It's over a year since I was out on a stage event, with a full calendar of regularity and night rallies in 2015, so when I was asked to do the Trackrod Historic Cup in a well-prepared Mk2 Escort I had no hesitation in saying 'yes'.
My driver, Steve Bennett, is based in Ross on Wye so he drove up to Yorkshire on Thursday evening, but I had to be in work on Friday morning so it was mid afternoon when I got to Pickering. As I rarely travel across the A66 in daytime I'd forgotten how slow it can be when busy, even with the improved dual carriageway sections since I moved up to Cumbria. Signing on took ages because I kept bumping into familiar faces, but it was good to catch up with some of the Yorkshire 'rallying mafia' who I hadn't seen for a while, including our own Mark Dickenson of course. After a look around the car, intercom check then seat and belt fitting, I had my first chance to look through the notes which Steve had amended in places from the DVD. Not the ideal pre-event prep, but as I was away for most of September it was the best we could manage. The last time I did the Trackrod was back in 1996, it was back on maps in those days, so although most of the stages were familiar, it was the first time I'd do them on route notes…but before the Editor adds a comment in here I will state that 1996 was not the
last time I did a write up for the newsletter, although I admit one is long overdue...
We tackled Staindale and Dalby in the dark on Friday evening. The first stage was a good clean run but a couple of spins and stalls in Dalby cost us a good few seconds, not sure which IDMC members were
marshalling the junctions in question, hope we provided some entertainment... Despite the time loss
we were still 8th overall so headed to the Raincliffe Hotel in Scarborough reasonably satisfied considering we'd only met for the first time an hour before the start!
On Saturday we'd be joined by BTRDA competitors, but we got first run through Gale Rigg and Cropton before service back at the showground. A good run in both stages moved us up to 5th, with nothing to do on the car except a spanner check, refuel and new tyres. The final loop of three stages was made up of a second visit to Dalby, then two stages in Langdale with only a short road section in between.
The road section out to Dalby was timed very generously to allow for tourist traffic, so we had a bit
of time to chat with the other crews before we all moved down to the start.
Unfortunately only three cars started before the stage had to be stopped as two of the cars had gone off and needed recovery from dodgy places, both crews were ok. So I had a good chat with Karen, Ernie and JR at the ATC and start before we eventually tackled the stage. Of course it was much more familiar in daylight and even with the locations of our two spins the previous night marked in the notes, we nearly did the same thing at one of the hairpins as it was such a fast and deceptive approach.
Onto the penultimate stage, Langdale and the aim was just to get through these last two and we should get a good result. Well that was the plan, unfortunately half way round the stage we came into a 90 right a little wide, Steve chucked it in, expecting to nudge the bank on the outside with the back end and it bounce us back in the right direction. Somehow though it bounced us back more than expected and we ended up heading up the bank and met a very solid tree stump head on, which brought us to a very abrupt halt. We tried to reverse back onto the stage but it wasn't happening, so we got out to assess the situation.
We were clear of the road but if anyone else went a bit wide they were likely to hit us, so we put the warning triangle out and by now a couple of marshals had run down from the next junction where they were stationed, so between us we slowed the following cars down. We could probably have pushed the car off the tree stump between us, but it would have taken a good few minutes and delayed a couple of other cars. As we were only out for fun rather than needing a finish, we decided it was best to leave the car where it was until all the other cars had passed us.
As it turned out we'd holed the radiator so needed towing anyway.The recovery crew towed us to Birch
Hall where there was no phone signal, so I jumped in with a couple of radio marshals who were heading back to Pickering and left Steve with the car. When I returned with Steve's service crew and trailer nearly an hour later, there was a scene of chaos as another two rally cars had been recovered to the same place and there seemed like twice as many trucks and vans trying to get up the single track road to reach them. After twenty minutes of musical cars and trailers, not helped when one of the vans lost reverse gear, we managed to escape and headed back to Pickering and then away.
Thanks to Steve for a great drive, shame it ended how it did. Thanks also to Trackrod for putting on a good event, plus of course all the marshals from lots of local clubs (especially Ilkley) without whom we couldn't go and have fun in the forests.
We have an entry in for the Red Kite in February and hopefully a few more BHRC rounds during the year, so time to buy a new helmet and HANS device!