had confidence in the car straight away which was good, and dry conditions made a change from the two stage rallies I drove earlier this year. We went out for SS2 (a repeat of SS1) and went 15 seconds quicker – not bad going!

Down Ampney has a mix of long straights, fast sweeping corners and some tighter slower sections and I enjoyed the variety. SS3 and SS4 were successfully completed before the stages went “the other way” in the afternoon. SS4 had some moments where the car wouldn’t go into third gear and wouldn’t idle and kept cutting out after we’d finished, but having lunch and the car having an opportunity to cool down was positive. We got through SS5 and SS6 fighting closely with some other cars in class, and then it was time for the long stages of SS7 and SS8 – 9.8 miles each.

The last pair of stages had two splits in them, right on top of each other, so before going out Matt went through the stages with me so as well as him calling the route on stage, I had it in my head and knew what to expect. Getting the splits right is imperative but with only two seconds between me and the car behind in class, another Micra, we also had to be on it!

We got through SS7 with a little kiss with a pallet at the end, and successfully negotiated SS8 (including passing a BMW, who must have been suffering technical issues and moved out the way quickly). Then it was just time for results; SS7 times hadn’t been in when we’d left for SS8 so it had been a case of just going for it! It turned out the other Micra beat me by one second on SS7, but we matched times on SS8, so I held onto the class position by one second.

We finished 5th in class, 33rd overall but the key thing for me was feeling happy and confident in the car – my favourite rally of the year to date.

Videos from six of the eight stages are available on YouTube by clicking here.


Scatter rally in Kent

It had been a year since Matt and I last competed on a scatter, and having seen Sevenoaks & District MC were running their last one of the winter series we decided to head to Kent for the evening.

I wanted to drive, as did Matt, but eventually I persuaded him that it really was his turn to be on the maps (I did navigate for him on the scatter last year!). Having had a quick dinner at the pub, it was time for Matt to plot the clues and figure out where we were going.

Many of the lanes were still flooded and pretty muddy, and whilst we struggled to find a few clues at the locations we visited we did manage to find the majority at locations we went to. It was a good and enjoyable evening without getting lost and we finished 4th overall. The chocolate and bunch of tulips at the finish were appreciated!

Marshalling on a 12 Car

Just as I enjoy competing, it’s also good to get out and marshal as people marshal when I compete, allowing me to enjoy my motor sport.

Boundless were running a 12 Car about 40 minutes from home so having done my London Marathon training run, we headed off to the start venue. Signing on completed, we drove over to TC3 which was our control for the night.

All eight cars came through mainly on their time schedules, and then it was time to go home having seen the course closing car and handed over our check sheet. With working over the weekend (VSCC marshal forum and dinner and a meeting for the Welsh Association of Motor Clubs meeting on Sunday) it’s a busy motor sport weekend for me!