It’s a rally I’ve always been keen to do but up until recent years have been unable as a navigator was required to drive a special test.
A lot of discussion had taken place on the Rally of the Tests and as it was the 20th anniversary it had to be done.
It was a monster of an event Land’s End to John O’Groats in 3-days with stop overs at Chester & Carlisle with a 26 hour leg with regular 20 minute breaks every 2 hours – Stamina was going to be key! Something I’ve got in reserve due to my night rally/endurance background.
This time I’d managed to pick up a ride in a RS2000 Mark 1 Ford Escort driven by Dave Bryan, he had done the touring section the year before so knew a little about the event.
We set off from Land’s End on the first test coughing and a spluttering as we left the start line it wasn’t the best start especially on the fast/flowing moorland type road that went down and around a building and back up before using the normal tourist route out of the venue.
The first regularity would use the old St Just to St Ives road with some off-shoots – apparently it was a direct copy of the VERY first regularity used on Le Jog – They’d be a lot of similarities as we headed north with the old original route. We were plodding along quite merrily when I asked Dave to take the next junction left but we had a slight overshoot in the tricky/slippy early morning conditions then the car stalled and conked out as I looked left and could see the control – so near yet so far and 37 seconds dropped – but still in Gold contention.
Cornwall College was next and the slippy conditions continued we slid into a concrete kerb here but luckily our wheel was square on so when we reached the end the damage was limited to a few wheel scuff marks. We then wound our way up the Duchy with a sneaky secret check at Carland Cross using the old farm track running parallel with the main A30 but unfortunately a few crews failed to spot this and missed it already denying themselves a chance of Gold.
Another regularity would show us the beauty of Cornwall and also how we need to mix with the locals who decided it would be a great idea to hold a hunt and created havoc with their trailers and parking – blocking the road and route with many unable to reverse sat their for 2 minutes before the road cleared but luckily it was a main road section so easy to make up the time and booked in just 2 seconds off our time.
After the Royal Cornwall show ground – you could have a whole days sport in there with tests and regularities! It was time to head to Werrington Park, safe to say it won’t be a firm favourite of mine as we headed around the long way round triangle we slipped into a ditch – head on and trapped, so I had to get out – Any of my drivers will know I only do this when absolutely necessary! I pushed the back round so at least we were parallel to the road and with a bit of shoving and pushing from the merry band of Plymouth Motor Club members we were back on the road but the car didn’t want to pull as it hadn’t right from the very start.
We were even overtaken by the striking all yellow Beetle as we tried to climb the hill with that waft of smoke and the signs of a slipping clutch to then have the ignominy of overshooting the very next stop astride line! Struggling to complete the test taking a total time of more than 5 minutes – but how damaged was the clutch and was it all over?
We hoped it would cool down and as we left the rest halt at Betty Cottles in Okehampton but as we made out way up to Winkleigh and then South Molton it was pretty obvious the writing was on the wall…. disappointing – a quick phone call to my mate who owns a back street garage in Exeter to ask if we could leave the car there only to receive a phone call 5 minutes later to say that he’d found a clutch – so we gingerly limped there and set about changing it.
Some 2 hours later Scott Jonas had got us back into the rally…. Now where to rejoin – well Bristol Gordano services would be a start so we headed for there. But on the way up it was clear to see that the car could not cope with the extra power from the trip meter, clocks and interior lights plus the alternator was on its way out. When we arrived we were due to book out but there was no way I was prepared to tackle Wales with a dodgy alternator so we changed that with the help of the organisers service crew dave and Rob plus helpers.
This time we decided to cut to Chester and we couldn’t catch up – so an early night and this was only day 1.