Glorious Goodwood

My final planned event of 2022 was the Phil Collings Memorial South Downs Stages at Goodwood. In recent years, I’ve been part of the organising team but this year it was time to be back out competing, co-driving for Gavin Rogers in his other Escort, DVY. I hadn’t realised it had been 11 years since I’d last co-driven at Goodwood (although only four since driving there) but it’s a familiar venue.

I’d taken the Friday off work which made for a nice leisurely start to the weekend and gave the chance to meet mid-afternoon to walk a “new” section that’s not quite as map through the trees, just off the circuit. It was first used in the summer 2021 event, but whilst we’d both been at that event, neither of us had competed so it was good to have a walk through that and look at the split before being able to set up in Service.

There were quite a few Tavern MC crews out, who we were servicing with, and we had a sociable dinner before an early start on Saturday. Through scrutineering, and noise, and then it was time to wait around for our start time. We were seeded at Car 9, so it wasn’t too long before SS1. Although we’ve competed together before, it was our first stage rally, so we’d discussed on Friday evening how Gavin wanted things called and all seemed to work well. SS2 was a repeat of SS1, and we went 16 seconds quicker.

SS3 saw the stage continue in the same direction (i.e., not reversed), but with some changes to the stage layout. This saw our only real moment of the day, but it was slight at that, arriving at a chicane a little out of sorts (as shown in the onboard here). We reached the stage finish, and link section, with marshals pointing at us and discovered we’d collected a cone which we’d taken for a trip round with us. SS4 was a repeat of SS3, and we found another 11 seconds.

SS5 and SS6 saw the stages reversed and these passed without any dramas (onboard here from SS6), again improving on our time on our second run, after an enjoyable sociable lunch break seeing various friends and family we knew who’d come to watch. Goodwood always runs into the dark and this year was no different, so it was time to fit the spotlights and find an extra light for me. Some people don’t like rallying in the dark, but for me I enjoy it as the early rallies I did ran in the dark so it’s something I’m used to and like whether driving or co-driving.

SS7 had tighter chicanes than we’d been used to from earlier in the day, but we made it through, went quicker again on SS8 and had the finish and shakedown for DVY we were aiming for. An enjoyable event and weekend!

Photos by M&H Photography.


Taking the scenic route (Bath MC 12 Car)

As Dave Whittock put in his results email, “Gavin and Suze took the scenic route around Nempnett Thrubwell dropping them down the leader board” and I can’t sum it up much better than that.

The event was 45 miles of Somerset lanes, and we started ok dropping 3 minutes into the first control, as did most other crews. We picked up the secret check and all codeboards/manned marshal points and had dropped a few more minutes by the time we reached TC5, but were happy enough. We were doing the event for practise and the Scimitar had a “new” engine which hadn’t been used for 15 years, which Gavin had installed to make sure everything worked.

The next PC was our sticky point near Nempnett Thrubnell – the road forked, and I had the PC plotted on the right-hand fork but we could see the codeboard on the left hand fork. We got the codeboard, but it threw me and we spent a little time working out what had happened and exactly where we were as I’d started to think I was a junction out on the map (I wasn’t, as it happened, but there weren’t many features to help work it out). At the pub at the finish, I wasn’t the only one who had it on the right fork but I should have realised what had happened sooner and this dropped us time.

We carried on, picking up all the boards and manned marshal points and only stopped to plot in the last section (everything had been plot ‘n’ bash until then, me plotting whilst Gavin drove). The last section had some tricky staggered crossroads with clever loops in, and I can find it hard to plot map references accurately in a moving car on bumpy lanes! We needed to ensure we got the right route, so stopping to plot cost around three minutes, as well as the difficult nature of the lanes.

It was a bit of a night of “what ifs;” we finished 5th overall, six minutes behind 3rd and two minutes behind 4th. A sharper night on the maps would have been good but we got round, worked together to overcome various challenges, didn’t miss any secret checks/boards/marshal points and got the seat time we were after.

Returning to Rushmoor

Having won the Rushmoor Targa on the previous two occasions, we didn’t think we would make it a hat trick – but it was worth giving it a try! We had entered with Matt driving and myself navigating, and myself driving with Matt navigating, both in the MG.

Driving to the venue, Matt told me the forecast was not looking good and the closer we got the worse it became. Having arrived at Rushmoor, we found the service area was more of a river and it was pretty grim. Before too long, it was time to go off to the first test and as we were running Car 1 we needed to make sure we were always ready on time.

Matt was driving first which went well, followed by myself, and I went a couple of seconds quicker than him (only to later find out I had a ten second cone penalty). I found a bump on my first run, which was cautioned and I thought I had taken steady, but not steady enough judging by the bang! Due to the heavy rain, there was a significant amount of standing water which made driving conditions challenging.

Test 2 came and went (with no penalties) with Matt 1 second quicker than me with a new section on gravel, and then it was time for Test 3 which felt good, only to find I’d got 30 seconds (3 x 10 seconds) of cone penalties. This was frustrating, I thought I might have clipped the base of one of them but I didn’t know what I was hitting or where, and I was trying to be neat and tidy. I’d been sitting comfortably in the top ten (53 starters) but this dropped me down into the mid teens.

Test 4 saw the course direction reversed and I found 3 seconds against Matt’s time, although a cone penalty added to his time (meaning the results show him at +13) whilst I managed a clean run. Around this point, we were tied on time so it was all to play for, but a mistake on Test 5 (which Matt decided not to correct, giving a significant penalty of slowest test time plus 20 seconds) gave me a bit of a gap – although I managed to find a cone giving me another 10 second penalty.

Test 6 was the final test for the event and Matt was five seconds quicker than me, although I managed a clean run which was something that had been evading me during the day (I had 50 seconds of penalties).

I was really on it on the last run, which for me was in the dark (running at Car 1 Matt had more natural light), and I knew it was all to play for with the overall result. On the start line for Matt’s run the starter motor had failed so I had to push to bump start her. I needed a clean run and not to stall, but I managed both and had climbed back up the results to 6th in class and 7th overall – a very pleasing result considering my penalties. The conditions were challenging, but helped to make one of my favourite sets of photos from M&H Photography.

Photos by M&H Photography.

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.

Back to Debden

Having competed on the Debden Targa in May with Cath Woodman, we teamed up again for Chelmsford’s October event, with me driving the MG (and Cath navigating) and Cath driving the BMW (and me navigating).

We’d had good pace in the MG back in May and the first loop of tests felt as if they went well. I was running better tyres compared to May, and my times seemed ok with fairly clean runs – and no code boards at this event, which was good as it flowed better. There were a couple of “not as map” bits on the first loop of tests and it was reassuring to get back to the paddock and find friends had found the same, as we’d hesitated a couple of times to ensure we went the right way, rather than the potential of big penalties for a wrong route!

We had a clean run round in the BMW (bar one cone we found) and then it was time for me to drive again. Pushing on, I’d find the back end would just snap a bit at times but we got through with some quicker times and were finding our rhythm, and had another good run in the BMW.

After lunch, things were switched around so Cath drove first and I drove second. We had a spin in the MG but otherwise nothing in either seat to really comment on. We were going well, although we weren’t sitting as high up as we had in May, but it felt quick and I was relatively happy with how things were going and my driving and navigating. We finished the day 17th in class, 24th overall in the MG and 12th in class, 51st overall in the MG – good results with 77 starters and a strong field.

Photos by M&H Photography.

A night in the lanes

South Oxon Car Club were running a 12 Car based near Chipping Norton and with me wanting more plot and bash practise, it was a good opportunity to get out on a Friday night on maps. I was navving for Gavin and we were Car 1, so having met up we went off to the start lay-by but the heavy rain meant we weren’t very sociable with others and stayed in the warm and dry car.

There was a short run out to MTC1 (Main Time Control) to start. Once there, we had a few minutes wait before “checking in” on our due time (the event used RallyApp Live, reducing the need for marshals) and the app telling us the first section of navigation to use. It was crossing grid lines and I plotted as Gavin drove, and we reached the next control on time.

The next section was tulips, and took us through Traitor’s Ford, before a couple of map references. So far so good, we were on time (average speed of 30mph) and we had all the passage checks and code boards. The next section was longer, with spot heights, and although we were always moving whilst I plotted we dropped a minute in this section. The next section saw us go through various grid squares, and we were on time, before a section of navigation neither of us had seen before but had been mentioned in the finals, “4Y, 3Y, 1Y2R” etc. I couldn’t get it to plot at first but as always we kept moving at a steady pace, and then it clicked. We dropped two minutes here, although we were only three seconds into the second minute (I’d kept trying to check in and pressing the button but not quite quickly enough).

From here it was a herringbone (one of my least favourite types of navigation!) but we worked through it together and then it was onto grid lines, a good type of navigation for the section as the vertical and horizontal numbers were the same which always makes things harder. A quick pause to discuss and we were sorted without dropping any time. The final section had 12 grid references and we decided we’d be better off stopping so Gavin could read them as I plotted them. This worked well, as it can be hard plotting accurately whilst in a moving vehicle. We had only dropped three minutes throughout the event but we dropped six minutes here, taking us to nine minutes in total. That was good enough for 3rd in class and 3rd overall but more importantly, we’d got the practise I was after and it was an enjoyable event.

My 300th competitive event

The Kent Forestry Targa was my 300th competitive motorsport event. I’m fortunate I’ve been able to try most disciplines of motorsport, and many in both seats, currently having a 95% finishing record.

For the Kent I was navigating for Gavin Rogers in Fly, his Escort, with him navigating for me driving the MG ZR. Neither of us had competed on this event at Mereworth when it ran in 2021, although he had been there previously on the Hughes Historic whereas it was my first visit.

We started in Fly first and had a sensible but good run through the first test, at just over seven miles long. A very brief spell in the paddock saw us swap to the MG ready for me to drive. It was going ok until about five miles in when she started to feel a little odd, and it quickly became apparent there was a puncture. I drove her steadily through the test (which was quicker than stopping to change the wheel), dropping a couple of minutes in the process.

There wasn’t long in the paddock before Gavin’s second test to drive, and having changed the wheel on the MG we went back out in Fly. We were the fastest car/crew on Test 2 by eight seconds (this was a repeat of Test 1) which was pleasing! Back into the paddock, back out in the MG and I drove Test 2, this time puncture free. We thought we’d have a look at test times, and saw Gavin was clean but I had ten, yes ten, cone penalties! I knew I’d driven over the base of one cone on the first test so I expected one penalty, but not ten. Each cone is 10 seconds so it was a disappointing and frustrating situation – particularly not know what or where I’d hit anything.

The third test was different, and a bit of an overshoot into a slalom in Fly saw us drop a little time but we had a steady run through both four and five to finish 5th overall, with top ten test times all day. I picked up a few more cone penalties in the afternoon in the MG but otherwise an ok run with no further punctures to finish 34th overall. It was an enjoyable event, although I think I’m a better nav than I am a driver!

Photos by M&H Photography.

Autocrossing at Bucknell

Having entered a one day event at Much Hadham a couple of weeks ago, which was unfortunately cancelled, I entered the Witney MC event at Bucknell near Bicester. As I couldn’t make the Saturday due to prior commitments (it was a two day event), I took a maximum penalty for Saturday and Sunday was for seat time.

Having walked the course prior to practice, the course had been adjusted slightly since Saturday’s runs to try and avoid some of the lumps and bumps. There were still some big ruts to find, as well as the back of the circuit looking like cobblestones in places.

I hadn’t driven the Golf quickly for a year and the back stepped out nicely on the first corner of practice which was a bit of an awakening. A couple of corners on, the front right corner of the car dug in meaning I kicked up my own dust (and stones) in front of me and I also got a little air – interesting! With first practice complete, I only had 15 minutes before my first timed run and managed to be a little neater, and quicker.

With dust a prevalent feature, the organisers decided cars would only run one at a time (rather than the normal 2 x 2 or 1 x 1 when dusty). This also meant that laps had been cut down to three rather than four, as it would taken longer to get through everyone. This still worked well and by the time a lap was complete, the dust I’d created had already cleared meaning it wasn’t an issue. I did manage to lose a wheel arch liner on my third run, which was left on the line I wanted so I ran it over a couple of times (it turns out I bent a sump guard mount, too).

Timed run two was quicker then timed run one and having struggled slightly with gear changes in practice, it all felt smoother and better. Lining up for timed run three there was a bang, and a short time later what looked like a little white smoke in the distance – or was it dust? Then a flicker of orange; someone completed unconnected to the event (and on separate land) had let off a firework which had gone along, not up. With the dry conditions, it’s not hard to work out what happened next but being a motorsport event there were plenty of people, and extinguishers, on hand which contained the situation. The organisers had added extra precautions to the motorsport event (and sent lots of reminders about the conditions/fire risk) so it was rather ironic something out of their control happened.

Having taken extra extinguishers to the other side of the field, which were needed/used, I returned to the paddock and had a quick drink before going out for timed run 3 (which can be seen here on Youtube). It was another 1.6 seconds quicker, although it had felt a little better than that! I finished the event 2nd in class and 7th overall (Clubman event).

Oxford’s Summer Scatter

I hadn’t competed on a scatter since March 2020, and whilst they were a regular part of my competing ten plus years ago when living south, not many clubs run them around here and so this was a good opportunity to get back on the maps.

The start was nearly an hour from home, and having signed on, there was a wait to receive the navigation. Novices received the information ten minutes before experts and at 8pm we got the nav and it was time for me to start plotting.

Scatter are as the name suggest; a series of locations (with questions), scattered over the map. They’re normally designed so you can’t make all the clues in the time allocated, in this event we had two hours to plot and answer questions. I had the 28 clues plotted and a route planned within 12 minutes and then it was time to go hunting. Picking the “right” route is one of the greatest strategies in a scatter; especially when different questions are worth different point values such as in this case.

We started off picking up some answers near the start (worth 5 points each) before heading out to the far west of map 164, to try and get some of the 10 and 20 point questions. It’s also a fine balance between getting answers, and not heading back too early because if you’re late, points are deducted too.

We found all the answers at the locations we went to, and the route seemed to go ok but it’s always hard to know how others have done. Having started east and headed west, I started to wonder if I should have done the opposite but it worked out well as we came home 1st in class and 3rd overall.

Returning to the Hatsford Targa

Our first attempt at the Hatsford last year was in the Micra, having blown the engine at Kemble and the MG not being back together. It was very wet, muddy and a challenging day, although it did dry out eventually.

This year, conditions couldn’t have been more different with warm weather leading up to the event meaning dry conditions and the potential for lots of dust. We had entered in the MG and were seeded at Car 5. Having arrived when the venue opened and quickly passed through scrutineering and documentation, I had 90 mins to go through the maps before the drivers’ briefing.

There were six tests planned for the day, with the first four being approximately four miles each and the last two being eight miles each, all around grass fields. The first test used a section new to us (it was cut out in the wet conditions last year) and it felt as if we got around ok. We had caught and passed the car who started 30 seconds in front and had gained a little on the car in front of that, too; with dust certainly apparent even that early on. As more cars passed through, the test “cleaned up” and later cars were setting better times.

Onto test two, which was a repeat of one, and over 90 seconds quicker and again it felt ok but this time no catching of other cars meant it was easier as we didn’t get very dusty! Unfortunately though, we were to receive 1 x 30 second penalty for both test one and test two so 60 seconds in total; we kept right of something, but not the correct something, and a bit of NAM and test layout had caught us out (I had asked after test one what our penalty was for but timing was too tight to find out before we had to go out for test two). At this point, we were sitting in the top ten but a little confused and hoping for some clean tests.

Onto test three, which was a similar start to one and two but with some changes during the tests. It was going well, although there was one field where we lost a bit of time with Matt driving to what he could see rather than what he was told (worn grass showed from the earlier tests, plus there were gates no longer used but still up – much easier for organisers in terms of setup but definitely puts the navigator into play more, and the driver must listen!). We went the right way, but lost some time. A wrong side of a stake saw another 30 second penalty here; with my head down in the map, we were at the next cone when I knew I hadn’t felt the manoeuvre I should have done and it was too late to correct.

So, three incorrect manoeuvres, halfway through the event and 90 seconds of penalties – but sitting 3rd overall showed what a tough day everyone seemed to be having.

Onto test four, a repeat of three and we needed a clean run – which we got, and quicker again. We did have a heavy landing over the jump on our nose (no photos sadly of that run through) which caused the fan blade to snap causing some bad noises and concern, but we made it through. Our first clean test of the day! After four it was time for a lunch break with the two eight mile tests to go.

Test five was first up, and this time running in an anti-clockwise direction with some more test changes. Sometimes when competing it doesn’t feel like a test clicks, and this was one of those; we got round but could see we’d dropped time to those around us, although we still sat 2nd overall. We had to stop a few times due to the dust including stopping at the split; we knew it was coming up and we could not afford to miss it. One crew moved over for us which was much appreciated but the second we caught we couldn’t get past.

The organisers took the sensible decision to reduce test six to one lap due to the dusty conditions, and with only three seconds in hand over the crew in third overall we knew we had to be on it. It was probably our best test of the event with no mistakes and a clean run. We managed to pull out eight seconds on the crew behind to hold onto second overall, which felt some achievement with our penalties!

Photos by M&H Photography.