Continued from Part 2
Friday morning was cold and wet and we set off north to the Hooton Park National Kart Circuit for two tests there that consisted of two laps with a three cone Chicane on the straight to keep the average speed down. The raised ride height along with mud and snow tyres really affected us here with the tight wet corners creating loads of understeer leading to a lowly sixth fastest in class, six seconds behind fastest in class the McCleans Anglia. Second time round we were third fastest in class but still six seconds behind the class fastest with the Anglia and Lenehan’s Cooper setting an equal time. From here we went onto the first regularity of the day, ‘Halkyn Mountain’ with four controls and this went quite well with us coming away with 15 seconds dropped. From here it was straight into the next regularity the dreaded ‘Clocaenog Forest’. With tarmac and loose gravel, a couple of fords and horrible weather and the route on an old 1” OS map, Bob was concentrating hard. With six controls it was hard going but we had a reasonable run other than a quickly rectified wrong slot, our penalty at the end totalling 1m 46 secs.
Next came the third test of the day, again in Clocaenog, just over a mile long, with four chicanes, a code board and very loose surface, which suited our tyres better than the circuits! We were second fastest in class here, one second behind Lenehan. Next came a fast road run to the fourth test and a time control at the Glan y Gors Kart Circuit, where we arrived in heavy rain in a now very muddy Mini! With over thirty corners in just over a mile and quarter on wet Tarmac I wasn’t too confident after the previous Kart Circuit early that morning.
Third fastest in class was better than it might have been for us , with that man Lenehan fastest, with another Irish crew, the Gaffney’s in a very sweet sounding Almond Green 850(?) equal fastest in class.
After this test all eighty odd cars had to have a compulsory power wash, a breakout of Larch disease in Clocaenog requiring this. From the time control here it was another road section to the start of the third regularity of the day, ‘Ffestiniog’, with just two controls on this section. This went well for us with just one second dropped at the first control and three at the last.
Next came a run up on to the Trawsfynydd ranges for two fast, loose surface tests, accessed by a deep fast flowing ‘ford’. We were second fastest in class on both tests, Lenehan fastest on both of them.
It is worth stating at this point that scoring on the tests was fastest scoring zero, second fastest three seconds penalty, third fastest five seconds penalty and so on. This encouraged you to try hard as you could be just one second off fastest in your class, yet be penalised three seconds.
From Trawsfynydd, it was onto the next regularity in Coed y Brenin where we had a very good run, followed by a time control at Cross Foxes in Dolgellau. Straight out from here was a run to ‘Dyfi’ for another regularity. Some amazing roads were used on this leg, with dozens of ‘whites’. Two spring to mind, one a steep muddy downhill white with a 90 left part way down with a massive tree on the outside which got very close as we tobogganed down on the sump guard, and another that seemed to follow the side of a fast flowing river, driving along a muddy ‘yumpy’ track… very narrow in a Mini, how on earth some of the bigger cars got down them beggars belief! There followed three tests, all either loose or mixed surfaces at different venue’s which gave us fastest in class on the first two and second on the third before another time control at the Green Inn at Llangedwyn.
From the Green Inn it was a run to the tenth test of the day at Oswestry water treatment works. It was by now dark and foggy with a heavy hailstone shower to add variety! I quite enjoyed this test which suited our car and tyres, finishing equal fastest in class with the Gaffney’s and a full eight seconds up on Lenehan/Woodman.
Next came another test at the Rednal Kart Circuit which saw us starting off on the loose surface to loop back round before entering the Circuit just after the first corner, running round the full lap with the finish a Hairpin left to enter the Pit Lane at the normal exit and finishing in the pit area, two seconds up on Lenehan. From here it was, via a secret check, to the sixth regularity of the day, ‘Bury Walls’. With four controls this went really well with minimum penalties. From here to a blast round Market Drayton Cattle Market, where we tied for equal fastest in class with that man Lenehan again! A time control at the Loggerheads Inn preceded the final regularity of the day ‘Staffordshire Lanes’ which saw us with a very poor 39 second penalty at the first control, seven seconds at the third but cleaned the other two!!
Next came probably one of the highlights of the event, Swynnerton Army Camp. Expertly run by Shon Gosling and his band of marshals, including well known ex navigator Bob Redhead on the start control. This time control road rally section on private land is fantastic! With every sort of surface possible from tarmac to mud, water, narrow and tricky, wide and fast it has everything including brilliant loose gravel tracks through the woods.
As it is held on private land, controls can be less than the normal two miles apart and this thirty minute section was broken up into one and two minute sections back to back. If you consider that it is dark, the different surfaces mentioned and section length, how about the fact in them thirty minutes there are over twenty manned controls and 107 junctions!! Just like an early sixties Welsh Motoring News rally, bl**dy brilliant! Many of the junctions are used several times, all from the same direction by the way, and at one time had us side by side with Paul Wignall in his Alfa and Peter Naaktgeboren in his big wing MK1 BDA Escort side by side at 75mph approaching a chicane! I let them go! We had a heavy landing on the NSF Wheel here and I thought for a minute or two that we had lost the lights, but it was the mud. Fastest crew in here dropped five minutes, we dropped six in the little 997, very proud of that.
After this it was a main road to the overnight halt at the Holiday Inn in Stoke-on-Trent, with the chance to check the car over. The fan belt was now squealing but more importantly it was pulling to the left and sometimes right when braking. At the Hotel Bob went off to book in at the control, organise our room and bags of which were ferried round the route in a baggage van, while I worked on the car, in that damn rain again. Fan belt tightened, the ‘pulling’ turned out to be a loose track rod end on the nearside. Obviously the result of our heavy landing in Swynnerton. I went over the full Suspension etc. with spanners, checked the levels, the only other thing we had was that we had lost the rear hub grease caps. I have never had this, though it seems some people have. The vent hole in the cap gets blocked with mud, the rear brakes get very hot and the caps pop off! A couple of modified aerosol lids packed with grease served as a temporary repair. It had been a very hard day and we were both ready for a wash, meal and a pint! Results showed we were still second in class to Lenehan but very happy as we had moved up during the day from 17th to 9th overall!
To be continued…