Scruitineering and signing on for the Tour of Cheshire, the first one day round of the HRCR championship, was on Friday 28th February 2014. Elise and I were really looking forward to it especially as it is so popular, we only made the reserve list and found out the week before that they had managed to convince the MSA to let them run a few more cars.
Our only issue was that on the Friday morning we were in Monte Carlo, where the ‘Winter Challenge’ had finished the night before. Elise had competed in a TR4 finishing 10th overall and 3rd in class and I was helping out with the event. So in true jet set fashion we flew straight in from Monte Carlo (Easy-Jet) picked up the car and headed off to begin our first rally of the season together.
The downside of this was that the ‘Winter Challenge,’ a tough five day event from Coventry to Monte Carlo consisting of very long days, had left us both on the verge of exhaustion. Picking up the 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV which I had never driven before quickly proved the adverse effects driving tired can have. In my short experience driving classic cars I have realized that you have to feel the car and drive them pro- actively otherwise the car doesn’t perform well, and each car is different. Due to my overtiredness I really struggled to find the Alpha’s rhythm and drive her and in true ‘bad workmen’ fashion I, of course, blamed the car!
Elise was also struggling, with no time the previous week for anything else but ‘The Winter Challenge’ after scruitineering and signing on (which was fantastically quick and easy) we had the entire route to plot. This is extremely difficult when the squiggly lines on the map are dancing in front of your eyes!
Luckily a very generous fellow competitor had offered us hospitality for the weekend and after a fantastic Chinese take away we all had an early night hoping that Saturday everything would be better.
Feeling a lot more human we made our way to the measured distance with Elise trying to finish the days plotting in the back of the car. We quickly calibrated the trip to match the organisers and made it back to the start of the event before first car.
Eighty cars and crews were taking part in the rally and the event is seeded by experience, Elise and I were running with number 51 as novice competitors, so we watched as the top crews set off, enjoying a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea (coffee for me). At 9.21 am we were waved off the start line, at the Bickerton Poacher in Beeston, and began the first competitive section which was a regularity set at 24mph. This should have been easy however two junctions after the manned start we found ourselves behind a horse box who seemed to know the regularity route, with no passing places and reaching a top speed of 20 mph we dropped 2 minutes at the first control. These things always happen and as a ‘force Major’ there was nothing we could do about it. Disappointed we began the second regularity before completing two tests at near Shrewsbury and then a much needed cup of coffee.
We then had two more regularities and three tests before lunch, one test at Chowley Oak and the other two at Beeston Cattle Market. The first of these two regularities was alright with two timing points, we were eight seconds early for the first and 15 late for the second. The difficulty of working from speed tables is that once you see a Marshal in front of you, you have to guess the distance to them to be able to work out the exact time you should be at that point. The majority of the time we run two seconds early so Elise tells me to keep up the pace when we see a Marshal, that way we keep the average speed and use the two seconds to come to a stop (in theory). Something worked on the second regularity, as we hit the only timing control one second late.
At lunch we were running 54th overall but as we are competing more for the experience than anything else we carried on regardless hoping to improve our timings and driving ability. There was more plotting to complete before the afternoon section so we got to work whilst enjoying a very welcome bowl of homemade vegetable soup and selection of sandwiches.
The afternoon sections went a lot better for us, we were both getting into the groove and I was starting to get into the rhythm of the Alpha. We had some great regularities, with lots of timing points but we were getting to the controls within 5 seconds and the tests were great fun, mostly on loose gravel, the top drivers were putting on a spectacular show.
The highlight of the afternoon was the regularity test held at Delamere Forrest, it was instructed as a Jogularity so we were given the times we needed to be at each distance but the distances were never more than 0.06 of a mile apart and each one had a direction. Elise concentrated on the route, and it is a good job she did. There were three loops of the course but each one was slightly different, sometimes you had to drive through buildings with the controls hidden inside. Cars were going everywhere, it was brilliant!
Later on we got to repeat that test as a normal driving test, trying to go a little but faster. The whole event ended with a long test at Beeston Cattle Market before heading back to The Bickerton Poacher for results, awards and dinner.
We were very surprised to finish 27th overall and 2nd in class, especially after the disastrous morning. Luckily the ‘Tour of Cheshire’ have a joker that cancels out your worst lateness result at a timing point. This scrubbed us of the 118 seconds that the horsebox cost us and boosted us up the results.
A fantastic one day event and a great start to the HRCR Championship, bring on round two!