Early Friday evening we drove up to Magor where signing on and scrutineering would take place. It was nice to have a rally so close to home, but more daunting as we were more aware of how narrow and rough some of the roads could be. We arrived in plenty of time and were able to sit down and relax before joining the queue for scrutineering.
After a very thorough look over the car, it was off to do the measured mile, although we ended up doing it a few times because I couldn’t calibrate the trip, it was always just a little bit out so we ended up re-doing it 3 times. Finally, we went back to the hotel to plot the locations of fuel stations, before getting an early night.
As the navigator, I felt a bit lost to begin with as I hadn’t received any plotting information, however, this all changed the next morning. At 8:46am I was able to collect my plotting information for the rally, there were 6 regularities to plot. Normally this wouldn't be too challenging, but for some reason, I couldn’t get my head around the plotting and where the route should go. The hardest regularity for me was the second one as it had tulip diagrams, which were shuffled up and rotated, meaning you had to place them in the correct order. I struggled to begin with and couldn’t connect the start and finish, until I realised there were more tulips on the next page. Novice mistake!
At 9:46am we were let loose, beginning with three tests around Chepstow Race course. My heart was pounding as I could imagine all the things that could go wrong. The first test looked almost impossible to navigate, the only way to describe it would be, it looked like a spirograph – lots and lots of circles! Later I discovered that this was an easy test in comparison to some of the others and we completed it in a smooth 1-minute.
The first regularity was a shock to the system, having not done a navigational rally over a few weeks. I made sure we went the right way, but this meant, I had no clue on timing and the average speeds kept changing. Luckily, we averaged all the averages and ended up being 5 early, 9 late then 15 late. Not bad but not amazing for a first reg. Our luck with timing would soon come to an end. The second regularity brought even more speed changes. My timing was all over the place and not helping the matter was the oncoming traffic making us reverse 300 yards up a twisty narrow lane because they didn’t want to reverse. With all this in mind we made it to the first mashal who said ‘you girls are getting good at this’. We thought they said it because we found them but it turned out we had zero-ed the timing point. How we did it, I will never know; maybe we are getting good. A big high five moment!
Then it was time to get muddy! The next few tests were located in woods, which meant trees and mud. It was hard enough to navigate through the mud without getting stuck, but to also avoid trees; it was a massive challenge. We took our time as it was extremely slippery, especially without forest tyres on and even though we would get time penalties, but it was more important to make it to the end.
As a navigator, it helps if you can judge what junctions should take longer than others, so when we came to a triangle on a regularity I suggested running early, which Seren agreed with. However, I didn’t factor the 3 close junctions before, which contained a lot of traffic and other classic cars. This really slowed us down and meant we were 42 seconds late for the control.
Just before lunch, we had a fun run around some open tarmac. It was a great test that consisted of 360’s round cones and slaloms; Seren’s dream test. She whizzed around the track in 1.14, a fantastic finish to a tough morning. At Lunch we were running 22 overall with 27:17 of penalties.
After lunch, we had a repeat of the previous test, but now it was raining and the tarmac slippery, it was going to be tough not to get excited. However, Seren used the sliding to her advantage and dropped 1 second off her previous time.
The final regularity of the day was a massive sting in the tail with six timing points and many sneaky turns off to keep you on your toes. For some unknown reason, this was my best regularity of the day picking up just a few seconds at each timing point. It was a great feeling being able to count Seren down as she drove up to the Marshals.
The last test of the day was a repeat of test three, taking us around the race course. It was a long test with the bogie being three and a half minutes. The first time we struggled as the gravel was rough and there was tight hairpin back left in the middle of it, but the last time we knocked a minute off of our time as our confidence had grown throughout the day. Definitely a reason to celebrate.
Overall we finished 19th and 2nd in Class with 40:33 penalties. Not bad for a tough and mathematically challenging event. It was a fantastic rally to participate in and a massive challenge for both driver and navigator.