After the disappointing result on the previous HRCR round, The Vale of Clwyd Classic, it was time to take action. I have had very limited driving experience on loose surfaces which meant a real lack of confidence when tackling tests and regularties at speed on gravel and this, I believe, is what has let us down previously.
Enter Guy Woodcock renowned rally driver, navigator and rally route coordinator extraordinaire! Prior to scuitneering for The Throckmorton Challenge Mr Woodcock and I took the Tr4 for a drive to hopefully improve my car handling. I was nervous about sitting with someone with such credentials, I was worried that he would want me to go faster than I felt comfortable with. I couldn’t have been more wrong and I was soon at ease behind the wheel, pushing the car harder then I ever had before, with complete control and learning some invaluable tips. Although, I didn’t emerge from the experience unscathed, I gained a small scrape across the forehead, from a rogue branch that entered through the car’s open window, during a demonstration of a 360 around a bush; it seemed a small price to pay!
The real question was would I be able to put it all into practice during the real thing. Preparation for the Throckmorton Challenge was, compared to previous rounds, relatively stress free, with no map plotting required and, as we were to receive half the route book in the morning, we were able to have a pleasant evening catching up with rally friends new and old.
The morning of the rally started very wet! And with a newly discovered hole in my shoe I had to hitch a lift to the car before setting off at our due time. We had picked up the rest of the route just half an hour before departure but luckily it did not seem too complicated and we had had time to start looking through it. With a change of venue from last year, we didn’t really know what to expect from Throckmorton, and it really seemed like they had made the most of the roads surrounding the start venue ‘The Vale Golf Club’ in Bishampton with a regularity starting straight out of the gate. A Jogularity, with tulip diagrams and exact times that you are due at each landmark, was the first challenge and these are one of our favourite type of regularities, so we were very happy with our times of one second late at the first control, bang on at the second, three early at the third, another zero and then seven seconds late at the final control.
A very good start for us but the real trial for me was about to start with five tests back to back at an Airfield near Throckmorton Village. With all that space available, the tests were quite long and pretty intense with a lot of stop astrides and cones to navigate around. We were second fastest in our class for the first two tests, third for the next two and then slowest in our class for the last one, but as we were only 16 seconds slower than the fastest overall car, I wasn’t too disappointed! A brief coffee halt with another good look at the second road book was most welcome especially as the adrenaline from trying to push myself harder on the tests was coursing through me.
Results published up to MC2 at the coffee halt revealed that we were up to 7th overall, the highest we have ever managed to climb up the leaderboard, and although an achievement, no real celebration as it was too early on in the day. Two more tests on the airfield followed before we were out on another regularity, this time a descriptive regularity off speed tables. Elise really did seem on top form on this reg and we only picked up six seconds over the five controls, despite a wild timing panic from me half way through, for no good reason I should add, which earned me a talking ban for the rest of the reg! I was only trying to help! Before we could blink we were back at the airfield ready for seven more of the back to back tests, now just to confuse everyone, the tests were very similar to the previous ones with most of the cones in the exact same places but some had different routes around them or directions to take. A very confusing tactic played by the organisers which unfortunately we did fall foul of. For the first time ever we completed a wrong test, completely by accident taking the wrong direction around two cones, it wasn’t until the end of the test that Elise realised our mistake correcting us just before we took the wrong side of another cone but it was too little too late and the Marshal, as judge of fact, ruled a wrong test.
Devastated would have been an understatement, and as I blamed myself for colouring it in wrong the night before, it was very hard to concentrate on the last two tests before heading to lunch. 100 penalty points were awarded to us for our mistake and we knew this meant we would be out of the running for a top ten finish.
Results to lunch confirmed our fears as we had dropped down to 25th overall. However we did enjoy a very pleasant lunch of soup and sandwiches and decided that with just two regularities to finish the event and the sun beginning to dry everything out, we would put our all into the afternoon anyway. The first of the afternoon regularities was another descriptive with speed tables and Elise was really showing what she was made of as a navigator once again by clearing the first timing point then picking up just four seconds over the final three. Our hearts did stop when we got stuck behind a lady trying to park a caravan in a lane but luckily it was very close to the end of the regularity and there were no more marshals to be found.
The highlight of Throckmorton for me has always been the last regularity, held on the airfield, and therefore private land, which means that controls are not restricted like they are on the roads where they have to be at least two miles apart, and the organisers can put as many or as few as they like, depending on how mean they are feeling!
It started off on the open airfield with average speeds around the 30 MPH mark which meant that you really had to push between controls to catch up time because another control could literally be just around the corner. The first control was sneakily hidden behind a wall , we dropped three seconds at this one, the next two controls were pretty close together but we managed to catch up as best we could dropping two then four second at each of these. Then the average speed dropped to 18 MPH and we knew from previous years that we were entering a complicated maze of roads and the route, although not the same as before, would definitely get interesting.
I may have preempted this a little, as we came across a control just before the twisty bit, and we were seven seconds early. There were two more controls and not a lot of distance to squeeze these in, so despite the slower speeds I was really having to push to get back on time in between them and Elise was trying to focus on going the right way as well as sort out the timing. Therefore when, after the last control, Elise claimed that we had dropped just three seconds at the penultimate control and cleared the last one, I was less than convinced and promised her that if she was, by some miracle, correct I would buy her a large glass of wine!
I did buy her a large glass wine!
She definitely deserved it, even with our huge penalty from the wrong test, we had managed an 11th overall, by far our highest HRCR result ever, and 2nd in class. We also later found out that between the National B event, which we had entered, and the Clubmans event we were the highest placing ‘Mixed Crew’ and Elise, with just 40 sesconds on regularity penalties, was joint third for the ‘Clockwatchers Trophy’ Out of nearly 100 naviagators! A very good finish to the last but one round of the HRCR Championship and as always a huge Thank you to everyone involved, Marshals,competitors, orgainsers, photographers, spectators and mechanics, I feel a special thanks is required for Guy Woodcock I really think his advice helped us to achieve this result and hopefully my confidence will continue to grow.