regularity rally


Best Drive of 2012

Undoubtedly the long drive up from Lands End to John O’Groats as part of this year’s LE JoG. Even though I navigated, rather than drove, most of it.. Whizzing around Goodwood in the McLaren MP4 after a tour of the MTC comes a close second.

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You take the high road..

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MTC

Best Car of 2012

I have seen many fine cars this year, at The Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival, various events with McLaren, at Brooklands, Crystal Palace and on the London to Brighton run. The fabulous collection of Auto Unions at the Goodwood Revival was particularly memorable but the most stunning car I saw was the Daimler Double Six at the Windsor Castle Concourse of Elegance. just look at the lines and that long long bonnet!

Star of the show for me - fabulous Corsica bodied Daimler Double Six

Star of the show for me – fabulous Corsica bodied Daimler Double Six

Best Motoring Event Attended 2012

The Goodwood Revival is always amazing and one of the motoring high points of my year. For racing thrills and passionate crowds the newly competitive British GP at Silverstone is a must for all UK petrol heads. The London to Brighton run is always fascinating and the Classic Motor Show at the NEC was a great season closer. But my top event for 2012 was the Windsor Castle Concourse of Elegance. I am not usually one for car polishers but the collection of cars brought together at the Queen’s weekend home was stunning. Even my wife and kids found it interesting, which is saying something!

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Her Maj’s Roller even interested the kids..

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Achtung! Auto Unions!

Best Motoring Event in which Participated 2012

LE JoG – no question.

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Hero of 2012

Of our current crop of F1 drivers Vettel, now the youngest triple F1 Champion, stands out. If he had been less temperamental when faced with adversity then maybe he would have crept to the top of my list. As it was I think Alonso gave him a great run for his money in a clearly inferior car. Hamilton also showed some of the genius that seemed lacking from his driving in 2011. And that strange petulant streak that marred many of his performances last year was largely absent. Just look at his reaction when Hulkenberg’s rash lunge robbed him of victory at Inerlagos. But my hero of 2012 is former F1 driver and Double Champ Car Champion, Alex Zanardi. Not only did he magnificently overcome the horrific loss of his legs in a racing accident in 2001 to go on to a successful Touring Car career, he now has a fistful of Paralympic medals to add to his trophy cabinet. Winning two golds and a team silver at the age of 45 in a sport he only took up two years ago, is particularly impressive.  And the venue for his most emotional success (Gold in the Hand Cycling Road Race)? Brands Hatch of course – where his highest previous finish was a second in a F3000 race in 1991.  What a remarkable and inspirational man!

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HERO have done a nice video of the event – look out for Red TR6 Car number 40!

www.youtube.com/user/heroeventseu

Some photos of our TR6 on this year’s LE JoG courtesy of Tony Large and Frances Corastrelli.

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The final results of the rally showed that of the 52 cars that started 16 retired due to mechanical failure or accident damage. We came 32nd of the 36 finishers. Not very impressive but not too bad considering how many tests and regularities we missed due to problems with the car. At least finishing allowed us to claim a green ribband finisher’s medal and the the fact that the two other TR6s in our class proved even more unreliable than our own car allowed us to claim second in class behind a vast Bristol 411.

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According to the organisers this year’s rally was the toughest for many years. This was borne our by the fact the winning crew won the only gold medal awarded. In their victor’s speech they pointed out that when they last won the rally they accumulated less penalties for the whole rally than they accumulated in just one regularity in this year’s event.

What lessons have we learnt? Firstly do not hire a car. Better a car whose weaknesses you know. Secondly, if you are both 6 foot or taller, a sports car is too small in which to spend 56 hours in three days. A powerful reliable medium size saloon is probably best. This year’s winners were in a BMW 320. Thirdly, always press on. The only way to fit in all the regularities and tests is to attack the link sections. For a while we ran with some rally veterans – their speed on the link sections was impressive to behold. I will long remember the two TR4’s that overtook us at speed late at night in the Highlands, flame spitting from their exhausts as they changed up…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Gavin arrived this morning from London following a 12 hour bus journey and was not overly pleased to find that tomorrow we start the rally at 8am and finish at Llangollen in North Wales at 4.30 am. It will be a long day – and night.

I spent most of the day plotting our first regularities. Relatively straightforward on the map – I expect more tricky on the road in the dark. We have never competed at night so the long night sections will be a challenge.

It took a very long time to get the TR6 through scrutineering this morning. And it’s fair to say we are not entirely happy with her. She feels sluggish, has poor oil pressure and makes the sound of a car that’s only firing on some of its cylinders. HERO assure us all is well so we shall see. She also steams up on the drivers side ( inefficient heater) and the fuel pump makes an appalling constant high pitched whine. HERO will change it on Sunday. Hope it lasts till then.

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Weather forecast is ok though very cold for the night sections through the Welsh mountains and into the North West on Sunday. Frost and black ice may be a real problem.

We have just returned from a black tie dinner with the other competitors and are comforted that there are others with even less experience than us! Lots of nervous but excited chatter!

I arrived at Lands End this morning to give myself plenty of time to get to the navigators’ briefing this evening. I was astonished at Newquay Airport to find that a taxi to Lands End was £120! Luckily Avis had a car I could hire to get me to Lands End and tide me over until the TR6 was ready. The only car they had was a very girly white Fiat 500, but for only £50 including pick up from my hotel when we leave, I was not complaining. In fact it’s been fun to drive. Handles well and great brakes. I had so much fun I took the long way to Lands End via St Ives and the Tate gallery.

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Once I got to Lands End I had a chance to look over the TR6 in the dark. It’s a nice looking car, red with a black hard top and wire wheels. It was comfortable inside too with new MX5 seats. Worryingly they were somewhat damp and closer inspection revealed sizeable gaps between the hard top and the tops of the windows. Looks like we will be getting both cold and wet!

The navigators briefing was scary. The only comfort was that there were plenty of other navigators there looking as pale as me. To do my best to prepare I spent 5 hours in the pub marking up the maps (only managed a third) and revising navigational technique. Lets hope it pays off.

Tomorrow I collect Gavin from Penzance where he alights from an overnight coach from London ( his sleeper train was cancelled due to flooding). We then have to put the car through scrutineering and sign on leaving the rest of the day to mark up maps ready for the off on Saturday morning.

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