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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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…

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.

The Lands End to John of Groats historic rally is one of the most gruelling in the UK and has long been on my list of must do events. It covers over a thousand miles in three days with long regularity sections and 20 or so competitive tests. Taking place at the beginning of December the competitors often face terrible weather as they slip and slide on narrow B roads through the West Country, Wales, The Lakes, and The Highlands.

I entered the rally last spring and since then my friend Gavin and I have practiced in a relatively leisurely fashion. Hopefully we will not embarrass ourselves when the rally starts next Saturday. One thing our rally day at Throckmorton (see below) taught us was the importance of getting the tests right. These often require competitors to navigate a tight and complicated course against the clock. Clear communication between the navigator and driver are essential and Throckmorton showed us that we needed a system to help us improve our accuracy and times. With that we have been practicing our new method on a table top with me shouting instructions whilst Gavin navigates a Porsche 917 around various paper cones. For a Le Mans racer the Porsche proved surprisingly nimble on the slalom , the huge brakes also helping us stop accurately across the line when required. Lets hope the TR6 we have hired for the actual event proves as good!

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