HRCR Mini Sport Cup: Tour of Flanders 5th & 6th Round Review

The weekend of the 6th/7th September saw 9 of our Mini crews make the journey overseas to Belgium to compete in the Conxion Omloop van vlaanderen Tour of Flanders for the 5th and 6th Rounds of the HRCR Mini Sport Cup.

Competing over the course of 2 days and 20 exhilarating stages, our Mini crews were truly tested and Belgium certainly did not go easy on them – with double points up for grabs the Minis had to give it their all!

Before the rally even began, a couple of our crews were not off to the best start… Although not competing in Flanders, Andy Jarman was set to make the journey over to Belgium to do the spannering for Peter Ellerby, Andy went on to explain his traitorous beginning to his journey, Me & Diane left home 12 am Thursday on our way to hull for the night ferry to Belgium, but we got stuck on the M62 for 7 hours! We managed to move to another ferry from Hull, but missed that one too! So we booked on a ferry from Dover… Turning left off the M62 down the M1 to Dover it was now 8.30 pm, then the M25 was shut, so we then went down to the North Circular road then hit road works at Edmonton, by this point it was 12.30 am! We eventually got to Dover at 1.30 am. What a journey!” Confident that they had finally made it in time for a ferry to Belgium, Andy showed that he knew how to spoil his better half, by treating Diane to a well-earned tea at McDonald’s before a quick catnap at the Ferry Port. Only the drama didn’t end at the Port… Resting in the lounge, Andy was then alerted that Diane was locked in the toilets! The door had jammed & maintenance had to pull the toilet door off… Thankfully, for the sake of Andy & Diane’s sanity, it was plain sailing after that. Arriving in Belgium, Andy added that he had a great time with the lads in service.

Craig King also had a nightmare of a journey over from Dover, arriving at the Port to find out his ticket had been cancelled due to an admin mistake – meaning he missed the Ferry! Having to fork out a whopping £339 to get himself on the next boat… Yet the issues had only just begun, driving on to the Ferry, Craig’s ‘Service Wagon’ began to squeal, 2 out of the 3 Belts that were needed for the Alternator & Air Con had snapped! Luckily the 1 belt that didn’t snap held out for the return journey – however Craig also had a warped Brake Disc thrown in the mix too, “it means my service vehicle needs more work on it than the rally Mini does before the next event!”

 

Arriving in Belgium on Wednesday, our crews made the most of the chance to socialise before the event kicked off, wining & dining with each other in the evening & completing the recce together on Thursday. Much to the delight of our Mini crews, everyone was also servicing together for the event – much gratitude to the organisers for arranging this for us, boosting the camaraderie within & also allowing everyone to help resolve issues with anyone’s Mini – should they arise! Although, even with servicing altogether, time would be against our crews as Service time was truly limited… Each Stage loop was over 55km before returning to Service, where you only had a maximum of 30 minutes, meaning that any serious issues would mean the end of the rally!

Joining us all the way from Japan, Yoshino Tsuchiya/ Ritso Okano suffered a disappointing rally, being forced to retire after Stage 10 with a misfire – thus bringing an abrupt end on the 2-day event, for the team who had travelled over 5800 Miles to compete in the rally! Having driven their Minis to the event all the way from Southport, with no trailers – it was fortunate that Yoshinao & Ritso kept the Engine going to drive back to for the ferry home.

Eric Davis/Russell Joseph were plagued with issues from the off, with Eric’s Mini breaking down before they even left to catch the ferry from England! Not off to a good start, the Mini was left with a local garage in the hopes of it being repaired before it was time to set sail. Reaching Belgium, Eric & Russell had high hopes for the event to be a success, only to be tormented with starting the Mini, believing it to be a low battery, the team kept it ticking over – only to discover it was in fact an issue with the Starter Motor. The drama didn’t end there for Eric, when at sign on he was refused an entry due to his Motorsport licence restricting him to UK only rallies! Luckily, between frantic calls to the MSA & the help from Paul Loveridge, Eric & Russell were allowed to start the event. Things finally looking up for the crew, misfortune was just around the corner again, when a slipping Clutch was diagnosed as a failed Oil Seal on day 2, forcing retirement from the rally.

Category 2 leader, Andrew O’Hanlon was making a return visit to Flanders some 21 years after rolling his Peugeot 106 out of the event. Having enlisted the help of Kevin Hogan to read the notes this time, the pair did not have the easiest of starts to their new alliance. A puncture on one trailer wheel on the journey down the M1, was rapidly followed by another puncture after leaving the motorway near Dunkirk. A fairly uneventful recce was carried out on Thursday and a friendly tyre dealer found whilst finding a space in the service area. With the rally car off the trailer on Friday, time to check the trip meter calibration – if only the speedo cable hadn’t broken! A leg-strap made up from tank tape and Velcro would enable Kevin to use an app based trip meter off his phone – hoping not to loose the phones signal – or the phone!

Scrutineering was efficient and fairly painless apart from Andrew forgetting his race boots, but the pair were allowed through with the assurance that these would be checked, which they duly were, just before the start ramp! The Friday stages were all set to run from early evening right into the night, and to add to the challenge by the time the event started, the rain had arrived. A Mini with no heater and a less than efficient heated front screen gave Andrew the ideal excuse for a lurid spin on the 2nd stage of the day, Beveren. Fortunately, some solid looking bits of scenery were avoided and not too much time lost. The three remaining Friday stages went well and by the end of the first leg the duo were leading Cat 2 by 1.5 minutes and 2nd Mini behind Clive King/Anton Bird.

With 3 loops of 5 stages to come on the Saturday, the pair were hoping to maintain their hold on both the category and overall placing but on the last stage of the 1st loop, the very fast race-like stage around the Zoning Industrial Estate, the Mini started to develop a misfire. Little time was allowed for 1st service and although Plugs, Rotor Arm and Coil were changed, the misfire was getting worse. Although Andrew held on to the Cat lead during the 2nd loop of stages, they were loosing considerable time against their rivals. Into 2nd service and it was decided that the fault must lie in the Distributor – after very close inspection, the culprit turned out to be a fault with the 2-piece Baseplate. With a replacement loaned by Clive and with a great effort from Paul Loveridge, the Baseplate was replaced – but – despite everyone’s efforts, time had run out and unable to get the Engine running cleanly, the car was retired. A great shame for all involved as, even with the misfire, the pair were still leading the Cat 2 Class. With double points awarded, the weekend was not a total disaster as Andrew still took maximum points on the Friday Leg of the event and, overall it had been a really enjoyable weekend.

Craig King/ Adrian Lloyd got off to a solid start on Friday, until they hit a pothole – causing the Engine to drop down on to 2 Cylinders! Craig tried to fix the issue on the Road Section, but having no success the crew were forced to continue on late to the next Stage, costing them in time penalties – the final service revealing it was the Rotor Arm causing the issue. Problem solved by the next morning, Craig tells us that, “the next day started well, but my engines limitations became apparent on the fast roads. The engine was fine up to about 6000rpm but ran out of breath after that! It’s an issue I’m hoping I can work on over the winter. But then I boiled the brakes… Again! Trying to be clever, and bleed them between Stages, but there was too much air in the lines and I bled the Master Cylinder dry (rookie mistake). So we had to do the next 2 Stages with no Brakes at all except the Hand Brake. We haemorrhaged minutes in both of those Stages but made it back to service to get it fixed.”

Once fixed, Craig suffered with a little ‘driver over exuberance’ having a very near miss with a wall after a spin. The slippy roads on the final loop of Stages & the terrible weather conditions resulted in this being some of the most technical & challenging Stages the crew have ever tackled! 1st Cat 2 & 6th Mini o/a, Craig added that, “Overall, it was a hard rally, very tiring & with no real breaks. We only had 3 services at half hour each for a rally that was in total over 400 miles long. But although at times it was frustrating, we really enjoyed it. Adrian had been struggling with my pace notes having never used a number system before but at the end he got into it and it started to flow and really start to enjoy it. In the end, we managed a finish and despite our overall position on the rally not being great, I think we were the only Cat 2 Mini to finish, so that’s a positive!”

Joining forces to take on the Tour of Flanders, Peter Ellerby/Paul Price had a slight mishap on Friday, when instead of fuelling up with Petrol… Diesel was put in instead! In a pillowing cloud of smoke, Peter & Paul had ground to a halt – the Belgium police were on the scene to lend the crew a hand & get them get going again. Onwards & upwards, the team got off to a better start on the Saturday… Until they ripped the exhaust off! Reaching the end of the Stage, Peter – who wanted that finish, decided the best thing to do would be removing what was left of the system and battling on to the end of the event, albeit rather noisily! Pushing on, the Mini ended up stuck in a potato field – not quite feeling at home in the new habitat, the determination to leave the vegetable patch & get a finish was even stronger. On to the evening Stages, and full lights were required to navigate these unfamiliar roads, yet hitting a bump resulted in Peter & Paul having to finish the event on just their side lights, but finish they did – 5th Mini Cat 1 & 5th Mini o/a!

Championship newcomers Kevin Haselden/Cat Lund registered before the event & didn’t report any problems in their rally, finishing 4th Mini Cat 1 & 4th Mini o/a, a fantastic result for their 1st outing with us!

Our other crew joining us from Japan, Shinobu Kitani/Hiroko Kitani were blessed with a better run than Yoshino & Ritso, experiencing no problems just an enjoyable event – finishing 3rd Mini Cat 1 & 3rd Mini o/a!

 

Following on from a major Engine rebuild & new Front End, as a result of the damage that transpired at Down Ampney, Shane Gamble/Bob Ward were powering through the Stages until they crossed the flying finish straight in to a chicane, causing damage to the new Front End & bending a Steering Arm! Luckily for Shane & Bob it was fixed early doors Saturday morning, for the team to persevere to finish 2nd Mini Cat 1 & 2nd Mini o/a!

Top seeds Clive King/Anton Bird were once again tormented with intercom issues, with Clive noting that he couldn’t hear Anton on the 1st Stage and had to drive on sight! Changing the intercom back in service, the issue was still there, in the end the crew swapped helmets, which cured the problem, allowing the team to try and make up for the lost time! Pushing a little too hard, a 90 degree right turn, paired with the slippy, muddy road, triggered the Mini to under-steer, sending out crew straight in to a ditch!

Back in Service it was discovered that the Water Pump was leaking, not having a replacement pump to use, Clive & Anton had no choice but to carry on, hoping for the best. Much to their surprise King & Bird were still leading the Minis, despite the various obstacles they had faced, with Clive explaining, “we were surprised to still be the leading Mini, as with our time loss we thought we would have been well down the order! Saturday was all about saving the water pump, with a 2 minute lead we backed off but continued to pull away from the pack much to our surprise… The pump got progressively worse but thankfully it lasted, and we finished top Mini on both days, clinching the Championship with one round to go! We couldn’t be happier!” Anton summarised, “it was a fantastic result to beat the pack by 6 minutes, 45th overall on the Flanders… A very long, hard & tiring event, especially near the end when the weather turned very nasty late on Saturday night, treacherous last 3 Stages – but we came through! Mini Cup Champs again after two years of frustration!

No amount of challenges could keep Clive & Anton from the podium though as they finished 1st Cat 1 & 1st Mini o/a – securing their lead on the Championship with one round to go!

Congratulations Clive & Anton – 2019 HRCR Mini Sport Cup Champions! 

Massive well done also to each of the crews that poured a lot of time, energy and money in to making the trip over to Belgium  – it’s a shame that there were a couple of retirements, however we’re happy that you all thoroughly enjoyed the event!

Retirements:
Yoshino Tsuchiya/Ritso Okano – 6th Stage

Eric Davis/Russell Joseph – 7th Stage

Andrew O’Hanlon/Kevin Hogan – 11th Stage

Cat 1:
1st – Clive King/Anton Bird
2nd – Shane Gamble/Bob Ward
3rd – Shinobu Kitani/Hiroko Kitani

Cat 2:
1st – Craig King/Adrian Lloyd

O/a
1st – Clive King/Anton Bird
2nd – Shane Gamble/Bob Ward
3rd – Shinobu Kitani/Hiroko Kitani

It’s just 2 weeks to go until the 7th round of the HRCR Mini Sport Cup for the Cheviot Stages Rally on 22nd September; we hope to see lots of the Minis out to compete on the challenging roads of the Otterburn Ranges!

Full results from the Tour of Flanders can be found on here.
To catch up with the 2019 Mini Sport Cup so far, please see here.
For more information on the Mini Sport Cup, please see our Facebook page here.
For more information on the ‘oldSTAGER’ please see the HRCR’s website here.

Photos courtesy of Nichohistoricrally.be, Clive King, Shane Gamble, HRCR & Kevin Hogan.

Credit to Kevin Hogan for text on Andrew O’Hanlon & Kevin Hogan.