This small Island in the middle of the Irish Sea has a network of roads that will test drivers and navigators alike. The event was busy from the word go on Friday morning with Leg 1, which included tests and Regularity sections joined by short link sections which ensured the need for full concentration. After a two-hour halt for supper, the action continued well in to the evening as Leg 2 kicked off in the dark with more regularities and finished with a “Time Control” section that stretched even the best of crews. The final leg on Saturday included more tests and Regularities before the finish at the famous TT Pit Lane.
Onto the ferry to the Isle of Man at Heysham, and as the only car searched, had to take 5 litres out of the 10 litre spare can…a problem that would haunt me for the rest of the rally! In Douglas, the two Whyte sisters who were supporting the team jumped in the car and to my amazement, Trevor Ripley (Puff’s previous owner) was there to greet us and watch the rally. Scrutineering next, and a problem with the spotlights: they did not go off when main lights dipped – so they had to be disconnected.
The rally began on the Friday from the Grandstand for the TT race. Tests in the car park before moving to open roads. Wet, windy and misty..it was a challenge. By 5pm and the end of Leg 1, Puff was in 29th place (62 starters). Now for the next Leg – the night section.
Problems were compounding too…the cabin was full of petrol fumes and every now and then blue smoke would come in under the dashboard. It was giving the crew severe headaches. Other cars were getting lost, but getting to the next controls ahead of Puff so there was a big delay, anything from 4-8 cars ahead. This all contributed to Puff running out of fuel in sight of the last control at midnight – and I had forgotten to top up the 10 litre can! The car was pushed, and eventually the tenders arrived with fuel. But a massive time loss at this control pushed Puff down to 39th .
After problems with the speedometer, and the Halda…the Whyte sisters had to read off the maps and with a stop watch made sure the controls were reached at the right place and time. Very difficult. Some crews did not manage very well.
BUT… Puff made it to the finish, and not last! 39th overall…and after nearly 47 years!