Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The HRCR Championship 2015

We had such a great time competing in the HRCR Championship last year that we decided to enter again, once more hiring out HERO’s Arrive and Drive Triumph TR4. Unfortunately we can no longer be classed as Novices, so having registered reluctantly as Experts we tackled the first round of the year, The Tour of Cheshire.

The first event back after a few months off is always difficult, trying to get back into the groove that we had worked so hard on the previous year and shaking off the cobwebs on the first few tests is to be expected. Luckily I think a lot of people found themselves in the same situation on this event. The Tour of Cheshire took place on the 7th of March 2015 and as well as all the great competitors we had the pleasure of meeting last year we also had the added pressure of competing against our Dad, who wanted to show us how it should be done. Although someone had a great laugh in seeding him one place behind us on the road.

Cheshire is a lovely county and The Knutsford and District Motor Club had put together a great rally for us to enjoy, but my favourite part was the regu-test at Delamere. It is set out exactly like a test but with average speeds to obey like a regularity. Definitely a highlight for us, especially when half way around Elise says she has no idea where we are timing wise and we end up getting bang on our second for two controls! Even with a sticky beginning due to lack of practice, we managed a very respectable 15th overall and 3rd in our Expert class, a great start to the year and HRCR Championship.  The bonus had to be beating Dad though, although the car he was in wasn’t as competitive as ours.

The next round took place on Sunday 29th March and wasn’t as successful for us, we had travelled up the country for The North Yorkshire Classic and despite the event being run really well, we managed to pick up nearly ten minutes in penalties just on the regularities. This was aided by a classic trick during a plot and bash where we were told to go through a few points on the map and not to go through the last one, in our haste we plotted to go through all the points missing a control in the process. We did manage to match our seeding on the event with a 29th overall and fifth in our class. It was a shame that our dad couldn’t compete on this one as he may have beaten us.

A few weeks later we were back up North for the Ilkley Jubilee Classic, one of my favourites from the previous year due to the fantastic open and flowing roads.  With a few of the test venues being the same as the year before, this gave us an added confidence with the event.  A few of the seriously muddy tests slowed us down but Elise pulled out the stops on the regs with the majority of timing point under two seconds we finished 21st overall and 2nd in class. Once again we had been competing against our dad but unfortunately they had clutch problems and so finished 24th overall.

Saturday May 16th saw us competing a little more closely to home on the Leukeamia Historic Rally around the roads of Chepstow. The challenge for me on this event was the tests, having gone over the allowed time last year, I had a personal aim of beating myself this year. I did have a funny five minutes during one of the tests where I was adamant that Elise was telling me the wrong way, she was of course right and I was wrong, we laughed about it afterwards but I probably cost us a good five seconds.  I tried to make up for my error with the last test and succeeded in being just 7 seconds over the bogey time, on the exact same test a year ago I went over time on. On a high from that last test we were bouncing off the ceiling when we found out the results of the day had us at 9th Overall and 2nd in class, a top ten finish. We finished just a few places in front of our dad who had a new navigator for the event, so they pulled over to let us past . . . . . mid test . . . . and we were running in front of them!

Our last Championship event together was the Hughes Classic on the 31st May, for a change we weren’t seeded according to our experience or how well they think we will do but according to age of the car, it was very strange to be running car Seven on the road. We had a great start, with the first two regularities we dropped 5 and then 6 seconds respectively. We did however have a nightmare on the last regularity of the day when we had to reverse nearly a mile up a very twisty single lane track after meeting another car coming the opposite direction, despite a rather hairy drive to the next control we dropped 64 seconds but lucky for us, the Hughes Classic have a Joker that cancels out your worst lateness at a control. This meant we went on to finish 8th Overall and 2nd in Class.

Unfortunately we missed out on the next few rounds of the HRCR Championship due to work commitments, I managed to squeeze in the final round on September 5th, The Vale of Clwyd Classic which definitely seems to be the hardest of the HRCR rounds. With Elise unavailable to compete I put out a call for help, Niall Frost came to my aid to navigate for me as my unwilling victim, I mean, co-driver.

I was really nervous about the event, especially as I had been working on a ship for the previous two months so the last thing I had driven was a 1934 Austin  Seven back in July, coupled with a new navigator that I had mever met before, I was rather worried.  Of course, I was worried over nothing, Niall was fantastic and really put me at ease, we took it slow on some of the more slippery tests just to be on the safe side, the most important thing was to finish.  We managed 35th Overall and 5th in class which is my best result so far on that event, a huge thank you to Niall for putting up with me.

As I had only managed six out of the nine HRCR Rounds I was delighted when I found out that I had finished the Championship first in my class and 10th overall! Elise was also very surprised to learn that she had come 3rd in class despite only completing five of the rounds. The HRCR Championship rounds are our favorite weekends of the year, with great competition and a lovely family-like atmosphere, we just wish there were more rounds so that we could compete more often.  Dad didn’t have a lot of luck this year, maybe next year he will show us how it’s done.

As always a huge thank you to everyone who marshals, organises, photographs and cheers us along on the events, we couldn’t do it without you!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Tour of Cheshire 2015

Being the first rally of the year, we were extremely anxious, as this was our first rally as Experts in the HRCR Championship. We arrived a day early so that we could sort out the car and visit the lovely Brantz team. We headed over to Macclesfield and had a tour of the Brantz workshop and it was interesting to see how the much-loved trip is developed. After an informative few hours, it was time to head to scrutineering.

Unfortunately the trip back to Chester didn’t go too well, as we were stopped at some traffic lights a car went into the back of us. The rear of our car had quite a bit of damage but luckily it was just visual, so we were still able to complete. Seren was a little shaken as it was her first incident, but otherwise we were fine and managed to continue back to scrutineering. By the time we arrived there was a massive queue, meaning that we would have a long wait to be seen, this was ok but it meant that we had to do the measured distance in the dark. As we now have more of an understanding of rallying, it didn’t take us long, and then it was back to the Bickerton Poacher pub for signing on and documentation.

Friday evening was spent plotting and I managed to get it all down quite quickly, which was a little worrying as I kept think that I must have missed something. Our dad was competing against us and had been seeded one place behind our car, much to our amusement, but this meant the pressure was on. Would we be able to beat him?

Saturday 7th March, had arrived and we were nervous about what the day would bring. After the bump  the day before and it being the first rally of the year, we were a little  worried. Off we went to the first tests at Beeston Cattle Market., a gravel forecourt lay in front of us, with cones dotted around. Seren looked like she was going to enjoy this – and she did! The back end was sliding out and we started under-steering around cones when we couldn’t get grip but we did complete the test faster than our Dad.

It was then time to hit the road for our first reg of the day, and I didn’t realise just how rusty I was. With numerous speed changes and tricky map sections, my timing was completely out and we managed to pick up multiple time penalties. I just hoped that I would warm into it. Seren quickly immersed herself back into the rally mode, but I struggled to calculate and wake my brain up. This was definitely the case in Delamere Forrest, the organisers had prepared a regularity that looked more like an intricate test around cones. When we came across KK cones, I didn’t know what to say and Seren ended up looking herself, Amazingly we were running early and only collected seconds at this point.

The 3rd test of the day was my favourite, I explained to Seren that we needed to hairpin back left immediately after cone ‘I’, which was after a puddle. However, once on the test I soon realised we needed to turn in the puddle and yelled ‘turn left, turn left’. Seren listened, but as I had left my window open, I ended up having a shower in muddy water, much to my dismay

By lunchtime we seemed to be back in the rallying zone again and we were running the tests 1 second faster than our Dad. We were so pleased, but then again we did have a bigger engine.

There was no rest at lunch though as we needed to plot the next few regularities, and to throw us off, they used Welsh. However, some of us noticed the key at the front and we were able to continue plotting and comparing. Then it was back on the road to follow the recently plotted route.

The final few regs, seemed pretty straightforward until I thought we were on time but we picked up 30 seconds at a control. I then noticed I had calculated it wrong and had pressed the timer too late at the last speed change. On the Tour of Cheshire you get a Joker, which eliminates your worst lateness on a reg. I like to call it the navigator’s eraser as it rubs out your worst time on a regularity if you get baulked or your brain is having a non-thinking moment. This saved us here as it scrubbed out our 30 seconds penalty.

Overall, it was an extremely fun rally where we were able to get our heads back in the game, ready for the next one. I loved how the test scoring was changed to class points as opposed to the time, as it meant you weren’t completely discriminated if you had a slower car, and kept you in the running of doing well.  That is exactly what it did for us when we finished 15th overall and 3rd in class.

The Poppy Rally 2015

The 2015 Poppy rally was a big challenge for both of us as it was on the Poppy 2013 when we had a ‘meeting’ with a tree. However, we didn’t let that stop us. For the first time, Seren and myself were competing against each other, both as navigators.

After arriving in Belgium, we headed straight to Poperinge where scrutineering was being held. Patrick, my driver hadn’t arrived yet, so I was given the responsibility of doing everything myself. I stuck the rally plates on and started preparing the car, only to realise I was missing a Brantz timer! I didn’t know what to do, as I knew I would need it for the night sections. I asked around but to no avail and knew this was going to really affect my timing when it went dark.

After scrutineering it was off to do the measure distance and what an event that was. As I didn’t have a driver, I gave all my navigation information to Seren to assist her and I would follow behind so I could get the correct route. Little did I know this was going to be the most interesting measured distance ever. After zeroing my trip and entering the total distance we left the start. I had roughly memorised the route but we didn’t seem to turn right when I thought we would have, however, I knew that she had tulips, a map and a driver, therefore must be right. After turning right at a T-junction and visiting a lovely village my trip was on a ridiculous number, which I figured, couldn’t be right. Eventually we stopped and they signaled to turn around. I was in hysterics because they had all the info and went wrong!  Even though Seren hadn’t navigated in over 2 years, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Not only this, during the practice reg they suggested to follow them as it finished near the hotel and they felt they needed to practice. I agreed and followed them to the start. As I approached the start board they whizzed off. Confused, I stopped, thinking to myself  “I thought they wanted to practice?” 1 minute later they had reversed to stop next to me exclaiming ‘ ooops we missed it’!  Again laughter filled me and I just thought about what tomorrow would bring.

We all arrived at the hotel full of energy, until we were given the plotting. It took me 6 hours to complete all the plotting and even then I hadn’t checked. I had only done Leg 1 when it was time for dinner and all I worried about was when I would have time to complete the rest. Therefore, I stayed up late to make sure I had it all down on the maps.

Moring arrived all too quickly and we left early to get to the start at Poperinge, where we were given leg 3 to plot during the day.  It wasn’t long and we were out on the road to the first test at the Paintball track. I admit I was slightly terrified of this test as it was extremely slippery, but Patrick had complete control and eased us around the track finishing 1 second quicker than my sister. Although, this didn’t matter as up to coffee, Seren and Dad were beating me by 10 places and I was running 33rd overall.

I thought that we would be able to fight up the board but, as the morning continued, my ambitions were disappearing. Starting with us missing a control, a local had placed a tractor in the way and we had to make a small detour to keep on time, I was hoping that the control would be after the re route and it wouldn’t affect us to much. However, the further we travelled along the route the more I knew we had missed one. Ways to tell Patrick streamed through my head, but eventually I just told him bluntly. At Lunch I was elated to hear that they were going to have to cancel that control as no one made it to the marshal.

Lunch was just what we all needed, when we arrived there was a massive ham hock to nibble at. Unfortunately, we were slightly late arriving and only had half an hour to enjoy the feast. It was very much appreciated though.

Being on rallies, is like being on a rollercoaster as one minute all is going well and the next minute, mid reg you press the wrong button on your egg-timer, that your using instead of a stop watch, and it starts beeping to tell you that your eggs are ready. This would have been fine if I was actually cooking an egg, however, at that moment in time, it really didn’t help the process of timing

After two fast slalom tests we finally finished Leg 1 and arrived at dinner. But there was no time to rest, we needed to make sure we had plotted Leg 3 for tomorrow, as it was an early start. Seren and I spent our time comparing maps and information to make sure we had to same route and to double-check we were right. It was really lovely having a friend to compare with as it just supports your opinion. It doesn’t matter how thorough you are, we all make mistakes so it was lovely to have a companion.

It was then onwards to the night section which I had been dreading due to the lack of Brantz timer. It was an extremely tough section starting with a regularity and straight into the Timing Control section. It would have been fine, however, we ended up getting stuck behind a queue of cars at the final point on the reg, giving us a 4-minute delay at the first TC. I wasn’t surprised though, because there were cars going everywhere and I don’t think anyone knew where they were heading. We even met Seren at the red gates, during the TC and got stuck again behind a queue. This was actually a blessing disguise as we were going to be early. So this delayed us and made put us back on our time.

By morning we had jumped to 11th Overall meaning we were seeded 11th out in the morning. No rest for me then. I went straight up stairs to finish plotting leg 3. Once done, I was into bed for 5 hours sleep before the pre-breakfast section in the morning. Setting my alarm for 5:30am was not comforting.

Awake but not really alive, I wandered around the hotel waiting for 6:41 to tick by so that I could start the two regularities before breakfast. I now know that I do not operate without food. After making simple mistakes, like left instead of right, and telling Patrick the wrong speed, I decided that I needed to concentrate if we were to get back for food. I still managed to collect a lovely 9 seconds at a control but I was pleased with the 1s and 2s and the fact Patrick was still listening to me, even after asking why other cars were right behind us and going different ways.

Even though I had made numerous errors, it was evident that so had everyone else as we had gone up to 10th. This really put the pressure on meaning I would have to concentrate to stay in the top ten. Patrick was really taking it seriously as, at breakfast, he disappeared into the car to take a quick nap.

Whilst Patrick was catching up on some shuteye, Seren and I started comparing Leg 3 maps only to discover we had gone completely different routes. As we were so tired the night before, I think we both just made routes up. We corrected them together so they were the same.

It was soon time to be back on the road again for a selection of tests. The final six tests were all together, much to Patrick’s dismay. I think he was quite tired by this point as he seemed to forget that we were supposed to miss the cones and sent one flying into a neighboring field. At least it kept the marshals entertained but meant we had an extra 10-second penalty to add to the morning’s penalties.

To add to the fun of the tests, when we arrived at the final test, there was a long queue. Immediately I jumped out to get a delay only to discover that a local had decided to drive on the closed road to pick someone up. It meant a bit of a wait but a lovely time to catch up with fellow competitors. I really enjoyed being seeded 11th as it meant I was with the top navigators and able to chat and get advice quickly. Also, when arriving at venues, there was always space to park and you feel in the know. It did make me feel like I knew what I was doing, even though I really didn’t.

When we finally were called forward to drive the last test, Patrick took it upon himself to ‘drive it’. By this I mean he pushed the car to its limits. I didn’t notice at the time but as we turned 90 right after a cone, our rear tyre came full off the ground. At least we didn’t hit another cone.

By lunchtime we were both exhausted but knew that we had one last regularity before the end. The pressure was on as we were only one second behind 2nd in our class. I was worried that there was going to be a sting in the tail and we would drop down but I actually found it quite simple and it ended up being our best reg getting


Admittedly the plus 5 was a little annoying but we didn’t mind as it was the home straight. Crossing the finish line was such a relief and we thought that we had finished 11th. Amazingly, we had moved up to 10th and ended up with a top ten finish. The competition was extremely tough and I felt so proud of Seren for coming 21st overall and 3rd in class. For a driver, that is pretty impressive, so we could be making a navigator out of her yet.