Dont really know how to start this one. Just like all good fairy stories I suppose. Once upon a time there was a rally called The Patriot Stages at a place called Caerwent........
Saturday, the event started with a phone call from the good lady wife asking me how big my welder was? After some discussion it turned out that the Astra she was co-driving in was being failed at scrutineering for the roll cage despite it being Sparco, fitted for at least 8yrs and being passed by the same bloke in June. Anyway after some ringing round they found a local guy who would weld the existing nuts and bolts in place on the roll cage so that you couldnt remove the section above the door, WTF
which was the scrutineer's concern.
Now it was our turn. Bit of background first.... Me and the wife built the rally car in 1993/4. We built it once and to the best of our ability built it right. Essentially apart from the usual upgrades the car hasnt changed. So, the scrutineers opening gambit was " you've got a F/G bonnet - yes, you've got F/G wings - yes, you've got F/G doorskins - yes, Have you read the blue book ( contains all the regs for motorsport in this country including safety standards ) lately?
Anyway I explained that I was fully aware of my F/G panels and that as the car was log-booked pre 2009 they were still compliant ( I dont make these stupid rules) Mr scrutineer says well I will have to check the blue book about that. I explained that I had been in contact with the MSA and they had confirmed that they were fine. He checked the rest of the car and no problems and then went off to his car. He returned after a few mins and asked me to read a paragraph which he had highlighted in the book. After I had read it I told him I agreed and knew of this info regarding what materials panels were supposed to be made off but that it only applied to cars log booked after 2009 i.e. new builds. After several mins discussion he told me that as he was a nice guy he would let me through but that I needed to get confirmation in writing from the MSA that they were alright and put a comment on my log-book to that effect, the first ever
Signed on and did the paperwork and no they couldnt explain my seeding
Got to the digs and found out that one of mates service crew had failed to cancel his room and the B&B owner was having a meltdown and we were getting the brunt of it.
Couple of hrs later the Wife etc turn up with the Astra but it was too late too get rescrutineered so we had got to get there early the next morning (therefore defeating the object of going the day before and stopping a B&B).
The one good thing that happened is we found a cracking place to eat called the Milton hotel. Highly recommend that one if you are down by Newport.
So historically if we have a cr4p build up to the rally, the day usually goes quite well.
Couldnt sleep, read my book for 2hrs, got up at 5am. On our way to venue by 5:30
HURRAY got the service spot we wanted, enough room for all of us.
HURRAY Astra passes scrutineering.
Perhaps it can all calm down now and we can get on with the rally
SS1 No rain so Yoky AO48s on the back and Dunlop slicks on the front. 200yds in my opponent for the championship class is parked up on side of the stage and waves us through (turned out later he had bust a driveshaft). Generally stage is going well. Frustrated that most corners warrant going into first gear but perhaps I just need to get a bit of confidence. Cars broken down everywhere. 4 miles in and on a straight I see a car across the road. Mk1 Escort has hit a wet patch at speed and fish tailed into curbs etc, just enough room to squeeze through. 6 miles in. Is that the car in front, sure I just saw a white Peugeot tailgate? Yes! Within 10 yds of him now and then a nadgery bit, I get a bit crossed up, undergrowth on the left, undergrowth on the right, calm down get it back on the road and we are away again. 7 miles in. I can see the Peugeot and he has caught a Micra. Brakes are getting spongy. 8miles in. The Peugeot is passed the Micra and soon I am past aswell. 9 miles in. Having to pump the brakes. I can still see the Peugeot. Brakes have to be pumped 2-3 times before any braking and that means most corners. First pump goes straight to floor. Not making any ground now and gearbox is also getting vey hot, really stiff to change gears. Flying finish with the Peugeot about 50yds in front. Stage over. Have to stop the car on the handbrake.
Bled half a litre of SRF through the front calipers in service area. Brakes feel ok. Next stage will see if its worked.
SS2 is a new layout. Stuck with same tyres but put more pressure in rears. God this first gear for corners is getting frustrating. Not enough torque to go round in second, curbs and tightness of corners mean you cant just chuck it at the corner. Tried to be a bit easier on the brakes. They lasted about a mile longer. 9 miles in and theres the wife and the Atra parked up on the side of the stage. Stopline and no brakes again, gearstick is more like a poker hammered into a plank of wood. Into service and try to cool everything down for the next stage. found out tha the Astra had lost a front wheel at about 90mph. Same layout for SS3so only 20mins and we are back in the car.
SS3 - Dropped 6 second to our previous stage time from SS2, brakes were gone after 6/7 miles.
Not enjoying this now. Cant seem to get into the flow. Front feels too grippy so in service I decide to go with Yoky's all round to try and balance car better and take the pressure of the brakes. We just need to get round to get second overall in the championship. Have a chat with my co-driver and he is in agreement.
SS4 new layout. Brakes are spongy straight away. Having to pump from word go. Just once so I can cope with that. 2 miles in. Plan with tyres hasnt worked they are just as grippy. 3 miles in, new section called the quarry road. K left junction, short straight, over cattle grid,100yd straight up hill into slight left, touch the brakes, the whole thing locks up and seems to accelerate. Just passengers now. Cant remember a lot. Thought we were going to hit either a lamppost or a building at one point. Then I can remember facing the building and the car was going sideways at an angle. Thought we might get away with it. The back end hits something hard and thats it, over we go.
Car came to rest on its wheels but we are half in the road. We get out as quick as we can to avoid getting hit by the next car.
Cars not good. All 4 corners have got damage. headlights etc are gone, front panel has come in on OS onto engine so we dont know if thats damaged, roof is damaged on NS and A pillar, rear suspension badly bent and broke, various other things.
We think the car went to the left when the brakes locked and began spinning, then we hit something with the front which kept it going round. Then we may have spun back across the road into the opposite bank where the OSR dug in and started the car rolling. We think we did a 360 in the air with the NS roof grazing the floor whilst it was going round.
That theory seems to explain most of the damage.
Sorry its not a happy ending
Gameover, for a while at least...