By David Garstang
Sunday 15th October was forecast for Storm Ophelia to hit the UK, and it also happened to be Wigton Motor Club’s Solway Classic and Targa Rally based around Whitehaven and Maryport. Wigton MChad managed to gain a new test venue at the disused Alcan site just down the road from the rally start at Energus Lillyhall. This meant that they could put on indoor and outdoor tests as they had the use of the old factory buildings and grounds.
It was an early start so that I could get to scrutineering nice and early and then settle down and have a crack with the other competitors, a number of the quick crews were still in Mull as they had decided to do the new Mull event instead of the Solway, but not Andy Beaumont who finished and won outright the Mull event on the Friday and was also competing in the Solway looking to get the double. Spadeadam had a total of 4 crews out, Helen Harkness & Barry Lindsay in a Corsa, John Holliday & Allan Cathers in John’s immaculate Midget, Jonathan & Nicholas Fowler in their Mk2 Escort and myself and big brother Mk1 Fiesta.
The first test was at the start on a nice tarmac car park with a simple auto test set up the fastest time was Chris Hunter in his Mazda MX5 on 30 seconds, out of the Spadeadam crews Harkness/Lindsay did a 33, I managed 34, Holliday/Cathers 35 and Fowler/Fowler 38.
A short road section took us to just down the road to the Alcan complex where we were to do the next 6 tests. Most of which involved driving through buildings which were incredibly slippy and wet in places whilst trying to miss the big steel roof supports before heading outside and onto concrete / rubble / dirt sections. I must say completing a test inside a building has to be a first for me it was rather like being in an indoor go-cart track but on ice. I was managing to hold off Harkness and Lindsay in the black Corsa but I did get a wrong test, Holiday/Cathers were putting in some good test times in the buildings but 2 wrong tests will see their results knocked back and The Fowlers were also putting in good times but also managed to get a wrong test.
After the 6 tests at Alcan is was off for a drive to Maryport and time to let the engines cool down and regroup the old brain cells. The Maryport test site used up a large concrete area and was a fast flowing site, Harkness/Lindsay took the win on this one between the Spadeadam crews on 59 seconds with me nipping at her heals just 3 seconds behind, followed by Holliday/Cathers and unfortunately Fowler/Fowler had a wrong test.
Back to the start venue for the final test of the morning again Harkness/Lindsay beat the Spadeadam crews with a 32 second run, followed by myself 2 seconds behind and Holiday/Cathers 3 seconds behind me, unfortunately Fowler/Fowler had another wrong test. Anyway now it was time to have some soup and a roll and a cup of tea for lunch and concentrate on going even faster in the afternoon. So at Lunch it was Garstang/Garstang 597 seconds, Harkness/Lindsay 607 seconds, Holiday/Cathers 672 seconds and Fowler/Fowler 753 seconds the earlier wrong tests hitting hard on their time.
During lunch I took the opportunity to change the spark plugs in the Fiesta as it had developing a slight stuttering at low revs during the late morning tests. I found some used but what I thought were good plugs in the tool bag and fitted them. At which point my son came running across the car park to help me fix the car (he’s only 5 and had his toy tools with him) and promptly gave me 4 brand new plugs which I said I would take with me in case I needed them.
So it was back to Alcan do a test which was instead of a test cancelled due to travellers parking in the entrance of the test site. By the time we finished this test the car was not stuttering any more at low revs but wanting to cut out. So I pulled past the finish line and swopped the plugs again but this time for nice new ones.
It was then back to Maryport to do the test there again and then back to Alcan to do another run through the complex of tests that went through the buildings and the grounds. The Fiesta was back on form after swapping the plugs for the brand new ones. However Harkness/Lindsay had found a new gear and better traction?*(No, just learning my lefts & rights! Ed.) As they took no end of time out of myself and my fellow Spadeadam Crews.
So how did it end you may be asking well Harkness/Lindsay finished with 1093 seconds and first in class and 6th Targa, Garstang/Garstang 1129 seconds first in class and 5th Historic, Holiday/Cathers 1229 seconds 3rd in class and 14th Historic and Fowler/Fowler 1312 seconds 15th in class and 19th Targa.
Well done to Harkness/Lindsay considering that this is your first season in historic/targa rallies you have put up some incredible times and placed very well on most events. We will look forward to seeing you do even better next year. But if you start to beat me again I will have to see about sabotaging your car to slow you up a bit.
As this will be the last rally for myself and others congratulations to everybody that has competed and a big thank you to all the marshals especially the Spadeadam posse who seem to be everywhere. It would be nice to see even more Spadeadam crews out on these events whether it is in a Historic/Classic or Targa car.