Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The 1000 Mile Trial - Part Two, Edinburgh to London

Read Part One here

Day 4
Wednesday 16th
Edinburgh to Hexham

Although the weather was a little grey and dismal, a much appreciated lie in with a 10.30 am start and last nights amazing dinner onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia kept the grins plastered on our faces.

A very short link section took us to Whitekirk Golf Course which turned out to be an early lunch stop, we were definitely not used to this relaxed atmosphere on an event. When Elise clocked out of the lunch hall and ran out to jump in the car she found that I was not in my usual ready state with the car running and pulled up outside the door to meet her. This was due to the fact that a certain other Austin 7 crew had emptied an entire basket of golf balls into the foot well of our car. The gauntlet had been thrown!

The regularity sections were getting tougher with more plotting and greater opportunities to make mistakes. A hidden turn just before a ford that took you over the bridge instead caught a lot of crews out, and as it was a timing point, those who turned around after the ford to get the control lost time and unfortunately others missed it altogether. Elise called it and I was relieved not to be going through another ford, we were just a few seconds late at that control.

Alnwick Castle was the setting for the afternoon coffee halt, which was used as Hogwarts for the first two Harry Potter Films. Unfortunately we had to give the broomstick flying a miss, but the scones, jam and cream were divine. A huge downpour just as our time to leave approached resulted in two very drenched sisters heading south towards Slaley Hall near Newcastle.

Competitively, we were mostly the slowest car on the tests, in our class, but at this point we felt it was more important to finish than push it. On the regularities we were fine if the roads were flat dropping a handful of seconds at controls but if there were any hills we had no hope and just tried to keep within the minute (which was a struggle in itself). No wrong turns though.

Still 14th Overall and Second in Class, we can’t believe that we have made it this far!

Day 5
Thursday 17th
Hexham to Leeds

In the early hours of Thursday morning we plotted our revenge from Day 4’s golf ball incident. With the hotels help we made a ‘just married’ sign and stuck it to the back of Marcus Atkinson and Angus Forsyth’s Austin 7, then tied some plastic bottles to the underside of the car. Hoping that they wouldn’t notice either and perhaps be fooled into thinking the car was making funny noises.

It worked perfectly! Completely unaware of the sign, or the numerous spectators giggling, they drove straight to the mechanics as the “exhaust seemed to be rattling” Although the bottles didn’t last for more than 100 metres, they kept the sign on all day. Worthy opponents and members of our Team ‘Austin Powers’.

The afternoon Coffee Halt was held at the fantastic Bowes museum at Barnard Castle. An absolutely fantastic setting and with all the cars parked out the front it felt like a step back in time. It would have been very easy to forget that we were on a rally, visiting these amazing venues and driving brilliant roads.
However, the competitive elements were getting harder, the Byland Abbey regularity was no exception with a hidden layby over a crest that concealed a timing point followed by a right turn that looked like a drive way. Many crews struggled on this regularity with even some top crews making mistakes. We managed to go the right way but with the average speeds hitting 30mph in most places we couldn’t quite keep up to time in our little Austin.

The day ended with two tests at Harewood Hill climb. It’s a long circular test combining a downhill run before the hill climb back up and the organisers and included various stops within marked boxes and cones to dodge. With many more powerful cars behind us in the queue I was really worried that they would catch us and I would hold them up so I asked if it was possible to leave a gap before letting any other cars go. They had already come to the same conclusion and gave us a minute and thirty seconds gap before letting another car go which meant that no one caught us during the test. Phew.

A short drive, which should have been quite relaxing, soon became a drama when on a short up-hill section the car died on us. Car 34 Paul Gregory and Nick Savage were a few cars behind us and pulled in to check if we were ok. Our first guess was, that without a fuel gauge in the car, we may have run out of fuel. Having struggled, in first gear, up the hillclimb test twice we had used a lot more fuel than we thought. To our utter amazement Paul and Nick had a spare can of fuel in their car. We poured it into the tank but as we were trying to start the car on a hill there was no luck. The only option was to push her over the hill and drop start her in second gear. A huge thank you to Car 34 for all their help I have no idea what we would have done if they hadn’t been there.

Unbelievably we still had no road penalties and the car only needed a quick oil top up. We can’t believe that she is still going!

Day 6
Friday 18th July
Leeds to Towcester
The morning of the 6th day we were greeted with ‘you are in trouble this time’. Both my sister and I were confused, but when we looked outside we saw Little George ( the other Austin) covered in branches and a cleaning sign, we realised many competitors had jumped to conclusions thinking that we were playing a joke on our fellow team mates. Luckily for us, the culprits owned up and confessed to taking Little George inside the hotel before hiding it in front of the hotel. Very funny.

Just as we were about to head off down the motorway, we were appointed a ‘Motorway buddy’ as it had become apparent that we were too small and slow to be seen on such fast busy roads. We were appointed Stephen and Colette Owens, who kindly drove behind us for the entire motorway section (even when we went around the roundabout twice). A big thank you to them.  

Our first test was around a Kart circuit, letting us pick up a little bit of speed, however, what we thought was fast, was slow to everyone else as we were lapped on our second run around. Crossing the finish line, we were told that fuel was spilling out as we went round corners and we thought we might have ruptured the fuel tank. That meant engine off and a push around the corner to find out the problem. It was soon clear that the fuel was pouring out from the cap when we turned corners- now the only problem was we didn’t know how much fuel we had.

I was so excited about the next test as it requires mental and  physical concentration. The Jacob’s Ladder test looks simple, however with the route left blank for you to plot the fastest route, it can become confusing. We felt we had a bit of an advantage with such a small car and we were right as we ended up being the 7th fastest overall.

It was then time for lunch at Belvoir Castle, and what a treat it was. The stunning castle could be seen for miles and we weaved our way through the countryside, finally falling upon the Castle. Dinning in such a grand castle with so much history made my day and there was even the original motor from the family still in use. However, we didn’t have long to take in our surroundings as it was time to test our fuel level with a stick, as we had no fuel gauge. Luckily we hadn’t lost too much fuel.

The next test took place on the grounds of Belvoir castle, however there was a long delay because a fairground ride was making its way up the road. This meant we had an extra half an hour to enjoy the views from the castle and do a spot of sunbathing in the sweltering heat. Eventually it was our turn, the route guided itself through a forest track to then open out for the final part of the test. A fantastic way to start after lunch.

Regularity 6.3 was our best regularity so far because the majority of our timings on the other regs were effected by hills. As we were now getting further south, the land had started to flatten out. Over 4 timing points we picked up 23 seconds as follows

3 early
1 late
19 late
1 late

Not a bad result for an Austin 7 and we were so pleased with how little seconds we picked up. However, because of the delay at lunch, we were now on our lateness at the beautiful Foxton Locks.  Obviously the delay carries over, but because we were so slow, we felt it was safer to press on to the next and final test of the day.

The fast circuit test looked fantastic with the sun shining and supporters lining the test. The test consisted of two laps of the circuit in the fasted possible time. As there were no other classic cars waiting, we were able to take our time around the test and have some fun. We crossed the finish line with our faces beaming with delight as we had completed the test in 2 minutes 16 seconds. It was then time to head to the hotel near Silverstone where we would spend our final night.

Amazed with how far we had come in the Austin 7, we arrived at the hotel placing 1st in class and 11th overall. We still couldn’t believe we only had one day left and what a penultimate night. As we sat outside with a rewarding glass of wine, a terrific thunderstorm lined the horizon. I felt like I was abroad sitting outside and in the distance a storm of rain and lighting raged on for our entertainment.

Day 7
Saturday 19th
Towcester to London

 final day began slightly wet and miserable but that didn’t affect our moods at all. Excited yet nervous as just seven hours of driving stood between us and completing the entire Thousand Mile Trial. Could we get there without going wrong? Would we maintain our class position? But the biggest question of all was if the car would make it. Without a doubt it was a miracle that we had made it so far already but being so close to the end our desire to finish was immense.

The first two tests of the day were slippery due to the rain. A covered passage that we had to drive through on the first test caught out a few crews as you could see the finish line before turning into the passage, an easy mistake to make.

With the rain stopping and starting we had perfected our pit stop change into our all weather gear and could complete it all and get going again in under one minute.  As we approached London the weather began to clear up, by the time we reached Woodcote Park the sun was shinning down on us.

Our mantra for the whole day was just to make it to the end. We were so aware of the car and our surroundings, listening out for any knocks or rattles that may impede our progress. Of course, we did have a little drama just as we approached the final test. It was as if the fuel was struggling to through (before anyone asks we had just filled her up) almost like the Austin knew she was so close to the end.
The atmosphere at the start of the final test was incredible, with just a downhill test to the finish line. Adrenaline and excitement was coursing through our veins as we rolled to a stop at the finish line, completing the 1000 Mile circuit to Edinburgh and back in a 1934 Austin 7.

Completely thrilled to be part of such an incredible event and amazed that we had completed it all. With the added bonus of finishing 11th Overall and 1st in our class. What an achievement!

A huge thank you to everyone that made this happen, every single one of you! Some experiences you never ever forget and you all made this possible for us, we couldn’t have done it without any of you!

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