Friday, 22 March 2013

The Poppy Rally

We arrived in Ypres, Belgium on Friday afternoon and ‘Onw’, the mini had been taken over on a trailer, and she was looking really good!

We got straight down to it, by signing on to the event and completing the measured distance so that our tripometer was calibrated correctly. This was our first time driving on the right side of the road and everyone had warned us of roundabouts and pulling over in lanes. With this in mind we settled in really well and found driving on the right quite natural.

We then headed back to the hotel to receive route instructions for leg one which meant there was a lot of plotting to do as well as try to get the car through scruiterneering before the start on Saturday morning. Our rally position was 74th out of 76, they predict where you’re going to finish according to the experience you have had. We were determined to improve on this!

The start of the rally was from the centre of the beautiful city of Poperinge, we had to be there an hour before our start time to receive the route instructions for leg 2, a ridiculously hard night section. We managed to finish plotting with time to spare, which meant the nerves could start bubbling in the bottom of our stomachs. Finally, we were waved off from the start arch and away we went!

Having calibrated the trip perfectly (for the first time) following the Tulip diagrams was really easy and so we got to the first test on time which was something new for us. It was a great fast test and the best thing was that we got to complete it twice which meant that we could improve our time as we learnt the road. It was the regularities that we really enjoyed because the Belgium roads were absolutely fantastic, they were open roads with spectacular views and with hardly any traffic. The route that the organising body CRA had chosen was faultless and we enjoyed every second.

There were two favourite moments for us on Saturday, the first was realizing on one of the regularities we were literally running within seconds of our times and at one check point we were just 2 seconds late. The other was travelling down a lane, (within the speed limit of 90kph of course) when there was a bump in the road and for a few seconds we were airborne. Just wish there had been a photographer present.

The results were up at the supper halt and we were up to 38th and running 3rd in class, it had been a fantastic day and we were really looking forward to the challenging night section of regularities and timing points.

After dinner, I went out to start the car about 20 minutes before our time to leave, which turned out to be a very fortunate move. The mini has a flick switch ignition and push button start and on flicking the ignition on and pressing the button there was nothing! It wasn’t firing or anything, I rang Elise who spoke to the mechanics who luckily hadn’t left yet and they came running out. Turned out the starter solenoid had gone. The mechanics managed to get her going by shorting the points in the engine with a screwdriver, the only problem was what if we stalled in the middle of nowhere!  So they taught me how to do it. The first time I tried the sparks were flying everywhere and I jumped back but I tried again and she started. Elise jumped in the car and off we went just 2 minutes late.

Learning to start the car with a screwdriver was rather interesting and useful as we did stall a few times, the funniest was when the screwdriver welded itself to the points and the plastic handle fell of and the screwdriver fell through the engine and disappeared so we had to ask the mechanics if we could borrow another one when we saw them next.

The night section turned out to be just as hard as everyone had warned with heavy rain and high winds, this made reading code boards rather difficult. Despite this, we really enjoyed it and only missed one secret check, but it did mean we dropped to 44th place overnight. We didn’t finish until midnight and that was when we received the route instructions for leg 3, Sunday. With a 6.30 am start we didn’t have long to plot and try to get some sleep in.

Sunday started very early with a regularity before breakfast, it had been a very tricky route to plot with small roads and hidden turnings especially towards the end. We were very disappointed when we realized we had missed out a control which meant maximum penalties but we managed to get the rest correct which many crews struggled with.

After breakfast we headed to the first test of Sunday around a paintball arena, it was very overgrown and muddy with a lot of water on the track. We watched the other cars as they made their way around the track and planned our route in the mini so we wouldn’t get too much water under the bonnet, we didn’t want a repeat of leJog. The marshal counted us down, 3 2 1 go, we followed the track around, there was a hard right followed by hard left and immediately another hard right, the back end of the mini swung out we corrected that but there was a lot of understeer and all of a sudden she slid the other way and we were sliding sideways toward a tree, we hit the power and corrected the spin but unfortunately it was too late the brakes locked at the last second and we hit the tree head on.  We were both fine just a little shaken as it was our first accident. Everyone ran over to make sure we were ok and they were all brilliant at looking after us.

Unfortunately, this of course meant we were out of the rally and we had to get the mechanics to recover the mini.  Up to this point we were having such a fantastic time and want to thank everyone involved from marshals, officials, organisers and other competitors.

We now need support to continue as we have had to use our budjet to mend the car so we can ‘jump straight back on the horse’ as they say. If you would like to help us please visit our funding site

Thank you


1 comment:

  1. Ypres is a great place! Visit there most years and go to a Classic Car Rally every 2 years!