Looking at the timecards this was going to be no walk in the park – some 26 hours into the future we would – fingers-crossed – arrive at our destination…
Now, I hate town centres for navigating and so coming out of Carlisle after taking a few detours, 9 minutes down on our time didn’t help. So when we arrived at the first regularity of the day and a queue of cars I decided to take some drastic action, we needed to go, so I set the clock and trip and as it was a self-start regularity went for it so we had a nice amble along before making up our time. Looking to the mountains ahead covered in the white stuff it was going to be an interesting day – glad we had put the shovel in the back now!
It was quite a long regularity a chance to have a smile and a laugh with other competitors, as we followed the M74 up the right hand side to Moffat, before having ourselves a convoy up the motorway and within 2-hours of the start already passing Glasgow to a slippy test at Forrestburn and where for some the problems would start. We arrived at an uphill hairpin on the test with 4 cars struggling got get up the steep gradient – we decided we had a bit of momentum and would give it a go only to end up back at the bottom. This would be the last time we would see Andrew McAlpine/Fred Gallagher in the Lancia Fulvia 1.6HF they unfortunately succumbed to the conditions but hopefully Fred who was Clerk of the Course for another event a few days later managed to make it in time!
The next regularity had a particularly slippy section where we saw the Winters had an off and as we passed by even doing 15mph a shout came through the window to slow down! We did to see Andy lane/Ian Tullie being pulled out of a ditch by another BMW – it was so slippy people were having difficulty standing up.
To Kippen, Callander up through Loch Lubnaig and onto Killen for the finest banquet you can imagine and time to fuel the brain and the body after a tricky morning, now we were heading to the big stuff but already rumours abound that the next 2 regularities hand been cancelled due to the safety of the marshals and also worries that some of the cars would not make it. The course car took at least 3 attempts at one icy place. So a quick – not really – detour around Aberfeldy before a really nice regularity around the Loch of Errochty and then the fun began then authorised of our rest halt at Dalwhinnie where there was a good couple of inches of snow in the truck stop car park.
We now had a regularity in the dark around the forest next to Lock Laggan – As we waited cars were going in so they must have come out the other side – so on we plodded 1 second late at the first control but then despite giving ourselves a gap we came up against the traffic jam of 5 cars some had got stuck others were taking it easy so we ended up with a follow my leader through the rest of it but it gave us a chance to have some fun catching time coming out of each intermediate control.
Now the road section to the Kyle of Lochalsh isn’t much fun in the dark with nothing to see unless the organisers come up with a cunning plan to make sure your kept on your toes for the journey. And not to disappoint they’d managed to find a series of lay-bys and cut throughs with passage controls. This is when we had a fantastic 3-car train where we were the meat in the Porsche sandwich sometimes others tried to join in but either over shoot these tricky junctions or ended up becoming beached down tracks that didn’t go – accuracy was the key and the Treasure Hunt was a huge amount of fun and really did break up the day! Please keep it….
After Lochalsh I have to admit the rest of the journey was a blur we continued where possible the 3-car train and had a fabulous time up Scotland’s equivalent of the Stelvio Pass the Coire Na Ba even being able to look up and spot the marshals head torches as they looked over the barriers down at the hairpins.
Now I was really struggling even the regular 20 minutes breaks every 2-hours it felt like we had gone no where one road in and one road out seemed the norm. Archnasheen – 3 miles lay-by on right, 3 miles, lay-by on right, 1 mile lay-by on right – oh distracted by Kev Howarth 1.5 miles lay-by on right (no missed that one back we go), 2.5 miles lay-by on right, 2 miles lay-by on right. Into Corsican 1.5 miles lay-by on right, 3 miles lay-by on right – No I mean left! Ullapool… here we come.
Relentless… #relentless on and on and on and on the roads keeping you awake and on and on and on – its all I can remember – not much banter and all a blur.
Then we turned to page 55 – 4 to go – dare we dreamed!
RS AA here we go come on then let’s do it 0.4 miles junction turn left. Bang!!!! And we came to a stop…. nothing worked, no spark, no nothing, car after car passed us we rang the service crew but they were miles away – ‘boy oh boy’ 20 miles away from John O’Groats here we are stopped – devastated tired and totes emotional.
What else can I say! 4-hrs later the tow truck arrived and we loaded up a slow journey back to Wick a few hours in the bar and then the long slog home to say what I think about the recovery is better left off the pages but in reality it went like this.
15:30 recovery will be an hour – then truck arrives
17:50 we arrive and get dumped in Tesco’s car park Inverness (temperatures are dropping snow in the air).
21:50 tow truck finally arrives after numerous phonically – they had ‘forgotten’ us!
I can no longer remember the timings as I sleep but we were relayed via Fort William, Stirling services, Carlisle (McDonalds – shut) and then finally on to Nottingham.
Thanks to Dave for taking me to Bristol where I caught the train to Totnes and arrived 24-hrs after I had left Wick.
A monster journey and epic adventure and already planning for next year the 21st Le Jog!
Finally, a big thank you to my driver Dave Bryan for the ride, a baptism of fire and disappointment all around but from thinking our rally was done within 2-hours of the start to making it so far north it was a blast and something I will never forget.