By Phil Jobson/Jerry Hettrick
The Navigator had recovered somewhat from the flu he had contracted, but heading off to the start of the Illuminations Road Rally at Great Langdale, the driver was suffering from debilitating back pain. On arrival, further angst challenged the crew with a Poti to rewire and then a flat front tyre, so starting the event on 3 x Yokohama A021’s and 1 x A048 was not ideal when the crew faced a challenging route over some of the most gruelling mountain passes in the country.
Bleatarn, Wrynose and Hardknott Passes in a single opening Regularity provided a rude awakening for crews; it was clear that the multitude of historic Minis were better suited to the route. Oblivious to the BIG DROPS on either hand, the crew pressed the Silver Bullet hard into each hairpin trusting the tyres to turn in. The crew dropped just 4 minutes 25seconds over the 17 mile opener, but were beaten by some nimble small FWD cars, including Dave (King of Hardknott) Head who cleaned the section.
Organisers had stepped in at the last moment to run the event, but unlike the running of our own Countdown Rally, the lack of preparation time showed. Some of the Controls were preceded by “About to Enter Control” boards, whereas sometimes Controls appeared immediately over a crest, or a waiting competitor would obscure the only Control board. Some time clocks were reported to show inaccurate time. Consequently the SMC crew were penalised 7 minutes Early into Control. A fantastic pre-plot route, as expected, included Jacksons Ground then onto Dunnerdale, before taking in some slippery lanes south of Grizedale Forest to eventually arrive at Newby Bridge. By then it was clear that the Silver Bullet was performing exceptionally well and the crew had shaken off their various ailments. Despite having to humour a very grumpy attendant through the security hatch at petrol in Ulverston, the driver was convinced he’d found a cure for backache – rallying!
Resuming at Newby Bridge, the route threaded through back roads around Lindale then north to the area east of Lake Windermere where the crew encountered one chap in his dressing gown standing on a garden wall shining a bright light into the road. The crew wondered whether he’d lost his cat, but although they dipped their lights, they weren’t sympathetic enough to stop and help him find it! A final section ran to the east of Windermere towards a very foggy Kirkstone and finished down The Struggle to Ambleside.
Despite using a most unsuitable start and finish venue with significant parking problems, and lack of consistency in applying penalties, the event was hugely enjoyable over undoubtedly the best roads in the country. The navigator claimed not to be on top form, but the crew finished a respectable 15th overall with 16:12 in penalties.