Manx National 2016

I was very excited to return to the Isle of Man, having had such a good time competing in the Pokerstars Rally in November 2015. We had spent a while before leaving going over the route to see which parts we already had pacenotes for and made these into a booklet in preparation for the recce days. We recce’d the route on Wednesday and Thursday and found that we were happy with the notes we had made by Thursday lunchtime. We spent Thursday evening going through noise check, scrutineering and signing on and after this made sure that all the pacenotes were in order and we had written all the splits and merges in the correct places! As we had already scrutineered we had time on Friday morning for some tourist activities and took a steam train ride from Douglas to Port Erin. We were back at the Grandstand service area for 5pm to check over the car and fit the lights before starting leg one. Our due time at MC1 in Ramsey was 20:00 and we headed over to Ramsey at about 18:45. The 2 short stages along the seafront and over the swing bridge at Ramsey were great fun and a good start to the event. By the time we reached stage 3 (St Judes) it was already getting dark and we had a brilliant time doing the laps in the dusk. My favourite stage of the evening was Tholt-y-Will and my dad was very pleased with our stage time (although he assures me it is better downhill than up!). What we didn’t realise was the stage had been stopped shortly after we left the start line and the cars behind us went through in convoy. This meant that we got a notional time, which was a little bit disappointing, but couldn’t be helped. We finished the first day without any incidents and were pleased with all our stage times. I especially enjoyed doing stages in the dark and was glad I managed to keep up with the notes!

The following morning we arrived at the Grandstand to find out our start time for the morning after the re-seed. We were disappointed that 2 of the longer stages (Knocksharry 1+2) had had to be cancelled due to lack of marshalls, but were keen to get going again to do the stages from the previous evening in daylight so we could compare our times. We were having a good run through Baldwins 1 and got nearly to the end of the stage when we had to stop due to an accident blocking the road and had to drive the rest of the way to the finish in convoy. On the second run through later in the day we managed a full stage and got a time we were very pleased with. St Judes and Tholt-y-Will were fun in the daylight, but we were faster on both of them in the dark! We nearly spun at a hairpin when my dad had a Brian the Chimp moment (those who have read Guy Martin’s autobiography will understand!) but we came out of it unscathed. Apart from this we had a successful day with no mechanical mishaps (apart from an occasionally intermittent intercom, which didn’t impact too much on my ability to read the notes!).

Although we didn’t win any prizes and lost a chunk of stage miles (due to lack of marshalls) we had a brilliant time competing in the event. We both think that the Isle of Man is one of the best places to rally and are hoping to go back in November to compete in the Pokerstars again.

We’d like to thank Terry for lending us a car to make pacenotes in and babysitting the rally car, service vehicle and trailer at his workshop whilst we went out to do the recce days. It was very much appreciated!

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Poker Stars 2015

My first trip to do a rally on the Isle of Man was definitely as good as I expected it to be. We went the weekend before the event to make and check the pacenotes. We decided that we would make our own notes instead of buying them. It was my first time writing notes from scratch and I really enjoyed it. We did two passes of each stage to get the notes as we wanted them and then made time for some sight seeing!

The following weekend we returned for the rally. We were seeded at car 62, the first car of our class, which was a little bit daunting. The weather was terrible, heavy rain and wind. We were warned at the drivers briefing that the stages would be very waterlogged. This proved to be true, with parts of most of the stages having water running down them. My Dad described it as ‘like driving down a river bed’. The conditions didn’t make the stages any less enjoyable and as the day went on the weather started to improve. My favourite stages were West Baldwin and Parville, but it was difficult to choose as all the stages were excellent. The day almost ended in disaster on Parville when the car wouldn’t go into gear, but after a brief stop the problem seemed to be fixed. Despite the weather conditions we got some good stage times and had a brilliant day. The only disappointment was some of the stages were cancelled due to accidents. We finished the day 2nd in class. I have had my first experience of rallying on the Isle of Man and I’m very keen to repeat it. We are planning to do the Manx National in May 2016!

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Mini Epynt Stages 31/5/15

It was a very early start for us. Patrick and Nigel (our mechanic) left Derby at 3.30am and picked me up in Tewkesbury at 5.30am. After an 18 month break from rallying I was certain I would have forgotten what to do. Fortunately after leaving MC1 it was all starting to come back to me. We took the first stage reasonably steady to give Patrick time to get used to the new gearbox and using a different type of notes to the ones we have used before. I was enjoying being back in the co-drivers seat. Unfortunately, on stage 2 something went wrong. The gearbox was stuck in gear and the engine had gone onto 3 cylinders. That was the end of our event. We hope to have the car repaired in time to compete in the Solway Coast rally in August.

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A New Gearbox

The 205 “Betsy” has now been fitted with a close ratio dog gearbox. We ordered a gear set to fit into the existing BE3 gearbox from a Dutch company called Drenth who were extremely helpful in assisting us to buy the parts we needed. The maiden voyage of the new (and hopefully improved) 205 will be the Mini Epynt stages on 31/5/15. Report of the event to follow.

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Wales Rally GB National 2013

Thursday 14th November

We arrived in the service area in plenty of time to set up our pitch before heading off to scrutineering and noise check. At scrutineering we discovered the brake lights had stopped working, so although we passed these had to be fixed before the event started. Thanks to our mechanic Chris for working out what the problem was and putting it right!

Friday 15th November

Our start time from Deeside service area was 09.24. This gave us plenty of time to check tyre pressures and make sure we had everything in the car that we needed (including cereal bars and energy drinks!). We had to collect the days time card at the start control at our due time, which was a new experience for both of us. The first road section was 63 miles long so we had to stop at Tesco in Newtown to refuel. SS7 – Hafren, At 20 miles this was the longest stage I have ever competed on. Running so far down the field and behind so many WRC cars meant that the roads were very badly cut up and the 205 seemed to get lost in some of the ruts and bomb holes in particular on hairpins. We also started the stage unsure of how the car would perform. This was the first event since Patrick has changed it from carbs to throttle bodies. Despite this we got through in good time. International timing meant that stage time and road time were combined to give arrival time at the next time control, which was something that took a bit of getting used to. I managed to get it sorted before we went into SS8 – Sweet Lamb. At 2.65 miles this was once of the shorter stages on the event and was also extremely rough. The Jumps and water splashes were entertaining for the spectators but made it difficult to get the stage to flow. After another long road section were arrived at the start of SS9 – Myherin to be told that there would be a delay starting the stage, due to a car rolled in the stage. After a long wait for the stage to be restarted we were extremely disappointed to find out that it had been cancelled. We drove through the stage in convoy, disappointing for Patrick who’d been looking forward to Pikes Peak. The highlight of his day was finding out that the 205 now spits flame from the exhaust when it hits the rev limiter.

Saturday 16th November

This mornings start time of 11.15 meant that we had time for a leisurely breakfast before heading back to Deeside. Due to the late start time we decided to fit the spot lamps before leaving Deeside, we didn’t fancy doing Chirk Castle in the dark. The first road section of the day was 2 hours 11 minutes. Sometime during the 9 miles of SS12 – Gartheiniog the exhaust manifold of the 205 fell apart, despite the noise we finished the stage without further incident . During SS13 – Dyfi I realised that the break in the exhaust meant that the floor of the car was very hot and my shoe had melted to it. I particularly enjoyed the 13 mile stage through SS14 – Dyfnant where we really seemed to get going and lots of side ways action through corners. After a 1 hour 34 minute road section we arrived at SS15 – Chirk castle to find that there was an hour delay before we could start the stage. By the time we started the stage it had gone dark, so we were glad we had fitted the spot lamps. On the way back to the service area we rang the service crew to get them to ask around at Deeside if anyone had a welder so the broken exhaust could be mended. The noise was becoming unbearable. We managed to find a crew with a welder and took the manifold to them. The repairs took about 4 hours and included needing to change the clutch cable that had been damaged by the excess heat from the broken manifold. The manifold came back with a desert spoon welded to it it bridge a gap that had formed!

Sunday 17th November

The car was definitely quieter as we left Deeside, but it didn’t last. After SS17 – Dyfnant 2 the exhaust was definitely damaged again. Sometime during the stage we nearly had a close encounter with a bank, but managed to avoid it. SS 18 – Penllyn was a very fast and flowing stage and a lot smoother than previous stages. SS19 – Clocaenog was very rough and muddy, was difficult to get going properly as we had to be careful at hairpins and corners so not to risk breaking a driveshaft so close to the finish of the event. It was nice to see so many spectators watching the stage though. Road timing was tight between Clocaenog and Kinmel Park and we arrived at the control just 1 minute before our due time. On the second run through Kinmel (SS21) we improved on our first stage time by about 6 seconds. After SS20/21 – Kinmel it was time to head for SS22 – Great Orme. It was great to go round the Orme again. I first competed on this stage on the 2012 Cambrian and thoroughly enjoyed it. This time it was just as much fun and made up for Myherin being cancelled on Friday. It was a relief to get to the finish in Llandudno town centre and receive our finishers awards. Overall the event was challenging and I was very tired on Sunday night, but it was well worth it to go round some very good stages. It was just a shame that the results were delayed due to technical problems.

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The Woodpecker 2013

After having a great time on this event in 2010 I was keen to compete in it again. As we had some gravel tyres in stock we decided it was as good an excuse as any to put in an entry. Scrutineering and noise control were completed without incident and we were eager for the first stage in Hopton. Low sun and lots of dust made visibility difficult, but we managed a good first stage time. Radnor was slippery and narrow, but I enjoyed the sections through the woodland tracks and we were getting into the event nicely. Two miles into stage 3, on the exit of a right hand hairpin the clutch in the 205 broke and that was the end of our event. We knew we were in for a long wait before being towed out of the stage so we made good use of time by constructing a viewing area on the inside of the hairpin (to escape the massive dust clouds thrown up each time a car went by) and watched the rest of the 1400’s and the main rally go through the stage. I was particularly excited to see Steve Perez’s Stratos and a 6R4 go past. Eventually a tow vehicle rescued us and took us out of the stage. Although we didn’t get to finish the event it was still a fun day out. Now we have an excuse to compete again next year…

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The plan for 2013

After the success of Weston Park we have decided that we want to compete in more Tarmac events. We are planning to enter the Mini Epynt stages in June and the Tyneside Stages in August. Because we also have some forest tyres in stock we are also thinking of doing the Woodpecker.

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The AGBO stages, Weston Park

After speaking with a couple of people who competed in the event last year and said how brilliant it was we were very keen to compete. We sent off our entry the day the regs came out and were pleased to get a run. In fact, there ended up being four crews on the event in 205’s sporting Pat Messer Motorsport livery. After a very early morning for scrutineering there was a bit of time to kill before the start of the event, which I spent working out the stage diagrams and setting my clock to rally time. This was the first event I had done for a few years with no pacenotes! It took me a until the second stage to get into the swing of reading the corners from the stage diagram, but that gave me more time to appreciate what a good venue Weston Park is. The stages were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed them. We had a slight moment on one stage, nearly spinning at a square right before going over the bridge into the courtyard and chicane, but we came out of it unscathed. Even though we finished the event fourth in class we managed to beat the other crews in our little gang on every stage except one. We were held up by car 24 blocking the water splash and were beaten by 1 second! All in all a very enjoyable day.

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Cambrian Rally 2012

At very short notice we decided that we would enter this years Cambrian Rally. We competed in the event in 2009 and it was my first ever forest rally, so I was keen to go back again. After finding out that the final stage of the day would be round the Great Orme we were both eager to compete. After scrutineering and signing on we went for a drive around the Orme to see what we were in for. There was even time for a piece of cake and cup of tea in the cafe at the halfway point. I wasn’t surprised that the start ramp commentator made a joke about my height, asking my Dad if he made me sit on the floor of the car. My Dad didn’t help the situation by saying that co-drivers should be “heard and not seen”. The stages in Clocgaenog were very muddy and slippery and the after the first run through we weren’t sure if we were enjoying the day or not. Penmachno was very rough and bumpy, but we getting into the flow now and really starting to enjoy the challenging stages. After the second run through the Clocgaenog stages we were having a great time. After changing the tyres from gravel to tarmac we were ready for the Orme. What a treat to end the day on! My Dad summed up at the end of the event by saying that “scrabbling though the forests all day is the penance we had to pay for a fantastic trip around the Orme”. We were very surprised to find that we finished the day second in class 1.4c and 8th 1400 and we even got asked for our autographs by some spectators at the finish. What a brilliant day!

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Better late than never…a review of the Harry Flatters

After insisting that we wouldn’t be doing the recce for this event, we rolled up onto the ranges and paid our £10 to complete the recce. After one pass we decided we’d had enough and went back to the B and B. I found the recce very helpful in getting used to the peculiarities of Epynt and how tricky it can be. My Dad was keen to see how the car would go since he changed the final drive. We were lying second in class when disaster struck…a burst water hose put us out of the event on stage 7. Despite our early finish we had a good day and I particularly enjoyed the section of stage through the German village.

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