Difficult to know where to begin really, with the weekend having been fraught with problems from the outset.
Arrived at the garage to load the car onto the transporter, only to have the starter motor fail. A replacement arrived within 30 minutes but on fitting that it was discovered that the wrong item had been delivered. A further 45 mins elapsed before the correct part was delivered, and after being fitted I left the garage at 4pm, around 2 and a half hours later than intended.
This was also our first time using the transporter instead of a trailer. That also turned out to be a problematic decision as it broke down in the middle lane of the Broxden roundabout at on a Friday afternoon. I spent around 30 mins directing traffic around me, before eventually having to push the transporter, with the car still loaded, off the roundabout by myself.
By the time the service van caught up with me it was nearly by the time we got going again, and following 2 more stoppages we eventually arrived in Dumfries at . Not the best preparation for a day behind the wheel!
Got the car scrutineered okay on the Saturday morning, then off to the High Street start, and into the first stage. The heat and dust was intense, and even more so below 3 layers of a fireproof racesuit, a nomex balaclava and a crash helmet. Stage was very slippery, and we went sideways across a ‘Bad Left’ junction and lost about 30 seconds trying to find our way out of our own dust cloud, moving some fairly large boulders in the meantime.
Covered the 7 and a half miles in 10 minutes, which was acceptable given our ‘off’. We were lying 74th out of the 91 cars that completed the stage. 5 didn’t even get that far.
Into stage 2, which was also very slippery, and making good pace, when I got caught out by a tightening right hander. Braked late and unsettled the back of the car and the next thing we both knew we were in a ditch on the left hand side, with the nose 3 feet below the level of the road, and the right rear wheel up in the air.
Jane made strenuous efforts with one of the radio marshals to have us recovered before the 4 wheel drive cars arrived, and they concurred. We got back on our way, but had exceeded our time limit, and were effectively out of the race. Notwithstanding that we decided to carry on, and had a puncture to deal with on our way back to service to add to our woes.
We then decided to repair the car and head back out again to complete all of the other stages. This would give us valuable experience, and added exposure for our sponsors, given that we were now the last 2 wheel drive car on the road before the big boys arrived, so the stages would have been at their busiest right around the time of our arrival.
Got through 3,4 and 5 with no problems, then back to service. However our miserable day wasn’t over yet.
A left front puncture on stage 6 shredded the tyre, and the wing, but fortunately the same wing had been damaged earlier in the day anyway. Whilst we were changing the wheel in full race suits in near 30 degree heat the car then slid forward off the jack and onto its belly. A spectator, who happened to be in the army then came over to help us get the car wedged from moving again and helped get us on our way.
We did manage to complete the whole event, even though we didn’t get classified as finishers, and it was all excellent experience. But even that wasn’t the hassle over.
On the M74, not long after the Dumfries junction, the transporter snapped its propshaft, leaving it with no means of powering the wheels. The only solution was to take the damaged rally car off the truck, for me to drive that all the way home to Inverness, and for the boys to tow the transporter with the service van. I got home at , and the boys got home at .
So was that the end of it? Well just for good measure the alternator in the rally car gave up just as I parked it up for the night!
Special thanks are due to several people;-
• Jane Nicol, for her excellent job in the car all day. The notes and times were done to perfection, and her constantly cheery disposition, and her ability to charm every male official she met made her an asset worth having.
• Rob Maciver and Andy Macaskill, for their ‘can do’ approach to every one of the weekend’s tribulations, and for their fantastic ability to bring the car and van back to life.
• To the unknown soldier, who helped get the tyre on, when we were both ready to consider packing it in.
• To the crew of Piper 1 recovery, who got us on the road in seconds.
And lastly to Kenneth Henderson of Allwood Products, John Donnelly of Cornerstone Builders and Mat Rennie of Golden Designs, our sponsors, without whom this whole adventure would have been even more expensive than it’s now going to be. Your kind support is greatly appreciated.
Next event is the Speyside Stages on the 19th of August, and we will be up and running and raring to go!