By Phil Jobson,
Having just missed out on a class win on the RAC Championship in 2014, though Arwel Jenkins won the Navigator Class, we decided to have a crack at the BHRC that for 2015 was being run by RAC Motor Club.
Historic rallying divides cars by year of manufacture. Pre-1968 being Category 1; post 1974 Category 3, but Snowy being a Mk1 Escort, we’re in Category 2. Each Category is further divided by engine size and number of cams etc. So in our Category we have C2 for 1968-1974 up to 1600cc; C31601-2000cc (Pinto etc) & C5 for 2000cc twin cams (eg. BDAs).
Following an eventful RAC Rally in 2014 where we finished 22nd despite running in the top twenty until a last stage puncture, Snowy was refettled in time for the first round. The beginning of February, South Wales was still in the grip of winter. Though the Llandeilo start venue was free from ice, the first stage higher up was treacherous. Nevertheless we pushed on as best we could and managed a Class C3 win and 35th overall. A solid start.
The gearbox received attention before the next round Mid Wales Stages. What a pleasure seeing the friendly face of Andy Graham at the foot of Pikes Peak. For those not so familiar, that stage starts uphill through wide open hairpins on perfect gravel surface. Escort country!! This time Arwel made sure I kept pedal to metal, preparation of the Notes was paying off. Although we were still suffering from gearbox maladies, we managed a 2nd in Class and 39th overall.
The gearbox stuck in 3rd for 3 miles on SS3 of the Pirelli, and we had a HUGE moment on SS4 (see You Tube), flat over crest, 50 into square right….. Apart from the laundry bill, this cost us only 55 seconds, and we secured 2nd in C3 and 32nd overall. We were leading C3 in the Championship.
The Severn Valley saw our undoing. In SS2, oil pressure started to fluctuate, so we retired at the end of the stage to save the engine. We competed on the next door Epynt Stages (not a Championship event) the following day, so obviously no damage had been incurred, but we dropped all points from that round of the Championship.
Seat time is so valuable, and so I’ve contested Malcolm Wilson, DMack Carlisle Stages with daughter Caroline and Greystoke Stages with Jerry Hettrick.
The foray onto Epynt helped me understand the venue, but undoubtedly Arwels familiarity with Epynt (he won the Welsh Modern Rally in 2006 with Chris Griffiths in a Darian GTR) helped us to a BHRC class win and maximum points. Starting on 70 profile Kumho tyres for the first time on Tarmac, I was a little apprehensive, but the tyres were ideal for the wet conditions. Although we had spun a few times on the first two very wet stages and struggled with a broken Trackrod end, we pushed on moving ahead of both of our main Class contenders, Terry Cree and Nick Danks, by the end.
The event I had been looking forward to all year did not fail to deliver!! Isle of Man is a must destination for Tarmac rallying. Four stages in the dark on the first night. Following a frustrating wait before the Promenade stage, we set a cracking time through the short second stage. Unfortunately 3 miles into the third we punctured the offside front, and although struggling to drive on, the tyre disintegrated and we had to stop and change, incurring a maximum. From then on till the end of Leg 2 (the first round of a Double Header), we were playing catch up to Terry Cree. Though we saw off Nick Danks, and consistently set fastest stage times, we ran out of mileage because two stages were cancelled because of cars going off.
The third and fourth legs comprised the second round of the double header, starting with the blast through Castletown in the dark. If you’ve seen the footage you’ll realise what a ball the stage is. Sideways over the bridge in the port! Magic!! My favourite stage is Little London taking us up Sartfell to Brandywell Cottage then over Druidale. A hard landing in Baldhoon (Glenroy, but opposite direction) broke the steering rack away from the crossmember, so the steering was a bit vague. Richard and Squirt soon effected a repair at service, allowing us to complete the rally over the Classic 1979 Stage; an 18 mile stage starting at Sulby campsite, up through the “Oh Dear God” Vatanen grid, to the TT Mountain Circuit – on the rev limiter for about 5 minutes – then down through Brandywell, Injebreck and finishing at the TT grandstand in the centre of Douglas! What a stage.
We finished 17th overall and won Class C3, only beaten by two BDAs and a Porsche 911 that we were catching. Well pleased with that result, it put us into a commanding, but not unassailable Class lead in the BHRC. We needed to finish the final round in Yorkshire.
With only 5 days to turn around, Richard and Squirt replaced the axle, brakes, suspension and checked over the car, before Snowy returned on the ferry. The Trackrod Stages again featured two stages in the dark and again we suffered a puncture on the second stage. I wasn’t adjusting too well to gravel rallying after such a long time. The following day we suffered a recurrence of the steering rack problem, only this time it was more severe with the steering very loose particularly on left handers. Secured by 3 Jubilee Clips! We simply had to finish to secure the points we needed. All in all, the Trackrod was a poor event for us, suffering yet another puncture in Dalby that we had to stop and change.
Nevertheless, we frantically did the maths and we’d done just enough to win Class C3 in the BHRC 2015.
Thanks to Richard Clark for his unstinting and talented work to keep us going to Squirt, John Ross and to all the Welsh lads & lasses (Darren, Thomas, Gwynn, Dai, Siobhan, and Arwels Mum Avril for the lovely banana cake!).