Archive for the ‘Event’ Category

A Worthy Cause

March 16, 2011

A Worthy Cause

Today I had the chance to watch Prodrive instructor Simon Clark improve the world a little bit, all by the power of drifting. Si’s idea was to do a sponsored drift for Red Nose Day. We had some spare track time at work, so arranged for Si to use the skid circle. When wetted the surface replicates sheet ice, so is perfect for getting your drift on.

S14 - The Fundraiser's weapon of choice

Si arrived with a red Nissan 200SX drift car which was borrowed from a mate, featuring dented panels, no interior and welded diff’, naturally. Si set off for some practice while we sorted the camera gear, the Cossie style dump valve was a treat on an overcast Wednesday morning, I can tell you.

At roughly 9.30am, Si started his stopwatch and his attempt, but an attempt at what? Well it turns out that there’s a World Record for the longest continuous drift which currently stands at 2 hours 11 minutes, obviously this was the target to aim for. With no Guinness officials in attendance, no records could be broken today, but it would be a great dry run for a possible attempt later in the year. Si got in to a good rhythm so we left him to it, it was far too cold to be stood in the middle of a windswept test track on such a grey day anyway.

A long morning of drifting lay ahead...

We returned later to find him still booting it sideways, with plenty of lock on, a great effort, given that he was still drifting two and a half hours since he began.

Si well in to the swing of things, until we distracted him

I don’t know if us turning up to cheer him on put him off though, as soon after we arrived, he spun it – ending the single continuous drift and the record attempt. 2 hours 29 minutes 52 seconds was the final time, (unofficially beating the record by over 18 minutes). After some cursing at us (sorry Si) he checked the clock and looked dead chuffed, he’d done what he set out to do. Slightly sore and needing the loo, he followed us back to the office. The final mileage covered was 43 miles, all sideways, all in a single drift, and all on only a quarter of a tank. If we hadn’t put him off, who knows how long he could have gone on for with 3/4 of a tank left??

Nervously checking the stopwatch, a new unofficial record and his fund raising done for the day

If you think this feat is worthy of a few quid, please donate here . It’s for a great cause and Si  did a brilliant job behind the wheel today.

 

Advertisements

Wales Rally GB – End of an era

November 21, 2010

Last weekend I made the trip over to Wales for the final round of the 2010 WRC. Having lived in Wales, it’s always great fun going back (the roads are frankly incredible). This trip had an added significance however. With the driver’s title already wrapped up by a certain Mr Loeb, the championship fight wasn’t the draw. Instead, the pull was the fact that this would be the last time that we see the 2.0L World Rally Car in the hands of the quickest men in the sport, for this era is now at an end.

Remember when Loeb used to just be a Tarmac specialist? Me neither.

I’m a big fan of what is to come, so I won’t lament over the ‘slowing down of the sport’. The 1600 Turbos that are on the way look the part, sound the part and still go like something off a shovel. We needn’t fear for our sport losing it’s spectacle. That said, this was the last chance that we would have the chance to see works World Rally Cars. The plan was to do all three days, to get the most bang for our buck. Tickets were bought, cheap hotels were booked, the fuel tank was brimmed. We were going.

The shape of things to come.

The stages we chose were Sweet Lamb on Friday, Fourways & Halfway on Saturday and Resolven on Sunday.

Sweet Lamb is a natural amphitheatre were you can see the cars tackle jumps, hairpins and two water splashes, the cars being visible for well over a minute. The only teeny snag was the horizontal rain that battered us on the second running of the stage. It was certainly exciting, my iPhone overloading in my pocket made my coat feel like it had anti-lag. This didn’t dampen our spirits though, the cars were spectacular over both runnings, with Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala putting on the most flamboyant displays. Loeb was in ominous form but Petter was hounding him all the way.

Henning Solberg sprays some gravel on Sweet Lamb

Kimi kept it the right way up for the whole event!

Saturday took us back to Epynt. Regular readers will know my opinion of the Epynt military range, so the chance to see two stages there on the Saturday was a no-brainer. ‘Fourways’ was the first stage, a tarmac route, but with the stage directly after, ‘Halfway’ being gravel, the cars were up on gravel springs with gravel tyres. This created a huge amount of pitch and roll under braking and acceleration, fantastic to watch. It reminded me of the Grp A era in the early 90s when suspension technology wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is today, the suspension looked like it could barley cope with the demands. The cars looked far more at home on Halfway, the full gravel setup now far more appropriate. The speed that a top level car can carry over a loose surface is breathtaking to behold.

Mads Ostberg in the Adapta Subaru. Still my favourite car of this era.

Petter lobs it in, love the comedy suspension settings.

Ken Block had a solid run out in his Focus

Resolven on the Sunday morning was an early one, first car was at 7.38am. The road to the stage was absolutely brilliant. Uphill, switchback hairpins, in amongst the trees, it was a great way to get fired up before the stage started. We spectated next to a long downhill straight, the cars were absolutely flying past. The corner at the end of the straight was a tight 90 right, comparing the braking points was fascinating. Even compared to the other top guys, Loeb was so much later on the brakes than anyone else. He has so much belief in the car, it’s a joy to behold. There’s a reason he’s a 7 time champion.

Matt Wilson did his usual thing of finishing about 7th

Very slippery surface in Resolven, Kimi did well.

Andreas Mikkelsen beat several 'World' cars in his S2000 Fabia

I think it’s fitting that Loeb won it, even though Petter pushed him on all the way. Sebastian has dominated this period of the sport so convincingly, him taking the final win was predictable, but it felt right.

I was thoroughly impressed with the running of the event. I’ve only ever marshalled on it before, so I didn’t really know what to expect as a paying customer. I’d heard tales of tiny spectator pens ruining it for some fans in years past. Either this has been addressed in recent years by the organisers or the complaints at the time were simply blown out of proportion. I found the spectator areas to be huge and well marshalled. No heavy handed bossiness, just professionalism across all three days.

The National rally boys were keen to entertain!

Looks like next year will have to be a must see as well. I can’t wait to see what the new breed of cars can do in the hands of the factory drivers.

To finish I’d just like to add my voice to those lamenting the fact that Dave and Neil Cole won’t be covering the WRC next year. I think this is a real shame, the coverage has evolved and Neil has really grown in to the role of host. They really got the balance right this year, ditching the ‘celebrity guest’ element was a very welcome move. I’ve hugely enjoyed the coverage in 2010 and I for one am quite sad that Mr Cole won’t be venturing in to this new age of rallying with us.

Some Road Racing at last!

August 16, 2010

SOME ROAD RACING, AT LAST!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have probably read about me going to Northern Ireland over the weekend to watch the Ulster Grand Prix. This is a huge deal for me, firstly because due to university or work commitments, I haven’t been able to get to the TT for years, and secondly because Irish Road Racing has to be seen to be believed. I went to the races with a mate, who’s family live in Tandragee, home to the renowned Tandragee 100 road race. They actually live on the same housing estate as TT legend Phillip McCallen, we drove past his house! It’s safe to say that the local community is totally integral to the running of the events, the local papers are full of info and the marshalls are locally sourced. It creates a wonderful atmosphere.

The TT and UGP are both essentially motorbikes tear arsing down closed, public roads. The distinction is that the TT is against the clock, whereas in the UGP (and other Irish road races) the riders are physically racing for position, oh and it’s mental. As at the TT, I’m always gobsmacked by the commitment on show. I think to myself, yes, they’re professional nutcases, but surely you can’t ride a 180bhp sportsbike at ten tenths down narrow B roads? But then they come screaming past, hard on the brakes, the rear wheel snaking around beneath the rider, barely kissing the tarmac, with the slipper clutch getting a battering as they stamp down the gears. Every lap is like this, even the privateers are awe inspiring in their bravery and skill.

A couple of 250s over Deer's Leap

We were stood no more than 10ft from the track at any time, getting so close is sure a rare event these days and it only adds to the thrill. We were in amongst groups of local lads (most of which were well in to their Buckfast or tins of lager by 10am) but everyone was very friendly and chatty. As you can expect, there was plenty of beautiful roadbikes lining the roads, parking where ever they could.

The lads next to us, see, Buckfast & Tinnies, good craic.

Photographic this event has a real challenge, panning needed to be incredibly quick and we were lucky with the weather being so bright so I could keep the shutter speed nice and quick. Initially, I was feeling quite cocky. On the Superstock sighting lap (race 1), I had my eye in by the time the last few bikes came though. I was feeling pretty confident as they really seemed ‘on it’ for a sighting lap. Then they came through on lap one at full tilt.

Oh. My. God.

What I thought was quick before was absolutely blown in to the weeds. The bikes were coming through so much faster, it was harder to comprehend. I had to quickly sort myself out and recalibrate, the races are only 7 laps at most, so I wouldn’t have that many opportunities to catch the top guys on camera. I’ve never panned so fast in my life, it was quite good exercise, but I probably looked a bit special while I was doing it.

My favourite rider, Guy Martin on a retro liveried Honda

Another feature that impresses about this type of racing is the variety of machines that the riders will compete on, in the same day. From 250s right up to the full fat Superbikes, some riders were very busy, but still quick in every class, incredible when the margins for error are so narrow, as you can see below, bales anyone?

Ian Hutchinson on an installation lap believe it or not!

With a sport this dangerous, there’s quite often serious accidents. This year a bike went off in the Superstock race and hit two spectators. The rider and one of the spectators are stable, with the other in a critical condition. I wish them all the best. Overall it was a brilliant event, the weather was nothing short of glorious, bar a short cloudy spell in the afternoon. The action was spectacular and cheap to watch. I got over there via BMI baby for £52 return so it can be a relatively cheap trip and I thoroughly recommend it. It will redefine what you think ‘fast’ is. Few more photos to finish? Why not, full set is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38587975@N00/sets/72157624611580775/

Eyes wide open!

Just stumbled across this from 2006:

Nurburgring 24 hr 2010

May 27, 2010

I thought I’d stick this video up here, because, well, it’s wonderful. I stumbled across it via Twitter and was so impressed that I wanted to shout about it.

It’s by Tim Hahne, I hadn’t seen any of his stuff before but I’m really impressed. His site is http://www.stereoscreen.de/

I think the video (captured on a new fangled HD video capable Canon DSLR) captures the atmosphere of the race to stunning effect. I watched the race over the net with Radio Le Mans providing commentary via thier website (my German isn’t as fluent as it once was). I thoroughly enjoyed the coverage, but it’s videos like the one below that offer a perspective that TV coverage can’t match. It’s job isn’t simply to report what is occurring on track. Instead it instils the experience of being there, camped out with a BBQ at Flugplatz, drinking tins of lager at 2am. Heaven to GT racing fans.

I’ve made a promise to myself to visit the race in 2011 and it’s this vid that’s really spurred me on. Enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “24 HOURS IN 19500 FRAMES“, posted with vodpod

British Drift Championship (pro) Rd.2

May 24, 2010

British Drift Championship (pro) Rd.2

Silverstone hosted round 2 of the British Drift Championship on Sunday 23rd May. The drifting was running as part of the Japanese Tuning Show (more on that later). I was especially enthusiastic to see the drifting due to the track changes at the circuit. The drifting took place on the Brooklands/Luffield/Woodcote complex. Brooklands has been opened up during the recent circuit developments, creating a faster, wider corner. Before the event, the BDC organisers were predicting entry speeds of 100 mph, a pretty serious prospect when at this point, and speed one of the techniques to initiate a drift is to simply yank the handbrake. Oh yes, I HAD to see this.

The pro field offered a great mix of machinery. From Mk2 Ford Escorts and classic Toyota Starlets via a host of Nissan Silvias and a Toyta Supra, reported to be running 700 bhp. There was a clear gap between the tops guys and ‘the rest’, but that can be said of most motorsports. Throughout the day, the qualifying sessions whittled down the 40 or so drivers down to the top 16.

The top 16 battles (pairs of cars drifting together to nick points off each other) were thrilling to behold. The judges award a split of the points based on the drivers sticking to the lines and clipping points as instructed, but also on speed, angle, noise and of course, smoke. Every so often, one of the competitors would hit the perfect drift, a full 90 degrees to the corner, on full lock, but also on full power. Amazing precision and aggression. In one of his qualifying runs, Phil Morrison from Driftworks put the car so side ways at Brooklands that he entered the corner facing backwards, but he kept his foot in and achieved an incredible score. Vid here: http://vimeo.com/11972299

The battles between the differing cars was fascinating too. Declan Munnelly in the green Mk 2 got some impressive scalps, despite having ‘only’ about 250 bhp. When he came up against Shane Lynch, yes, him out of Boyzone’s Twin Turbo V8 powered Nissan however, his plucky run came to an end. Declan is always a crowd pleaser and was managing some insane angles all day, he eventually shared 3 place with Phil Morrison.

The end result was a 1-2 for Team Japspeed, both in S15 Silvias. The winner was Danny Eyles with the runner up, Shane Lynch a close 2nd. It was an afternoon of incredible action, I can’t recommend drifting highly enough. No it’s not for everyone, but it might be for you.

It’s a shame that the event was marred by a few other factors though. Crowd attendance was appalling, probably down to Japfest being held at Castle Combe only a week before and the fact that the tickets weren’t exactly cheap at £20 on the gate. The actual JTS show was very small, which after being billed as having ‘1000s of cars’ on show was particularly disappointing. There wouldn’t have been 1000s of cars if you’d included those in Silverstone village as well. While the car displays were small, there was a few gems hidden amongst them, but if it hadn’t been for the drifting, there wouldn’t really have been much reason to bother.

The other, main problem was the scheduling. The drifting finals were timetabled for between 4-6pm, so a 2 hr slot. They started pretty much on time but soon delays started to creep in with mechanical issues etc. The BDC have a ‘five minute rule’ whereby if a car isn’t at its start point within 5 minutes of its allotted time then it’s disqualified, a rule which works well.

However, it didn’t work well enough as before the 3rd place run off and the final battle could be run, 6pm struck and all track activity had to stop. They sent through Danny and Shane on one run to decide the final result (they’d normally do 2 runs, taking it in turns to lead). Declan and Phil had to share 3rd place as they didn’t even get a run. This was a disappointing end to the day, and one which needn’t have happened. I can’t understand the logic of running the feature event at the end of the timetable, meaning that any delays are likely to impact the main reason for the spectators attending. It’s lead to a bit of ill feeling amongst the fans, which is fair enough. That said, noise limits and curfews are there for a reason and must be adhered to . I’ve heard stories that in the past the circuit once broke the 6pm curfew by only 6 mins but was fined £45,000 for it. Why oh why wasn’t the drifting run an hour earlier, with one of the public track sessions run at the end of the day instead? Shame.

I don’t want to end on a sour note, so I wont. It was a brilliant day and the BDC goes all over the country, other, smaller venues are cheaper than at places like Silverstone, so if you want to experiment then maybe try elsewhere first.

That said, seeing a car entering Brooklands backwards at 90+ mph whilst in total control sure takes some beating.

http://www.thebritishdriftchampionship.com/

FIA GT WIN

May 3, 2010

I was back at Silverstone again this weekend because the FIA GT circus was in town. It’s an event that I always enjoy, even if the time of year that it’s held often leads to some pretty unpleasant weather…

Look, look! Sunshine AND overtaking!

Amazingly, the weather held all day bar a few spots mid afternoon, even the ambient temperature was quite pleasant. I gather it was far more typical on the sunday though. I could only make the Saturday this year, but fortunately, thanks to the event’s  multi-race format, we all still got to see some top class GT racing. The format has changed quite a bit these days. The GT1 World Championship now features two 1 hour races, each with a mandatory driver change. Now, an hour long race isn’t exactly in the spirit of ‘Grand Touring’ is it? That said, it does mean that the field is closer together for more of the race, so you get to see more overtaking than you would with a multi-hour race like before. I’m in favour of this, if I want strung out battles of attrition I’ll watch some Le Mans Series instead. It somehow seems right that these supercars get to have a right good dust up, they sound aggressive and muscular and just what the racing is like.

I'm totally smitten with with Sumo Power GTRs

SRO (the event promoters) have done a bloody good job in rejuvenating the GT1 class. We were down a car due to the qualifying accident in Dubai involving one of the Matech Ford GTs. However the grid still consisted of Aston Martins DBR9s, Ford GTs, Lamborghini Murcielagos, Maserati MC12s, Nissan GTRs and Chevrolet Corvette C6.Rs. The series is in rude health, great news given the recent financial climate and international level GT racing ain’t exactly cheap. I must also mention the GT3 class. This year it’s offering an enormous variety of machinery (even with the Ford Mustangs having to sit it out due to homologation issues). It’s another sign than international motorsport is putting the last 18 months behind it and really getting in to its stride again.

The All-Inkl Lambos did this all day. Brilliant.

I spent most of my time at the new Arena section of the revitalised Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. The response to the new layout was mixed, some in favour, some not. Though racing drivers moaning isn’t exactly news, there are some sizeable bumps on the way through the now super-fast Abbey right hander. These will need to be smoothed over before the F1 boys get here or Mr Ecclescake won’t be a happy chappy.

Abbey corner, a hell of a quick place to bin it now.

The tight new bends ‘Village’ and ‘The Loop’ provided some good overtaking throughout the day, so that’s a positive move for the circuit. If huge GT cars can have a tussle through them, smaller, nimbler cars should have a field day.

One of the Vitaphone MC12s engages reheat.

Most importantly of all, the racing was very good. I normally go to watch GT racing for the shear spectacle of the cars themselves. For my money, GT racing offers THE BEST noise you can possibly get from motor racing so that fact that the racing was close and exciting really made it a brilliant day all round.

Some GT3 love to finish:

*Hi-Res versions at my Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/38587975@N00/sets/72157623859122903/

Modified Live

April 26, 2010

Another weekend, another event. This weekend was Modified Live at Oulton Park, no wait, come back, don’t let the ‘modified’ bit put you off.

My brother's Touge style MX5, our chariot for the trip. Appropriate I thought.

When you go to a car modification/tuning show for the first time you run the gauntlet from really great to really shit, and it’s not always easy to predict which way it’ll go beforehand. Fortunately, Modified Live is more about tuning than styling, which makes it a Good Show. Personal taste blah, blah, blah but I can’t stand lurid, scissor-doored, 5 door Puntos with more power in their bass amp than the engine. Piss off back to McDonald’s car park you tit and stop drowning out wonderfully tuned V-Tec units with that shite spewing from your subwoofer.

Awe inspiring R34 Skyline, check out those rear wheels.

It wasn’t the biggest show in the world, but thankfully the Ripspeed crew only accounted for, at most 10% of the metal on display. There was a strong presence from Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Honda and Subaru as well as a host of others dotted around. The overall standard was very high, with a few personal highlights that will stick in my mind. (This is going to get pretty photo heavy)

Re Amemiya RX7

This Wangan Warrior flew past us on the M6, potent.

There was loads of Scoobies around, but only one RB320

New bumpers are for suckers.

I love a good Saff'

Ironically, I wasn’t really there for the static displays, the main attractions for me were the European Drift Championship (EDC) and the 1st round of the UK Time Attack (UK:TA) series. I first noticed UK:TA about a year ago and it really captured my imagination. It’s a very simple sport, fastest time around a circuit in the final session wins. Like drifting it originated in Japan and is growing rapidly over here. It was the cars (there’s a shock) that piqued my interest. It’s like Forza Motorsport come to life, great variety of cars, silly wings, enormous horsepower figures, oh and road legal tyres. What’s not to like?

Now, is that wing really big enough?

We spectated at the Knickerbrook corner, a medium speed right hander after a chicane, that opens on the exit, encouraging the drivers to get on the power early. The top 4wd guys were generating some slip under power out of here but it looked very controllable, sign of a good setup. The top class was dominated by Skylines, RX7s, Imprezas and Evos. Turns out running it at about 700bhp, it finally makes an Evo entertaining to watch, who knew?!

Ear splitting rotary soundtrack

Old school performance that still cuts it.

The eventual winner was Gareth Lloyd in his black & orange Evo with a lap time of 1:25.493secs in the final. That’s an average speed of 93.73mph, seriously, seriously quick.

First blood to Gareth Lloyd

All in all it was a good event. The Time Attack series has a big entry this year so should provide some great action as it tours the country (I bet Knockhill will be ridiculous). Well worth the trip to Cheshire and watching at Outlon Park is always really good fun. I am now lusting after a well sorted R32 Skyline though…

Single Venue, Mixed Fortunes

April 20, 2010

This weekend I helped out a mate who was doing a rally at the MIRA test facility in Warwickshire. It was a single venue event, the stages made up of differing combinations of the test track and its access roads. It’s a popular one with the crews as it has lots of silky smooth tarmac that they can really attack on and bar the Armco, there’s not that much to hit.

My day started relatively early, Marcus’s (driver) co-driver Colin picked me up on the A5 at about 6.30am, just 10 mins down the road from MIRA. He’d come from the northeast, having left at about 3am, so my 6am start didn’t seem so bad all of a sudden.

The gate staff let us in to the venue at around 7am. We went off to the service park to set up while Marcus and Colin took the car and thier kit off to be scrutineered. The car in question was an all singing, all dancing 1400 Peugeot 205 Rallye with a specially built 1400cc engine running on Yamaha R1 bike carbs. It was only the second event with the car (but we knew how quick it was from competing against the previous owner). Event 1 ended badly with a bottom arm failure resulting in an unexpected meeting of 205 and tree, with the Pug coming off worst. In the weeks before MIRA, by some miracle the car was straightened up, re-prepped and made ready for the event.

We had high hopes as Marcus and Colin set off for stage 1, as Marcus had finished 2nd in class on this event last year in a car that wasn’t nearly as quick as the 205. The stage 1 result was mixed. The car was running well but Marcus had accidentally hit the engine kill switch a couple of times when going for first gear. It was decided that 1st wouldn’t be used from this point on!

Stage 2 is where things began to get interesting. Once we’d sent the guys back out, I wandered down to have a quick watch. I saw a few crews through before Marcus arrived. The corner was a 90 left round a straw bale leading to a short straight with a small bump on the exit of the corner. Marcus turned in, booted it and exited the corner. As they hit this small bump (with a bit of lock still on) I heard a loud CRACK. The 205 then began to coast, with Marcus revving the car but it wasn’t really going anywhere. Instantly I thought either clutch or gearbox, I didn’t know if he’d even make the end of the stage. I legged it to the stop control where they’d just managed to arrive. Turns out it was the CV joint on the driver’s side driveshaft that had broken and they’d crawled through the last 1/2 mile of the stage with 1 wheel drive. We pushed the car back in to service and got to work. We had about 50 mins before stage 3 started so we were in a bit of a rush. Trying to change a drive shaft when there’s a red-hot brake disc on the end of it isn’t easy, or much fun. However it was swapped out with a couple of minutes to spare and we sent the car on its way.

Despite the dramas we were sitting about 7th in class at this point, within striking distance of the top 3. The middle stages of the day went very well. Marcus steadily recovered the time lost on stages 1&2 and was setting times good enough for 2nd in class. The leader in class A was a Vauxhall Nova driven by Andrew Egger. We had no chance of catching him, he was on a mission and actually finished 10th overall, in amongst the Imprezas and Mk2 Escorts. A heroic performance.

No, we ignore Mr Egger, our fight was for 2nd and Marcus continued plugging away, setting good times. It was a very hot day for an April and the car was feeling it. To draw the heat away from the engine we had the heaters on max, lovely when it’s 18C ambient and you’re working hard behind the wheel in 3 layers of Nomex. Rather them than me! The thermostat read fine though and we just made sure we bled off any air that was in the system after each stage (there may have been a small airlock in the system) but it was fine.

2 stages, about 18 miles to go. While refueling, torquing up the wheels etc, a media type, we think from Motorpsort News, wandered over. The fact that we have been in the exact same position the previous year (2nd to Mr Egger by a huge margin) seemed to amuse him. However, after Marcus told him of our strife throughout the day, this appeared to pique the journo’s interest and he started scribbling in his notepad. Yay, it looked like we might get a mention in that week’s comic. Then came stage 8, the last one of the rally.

We sent Marcus & Colin off with simply holding station in mind. We were 2nd, about 1 minute ahead of 3rd place; a comfortable gap with only 9 or so miles to go. The service park was within sight of the middle of the stage so once we got packed up we stood watching for Marcus. The Metro 6r4 that he’d been behind on the road all day came through, so we knew Marcus would be 30 seconds or so behind it. Then we saw a white Nova. Where was our guy? Then a Mk2 Escort came through. Seriously, where was Marcus?  We shared some pensive looks, surely he hasn’t gone off, he had a massive lead? At that point the ambulance and recovery vehicles sped out of the service park. Shit. Were they for our car?

Then, the phone call. We instantly thought the worse, if they’ve gone off, God I hope they’re ok. They weren’t off, the engine had gone with only 2 miles to go. And when I say gone, I mean GONE. While cruising, simply to hold position, one of the connecting rods decided that it was no longer content with moving up and down and decided to follow a path of it’s own choosing. It fired itself through the engine block which instantly showered the exhaust manifold in oil. This immediately caught light, the car was on fire. It took both the handheld and the plumbed in extinguishers to kill the fire, brave work by Marcus but I guess the adrenaline was pumping and rally cars are expensive. The fire damage wasn’t too bad, but the bigger story was the extra holes now in the engine block.

Note the new holes, gulp.

We were gutted. Instead of waiting round to pick up a trophy for 2nd in class we waited for every car to go through the stage so the trucks could recover the 205. Pissing oil out of the bottom, the engine bay looked a mess, everyone was crestfallen.

The engine is off to the builders, they can expect quite a bill, but we had such a good day up to that point. Such is life I guess, but fate can be very cruel sometimes.

Quick mention for our sponsors, without which we couldn’t even go rallying:

Tinsley Joiners

Rodgers Plant Hire

Taylor Signs

Samson Fire Protection

*All photos kindly provided by www.rally-media.co.uk

Dirty Weekend

March 22, 2010

I visited a Hill Rally this weekend near Stratford in Warwickshire. It’s not a form of motorsport that I’m that familiar with to be honest. A mate of mine does them in a chopped down, roofless V8 LR Defender, I’d not seen him in a while so I thought I’d pop along.

The event was organised by a local club, the Midland Rover Owner’s Club and was only down the road. It was a ‘Comp Safari’, from what I can gather this works like a cross between a rally special stage and a trials course. It’s against the clock but the terrain is very rough (as you’d expect) so the crews have to temper their speed with caution to avoid getting stuck, or worse.

We had heavy rain the day before, which softened up the ground a treat, creating deep ruts filled with water. This made for a much more challenging course for the crews, which added to the entertainment.

It was a good day, my mate Steve managed to knacker his gearbox by lunchtime though. Come to think of it, I don’t know if he’s ever actually finished an event! Very cheap to watch (free) and quite safe by off road motorsport standards (as long as you don’t stand somewhere stupid). Even in this small club meet there was some real trick stuff (Bowler Wildcats and the like) and an awesome V8 soundtrack.

Good clean fun. Well, sort of.

Brilliant Epynt

March 15, 2010

Last weekend, Epynt, near Brecon in Wales was the venue for the opening round of the 2010 Richard Egger Insurance MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.

Epynt Military Ranges are MOD land that is opened up a few times a year to host some of the fastest Tarmac rallies in the country. Narrow ribbons of tarmac weave their way across hillsides and through mock German villages, built to simulate fighting the Russians in WWIII. I love the place, mainly because it’s so sodding quick. The rally consisted of 6 stages, two layouts repeated three times, with each stage being about 12 miles long. It’s a mix of flat out sections over jumps and long, sweeping bends with the occasional tight, technical section thrown in to keep the average speed down. The weather was about as good as you get; Epynt seems to it’s own weather system, but it behaved itself on this occasion. It was chilly to begin with and quite windy, but crucially, it was dry.

After spectating on the event for a few years now, it seems to me that being quick here requires above all else, trust. The driver must first trust the notes that their navigator is calling, miss read a corner here and the consequences can be expensive and painful. The driver also needs to trust the car. He/she must believe that it will grip when they enter a string of 5/6th gear bends. They must know that the suspension will cope with the crests and not spit the car off in a direction of it’s own choosing when landing.

As usual, there was a real mix of machinery on the event. From ex works Impreza, Focus and Fabia WRC cars right down to 1.3 Minis and Novas. Add in to the mix a Metro 6R4, a very special, and rapid Audi S3, numerous Mk2 Escorts and a clutch of Darrians, made it a varied and exciting mix of tarmac weaponry.

The most spectacular viewing point of the day was a crest on stages 4-6. They ran in the opposite direction to those in the morning. This meant that instead of approaching the crest after twisty climb, the crews would now be hitting it after a flat, half mile straight.

The quickest crews were arriving at this point well in excess of 100 mph. The seemingly gentle kink launched the cars in to the air with breathtaking ease. The wind at this point was briskly gusting across the track, creating an intermittent, but fiendish cross wind. The cars were airborne for a good two seconds and seeing them buffet in the air as the wind hit was both thrilling a quite terrifying. There’s been some big accidents over the years at this point, the crews understand the risks but still display incredible commitment.

The event was won by Peter Lloyd/Graham Handly in thier Subaru S12 WRC by a margin of 37s over Steve Simpson/Mark Booth in another WRC Impreza.

Special mention must go the 3rd placed crew of Simon Mauger/Chris Butcher who beat a raft of far more exotic machinery in their Mk2 Escort.

The sight of these cars flying through the air only a couple of meters from where you’re standing is utterly intoxicating. These crews are performing absolute heroics and long may it continue. The guys in the BMW below typify the spirit of the event, brilliant.