By Barry Lindsay
After being announced ANECCC Champion and after the hard fought battle of 3 drivers all season I finally got my reward. The Jack Frost Stages were to be the SG Petch Prize drive and after a very interesting conversation was told it wouldn’t be the Evo that I had last year. So for 2016 I was to have the one that Steve Petch himself drove and had a more powerful engine, bigger brakes and a sequential gearbox. WOW that could take some driving I thought… Panic, for a minute. Then they agreed a test during the week before to get me comfortable with the car.
Testing.. Tuesday the week before. Teesside was the venue for the test 10am Myself, Dad & Caroline went over. Caroline was to miss the Jack frost for an important Rescue training course, so as 2nd placed Co-driver Caroline would get the honor of (have to put up with) quite a few laps of Teesside in the Evo with myself. I didn’t hear any complaints!
Seat fitting took a short while as ‘Short Arse’ wanted the seat forward, then up! Then to top it all when the seat was up & forward the seat belt had been trapped, so the seat was to slacken off again.
Once comfortable instructions were given on how to use the two levers in the middle. One goes back and forth. The other when you pull it the car goes round to face where you come from… Got that. Diff settings, Anti lag not allowed that (hmmm so they say) How to start it!
With Dad strapped in, so he can just see out, we ventured onto the track to warm it up and the tyres then 4 or 5 laps getting the hang of LHD.
Back in for a quick break and let them check some stuff then Caroline was strapped in. Another 4 or 5 laps and was getting the hang of it managing to get it drifting through a 90 left into 90 right over a crest.
Back into the service area Richie wanted us to go back out on new slicks and bed them in, they’ll be what you’re using on Sunday now that you’re up to speed in the car. I said I’d like to do some handbrake practice in the tight twisty go kart infield…Oh not with these.
So 4 steady laps later back in the pits they bolted the old tyres back on. Go and do your infield test! More play time… Handbrake and tight stuff was fun drifting round hairpins etc. but after a while it was time to call it a day before damage was done!.
The day… After an afternoon of snow the day before, getting to the rally looked like it could be fun but I was getting there whatever. Arriving at Croft for the meeting time, the car had been scrutineered so we went and signed on then had a quick look round bits of the track before getting ready. Tyres we had lots of options but settle for an Intermediate that would warm up quickly. First stage, surprised how much grip I had braking for the first two corners but then accelerating hard out of the third in front of the spectators the back came out to quick and we were facing the field a quick hard brake and spin it 360 and we were away now the tyres were warm! The rest of the stage was good, clear track no cars. Turned out to be third fastest only 5 seconds down and “ If Only… we hadn’t spun” Dad was impressed, shaking at the end but I’d been warned. Don’t get used with this.
Stage 2 Tyres were left the same. Stage 2 the car again went well caught a Subaru, but didn’t have the grunt to pass it and wasn’t prepared to try any wild maneuver that I may have tried in the 106 under braking. Time was 20 seconds quicker and the track was getting drier. Dropping back to 6th Overall. Was it dry enough for slicks, Hindsight I should have as they really started sliding more and lost the positive turn in we had on the first two but the Inters were now worn out. The way the track was laid out it was a good job we’d done the handbrake testing as there were lots of hairpins between bales, but it was fantastic fun with great handbrake and then pull on the flat shift sequential as fast as you can through the gears.
With slicks on for stage 4 it felt good for the first lap then coming out of a hairpin in first, bang into 2nd then bang into 3rd then lots of bangs and we slowed no drive. Into 4th no drive. Now start fiddling with buttons tightening the diffs and all of a sudden were accelerating but there is some banging and cracking and grinding noises, so steady away then we got to the split do we go another or go in and get a max?? Well whatever it is, it’s knackered now I thought so let’s do another its driving ok steady. Then it lost drive again, so put it to diff lock and got us back to service loosing over 40 seconds and well down the results.
Thinking it was over we parked it up with gear oil pouring from it. Meanwhile Richie the boss was looking in wagon with Robert & Ian set too with spanners (and a hammer!) to remove it and a new one appeared. 45min later the car was back on its wheels ready to go.
Stage 5 was the opposite way round and all went good. But the Millington Darrian’s & Mk2’s were now flying. Stage 6 and I’d been convinced to flick that switch after the start OK what does it do…. But be careful it will want to push on.
In too Stage 6 and the switch on and approaching the chicane and was if the brakes went but slid into a bale, had to reverse, then stalled. Once set off I knocked the switch back off it just lost more time than it was going to make. That should have been tested on Tuesday!
Stage 7 and now with a nice looking lamp pod on the front we headed for a Dusk stage. Lights on and caught a the same Subaru we had in the morning and there was no way past in the tight stuff the lamp pod was blistering the paint on his boot and holding us up then on the straights we couldn’t do anything with him. One and a half laps later we peeled off for the finish. With different layout I miss judged the braking for a 90 right to the finish
and locked up sliding towards a large pack of tyres. Praying hard for the lamp pods life! We stopped before it. But needed to reverse, and then stalled. More time ticked away.
Well only one more to go and now fully dark. Let’s enjoy this one. Went harder in the first lap but it still wasn’t enough to get to the split before the Subaru. It got out in front again followed through two chicanes and down to in front of spectators he took a tight line in and I was on his boot but he went wide. The Evo turned and launched 1st, 2nd, 3rd I was in front (I’m sure I was…we didn’t hit) and I turned in for the left hander! His lights were now lighting up the car as I braked hard for the chicane and threw it down 5,4,3,2,1 flicked through the bales then 1,2,3,4,5 the light was getting less but we had another lap of this!. Gradually we pulled away then at the next merge another car came out in front. Think the lights intimidated this one though he left a gap braking for a chicane I’m having that and we were down the outside then gone. Actually saw the shift light in 5th which is a bright little thing in the dark. Flat-out! Only a few corners remained and crossed the line all over.
Time to take all our gear out, that was it over as the car disappeared in its trailer, till next year they say…. Hell it’s worth it, let’s have another year in the woods!!! Hope my navigators are up for it?!!
Massive thanks to Steve Petch for trusting me with his car, Richie, Robert & Ian from SGP Motorsport for a fantastic day and missing there lunch to change the diff in bitter conditions.
Thanks also to Colin & Ian the championship co-ordinators on running a great championship. Everyone this year who helped get the results, Caroline for navigating and pushing me to do events further afield, Dad for navigating & servicing on some events. Service crew Geoffrey, Jonathan, Joe, Neil, Kenton, Martyn, Graham & Yvonne, and Mam for the catering. What a year. 7 class wins and 3 runner ups. ANECCC champion and North of England 1600 Champion of Otterburn