LE JoG now completed and what an experience!

We departed at dawn from Lands End, starting with a test in the grounds of the Lands End hotel that we thought went well.

20121205-100103.jpg

The first of the regularities was a shock. Despite it being a tulip section we managed to get horribly lost and delayed. Eventually we cut and ran to try and avoid the 900 penalties we would accrue if we were late at the next control. On our way to the next test we were held up and blocked in by one of our fellow competitor’s Tornado that hit another car on a small lane and blocked the road. There were no injuries but it meant we were late for our next two tests at the Eden Project. We finally checked in at the next control a minute outside our allocated maximum lateness and therefore incurred 900 penalties.

We found it very hard to keep to schedule and it soon became apparent that in order to do so and avoid significant penalties it was necessary either to keep moving and / or to cut and run when behind schedule on a regularity. Matters got worse that evening as we entered South Wales. The oil pressure light came on and the gauge showed pressure of less than 20 psi. We then spent five hours trying to stabilise the engine and get it running smoothly but that meant we missed a number of regularities on the Welsh mountain roads. We were effectively out of contention by the end of the first day.

Whilst the other competitors made their way up through South and Mid Wales to and through Snowdonia, we tried to catch them up by cutting across country through Brecon and Llandridno Wells. The roads were deserted and the thought of the engine failing in the middle of the Brecon Beacons, with no phone reception and temperatures of well below freezing was not pleasant. Running out of fuel was a more realistic concern. 24 hour garages are rare in rural Wales and we wasted much time trying to find petrol. By the time we eventually caught up with the other cars it was at Llangollen in North Wales, at 2am.

After a few hours sleep we woke to find that despite our misfortunes we were second in class. The two other TR6’s in our class had retired in South Wales at the same time that we broke down. One, driven by an Italian crew, succumbed to electrical issues and the other, driven by an Austrian crew, suffered a failed diff.

20121205-102403.jpg

Sunday proved to be our best day. We completed all the tests and regularities till nightfall accurately if slowly and made solid progress through Lancashire over the moors, through Westmorland to County Durham. By the time we reached the Pennines around Middleton in Teesdale the temperature had dropped to well below freezing and ice became a real problem. We narrowly missed sliding into a wall on a link section and made such slow progress on a regularity over the moors that we incurred maximum penalties. In other words we might as well have not done it! Following that disappointment we headed straight to the next overnight stop at Slayley Hall near Hexham for a comparatively early night ( 11 pm).

Overnight snow made Tynedale beautiful but the road conditions treacherous as we left Slayley the next day. The previous night’s ice was now hidden by a layer of snow that claimed some more cars before they even left the hotel grounds. Believing the regularities would (correctly as it turned out) prove very slow we decided to just head for the next check point at Kielder. The run up through the Cheviots was beautiful with the first bit of sunshine we had seen since setting out on Saturday morning giving the snowy landscape a magical quality.

20121205-104128.jpg

From Kielder we drove through the forest on snow roads over the border to Scotland. We were now focussing solely on getting to the check points on time and doing the tests. The car was drinking oil, sounded awful and smelt terrible. It was utterly gutless and the overdrive had long ago packed up which made for slow progress in even the best conditions. It was also showing a propensity to bog down and overheat at slow speeds, further reasons to steer clear of the regularities. We were now just desperate to get a finishers medal, all thoughts of other awards long since dropped.

The run up from the Borders took us past Glasgow and Loch Loman to Oban just as it got dark.

20121205-104952.jpg

There the snow gave way to torrential rain and fog. The rain froze and formed black ice – this claimed a few more competitors, a Volvo Amazon that span off the road in front of us, and a Mercedes that rolled four times whilst undertaking a somewhat ambitious overtaking move.. We decided (rather shamelessly) to cut and run direct to Wick rather than battle on through the night. As it was many of the night sections were cancelled due to the poor conditions but we still felt bad about not at least trying some of them. But the car was by now very poorly and we wanted to make sure we finished. As it was the car was on its last legs on the long run through the Great Glen, to Inverness then north to Wick.

20121205-105745.jpg

The following morning we eventually coaxed the car into life for the final 17 mile run into John O’Groats to be greeted by a piper and a coffee. It was fantastic to finish. However we were full of admiration for the many other competitors who streamed in later in the morning having driven through the night.

20121205-110203.jpg

20121207-093238.jpg

Advertisements