White bits, Grey bits, Brown bits & Munchkins

By Phil Jobson

There’s always a fine line between going as quick as possible and exceeding the limit of adhesion ie going off! The fact is, though, that on the 2010 Roger Albert Clark Rally, 16 of the 22 stages were covered in snow with ice beneath, but with an occasional patch of gravel showing through. In those circumstances, that limit of adhesion is constantly altering. It’s like playing a game of tennis with two people moving the net up and down all the time.

Above: En route through the Scottish Forests

We negotiated the snow-covered stages using constant gear changes either with wheel spin in every gear seeking some grip, or down the ‘box & bouncing off snow banks trying to slow down for a corner. We were very fortunate not to go off, though we had countless moments. I told Ken I was peeling my eyes in the dark looking to gain some speed on the “brown bits” (gravel poking through, churned up by previous competitors) in between the “white bits” (snow) & “grey bits” (ice). Ken quipped he knew where I’d find some brown bits!!

Above: Snowy in the Snow

A few of my most memorable experiences on the Roger Albert Clark Rally 2010 took place on road sections, such as trying to get up to Dalby Stage, up an icy single track with two-way rally traffic. Some Belgian driver bellowed, “you must back up!” We replied we couldn’t because the Avenger in front of me was sat just spinning his wheels. I thought World War III was going to break out. Eventually a sensible chap from behind us reversed us into a double parked layby while the returning cars got past us. It was hilarious.

We got used to the conditions a bit by the time we reached Shepherdshield at 12.30am Sunday, but it was doubly difficult because of virtually zero visibility in a snow storm. On the neutral forest section out, we stopped at a square left with an Escort Mk1 & Porsche in front. The Porsche eventually slipped it’s way up this incline, but then came the Mk1. What a performance! This middle aged guy was straight out of Wizard of Oz, & although he’d already survived 12 treacherous stages, insisted that 6000rpm in first gear in the middle of the tramlines was the best way up the slope! … Maybe because marshals & crews from 6 cars behind him were bodily trying to lift his car up the slope at the same time. Eventually his navigator got in and did it for him. We made sure that when he pulled over to let the driver in, that we weren’t behind him again!! Maybe it doesn’t snow in Munchkinland?

Above: En route through the Heathhall stage.

Because Snowy has only a motorbike radiator inside the car and with an engine running at only 35 degC (we had to blank the grill with a plastic bag to raise the temp a little), the run from Pickering to York, then up the A1 to Hamsterley was the coldest I have ever been in a car. Ken reminded me not to ask him to do another rally in Snowy in the winter!! But that was nothing compared with the marshals and organisers who deserve medals for making the R.A.C 2010 happen. Most marshals must’ve been out in subzero temperatures for 7 to 8 hours.

Above: Getting back to service at Carlisle Racecourse at around 2.30am.

It was an achievement to finish such an event, but after two non-finishes with a major off into a ditch in 2007 and a catastrophic roll in 2009, we were pleased to finish 4th overall in the Open Rally with a time that would’ve put us around 26th in the main event. It’ll certainly be an event I shall never forget.

Thanks a million to my heroes John Ross, Caroline Lodge and to Dale Bowman, Richard Clark & Squirt.

Above: Heroes / Working Hard (click images for large version)

(Photos © Caroline Lodge/ Helen R. Gibbon / Spadeadam Motor Club)