Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Little Devils

I nearly entered this event in 2005 but as it was a bit close to the 10CR I gave it a miss, not this year tho!

The Little Devils is an event run by Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club but it’s a little devil in itself to describe what it is. It’s publicised as a road rally, run on a Production Car Autotest basis but over several locations. It’s also part of a larger event called the “Devil’s Own Rally” which starts the night before and is a” proper” classic road rally needing a competition licence.

Anyway, it’s a long time since I have done anything I feel is “proper motorsport” and as a part of my build up to stage rallying I thought this sounded like a good idea. Thankfully our esteemed Club Secretary Tim Bancroft agreed to venture north and co-drive for me in my TR7.

Having completed the event I can best describe it as a series of autotests run through a Sunday at 6 different locations with road sections linking them. The road sections are not timed and there isn’t a definitive route between them, only an advised one. It’s a really good low level rehearsal for a stage rally but, more importantly, great fun!

First task was scrutineering and signing on on the Saturday. This started well when we got out of the car in the queue and a fellow competitor said “I was expecting Tony Pond to get out”! The noise test limit was 95 decibels at 4000 revs which was no problem as the TR was at 83. Scrutineering, however, caused a couple of minor panics. First the spotlamps didn’t work but as we weren’t doing the night rally we were let off but then I was asked for the MOT certificate. No problem says I as I brought out all the documents but the scrutineer spotted it was out of date! How did that happen? This is when consternation and panic set in but thankfully the scrutineer also spotted the new computerised MOT in amongst the other documents – I just hadn’t recognised it.

Having passed we then signed on and returned to base at my house as we weren’t starting until the next morning. This did allow a pleasant evening in a local hosteltry with Jon Ranwell (Rumpith to forum fans) who is both my neighbour and aspiring Spitfire pilot on the RBRR when his car completes a full on restoration.

Come Sunday morning and we are in the town square of Kirkby Lonsdale waiting for the start.
Iwont’ forget the gent who came up commenting “You don’t see many of these anymore. I had one when they were new” etc and wishing us good luck for the day. Then later on in the day, we were passing through a Cumbrian village and a young boy stood waving and smiling at us whilst his mum looked on. We had to smile and wave back, it’s good to nurture the goodwill of the public and encourage a new generation of enthusiast.

Meanwhile, back at the start Tim and I recognised a GT6 belonging to Neil Dowie who I had spoken to over the phone after his article in the last edition of Club Torque. A few minutes later he came back to his car and we introduced ourselves. Neil had made a last minute entry and so we had two CT crews on the event which was great news.

From Kirkby Lonsdale the route took us to the first test at Benson Hall where we joined a queue of cars waiting to start. The test here was to follow a course around cones in a farmyard in the fastest possible time. Watching the cars ahead of us have a go we knew this was going to be great fun; and so it proved.

The marshal starts you off with a “5-4-3-2-1- go”. With every number called I revved the engine whilst holding the handbrake on, then at “go” I let the handbrake off and let out the clutch whilst the accelerator was planted firmly down. This was the cue for the rear wheels to scrabble for grip and the car slide sideways before launching into the test whilst throwing loose gravel out the back – what a great feeling.

Next was further sliding sideways action whilst the test was completed and we brought the car to a halt next to a marshal at the end who gave us our time.

The whole day consisted of 14 tests like this in farmyards, a company’s car park and at a showground which was particularly good as there was plenty of room to get the hang of driving on the loose. One test in particular illustrates how much anyone can improve having started to learn the ropes. This was “Park House” which started on loose farm tracks, went through the farm yard around the buildings and ended on a long tarmac drive. On our first run we were still learning to come to terms with it all but on the second test later in the day we beat our first run by 20 seconds!

The finish was back at the local rugby club where we found Neil Dowie struggling with a leaking brake master cylinder on his GT6 but, in true Club Triumph style we rallied round and donated some brake fluid to see him home. Oh, and that’s when we found out Neil had beaten us to gain maximum Club Triumph Championship points (note to self, must try harder next time).

I would really love to see more Club Triumph members enter this type of event as I am sure many of them would love the experience. If you would like to get more of an idea of what this kind of event is like I have posted some video clips on the Club triumph forum under the thread “Little Devil’s Test” in the Toutes Directions section. This is in-car footage but the mounting is a bit low which means the view isn’t as good as I would like but the soundtrack is fine and it will give an impression of what it is like to be a competitor.

A few lessons we learned were –

1, More power is certainly not needed until the crew improve!

2, The TR7 was superb all day, never missing a beat.

3, Having said that, water did find it’s way into the driver’s footwell so that needs fixing.

4, It’s not a good idea to leave the driver’s door open when you start a test as it slows you down whilst you shut it again!

5, It was great fun and we can improve no end with more experience so, WE WILL RETURN!

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