Monday, March 09, 2009

Roskirk Stages 2009

I want to write up as much as I can on this event as a record for me, and maybe as an article for Club Torque so I thought I'd do it here rather than on a word doc.

So, here's work in progress.

Well, where to start?

The entry was put in some time ago now so I won't go over that but the rally seemed an ideal training event - only 26 stage miles and just 50 miles from home (mine that is) as well as being on smooth tarmac.

I'll start I think on the day before - on Saturday March 7th.

My navigator Sarah and her husband Berkeley were coming over form Lincolnshire aiming for a lunchtime arrival. Also aiming for this was Mik Davis with his ace Amercan V8 powered Dodge van and super race pod trailer.

I spent the morning cleaning the car up, polishing the screens etc - going over the fluid levels.

I also collected together the entire wheel and tyre collection I had too so I could decide what to take. 2 Revolutiion wheels with narrow knobblies I left out of the equation but the other two with Colway remould slicks on I kept out as well as the 4 Avon Historic rally tyres on minilites.

I put in 28 PSI in all of these and in the Michelin road tyres on the car - easier to let them down than blow them up as my mate Kevin advised.

Also put to one side were 4 ammunition boxes of spares.

Anyway, both sets of visitors were delayed by traffic but arrived within minutes of each other and we immediately set to manhandling Mik's trailer into position.

Once done tho, it was time for a tradition at my house, Saturday lunch = fish and chips.

Sarah and I went off to "Kelbrook Fisheries" whilst Mike and Berkeley looked over the TR. The fish and chips were great although I couldn't quite manage the huge portions served - weight saving is all important you know!

Back to the prep - we tested the helmets and intercom "in situ" on Berkeley's suggestion and that proved a very good idea as I had thought they connected at the left but in fact they connect on the right! Not a big deal maybe but re-routing the cables could save some "fannying about" (favourite phrase of Team Manx) and, indeed, this was proved next day.

On to the wheels and tyres - now Mik's a Spitfire racer and a Club Triumph champion driver so a man to be listened to when he talks about these things. Verdict? "You'll never get those slicks up to temperature on such short stages in low temperatures - leave them here!"

Another lesson learned - my goodness there's alot of kit even for us amateurs. We needed Mik's van and trailer as well as Sarah/Berekeley's Zafira to get everything in. Not only a car, spares, tools but also a Club triumph gazebo and our personal kit including overnight bags.

Yes, overnight bags - we were off to stay in a hotel a mile from the circuit.

The theory here was that scrutineering was at 8AM, we live an hour or so from the circuit and loading the van etc up would take a couple of hours or so - resulting in a 5AM start!

Actually it took at least 2 hours and more like 3 to get everything sorted and on our way to the hotel.

Not much to comment about the night before - the hotel was fine and we were all very sensible with regard to just a couple of drinks and an early night.

Next day we arrive at the circuit, drive into the paddock and get the car out of the trailer. Sarah's off checking things out - where scrutineering and signing on are etc.

Sarah and I leave the car with "the crew" and head off to "signing on" where we are told we have to go to scrutineering first but Sarah had already been told at scrutineering that we couldn't go there without our race numbers and they were sold at - yes, signing on!

OK - no big deal, we buy the numbers and go back to the car where Berekely sticks them on while we get in BRP and try to make sure we have everything ready for scrutineering. So with numbers applied and hearts in mouths we drive the car to scrutineering and queue up until we get our turn.

At this point Bryce turns up and joins us so we have another friendly face.

The scutineer asked me to leave the car running while he pulls the "kill" switch and the car stopped dead - fine, the first hurdle passed and we start to breathe a bit easier. It's a nerve wracking time for me because the car is my responsibility and this is the first time it has faced this test.

The extinguisher is checked -another heart stopping moment but the light comes on whether the internal or external button is pressed. Then our helmets pass as do our race suits (unlike another crew who are refused a start as they don't have current suits).

All is going well until a heart stopping moment - "where's the plastic film on the door windows?" says the scrutineer. "What plastic film?" says I.

Apparently it's one of the new 2009 regs that they should have plastic film applied and I was unaware of this so we don't have it. So what now? I have let everyone down at this point - all of those who have given up their weekend are now going to blame me for missing this when we have to pack the car away and go home.

Bryce volunteers to go and get some but no-one knows anywhere we could do this on a Sunday morning in Wigan!

I then asked the scrutineer "But, will you let us run this time? This is my first stage rally in 19 years!" He replied "I'll check with the chief scrutineer" and of he goes to find someone.

Three teenage lads who have been observing this commiserate and say how disappointed they will be if they can't see the TR run in the event - a sentiment I thanked them for and shared wholeheartedly.

A few, long minutes later the chief scrutineer comes along shaking his head so I go through it again with him and point out I only got the car's competiton logbook in January. He replies that it shouldn't have been issued without the plastic film being in place and then raises the stakes further by saying "and your mud flaps aren't big enough anyway".

A bit more discussion and I ask again if he'll let us run to which he says "I'll think about it".

More hanging about and chat with the lads until the decision is made - OK, we can run but a note is made on our logbook that we must have these "faults" sorted out for the next rally. What a relief that was!

All OK - ready to go.

It's all a matter of one stage at a time (pun intended) so with scrutineering over it's "signing on" where we got the stage diagrams and then back to the paddock to study them. Here we marked them up with how Sarah needed to call them and nervously checked the time until we we needed to queue up ready for the noise test and the start.

Noise test was no problem -"rev to 4500" says a marshall while another one checkes the car isn't too loud which I knew it wouldn't be.

Now it's really nerves time as we line up waiting for our chance to start - my first stage since 1990 and Sarah's first ever!

No countdown from the marshal but, instead, an electronic display going red>amber>green and we are away. Lots of wheelspin and then Sarah's words through the intercom - "caution, merge right into left followed by long right". What was I thinking? Well, along the lines of "by 'eck it's slippy and why is that Porsche up on the tyrewall already!"

All very tentative and then it's over in just voer three minutes and we return to the service area and aprk the car up on the tarpaulin. Bryce checks the wheel nuts, there's a general look oever the car and then we are off again for the next stage where we are a little quicker which continued all day.

In fact for the rest of the day it was non stop really with many things happening and a routine coming intoo play but I'll pick out some memories.

Service crew - brilliant! Berkeley kept us fed through the day with bacon sandwiches and burgers cooked by the end of the day in Mik's trailer (a use that wasn't in the design spec I am sure!).

We changed the tyre pressures once as I felt the car was understeering too much so we upped them in the front by a couple of psi but to be hionest I didn't notice a difference. I chose to start on Michelin road tyres as the circuit was wet and cold followed by sleet and some snow but then there came a chance to change the tyres as it began to dry out later in the day.

It all felt rather professional changing tyre pressures and then choosing a different set! I said to "the crew" I would like the Avon historic rally tyres I ahve put on when we next came into service and sure enough, no sooner had we parked than the car was jacked up and the wheels changed. This felt very professional too - Satah and I were still in the car whilst the tyres were changed and then when the car was lowered back down we were off to the next stage.Pit Crew

Did it make a difference?

Oh yes! I came in from that next stage on a real high. The tyre choice made a big difference with so much more grip immediately which raised my confidence and we left those tyres on for the rest of the day. Up until that point the car one palce above us ahd consistently been a few seconds quicker but on the 3 stages with the Avons on we were 3,14 and 10 seconds faster.

Then there was petrol to put in on two halts and we had the alternator adjusted to make sure the fan belt stayed on.

Then all of a sudden it was over. We came 35th out of 48 starters and 5th in our class of 10 which is a really pleasing result.

The whole weeknd came together better than I could have expected - the logistics of it all worked fine, van, trailer, hotel, spares, tools, cooking, paperwork, the car itself and all the people involved.

We learned so much and most importantly I got my comp licence upgrade scard signed so now I only need three more for me to be at the right level for the Manx.

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