By David Love,
Have you ever wondered how a newly married wife feels when she has to feed her new in-laws for the first time. There’s the worry of what she needs to make the meal a success, then there’s the gathering together of all the ingredients, the preparation of the meal followed by the meal itself with all it’s associated stress and finally the clearing up afterwards with the feeling of relief that it all worked out. I stopped wondering that when I joined the Pirelli Rally organising committee because I discovered that helping to organise a rally is very similar, you go through the same ordeal and stressful feelings. So I thought I’d bore you with my actions in the week leading up to the meal, oops rally!
Monday evening started with Barry Lindsay, Chris Walker, Les Bellingham and I assembling the equipment for each of the stages. It was surprising to find that we filled 13 large bin liners with signs for only 3 stages, I think it was only 10 bags for 5 stages last year. The reason for the extra signs is all down to the new Safety Guidelines from the MSA and also being unsure of what the MSA Safety Delegate would expect. We also set aside the signs for the Service Areas and the spare equipment to go in the Chief Marshal and 000 Course Cars.
On to Tuesday, after finishing work early I headed to the Cumbria Park for our final committee meeting before the rally. At this meeting most of the time is taken up with assembling the packs for officials such as Stewards, Scrutineers, Course Cars, etc. We were also going to print Map Books, Media Books and Seeded Entry Lists on a colour photocopier provided by our long time supporter Danwood. Unfortunately the photocopier didn’t want to talk to my Mac Book, it seemed it preferred the inferior attentions of a Windows laptop, no accounting for taste. Once we eventually got it up and printing, it produced the map book at the scintillating rate of one every minute and a half. This was more than a little bit worrying, as we had to print about 170 books. We gave up this unequal struggle at 11pm.
Wednesday started early although I was off work, I still had plenty of work as the vinyl lettering and Corex sheets for 35 extra signs for our 4 Service Areas had been delivered the previous night. Early afternoon I headed to Gretna to pick up the equipment for SS1 then back to the Cumbria Park to meet Brian Kinghorn and finish printing the Map Books. Thankfully Andy the Photocopier Engineer was there and after tweaking a few settings we had a Map Book printed every 30 seconds. We had them, the Media Books and 1400 Entry Lists printed by 7:30pm. Then it was home for tea and more vinyl lettering.
Thursday dawned at an unsociable hour and I met Dave Brodie at 7:30am in a bus stop near Junction 43 to give him the equipment for SS1. Dave felt that one day was not enough time for him and his team to set-up the stage that had one large published spectator area and 3 other potential ones on his stage plus all the extra signs and tape. He doesn’t do things by half. Then it was back to finish off the signs before heading out early afternoon to pick up my transport for the weekend, which was a long wheelbase high top Peugeot, hardly a Babe magnet but practical. I left Bev to assemble the rally plate packs which I’m not allowed to do as I lose concentration and get the numbers mixed up. I headed through to Gretna to meet up with Barry Armstrong, load his hire van with equipment and Goodie Bags for stages 2 and 3: then send him on his way to Newcastleton and Bellingham. Then it was back home to tidy up my clutter, have tea at a sensible time and then head back to Gretna with Chris Walker to load my van. It’s amazing what goes in that van, room dividers, Winners Trophies, spraying wine, goodie bags, Programmes, Finishers Awards, Service Area equipment and spare signs. Then it was down to Junction 43 to place a large yellow metal direction sign just off the roundabout before meeting up with Barry and Barry to give them equipment for their day in the forests on Friday.
Even though Documentation and Scrutineering didn’t begin until mid afternoon it was still an early start on Friday as I’d to load my tidied up clutter into the van and get to H & H to prepare for the arrival of the competitors and service crews late morning. When I got there the place was mobbed, my first thought was this rally’s popular but everyone was there to see a beauty contest for particularly well hung Simmental bulls. Before I developed an inferiority complex I went to find Brian Davidson so that I could unload some of my clutter into the van that he was taking up to Kielder Castle. We’d decided to make things interesting this year by having the rally headquarters at H & H on the Friday then moving it to Kielder Castle on the Saturday. The beauty contest finished sometime after 11:00 and the participants disappeared into the sales pens, no doubt to be sold for someone’s Sunday Lunch. As the auction staff cleared away the sawdust and large amounts of brown organic stuff we started to prepare the Exhibition Hall for Documentation and Scrutineering. Within an hour the place looked very impressive with copious amounts of Pirelli banners. We even had grandstand seating down one side of the hall. It was then we decided that we should visit the auction café and get a decent meal, with Scrutineering going on until 20:00 it would be a long time before we got a chance to eat again. Although Scrutineering didn’t start until 15:00 cars started queuing just after 14:30. Once the cars started coming into the exhibition hall it looked very impressive and all was running well until car 58 came to collect his rally plates and they weren’t there. Somebody had evidently taken them by mistake so Bev and I set of along the queuing cars to see if any one had 58 on their car. I noticed a rather sheepish looking SMC member sitting in his car without any numbers on it. Yes, he was the guilty party, trying to improve his seeding by 10. Thankfully he’d realised his mistake before putting the door numbers on so I won’t name and shame him. Very quickly 17:00 came and I had to lead the Pirelli erectors down to the city centre and show them where to put the Start Spider and also give them a hand. That took a couple of hours so by the time I got back to H & H Scrutineering was almost over with only the Land Rovers to be done. Once they left we started to tidy up and by 20:40 it looked like we’d never been there until you looked into my van, it was full of clutter again. So it was home time, no! I needed a list of the start times for Saturday morning, these needed to be transmitted from the Results Office at Kielder Castle so Chris, Bev and I had to wait for them along with the Clerk of the Course, Jonathan Lord, who had to accept and sign them and Paul Crossley who was manning the computer at our end.
Paul had sent them all the information they needed so we thought we’d have the start times by 21:00 and began deciding where to get some hot food. 21:00 came and went with no times and also no contact with the Results Office. One of the problems of being 50 miles apart is that you can’t easily go and see what the hell they’re doing or not doing in this case. Probably popped down to the pub. Eventually at 21:45 the times came through and we could pack away Paul’s computer and printer and head home. Forget about food, I just want to sleep.
I awoke 5:30 Saturday morning to the less than delightful sound of rain on the window. Nearly a week of sunshine and the weather decides to break now, time to laminate some Start Lists. I was in the city centre by 6:45 waiting for the barriers to arrive. The city council are most particular that rally cars don’t run pedestrians over so several weeks beforehand I have to provide them with a barrier layout plan, so I had to make sure the barrier people followed it exactly. While I was doing that Bev who had arrived just after me was in charge of organising everything else. Marshals started arriving about 7:30 and as they’ve helped me for a few years it was like a class reunion. 9:00 arrived very quickly and with it the first 30 cars. Richard Thomson, Mark Taylor and Keith Richardson did their usual excellent job of getting them into the Start area in running order with the other Marshals getting them parked so we could open the barriers for the public to wander among them. By 9:45 the other competitors were starting to arrive so we had to clear the area and close the barriers so we could let them in. Despite a large area in front of the Old Town Hall being taken up with a building compound we still had a lot of space to work with. Everything seemed to run smoothly with the Start thanks entirely to my Marshals who don’t need me to tell them what to do, the morning was mostly dry except for a couple of showers, that’s when the laminated start lists came in handy.
This is the time I start to relax a little, nobody is asking me to provide them with equipment, what to do next or moaning that I’ve forgotten something. I will admit that at 7:00 I realised I’d forgotten to put any Marshal’s tabards in the clutter in my van but a quick phone call to my brother to bring some with him solved that problem. By 12:00 the cars had gone the spider was deflated and the barriers were being cleared, time to head to Kielder. Richard and Mark couldn’t make the afternoon due to family and work commitments respectively but they’d been there when I needed them most. The rest of us headed up to Kielder including new SMC member Ross McKenzie who travelled with me.
We were talking that much I was two miles past Canonbie on the A7 before I realised I should have turned off. Bev, who was following me thought at first I knew a shortcut but then thought “No, it’s Dad, he’ll be heading to Langholm for a coffee”. A quick U-turn and we were soon on the right road and amazingly heading into sunshine. When I arrived at Kielder and met up with Chris his first words were ‘Where have you been? Get lost or something? Daughters should not be allowed to have mobile phones!
We headed up to Kielder Castle to drop off the awards and wine for the Prize Giving that was going to take place in front of the castle. Only award winners were to go up to the castle, the rest of the competitors would get their finishers award at the final control and then head home. With the MSA reverting to seeding by performance meaning that the categories were mixed in together we knew we’d have our hands full sorting out the award winners especially as there was only 6 minutes between end of SS6 and our final control. It seemed to work reasonably well and I think we managed to send the right people to get their awards thanks once again to everyone working hard together. Not many people would say this but I look forward to seeing Richard Rigg and Paul Schatz arrive in the Closing Car. It means the event’s finished and as this year it ran without drama or serious injury I could relax. Although the event had finished it wasn’t over for us, we had to tidy the area, gather together the equipment that had been brought up and add it to the clutter in my van. We then had to wait until the results became final at 19:00 so that we could remove the official notice board, then it was back down to Carlisle and Brian Davidsons to empty the stage clean up vans and Barry’s pick-up, sort everything out and put the dirty signs in one van and the clean ones in mine. It’s amazing how quickly 9 of us did it, must have been down to Brian’s wife’s homemade broth and ham rolls. Chris and I then blasted through to Gretna to dump the contents of both vans and then head for home. I made it into the house by 22:00 and all that was left to do was return my hire van on Sunday morning. Well not quite! There’s still the 800 signs that need cleaned and stored for next year but that can wait for another day, week or even month.