By Phil Jobson
Normally a driver’s concern would be for the reliability of his rally car, but a trip to and from the Cambrian this year proved that the service van warrants equal importance.
Entered as a shakedown for the forthcoming Roger Albert Clark Rally, the driver had not competed on a stage event since rolling Snowy on R.A.C.2009. Rebuilt engine had been fitted, together with a new rear suspension set up and a complete car rebuild.
Suspicion of an engine fault with the Transit resulted in changed injectors and injector pump, and the van was collected from the repairer only a few hours before scrutineering. Well, the good news was we got as far as Preston, the bad news was that we were stuck on the side of the M6 with a chewed up fan belt. Fortunately Gwynn Jones from Ruthin (chase crew with another Cambrian competitor & seasoned road & stage rally competitor) noticed us parked up on the hard shoulder and turned round at the next junction and returned to hitch the trailer & Snowy to his pickup and take crew & car to the Llandudno scrutineering. John Ross kindly waited with the van for the recovery. What heroes !!
The event? Ah well, it was the first stage rally for novice navigator Caroline Jobson. And she was straight into her stride on the first stage, clearly calling the notes having spent hours rehearsing them in front of a DVD. Nevertheless the driver (being paternally related) was mindful of the words “take care of that valuable cargo” ringing in his ears. In other words, the driver was driving like an old woman!
Clocaenog has some fast flowing sections with a relatively smooth gravel surface. But there was little grip following heavy rain. Penmachno is known to be rough and so it proved to be. A bent steering arm resulted from clipping a rock through a tight hairpin right, tight square left and hairpin right section. At one point we were pointing to the sky, then an immediate square left. Visibility proved a major problem later on with a setting sun glaring onto a wet surface.
A change onto new Grippa DMack rears at first service improved grip, particularly on long straights where Snowy had an alarming tendency to step out at high speed when going light. A steady run to 66th o/a and 5th in class with no mechanical troubles was at least more acceptable than the performance of the van, which broke down yet again 10 miles out of Llandudno. Another hero, Alan Walsh, was good enough to drive down and collect crew & trailer at 7am the next morning. By the way, it is possible to book into a hotel at 1am, but don’t expect hot water in the bathroom and expect the lights to fuse….. time to call it a day!!