HERO RAC Rally of The Tests – 9th to 12th November 2017

This is another serious event over 31/2 days, from North Wales, all round the Pennines and the Lake District this time. A big event on the National B circuit too. Suzanne Barker had agreed to give it another go with Puff and me, so we headed to the start at Carden Hall Hotel near Chester on Wednesday 8th November for the pre-event scrutineering.

We arrived in the afternoon to sort out the scrutineering and do calibration. However, having just had new Snowtrac tyres fitted that morning, we arrived with a puncture – a nipped inner tube was the culprit. Soon fixed by the brilliant mechanics from Maulden Garage who are on hand and we were quickly through all the check-ups. However, the calibration was proving very difficult, and after more than 7 ‘laps’ of the 4.66 miles calibration route, we decided in the dark to give up for now and try again in daylight.

The rally was due to start at 4 pm on Thursday with a Prologue of 2 tests and 2 Regularities. Although Suzanne had done a lot of pre-plotting from the Final Regs, we spent all morning with the last bit of plotting. Once it was completed at 2 pm, we went to try to calibrate the Brantz once more. We eventually discovered that the speedo was at fault, and it finally packed in after 3 more circuits. No distance meter!! Disaster. Brian Whyte, bless the man, found a gps distance measurement device we could use, so all was not lost, yet. Talk about trials and tribulation…..nothing is going to be easy.

DAY 1. Off we went on the Prologue, in the dark, and feeling uncertain as to how we were going to cope. The gps thingy was ok….but stopped working and lost distance if we went under trees??? Not good in farmland or in towns, but probably ok over the next few days for the fells and moorland. But we badly miss a working Brantz, and make a few wrong slots.

There are 2 long regularities tonight, as well as 2 tests. Hard to judge where to turn when the Brantz is not working. And then, on the way to the last Test of the evening, Puff runs out of fuel, and we do not have enough in the spare tank to do the last test which we have to miss. So we have to abandon the last test and find fuel. Big penalties, but we now have fuel for the morning.

DAY 2Chester to Darlington. Friday morning started well, with a good drive in sunshine to Oulton Park for the rally circuit….slippy but fun. Drove on to lunch at Haddon Hall with the weather beginning to get overcast. It was going to be a long day, the longest of the rally not finishing until 11pm. 8 tests and 6 regularities to do. And then, as dark fell – the rain came ….really came……making life difficult with dodgy wipers. Eventually we arrived in Darlington at 11.15pm….and to bed by 1am.

DAY 3Darlington to Darlington. We leave Redworth Hall Hotel at 0911 in better weather than the night before, albeit chilly. But also feeling more positive after a night’s sleep. Today 9 tests and 6 regs….with the odd jogularity…a total of 280 miles to the North of the Lake District. 2 tests at Raby Castle, before heading to lunch at Armathwaite Hall. Then over the moors to Ullswater and thence to Appleby Golf Club for tea. Next 3 tests on Warcop, (with an Army manoeuvre under way) and the army stages….in the dark…with a suspect trip meter….oh dear. And on one section we made a wrong turn into a field as others had before us and hit a massive ditch at some speed. Thought the car was finished, but gallant little Puff went on, none the worse it seemed. However, wheel bearings were rumbling so the mechs adjusted and away we went.

DAY 4 -Darlington to Harrogate. Cold but dry start, and a much happier feel in the car. Only 9 tests today and 4 regs…and a finish in daylight. We do the army ranges again in daylight…much easier to read on the tulips, a regularity or 2 – only had to put new brake pads in at lunch stop – down to rivets I felt, tho’ Suzanne was assuring me it was only gravel!! Then finally a couple of runs at the Harewood Hill Climb… that was terrific fun. Especially with some chums watching too. And we made it into Harrogate – tired but elated. 71st overall out of 96 – so not last!!

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