By Helen Gibbon
The pacenotes arrived about a week before the rally. So I had a little bit of time to sit down with Rob and work out how to get my tongue around this new and unfamiliar language. Watching the DVD was interesting. I did it a few times with the sound on, then tried it with the sound off. Then I tried it at one a half times the speed. I tried it a double speed, but then I thought, I’m not sat in with Petter Solberg yet! Friday came and I was allowed the afternoon off to go down to scrutineering. This was going to be a new experience for me too. I’d never been to M-sport, and I’d never been to scrutineering on any event before. Signing on and going through documentation was a definite eye opener. Add boxes to time cards, remove boxes from time cards, change times allowed… sign here, sign there…. Have a free bag (yes please!). All boxes were ticked which could only mean one thing…. Let the fun begin!
A fairly early start the next morning to get back down to M-Sport. Rob and our service crew were already there unloading the car, so I went to see if there were any changes or notices I needed to read. I was actually feeling quite calm at this point. When we got into the car, ready to head to MC1, the butterflies in my tummy were just about starting to wake up.
From MC1 we had a lovely drive over to Comb. It was a chance for me to get comfy, and my first real test of getting the whole timing thing right. We had 22minutes to do it in, and I was determined wasn’t going to get lost, be early or be late!
I don’t really remember much of S1, other than having a brief chat with the nice start line marshals….. and then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, we were away! Crest- jump – crest – drop on outside – more crests! I do remember the triple caution, with the “HpR>lg/DC Fresh air + ! R6 L1 Fresh Air”. I thought, very briefly, how nice the view must be from up there, I wonder how far down it is to the bottom? But then we were at the finish. Just like that! I could hardly speak though. My throat was as dry as a dry thing on a dry day, but I’d done it. One stage done and I hadn’t up-chucked, cried, fainted, etc. Only 7 more stages to go then.
Onwards to Wythop! Where we ended up sat in a long queue for the start. When we got to the start line, it was nice to see a couple of friendly SMC members. I also remember a bit more about this stage, like seeing Nigel amongst the trees with the camera. I think I must have been feeling a bit cocky at that point as well, because I waved! A few corners later we were then greeted by a couple of marshals, slowing us down and motioning us out to the right side of the road. Which isn’t really isn’t where you want to be, when it’s another fresh air bend! But the Mk1 Escort that was running in front of us had decided it didn’t want to go any further and had stopped “just” round the corner. So we had no option but to take evasive action.
Second run through wasn’t as eventful. But three stages down and we were still going. A quick stop for a check over. Nigel was the first person with his head through the door to see if I was OK? “OK? OK?! This is flippin’ AWESOME!!!!”. No time to stop and chat as there were more pressing matters, like getting to Greystoke for the next stage.
I’ve been to spectate at the Malcolm Wilson Rally a few times, and we’ve always gone to Greystoke. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I never thought one day I’d be competing on it. So it was a bit surreal flying down the bits of stage I usually walk down with a camera. It was surreal, but good though! Other than my over enthusiastic “slowing, SLOWING!!” on the “!! R4> ⇒ TURN SqR ! Drop outside”, which was because I remember helping to pull a Honda Civic out of the scenery at that corner. I didn’t want to do the same with a Mk1 Escort.
Next we headed to service at the truck stop at Penrith, another new timing experience for me. The service crew of Martin, Barrie & Richard were like a well-oiled machine. So with everything checked over and a few minutes to spare, we were back in the car and ready to head down to do the three stages in Grizedale.
I’ve never been to Grizedale before, so other than the DVD that came with the notes, I’d really no idea what to expect. The notes consisted mainly of “left over crest”, “right over crest”, “crest”, “crest, bump, crest”. We got through them, thanks to Rob’s driving skill, as I did get lost the odd time. I can’t say I really enjoyed Grizedale as much as the other stages, but the drive back up to service was nice. The Malcolm Wilson rally has to be one of the most beautiful & scenic events in the country. We were both looking forward to heading back to Greystoke though.
So far we hadn’t had any real issues. We had a moment in Greystoke (much to the delight of a lone spectator who as we passed was clapping like mad!) and a bit of moment in Grizedale North 1. “Touch wood” we were still going and all the panels were still straight.
As we got to the start of Greystoke, the final stage, I was handed a bit of paper to sign, saying that we had to be careful passing tow specific junctions, as there were cars off. So off we went into the stage, at what I think was junction 4, there were two cars well off into the scenery. (I met the driver of one of the cars while spectating on the Border Counties after, and he gave me a general synopsis of how he’d ended up in the ditch. “Well, I was driving it like I drive a Nova, but that doesn’t work in a Mk1 Astra!”.)
Just a few more corners to go… the hairpin into the yard, hairpin round the bale, then through the flying finish and STOP! We’d done it! Rob was happy, I was happy! The car was still happy! Perfect end to the day! If this is what rallying’s like, I want more!
This time we were headed to Rheged for the finish. Where we were told that Rob had been awarded “best presented car at scrutineering”, so we’d even got a trophy. Could it get any better?!! Well, while we were waiting for prize giving, we then found out we’d got third in class. Amazing!
Huge, huge thanks go to Rob Graham for letting me sit beside him. Taking a complete novice into the woods is a brave thing to do.
I also have to thank Barrie Thomson too for the pep talks and not letting me wimp out before I even got there. Thank you to Nigel Harkness for putting up with me in the weeks beforehand, a nervous, grumpy & stressing Helen is not a fun person to live with! Thank you, Jerry Hettrick and Caroline Lodge too for the hints, tips and advice. Thank you to anyone else I missed.
When’s the next one Rob?! ☺
(Images © N.Harkness / Spadeadam Motor Club 2014)