All the way back in November 2013 I competed on a newish event, it was called a targa rally and was basically a road rally held completely off road at an airfield, imagine lots of tests from 1 to 3 miles long with a 30mph average and a few passage controls to help keep the speeds down a little. Oh and the best bit is that you can compete in your standard road rally car with no need for roll cages, helmets, race suits, MSA licences, log books, Bar tests etc (however a basic level of safety gear is recommended). Naturally these are incredibly popular especially when you can also double drive your car so that you both get to drive and navigate for each other through the day, sharing the cost to make it even cheaper and giving you a real action packed day!
The tests are a typically range from larger faster autosolo type layouts to much more flowing but tight stage rally type affairs, either way the entries are about £50 and you get between 30 and 45 mins of competitive action for your cash, I have to say these events are quite similar to some single venue stage rallies for much less cost! Chelmsford Motor Club has pioneered these events and the latest was the “Javelin Jumbo Targa” held at Wethersfield airfield on the 19th of April.
After navigating for me back on the 2013 targa Emma fancied having a go at driving on one of these events so two entries were put in for both of us, Jimmy Jackson and Rowan Corney were also (quite easily) talked into coming to play as well. As Wethersfield is the other side of Stansted airport we drove up in the nova the day before (no trailers here!) and booked into a cheap Travel Inn for the night.
On arrival at the airfield I knew we were in for a good day as the test layouts looked fantastic and used the infamous “bomb dump”, there was also a full entry of 75 cars as well which made my seeding at car 11 look optimistic! Off to the first loop of three tests and after a small wake up call for both me driving and Emma on the maps we were having load of fun sliding the car around on the completely unsuitable gravel suspension and nearly dead tyres I had found at the back of the garage.
A quick swap and it was Emma’s turn to drive, having only driven the car once before on a loose autotest 3 years ago Emma had a bit of a moment on the 3rd corner when some understeer then oversteer caught her out resulting in a comedy slow speed spin and stall. However after this she steadily improved whilst learning how the car reacted to her ever improving control.
Jimmy and Rowan seemed to be getting on well and had smiles on their faces whenever we saw them, really getting into it while playing with tire pressures and working out how to drive the tests better on the next runs. I steadily upped the pace a little and was starting to get the times I was expecting, but then took too many liberties on one test and hit a curb puncturing straight away. Made it to the end of the test but this meant the only tyres we had left to use were the worn knobblies I had taken just in case it was wet or muddy, not much help when its sunny, dry and 99% smooth tarmac! At least it made the marshals laugh as we rocked up to the start lines of the tests with the car in full gravel mode!
At the end of the day Emma had shown a huge improvement on every test and with a little coaching ended getting within 6% of my time on one the tests on the last loop, she finished 61st OA beating some much more experienced competitors. At the end of the last test she turned to me with a big grin and asked when the next event was, well all I could say was that it is good job I am about to marry her!
After putting the knobblies on it was a tall ask for me to improve too much on the last loop of tests but had fun sliding around all the same. I finished 15thOA and 1st EA (Expert under 1400cc class), a pretty good result considering the competition which was made up of mostly quite serious road rally cars with some even more serious sticky tyres (eBay search now underway!), we were also the 3rd under 1400 car which was a nice accolade for the 23 year old Nova which was starting to sound a bit rattily towards the end of the day.