By Dave Love
5pm Satruday 19th of November, Chris Walker and I are headed over to Humshaugh to sign on then man 2 controls on the Hexham Historic / John Robson Navigational Rally. I’m sure getting to signing on is part of the event, as I can’t remember it being the same place twice in the past few years. I thought we might have trouble finding the village hall but the half mile line of cars parked both sides of the road gave us a clue. First it was Alan & Rob Blake out for the first time since John Ross’ 12 car last year. Then I bumped into Phil Jobson who had Jerry Hettrick on the maps. Time was pressing on so we thought we’d better sign on. When we did we were given 2 envelopes with TC instructions, 2 meal tickets and a bedside alarm clock! Didn’t realise we’d have time for a nap. The fact that the organisers were using these clocks isn’t as strange as you first think, they had big numbers, were backlit and were radio controlled so they would al be on the same minute and second- theoretically.
Off we went to our first control, TC3, at Portgate, ten mins along the B6318 and got the car safely parked on the verge, when we looked at the control instructions which told us we had to ensure that 2 gates half a mile before us were open and secured. Although there was 40 mins before car 1, I thought it best we didn’t go WD. I said to Chris, “We’ll go back along the B road, pop down that white, open the gates and be back here in 10 mins”. I should really listen to what I’m saying, “Pop down that white”. It was a little bit rough at the start but nothing the Audi couldn’t handle, no wet grass Geoffrey. Round a corner there was ‘wet grass’, and potholes, then there were wheel ruts and a very narrow part past gorse bushes on the passenger side, which made a noise along that side of the car, similar to fingernails screeching down a blackboard. Next up came a crater the width of the track. It was pretty deep with a step down to the water. We decided that hitting reverse was the best course of action, especially when Chris said, “You get stuck in there and I’m not pushing you out!?”. It was back past the gorse bushes , which made the same noise. At least it was the same side of the car getting the punishment. Slowly we made our way back to the B road, of for a pair of Cibes on the back bumper. We then sped WD to find them both opened AND manned. ***@@@$$! Once we were back at the control Chris inspected the scratches on the paddneger side and declared that it was now time to trade in the Audi – in the rain.
Once the cars started arriving Alan and Rob in their Lancia were first of the local crews. When asked how it was going Rob said that they had no brakes. I replied, “That’s never stopped you before!” Groan. The brake pedal was going all the way to the floor with no resistance so off they went at a sedate pace, with only the handbrake to slow them down. When Phil and Jerry arrived at 19:58:55, Jerry asked for 57 and when I suggested 59 his blood pressure seemed to surge. Sorry Jerry, only joking.
Once the closing car came through we headed to out next control at Woodley Shield, to the left of Wark – I’m not really getting the hang of this map reading, am I? No gates or whites to worry about here so we parked up and had a brew. The cars started to arrive almost on time and everything was going swimmingly until midway through, as 3 sets of headlights appeared over the hill towards up. The bedside alarm clock lost it’s radio signal, beeped twice and reset itself to 0:00:00! It’s times like this that you’re glad you set your digital wristwatch to rally-time ***@@@$$! THankfully the first car had a nice big clock with red numbers set to rally time, all Chris had to do was to remember to deduct one hour and one minute from the watch before giving me the time. He must have done this as no-one complained of being 1 hour later than they should have.
By the time the Closing Car came round it was gone midnight and fog had crept in so we decided to forgo the finish and the food to head home. Once again we survived unscathed, unlike my car, but’s nothing a good polish and some elbow grease won’t fix.