Rally of the Tests Report – Part 4
Continued from Part 3
Saturday morning dawned damp, but at least it wasn’t raining yet! Straight off we were back to Swynnerton for three fast tests there, the last of which had a Le Mans type start for the driver, running to the car! Think it is safe to say Stirling Moss was better at it than me! Fastest on one of the tests, second fastest in the other two.
From here it was to the first regularity of the day, ‘Barthomley’, and the sun was out! This was a tricky route with us crossing and recrossing under the M6 motorway, all on narrow twisty ‘whites’. After a lot of scaremongering about this section, it went really well for us, dropping just five seconds over four controls. Next came ‘Cheshire Plains’ and again this went well with the very minimum of penalties.
From here was a run to Oulton Park for a time control in the Chequers Restaurant followed by another test held on the rally circuit, with two laps of the first loop then on to the last part through the trees to the finish. I didn’t particularly enjoy this test, our third in class on here was about what I expected. Next came the last regularity of the morning ‘Sink Moss’, which utilized the wet loose gravel roads of the Cheshire Showground with many ‘slots’ hidden in the tall hedges and open gates to tempt you in to a wrong slot. This ended up being quite quick with us arriving at one control completely sideways with us stopped 90 degrees to the direction of the track, ahem!! This was our worst performance to date, dropping 2m47secs, both of us frustrated with the section.
We had time to reflect and chat though as the next part of the event was a long drag north up the M6 motorway to the lunch halt at Hoghton Tower near Preston, which took longer than normal because of a closed junction. Traffic was very slow and heavy and we, as were many others, well into our 30 minute penalty free lateness. My mum and dad and daughter had been standing in the rain at Hoghton for a long time waiting for us to arrive, and a wave and a cheer off them lifted my spirits, especially as I was on ‘home turf’ now, on roads I know well.
After a well needed Lancashire Hotpot lunch we set off east towards an ‘Autotest’ type test on the outskirts of Longridge run by Knowldale Car Club. Fastest in class here by three seconds from the Autotest champion, Lenehan, was a good welcome back to my home area. From here we set off to another regularity, ‘Lancashire Lanes’, and the rain was torrential now, I couldn’t believe the force it was coming down with, the roads and fords along here awash with debris and deep water, its grim up north!! It went well for us dropping 17 seconds over four controls, and six seconds less than class leaders Lenehan/Woodman.
Next was an excellent fast test round Grize Dale reservoir, and it had stopped raining. Myself and Bob know this Water Board property well, but it was the first time I had seen it in daylight as I am usually charging round here in the dark on night events. We were flying, fastest in class taking five seconds off next in class Lenehan. Next was the ‘Caton Moor’ regularity, with the long steep twisty ‘white’ over Haylots which we both know well, again usually going like dingbats in the dark, Bob’s usual here is ‘seven crests all FLAT seventy then 45 right downhill!’ Anyway, back to the plot, this went quite well but we were beaten by Lenehan/Woodman by the tune of five seconds. From here it was a fast run to the Whoop Hall Hotel at Kirby Lonsdale for a time control and five minute break. Michael Anderson from MINISPORT was here making sure we were enjoying ourselves!
Out from here was a quick blast down the road to the next test run by brothers Dan and Alex Willan of Kirby Lonsdale MC, both very quick ‘night’ event drivers in their Protons. The Orangebox’s original owner Roy Mapple was here watching, it was dark again now and a test I have done before on the Devils Own we set fastest time in our class again and third overall, Naaktgeboren fastest in the BDA.
‘Lune Valley’ was the next regularity and as we started this so the rain started to come down heavy again making the roads even more difficult with torrents of water running down the roads almost bringing you to a standstill sometimes, splashing over the bonnet and roof. An amazing thunder storm lit the entire horizon and for a second or so you could see the mountains ahead in perfect white light, very spectacular. Again we were on very tricky lanes made more difficult because of the weather, but we know all the trick slots and hidden brows and we did this one third overall, and best in our class beating Lenehan by fourteen seconds. These sections finished at Tebay services on the M6, where we refuelled and gave the car another coating of WD40!
From here a run up over on to Shap and another test well known to me, Waters Farm, which I have done as a selective on night rallies and as a test on historic rallies. Starting under a railway bridge uphill into a 45 right with a couple of cattle grids, several crests, a sharp humpback bridge and immediate ninety right into a farmyard with a hairpin left on the way out then a 90 left on to a wide tarmac road crossing the M6 where 75mph is seen just before the finish. It’s a cracker and all in the dark! Fastest in class here again, taking twelve seconds off the next in class and nineteen off the best Cooper ‘S’. In fact other than Ryan Pickering’s ultra rapid Triumph TR4 there was only a couple of Escorts and two 911’s in front of us. Mind you the Orangebox could probably drive itself over that piece of road.
Next came another brilliant loose surfaced farm ‘white’ road test where we set our fifth in a row fastest in class time, though Mr Lenehan matched us to the second on this one! From here it was a run in very wet weather to the Appleby Manor Hotel in Appleby, a very impressive place. The open fires and smell of good food seemed a better idea than going back out into the dark and rain in a Mini that by this time had about an inch of water inside!
From leaving Appleby it was straight up on to the Warcop Army ranges for another time control night rally section, again with controls one and two minutes apart in places. This was on supplied marked maps to a different scale than normal, with lots of the vagaries you get on MOD land. We had a none too smooth start until it all ‘clicked’ and we again enjoyed it with concrete and loose roads, nineteen controls in 30 minutes, all as fast the little 997 would go, and I could see, it actually stopped raining here! Coming out from here I was sweating like a madman and Bob was freezing with numb fingers… I always need the window open for a bit of fresh air.
The organizers obviously thought we needed some more (not like these modern WRC boys, clock off at 4pm!) we had some more regularity’s, three all quite quick because of the nature of the roads, and yes, it was raining again! The first ‘Pendragon’ went very well, with me in road rally mode until the last control where we lost 40 seconds, but still a decent performance and second in class again, although without it we would have been third overall on this. Next up was ‘East Lakeland Fells’ and this again went well, best in class and nineteen seconds up on the McCleans Anglia and over a minute on the class leader. Final section of the day ‘Mint Valley’ and best in class again, sixth overall and twelve seconds up on Lenehan. From here it was to a much welcomed shower, meal and pint at ‘The Old England Hotel’ at Windermere, results posted at midnight showed us to have maintained second in class behind Frank Lenehan and Cath Woodman but we had now moved to 8th overall. Feeling very tired but happy, looking forward to the last day.