By Caroline Lodge
I’d not sat in Snowy since ‘the washing machine experience’ of the 2009 RAC, but was quick to say ‘Yes’ when Phil asked me to navigate on the Riponian Rally this year. Would I suffer from flashbacks, or post traumatic stress disorder? Would I be reduced to a quivering wreck once inside the car?
Would I heck, I was going forest rallying in a rwd – Bring it on!
The threat of snow over the weekend was causing a bit of concern regarding tyre choices, Roppa and Boltby stage were only just accessible on the day before the event. However the forecast was correct and there snow started to go before the rally started. There was a loop of 6 stages all to be done twice in a reasonably compact route between Thirsk and Helmsley.
After answering messages from our fans we made our way to the first stage – Boltby, that went quite well, a nice 4.1 miles to get back into the swing of things. However it was very, very slippery, this was how the rest of the stages were going to be that day. Snowy was running well, and we got a good time – second fastest in our class. Then onto Wass, with lots of spectators, a quick 2.3 mile loop. Just under 2 miles into stage we negotiated a K right over crest and became passengers as Snowy struggled to grip coming out of the corner, we were up an two wheels and heading sideways towards the bank (navigator’s side as usual). Somehow we got away with that and made it to the finish with only the front nearside tyre hanging off, as a result of the incident. Phew
The next road section was very, very short and cramped for space with rally cars going in both directions. Finding a safe place to change the wheel used a bit of time and we had to use some lateness too. However we also had time to do a bit of ‘mud skating’ whilst changing the wheel, it was hard enough to walk in some places let alone get a car around the corners at competitive speeds. We got through College Moor in a reasonable time and with no problems, then on to Pry Rigg for another short stage (1.5 miles) before we would meet up with John in the management car.
¾ mile into stage we negotiated a tight K right followed by 60 up hill, just after the corner things started to go wrong, we got in amongst the slush and muck to the right hand side of the track, Phil wrestled the car out again, only for us to get caught by the same horrid stuff on the other side. This time we weren’t so lucky as the banking fell away from the track on that side, and we became stuck with 1 wheel on the road. I couldn’t get out as we were very close to a tree and couldn’t get the door open, Phil couldn’t get out as, if he had both Snowy and I were in danger of sliding into the tree or further down the bank.
A gang of spectators came to assist, they all seemed to be experts on this type of thing, unfortunately their efforts resulted in us becoming more unstable, with no tree to catch us and the car was in danger of sliding further or even rolling. Phil and I daren’t move whilst we waited for the recovery truck. Once there were some ropes and straps attached to the car, I made my exit and had a slide down the banking myself. The recovery crew quickly got Snowy and Phil out and we decided to keep on going as no one had asked for our cards yet.
We made a flying visit to remote service – ‘Hi John – Bye John’ and got out before the closing car. SS5 Riccal Dale, went OK, quite twisty for the first 1.5 miles then it becomes quite fast and flowing, but again if any of the wheels were to step out of the tram lines you’d be in trouble, so no ditch hooking for us. Then we caught our minute man, who kindly pulled towards the side. There were a few hairy moments for both cars as we slithered along together, them trying to keep on the track but out of our way, us also trying to keep on the track and past them. That was a close one. Then off to Roppa, which had been under 4inches of snow the day before. There were a lot of straights in there, ‘700 chicane 750’ being one call. Again lots of nasty wheel grabbing muck at the sides of the roads. That was quite an enjoyable stages (would be nice in summer I think!).
At service we had to retire as we were OTL (well we had been since SS4). So Snowy went back on the trailer and I had to answer quite a few calls and texts to say that we were OK but out. Then we made our way home. Thanks John for all your efforts, shame about our result.
P.S If anyone did see me a service, I would like to point out that, I did NOT get out of the car and roll around in the mud, despite how I may have looked!
(Photos © B. Lindsay / Spadeadam Motor Club)