A one day rally in North Wales with Guy Woodcock as Clerk of the Course, wasn’t going to be a piece of cake and The Vale of Clwyd Classic definitely lived up to its expectations.
I drove the 1964 Triumph TR4 up to Llanferres on Friday morning ready to calibrate the trip, scruitineer the car and sign on to the event that evening. Although the drive up was fantastic, the weather staying dry and roads through Wales an absolute pleasure to travel on, the rain soon began to pelt down. With the forecasters predicting the downpour to last all day Saturday, we were dreading poor viability and very slippery conditions for the rally.
After plotting as much of the route we had been given, we headed to The West Chester Holiday Inn where we were staying for an early night as an even earlier morning start was soon upon us.
We made our way to The Druid’s Inn in Llanferres, a beautiful country pub where the rally was to start and finish, ready for the drivers briefing at 08.10am and with our start time being 09.31 we had plenty of time to work ourselves into a nervous mess after hearing Guy explain how slippery the roads and tests were after yesterdays downpour. We were, however, pleased that the rain had decided to hold off for a bit which meant a dry start to our day, which was to consist of 13 tests and 7 regularities.
The rally began with a very short drive to Loggerheads and the first test around a car park, we completed this correctly in 44 seconds which was less than double the bogey time and were very happy with that but had no time to reflect on this as it was straight off for the first regularity. As we were counted down to begin the first reg, they handed us the instructions, luckily it was tulip diagrams which we are familiar with but with no time to look through them and see what challenges lay ahead we didn’t know how we were going to fair.
Elise began great and we were running just 10 seconds early when we reached a fantastic road sweeping down the side of a hill and I may have got a little carried away forgetting to stick to the 22 mph average speed so I wasn’t surprised as we rounded the corner to find a control and Elise screaming at me that we were running really early, Luckily however we had had an issue with a sheep on the corner and came into the control just 6 seconds early. Admittedly it did go slightly downhill from there on the regularity but we didn’t wrong slot, just need to work on our timings a little more.
Tests 2 and 3 were at a cattle market and were rather slippery, however we completed both within the target time and without any faults and carried on our way to regularity 2. As we traveled to the regularity following the tulip diagrams in our road book, we reached a left turn with the description CARE and QUIET NARROW ROAD, it was of course a very narrow road, and as luck would have it half way along it we met 2 cars reversing back down the lane away from a tractor towing a trailer. Reversing any car nearly half a mile down a twisty winding lane is difficult at the best of times but when you’ve only been driving said car for 2 days it is interesting, eventually I came to a driveway I could pull into and we were off again to the start of reg 2. The instructions for this reg were in the form of a herringbone but we had been given it the night before so Elise had plotted it on the map and she navigated it very well but the timings went out the widow a little as there were 4 speed changes.
Test 4 was very tight around what seemed like someone’s back yard, we completed it in 51 seconds which wasn’t the fastest, but we completed it again with no faults. Regularity 3 was something completely different for us as again during the countdown to start they handed us the instructions, and on the word go I began to drive whilst Elise plotted the route from, what I can only describe as, a long string of numbers which turned out to be spot heights that we had to travel through in order and without passing through any other spot heights on the map. I couldn’t believe how quickly she managed to plot the route whilst I was just driving to the next junction and we only missed one sneaky slot which meant we missed a code board.
Test 5 was a repeat of tests 2 and 3 combined and with no mistakes we completed it in a time of 2.23 well under the 4 min target time. Regularity 4 turned out to be our best regularity of the event, we had to plot it using gridlines that we were to cross in a specific order, with 5 timing points and 4 speed changes we were within 24 seconds of every control with one being just 3 seconds out.
We were having a great time navigating the roads of North Wales and the event was challenging in an exhilarating way, regularity 5 was definitely the highlight of this when we received the instructions at the start of the reg as a ‘Deelarity’ where you have to navigate as you see it with not all junctions included. This was by far Elise’s favourite and it started off really well, the first timing point we were 5 seconds out and then the second 21 seconds, disaster in the form of a white van then struck as between the next three timing points he drove at a constant 5 mph, a real blow to us trying to maintain an average 20 mph. It felt as if he was doing it on purpose with junction after junction of him going the same way and passing many lay bys, which he could of pulled over in. It was a nightmare but it happens to everyone and we took the total penalties for the last 2 timing points with a pinch of salt, the positive being we had gone the right way.
Tests 6 and 7 were very muddy with test 6 taking an unusual route through some sheep pens and test 7 where we had to come to a complete stop due to a herd of cows on the track, we were feeling unlucky at this point. Test 7 also included a reversing maneuver but this was nothing compared to the reversing we had to do in the lane earlier in the day.
Tests 8,9 and 10 were challenging but again we completed all within the target time and without faults and so we arrived at lunch on quite a high and looking forward to getting back in the car for the afternoon.
The afternoon went very quickly with tests 11, 12 and 13 being repeats of those earlier in the day and we managed to improve our time on them all. After the tests we received the final instructions for the last regularity of the day which they had aptly named “Sting in the Tail” so throughout the remaining driving and regularity 6 Elsie was desperately trying to plot the last challenge. Regularity 6 was interesting as it began on the map, which we had plotted the night before, then jumped to a jogularity. It had 10 intermediate timing controls in it and although most of out timings were quite out we did manage a 4 and a 7 seconds.
All too soon it was time for the last Regularity, the 7th of the day. Elise had plotted as much as she could but there were three sections that had her confused, luckily there were 3 cars in front which meant we had 3 minutes to see if I could decipher the strange information. As we began the reg we had a route and we were going to stick to it. There was just one instruction we still didn’t understand ‘ new road not on map’, we figured that we couldn’t plot a route that wasn’t on the map and we would just have to deal with it when we got there.
In the end we missed the new road, which meant we missed a timing point but we were very pleased with the rest of the regularity. We finished 49th overall and 4th in class but 1st out of the all ladies crews as we were the only ones!.
It was a brilliant event, we thoroughly enjoyed and we hope that we can compete again next year.