Continued from Part 1
Thursday morning dawned bright and dry and we made our way to the noise test and scrutineering which passed without drama, in fact, Alun Morgan the scrutineer was a lovely chap and remembered the ‘Orangebox’ from first time round in the 1960’s! After this we made our way to signing on where we collected more route information etc. Then off back to the hotel room, kettle on, and work on the maps for a couple of hours before we were due to set off to MTC1 which was at the Plas Hafod Hotel at Gwernymynydd with us due to leave from the ceremonial start at 17.39.
From here it was straight in to the first darkness regularity, ‘Alyn Valley’. This went reasonably well but, with over 50 years of rallying between us, we were both still very nervous at the start of an event. Three timing points saw us drop 45 seconds on this one. The roads were very narrow, with many tricky ‘slots’, and slippy lanes, the timing points usually just after a tricky junction or piece of road to penalise a wrong slot or mistake. The next regularity was named ‘Clywdian Way’ which had three timing points and a secret check, we lost time here after overshooting a well-known tricky ‘white’ slot, we arrived with all four wheels locked but still dropped 40 seconds into this one.
The third and final regularity of the evening was ‘Flintshire Hills’, here we were going well, starting to settle down, and dropped just four seconds in the first control followed by a bit of a disaster! Towards the end there was a 45 left followed by a hairpin right with the final control just before a hairpin left. Unfortunately there was two hairpin lefts close together, Bob called it and I just got the Mini round on the handbrake and we set off looking for the final control, Bob counting down the seconds, then ‘this doesn’t look right’, headlights approaching us turned out to be previous and eventual winners Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton who had made the same mistake! We tiptoed past each other on the narrow lane then I had to find a slot to ‘hook’ it round and we raced back, aware someone else may have made the same mistake and be heading our way! The control which was at the second hairpin was a few yards away but over a sharp crest!!
After this was the ‘Special Test’ which was on a large farm complex, the test had to be modified as the farmer had been out working all day and we arrived to find that the test I had spent hours getting ‘right’ in my head had changed! It was raining, very dark and very muddy, but we had a good run, keeping it neat and only pushing hard were I was confident of the grip , and this gave us fastest time in class, one second ahead of Lenehan/Woodman.
It was then back to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Chester for the welcome dinner and the results and starting order for Friday morning. It had been like a half night road rally rather than a gentle warm up!
We ended up 17th overall and second in class, eleven seconds behind Lenehan/Woodman. The successful husband and wife team of Bob and Susan McClean in their fantastic little Anglia Super arrived back very late after getting stuck down a ‘white’ and needing a tow off a tractor to get out. Dinner, a pint and bed followed for us, pondering what Friday would bring and happy we had got the first part under our belt.
To be continued…