By Jonathan Lodge
Pulling into Newcastleton arrival control with 3 seconds to spare to book in on our minute
Jim’s desire not to drop penalty free lateness has worked again. At this point we realise the
Lancia has got ahead of us on the road section & is on the start line. We have been consistently quicker in stage so there is the concern of catching it, checking that there are no other cars in the queue behind us the navigator commits the equivalent to a professional foul by accidentally catching his seat belt buckle so cannot start on next minute.
After making the right tyre choice for the Monte Carlo (Steel Road) Stage Section we were
left with completely the wrong tyres for the Newcastleton Stage as it was gravel all the way
through. Then to Carlisle aqua mud service & back to Newcastleton now with a full set of
working candles bolted to the front, & back on forest tyres. Second run through was more
interesting as it was freezing quite hard now, but this is proper rallying – forest in the dark
on maps after being on the go for about 14 hours. This was until we got to the last 2 miles
where the stage runs along the river to Kershope Foot.
On the OS map there are 2 roads, the river, a border & footpath, with no junctions or land
marks to speak of – even with potti & vari-focals fully tuned in trying to read the road is not good. Apparently one of my calls was ‘the road is there in front of you just follow it’. Pull in to service / overnight halt have a quick word with service crew then sit down to hot meal in arctic trailer with heating – catering department is definitely on the list of must haves for rallying in the future.
Monday morning & Tindale Fell has a good covering of snow. Arrive at Carlisle service
area & ask service crew to fit snow tyres back on car. I get looked at rather strangely & the
inevitable question ‘are you sure’ is asked. Carlisle service area is still mud & water with no
sign of snow. Jim arrives & asks why are the Hackers going back on the car – everyone looks at me. ‘Kershope will have snow we need those tyres – believe me’. With great scepticism the Hackers are bolted on, next thing other crews are coming over asking why we are running them.
All the way to Longtown the road is black, by Canonbie my theory is looking good, by Kershope Bridge it is the only choice – I’m sure our chase crew were quite happy turning
round finding an alternative route whilst others were scrabbling around in the snow changing wheels.
At the start of Kershope stage Nick Pinkett (another member of team Saab) is in front of us
so Jim decides to go & clear the snow off his rear window & mirrors so he can see us catch
him. The psychology worked as we caught him after 2 miles & he very kindly / foolishly pulled over for us at the bottom of a long uphill. 18 miles of Kersope in deep snow was definitely the best stage of the event. The big challenge was beating the Maximum Stage Time – which we did manage. Fastest average stage speed was 37mph so we were elated
to only be 5mph behind.
Most disappointing part was getting back to Carlisle to be told the second run through had been cancelled. All that was left was a guided tour of Carlisle pedestrian area & prize giving at the race course and to buy Caroline some waterproof socks. Thank you to all involved. Everyone just wants you to finish & offers encouragement.
A big thank you to John Ross – a great help as always. Caroline thanks for the map prep’ing & I know I’m doing my own this year. Judging by the time this has taken to write it must be nearly time to start again!
(Images © D. Ambridge / H. R. Gibbon / Spadeadam Motor Club 2012)