Garage Woes – The White Heather Targa

By David Garstang

So what’s been happening in the garage you may be asking? Has the fiesta lost any weight? Is the car any shinier? Was the underside painted? Did it get serviced and the gear box oil checked? Was the puncture fixed? What progress on the Spitfire.

All good questions which I started to think about the week end before the White Heather Tests, so it was a case of prioritising the things to do. The weight loss programme has been put on hold as I think a layer of fat around me will keep me safe during the Beast from the East, should I  get stranded in a snow drift I will last better than a skinny person. Due to the cold it’s been too cold to paint the underside of the car I will perhaps now put this off until spring. I did manage to get the engine serviced and adjust the rear brakes, however the cold had affected the oil in the can that I was going to use as I was pouring it out it was coming out in globs of jelly like substance. I decided not to put it in the car until I had put the can of oil on the radiator in the house to warm through and become like normal oil again. I tried to disguise it with a tea towel but I was soon found out when the aroma of hot engine oil started to waft out of the kitchen. I then quickly put it in the engine and topped up the gearbox. So car serviced time to sort out the tyre which I dropped off at my local garage who kindly repaired it for me. So the Fiesta was now ready for the first event of the season only 7 days to wait and see if the snow will melt so that I could get the car out of hibernation and give it a test drive.No such luck due to the snow and work so it was a case of load it on to the trailer on Friday night the evening before the event start on Saturday and hope for the best.

On Saturday 10th March was the morning of the White Heather run by Wigton Motor Club snow gone but replaced by cold biting wind and rain, once at the start venue and getting the car of the trailer my lovely wife was navigating again for me for the day and said “keep the car running so that the heater will warm the inside of the car up as I am freezing” “Oh” I said “Did I forget to tell you to put your thermal vest and knickers on this morning” “Yes WHY” was the response from my now suspicious wife “Well the heater does not work as I disconnected it last year when the heater matrix started leaking” I replied “BLOODY HELL if I had known that before I would not have offered to navigate today” was the response I got, looks like I could be in for a frost day in the car I thought.

So we proceeded to scrutineering where I kindly offered to stay with the car whilst Heidi went inside to find a nice warming cup of coffee.

Scrutineering was slickly done and time for Bacon Butties and a bit of Crack with the other competitors.

Wigton Motor Club had kindly issued the test diagrams with the final regulations so there was no fevered activity by navigators around any flat surface trying to write notes on test diagrams and plot routes on maps. No maps were required as it was all on Kirkbride airfield and surrounding land so only a mile or two of transport roads to get to the odd test that was on the other side of the road to the airfield. This created a very relaxed atmosphere and everyone was relaxed and having a good natter. After the drivers meeting we were then split up into a number of batches of cars and sent to various test sites to start the event. This meant that there was very minimal waiting at any test as usually there was only 4 or 5 cars in each batch.

The idea was that you did 5 tests twice in the morning had lunch and then 5 tests twice in the afternoon where 2 of them were changed to different tests on different test sites.

In the morning season I was in a group of fast crews containing my Dad as navigator for David Marsden in a 2 ltr mk 1 escort, Brian Bradley in a 2 ltr Golf, Rob Iverson in a Ka sport but should have been in a mk1 mini, Helen and Barry in the quick Corsa. Our first test was a short gravel test nice and simple to remember Marsden/Garstang in the escort set our groups pace with a 31 second run, followed by myself on 34, Helen on 35, Brian 37 and Rob 41. We then went to a Test called M Sport which was a concrete test with grass patches on a long left hand sweeping bend. Rob set the pace on this one in our group with a 59 second run followed by Marsden/Garstang 63, Brian 65, Helen 68 and I trailed in on a 77 after a stop to correct going the wrong side of a cone.

On to the 3rd test Kerr which was on concrete again and was basically a slalom with a 180 at the far end and a 360 on the last cone, quite a few cars struggled getting round the 360 in 1 go but we managed it in the fiesta. Again the pace was set by Rob and Marsden/Garstang with each doing it in 49 seconds, I followed with a 51 closely followed by Helen on 52 and Brian on 53. From test 3 it was onto test 4 which was another slalom type test Rob again put in a quick time of 37, followed by Helen on 39, Marsden/Garstang and Brian on 40 and myself on 41.

Test 5 was just outside the white Heather Hotel and was a very tight test on tarmac Rob again showing his autotest skills completed it in 20 seconds, Helen close behind on 21, myself on 24 and Marsden/Garstang and Brian on 26. It was then back around the same 5 tests again before finishing for an early lunch by which point Rob was lying 4th overall, Marsden/Garstang 6th, Helen and myself 13th and Brian 14th.

After an excellent lunch of a big bowl of soup and a bun it was back out to tackle another round of 5 tests twice. 3 of the tests were the same with 2 new ones. I shan’t dwell long on the afternoon tests as I think someone had spiked my soup as it all started well with me taking 19 seconds out of my first run, feeling happy with how the car was performing and my confidence I then took another 2 seconds of my first run of the second test, then it was onto the first of the 2 new tests, the first new test was a loose gravel test and Rob set the pace again in our little group with 42 seconds, myself on 44, Marsden/Garstang 45, Helen and Brian on 46. The second new test was a long concrete test which was slippy, this is where the spiked soup started to play havoc with me as on the out ward leg of the test all was going fine although slippy the fiesta was handling great, on the return leg the driver was not listening to the navigator and went the wrong side of a cone on a slalom by the time I had managed to stop the car we had slid past a second cone and got a test maximum. Feeling unhappy and knowing I had blown our chances of decent a class finish we went onto the test outside the Hotel. Heidi said “you know this one right” to which I replied “ yes” we started it and I don’t remember hearing much noise coming from the navigators side of the car and as we hit the finish line I was thinking well the last 3 cones did not seem as tight then I realised that I had taken a wrong line through the last 3 cones and picked up another wrong test.

Feeling sorry for myself we went back to the first test of the afternoon which was M Sport and by the time that we got there I had managed to get my brain back in gear where I managed to set the fastest time in our little group and only 2 seconds slower that the fastest time set on that particular test. The next two test went fine and felt fast and we were putting in good times compared to the others. Then it was onto the penultimate test where I had picked up my first test maximum of the season. Had the test diagram sorted in my head for most of the test and knew that I just had to get the first cone right and the rest would follow with Heidi shouting extra instructions as required. So 3-2-1 Go and went the wrong side of the first cone tried to stop and managed to get the car at 90 degress to the road corrected the slide to end up flicking the car the other way and still being 90 degrees to the road finally stopped after passing the dreaded second cone and getting a test maximum after only passing 2 cones, how embarrassing but on another note the finish marshals were very complementary of the syle in which I cocked it up by and driver skill in keeping the car on the road. So on to the last test outside the hotel again with my mojo broken I put in one of the slowest times (but not the slowest) and it was time to put the car onto the trailer and have a well-earned tea.

The results team very quickly produced the final results and 1st overall was Chris Hunter and Fiona Tyson with 854 seconds, my group that I had been battling with came in with the following, Rob Iveson 883, Marsden/Garstang 916, Helen and Barry 988, Brian Bradley 1008 and I came first last in our little group with 1066.

You might be wondering after all that if you are still awake and paying attention what have I been doing with the Spitfire. Well I have done an amazing amount of nothing so far, but I will need to get it started and on the trailer to take down to my Dads so that we can do an appraisal of what needs doing and get started on it. But first things first I need to continue upgrading the brakes on the fiesta to make it stop quicker before the next event which will be Berwick Classic in May.