Back into the fold – Bath Festival Targa 2018 Preparation

“Only a few months”

That is how long I told my Nan that I needed to store the rally car in her garage while we moved house.

2 years later Ken the nova was finally released from his dark and lonely prison after being forgotten in the excitement of other hobbies and an extended garage build at the new house. A quick check over and the 26 year old engine fired up on the third crank, and then flew straight though a MOT.

This sudden call to action has been driven by the growth of Targa road rallying over the last few years, to the point where there is a new targa rally championship being run by the ASWMC. The good news is that this includes many of the old endurance rallies on which we have had so much fun in the past.

So on the the Bath Festival Targa in a few weeks, we last competed on this event two years ago when it was run as a full road rally, we particularly enjoyed the forest tests that are likely to be used this year.

So we are really looking forward to getting back out and trying to remember how to drive again!

Bath Festival Road Rally 2016

The 2016 Bath Festival 5a

A year had passed since the last Bath Festival and somehow having forgotten how delightfully horrible you feel the Monday after an all-night road rally, I foolhardily put an entry in for the 2016 event. This edition was to be very much like the last, 120 miles of forests, white’s, farmyards and slippery lanes all based just south of Bath. Word had spread after the superb event 12 months ago and this time the 60 car entry was full in a matter of weeks, the organisers even managed to wrangle with the MSA to extend the entry to a maximum of 70 cars, with 66 actually starting on the night.

Queuing up at scrutinering it was clear that the pace was going to be scorching when a 2 litre MK2 escort popped and burbled up behind me to join the progressively more expensive and shiny line of stage car refugees. The fabled Welsh crews had come over the Seven Bridge in force and had brought along some serious weaponry in a brazen attempt to raid and plunder Bath Motor Clubs silverware. These were definitely not the usual little 1400 endurance cars we are used to!

The 2016 Bath Festival 4

Signing on yielded 6 pages of grid refs, diagrams, maps, time cards and other seemly vital paperwork. The intense sound of 2B pencils being sharpened helped focused the mind for the seemingly epic plotting job ahead. With that thankfully out the way we headed out to the cars to find beautiful but ominous ice patterns emerging on the still clean paintwork.  A quick half naked run around a sub zero car park at midnight in February did the trick of jolting a sleepy brain into action before strapping in and setting off into the dark.

The opening gambit was a 15 mile section using the gravel whites and other rights of way up on Salisbury plain. As we flew blindly past the famous white horse landmark we could have done with some jumping legs ourselves as we rattled flat chat over some pretty serous pot holes, Nick was not wrong when he said that we were lucky for once not to have proper bucket seats fitted, Vauxhalls finest standard 25 year old padding did a great job of comforting both our bottoms! You either go flat out over this terrain in a feeble attempt to “float” over the holes or slow right down, whatever you do, do not change your mind half way through! Needless to say that flat was the order of the day.

After this we visited the woods around the normally tranquil longleat forest, home to lions, tigers and holidaying family’s, all who were probably now being kept awake by the bark of numerous cars tearing around in the dark close to their respective enclosures. Several miss slots due to us both being out of practice cost us over 3 minutes, however after a mile long section of sweeping 3rd gear corners with the back end dancing sideways just on the wrong side of grip we couldn’t care less.

The 2016 Bath Festival 3 - Copy

Out of the forests and on to the road rally proper, this was just as fast and frantic as expected with lots of visits to farm yards, showground’s, long way triangles, whites and other hazards to take time out of you. Run with sections timed to the second we very rarely had to wait for our due time, with us dropping a few seconds at most controls. The top crews were also dropping time but just that little bit less, it could be down to having quicker cars, less hesitation in the corners or simply just being much much more awesome, but to come so close felt pretty good to us mere mortals.

As the sun started brighten the edges of the distant horizon we came to the end of the last section and suddenly 5 hours of non-stop rallying was complete. The last time I did an event that was anywhere near as full on as this was the now mythical Carpetbagger of old, praise indeed for the organisers.

We were very happy to finish 20th overall in such a well supported event, without the small errors at the start we would have been about 15th and amongst the other highest finishing 1400’s. To move much higher in a field as good as this may need a little more grunt than the 80bhp wielded by “Ken” the little white rot box! Does anybody have a spare 1.8 Corsa SRI engine floating about?

In the end the spoils of the night were indeed taken back across the river into dragon country by Paul Tod and David ‘Garth’ Powell in a very flash non turbo Subaru Impreza, they were chased all night by a brace of trick MK2 Escorts and powerful 206 GTI’s but the 4×4 just giving them an edge in the forests.

 

Bath Festival Road Rally 2015

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After hearing great things about the Bath Festival Road Rally in 2014 I was very keen to get an entry on what is becoming a must do event, the plan was to join up with Nick Clarke again and try to recreate our success on the myotis last year, unfortunately Nick was sadly side lined at the last minute due to illness. So on the morning of the event I put a call out to all and sundry to find a navigator, step forward Rich McLachlan who having been a regular driver and a navigator in the past fancied a run out.

After introductions Rich and I got down to the epic job of pre plotting the intricate route from the 8 pages of grid references! This took a good 2+ hours in total but meant the rest of the night would be about the lanes and not any tricky instructions. Just before the off we thought it would be a good idea seeing if Rich could fit in the diminutive Nova with his tall 6.2” frame, after some adjustments we got him in. Then a quick change of tyres to some £35 2 year old knobblies I had with me as that’s what everyone else was running – proper cheap motorsport!

We were seeded car 30 out of a great 60 entries including some hotshot welsh crews, no one can deny that the southern road rally scene is having a bit of a revival at the moment!  22:30 came around and we were off! To start there were 4 short tests around a showground, a farm and a small forest, we didn’t go mad but were still faster than some of guys we regularly compete with in our 1400 endurance cars. Rich seemed to enjoy himself with the nova nice and sideways everywhere.

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Then onto the rally proper, this event used regulatory sections and for those not familiar this means sections can be timed to the second and you get double penalties if you are early (if you want more information please ask at the next club night) what it does do however is to make the poor navigator work hard as they have to be very sure on entry times into controls, we got a bit excited at the beginning after being late into the first few controls only to check in 56 seconds early at the next giving us a 1:52 min penalty, Lesson learnt!

The lanes were slippery, muddy, wet, dry, tight, open, cold, icy then to top it off foggy right at the end when everybody was getting tired! Add in a few farms and other off road excursions it added up to a formidable 100 mile route. Most the dropper sections were a few miles long with passage controls, code boards (number plates), give ways, RLO’s, triangles, farms and time controls. All designed to make you drop time, fast and frantic is the word!

After the 3rd timecard (out of 4) we were an amazing 14th overall, only 11:52 minutes behind the leader. However in the cruel world of rallying a marshal didn’t countersign one of our code boards on the very last section of the night, we didn’t spot it and the onus is on the crew to make sure it happens every time, this gave us a fail, which dropped us down to 21st overall out of 43 finishers, still a respectable result in the company and on my 2nd ever Nat B Road event driving but without the fail we would have been 13th for sure! Rallying is full of if’s, but’s and maybes!