Operation Finish Line

By Dave Coleman

After a run of 4 first stage retirements out of the last 5 rallies, the plan for Greystoke was to get to the end! We arrived at Greystoke to be greeted by sunshine and dusty conditions, highly unexpected after the recent weather but it was a nice change to do an event where it wasn’t raining.

Young Kyle was sitting next to me, eager also to get some stage miles under his belt after his co driving début at the Border Counties ended in a ditch only 5 miles into the first stage.

So the plan was; go steady and keep it on the track. Whilst feeling low in confidence in a massively under powered car (54bhp) it was ‘great’ to see we had a Subaru running in the mid 20’s slot in behind us at 30 sec interval. We weren’t far into stage before he appeared in the mirror, hunting us down. So I pulled in as soon as I could so’s not to hold him up. After that we went through the stage with no problems, and getting the feel for the super smooth track.

Dave Coleman / Kyle Gass

Stage 2 was longer at 6.3 miles and felt good, we were still behaving and keeping the car neat and tidy. The split junction was tricky – through a chicane into hairpin left and immediate square right.  Not sure I got it right all day but certainly made a couple of spectators move.

Stage 3 was a repeat of stage 1. This time with and escort 30 seconds behind to chase us, but we managed to get to the spilt without holding him up. So I was starting to feel more confident behind the wheel and enjoying the run through the dusty stage. There were some great straights and we even managed to get 4th gear, although not for long as it feels flat as a pancake in 4th.

Dave Coleman / Kyle Gass

Stage 4 was slightly more incident filled, not far in we passed the Nova of Graham Gaskell, he had rolled hard off the road. It always give you a reality check to see things like that but we were pleased to see both crew and the OK board. Then further on, along the long straight (past the pheasant shed, for those who know Greystoke) I had my eyes set on the chicane, when a deer ran out not too far in front of us, it stopped on the track before wandering back into the undergrowth! Getting round the chicane we see Clive Alcock parked up just before the squiggly S-bend bit, and then carried on to the end of the stage. By this time the confidence was back and I really started to throw the car about

After stage 4 was another long (45 min) service while the organisers reversed the long stage. The car had sprung an oil leak from the inspection cover on the front of the engine so, coil pack removed and a quick nip up seemed to cure it.

Stage 5 started downhill and felt really loose at the start, the rear wheel drives on the previous stages had moved the top gravel onto the driving line and it was like a totally different surface then before. Had a steady run through to get to grips with it again, but was still enjoying it with Kyle seeming more confident with the tulips. Pretty neat and uneventful stage in all.

With another run through the same stage for 6, I really pushed the little car, hitting the rev limiter through the gears (only really use 3!) and trying not to lift off on the unseen corners for a change. This was by far my favourite stage of the day and everything I tried to do all day worked in the one stage, gear selection, braking and plenty of sliding about …wished I could have felt like that all day as we took 20 seconds off out 1st run through and Kyle started giggling and muttering, ‘oh, she’s singing’.

To calm down we had 50 minutes service time, the oil was still leaking although a little smoke and that burning smell was worrying, but the level had barely moved so not an issue for now.

And off to the last stage, same as the previous stage apart from the last few junctions making it just over 5 miles. A finish was in sight. With the feeling of wanting to push again mixed with getting a finish I played it kinda safe, well that was the plan. Coming up to the double chicane (baring in mind I hadn’t glanced one all day) I braked as per normal and locked the front wheels up, the hay bale approaching I was off the brakes and tried to steer to no avail – head on we went!

Dave Coleman / Kyle Gass

Them big bales are better than any six pots available, a moment of panic whilst trying to find a reverse gear that seemed to just want to make noises soon subsided and we managed to move backwards and off we went again.

Now I felt cross eyed- one eye on the road and the other fixed on the temp gauge, I could tell there was a bit of damage by the pointing spectators and the sound of the bumper on the wheel but we carried on with no problems to the finish line……

The radiator survived, unlike the bumper and grille, headlights and pride but all in all a good day was had by all.

That’s 2 finishes in 6 rallies for the little Skoda and it needs a good sort out before the next event as we have done the last 2 events with no oil in the rear drivers shocker- the suspension is HD from Czech and tying to deal with them is really hard work, so it’s either finding somewhere to rebuild it or finding and fitting mk3 golf rear coilovers (anything for the Felicia is now like hens teeth).

The manifold has a crack in it (drive-shaft out to remove), the oil leak from inspection cover and a little bodywork. And of course the hunt for more power, I think 10 bhp would totally transform the way the car drives and stop me having to use 1st and 2nd gears as much.

Big thanks to Kyle for navigating, his dad Shaun and the JD Motorsport posse for looking over the car and those from the club on the start line.

In car videos are on Youtube under the name of sbsbodyshop.

(Images © B. Lindsay / Spadeadam Motor Club 2012)

(Video © Dave Coleman / SBSbodyshop 2012)