By Nigel Harkness
Back in March, at 7pm on a Sunday night, the entries opened for the DCC stages. Helen was primed and sat ready to fill in the entry, as fast as her fingers could type. The entry went in at 7.09pm, and not many minutes after that the entries were full, and the site wouldn’t accept any more.
Now all we had to do was wait to see if we did actually hit the “enter” button in time! There was a phone call to Helen the next morning to compare times (of the email “receipt of entry”) from the only other SMC crew to get an entry in- Barrie Thomson & Jerry Hettrick. This was becoming nail biting stuff, and we hadn’t even turned a wheel yet. Entry list was published, BT & Jerry were on the reserves, but Helen & I were on the list! Right, first hurdle done! Then it came to the seeded entry list being published, BT & Jerry were seeded at 28 & we were at 58 out of 80. We were very happy with that, as it was the highest we’d been seeded with the Corsa so far.
On the Saturday morning of the rally…. No, I’ll re-phrase that… in the wee small, godforsaken hours of Saturday morning, we headed north! On arrival at the show ground we found a small, Corsa sized spot to service from, and joined the queue for scrutineering. Paperwork & signing on out the way, we had enough time for a quick walk round some of the first stage. Right – Left – Right – Right – Left – Right… continue for 46 miles + the odd split and merge!
Stage 1. Lights go to green, the call was short straight into left, into 90left. We should have walked this bit- we got to the 90left a lot quicker than we thought we would, and were now heading towards some sturdy looking bales. Not exactly the way you’d want to start your first stage, a bit of time lost, but looking at the black marks on the tarmac, we weren’t the only ones to have done this. We’d finish on 10.05 minus 1 mirror. Barrie & Jerry got 9.47.
Stage 2 went well, except for catching cars, but that’s life, and it’s nice to be the ones doing the catching.
Stage 3, was not without incident; we were following a white 106 for a while trying to find a way past, then we got to a tight right hander, he moved over, we took the opportunity to slip down the inside. Don’t think this had manoeuvre had crossed the 106 driver’s mind, as we kissed bumpers. No damage done, other than having to go and apologise in service and discovering we’d chosen to have a moment with Neil Raven & Anne Forster. We finished on 9.40, with Barrie & Jerry, still going well at this point, even after a few technical gremlins in the C2, they got 9.17.
Stage 4. (Now if the editor is doing her thing and actually reading this, it may all be covered in black ink, or under a “censored” stamp.) Things were going well for us at this point. The lefts and rights were good. The 2 year old tyres weren’t exactly helping the grip, but we were both happy in the car, and that’s the main thing. We were catching and passing cars, but we’d just been caught by another Corsa, and we we’d let him by, but now we were on his tail again. This time we were heading to the split and I asked “how many more laps?“, “Not sure”, was the reply. “Are we in?!” The split was getting closer very quickly. “Yes, go in!” “O.K.! Right”…….. “Oh no! Wrong!” We shouldn’t have been coming in behind that car. We had gone in 1 lap early. Arse! Stage maximum of 12minutes. We’d dropped from 28th to 42nd.
These things happen, and Helen’s still a novice navigator, but surely by the age of 30 years and 11 months, you’d think she could count to 3?! Barrie & Jerry finished the stage on 9.11. Though the C2 had started having hot flushes and it was decided that they’d call it a day, as not to risk the any damage to engine.
Stage 5. Well, what could we do but play catch up and just enjoy ourselves. Right number of laps, correct calls of direction, lets just head to the finish now! 90 right, 90 left, Gravel!!! Where did that come from?! We under-steered towards the bales that were protecting the small bridge that lead into the “garden” area of the stage. We were still flat in 2nd gear, the front gripped, but the back was making it’s break for freedom- Smack into the bales! It was ok, we made it to the finish, there was a new and slightly worrying noise in the car, but it was fine. Hopefully.
We headed back into service again, and I did a little panel beating on the car, and another new mirror. It’s a good job I took a spare pair of new mirrors really.
Stage 6 went well, it was only when we got back into service that we had a bit of a fright- while I was checking the car, Helen had gone to look at the results and discovered we’d now been classed as “failed to finish! Thankfully it was only a technical glitch, we were most definitely still in the rally.
Looking at the forecast for Ingliston the day before, we’d been predicted rain around lunchtime. This hadn’t materialized, but now, the dark clouds were looming, and there were little spots starting to land on the window. We managed to get part of stage 7 done in only ever so slightly damp conditions. This did have an effect on our times though and by the time stage 8 was over, it was decidedly moist! But we’d finished! 38th overall was the best we could recover to, but it was a brilliant day all in all. Looking forward to doing it again – hopefully we’ll be quick enough on the draw with next years entry too!