RAC 2011 (Part 1)

By Jonathan Lodge

Feb 11 – I receive a phone call from Jim Valentine re doing Liege Rome Liege & the RAC in his 2 stroke Saab.  Politely say I would be very interested but due to work commitments, studying & exams it would be difficult.  I also highlighted that I had not done any map reading for a scary number of years.

May 11 – Jim phones to say Liege Rome Liege had been cancelled but he had been invited to take the car to Goodwood in July.  Cross reference diaries & decide this is only opportunity to both be in car .  No way I could refuse VIP competitor tickets to Goodwood.

July 11 – Goodwood. ‘Thank You Jim’ Another fantastic day.  Sit in car for  2 runs convince Jim all is OK & he needs to take other people in the car.  This means Caroline & I have to go to the drivers lounge at the top of the hill (just happened to time it when the motorbikes arrived – sorry Caroline) & then chauffeur driven shuttle to the main show.  Realise at this point I it would be rude not to competing on RAC.

Oct 11 – Caroline has moved camps from being part of the support crew to fellow competitor – in the same class with a Manx man called Higgins!!

Mid Nov – Realise my competition licence that I renewed at Goodwood does not have correct category for RAC, quick call to MSA & money taken from bank, sorted.Call John Ross, it would be good to have friendly face there & someone I know can navigate the chase car & knows as many short cuts as me.

Late Nov – Arriving home early (19.30) one night I am told to sit down & look at the road book & maps that had very kindly been prep’ed for me – Thank you Caroline – guess I’ll have to do my own next time.

Tue before – Reproof boots, new laces & waterproof thermal socks purchased.  Warm dry feet, what else do you need?  I honestly had not see Carlisle service area at this point!!

Thu 21.00 – Arrive home from work, start getting ready.  Yes, start trying to remember / make up what I may need for a four day rally.

Fri 09.00 – Meet John Ross in Brampton & hit the road, I spending most of the journey on the phone sorting work issues.  Thanks again John for driving.

Fri 11.30 –Arrive at Duncombe Park to go straight into scruitineering & signing on.  Fortunately was not required to do all this hugging & kissing of scruitineers unlike someone else.

Fri 13.00 – Decide I better have a proper look at the maps, road book etc, also check I can read the maps.  At this point it becomes apparent that a potti is now a vital piece of equipment, plus vari-focals.  Rather put out to realise it’s not only the car that is historic.

Fri 17.30 – First stage, realise we are fourth car on the road.  Time to navigate, not follow.

Fri 18.15 – First road section, first junction to turn off, first navigation mistake.  As we turn round the look on John Ross’s face says it all.  We have used that junction on every Yorkshire rally participated in.

Fri 18.30 – First mechanical, we  hit a pothole before SS2 & a coil wire drops off.  Quickly traced & repaired. ‘ Better there than in stage’ was the cry.

Fri 19.00 – SS2 first real moment, heading for a tree all locked up, including drivers foot on brake pedal.  First time ‘nagivator’ shouts at driver.

Fri 19.30 – First very near RTA, granny Pickering walks straight out in front of us dressed in black in the dark.  Navigator shouts at driver again – but only because he saw her first.

Fri 20.00 – First service, well that has to be worst over with!!?  In first 2 hours of a four day event we had navigator error, driver moment, suicidal pedestrian & mechanical.

As the car stops in service area mechanic appears at one window asking what needs doing whilst at the other window someone says tea? Cheekily I say yes please.  Two minutes later a cup of tea & a chocolate bar are passed through the window.  I start checking my maps, road book & time card, next thing I hear is cameras clicking.  Four photographers are taking pictures of me drinking tea in the car.  Different sort of people follow historic rallying?

Fri 20.15 – Get a report Caroline is stuck in stage with a broken throttle linkage.  Only later do we find out this is due to them hitting a tree!!

Fri 22.30 – First day completed, still in one piece – just.  Only thing left to do is find our digs, we are given a house name & door colour which proves useless when we arrive at correct street to find all houses are numbered plus there are no street lights.

Day 2 Saturday.-  Come down stairs the next morning to find the guy who handed me the cup of tea in service making breakfast.  At this point I realise that they were not being sarcastic when referring to the catering department.  This branch of rallying is becoming more appealing.

Jim has concerns about changing to tarmac tyres asap after Gale Rigg 2 ready for the drive to Croft.  I tell him it is all organised with John Ross.  A quiet word with John to do a slight detour from chase route for Gale Rigg 1 to recce a tyre change venue.  Fortunately John did this, unfortunately he never got chance to tell me as Jim did not stop at any subsequent chase points.

On exiting Gale Rigg 2 the inevitable question came – whilst I am still checking the time card & road book.  ‘Turn right & just give me a minute’.  The question comes again, now had chance to cross reference road book & map – we are on a single track road with three fords to cross in first couple of miles.  ‘Oh after the fords which will wash the wheels off there is a wide bit John will be set up there’.  Navigator becomes quiet as the road is single track after the second ford with barely any where to pass, post third ford very similar – now waiting for the question again.  Come over a crest to see a large flat hard area of ground with our chase crew all set to change the wheels.  Top job John, looked like it had spent hours in planning (only thing missing was the blue van).

Arrive at Croft & have problems finding the holding area due to the number of people there.  Due to a couple of jobs to do at the short service the additional spotlights are not  fit – no panic will do it on the way to next stage – or not – a bad move.   After completing two double laps of Croft it is off to Hamsterley after emergency service on way out of Croft to change back to forest tyres.  Becomes apparent this road section is tightest for time of any so far & we have lost some of it changing wheels. – Part 2 next month