Rally Round Director Liz Wenman reports on the Tour of Wessex rally
Organised by the Vintage and Classic Rally Register (VCRR), the 2015 Tour of Wessex rally, held over three days on the slippery lanes of Devon and Somerset, was always going to present a challenge for me and novice navigator Julie Hanly (pictured below). It proved to be even tougher
than we expected!
Our 1954 ex-works Triumph TR2 is a lovely car, but of course it has no power steering, rather old-fashioned (ie poor) brakes and less than perfect protection from mid-February weather. It’s also as temperamental as only a classic car can be. We pulled the heater knob off in our first attempt to find some warmth, the starter button stopped working so we had to use the solenoid at every restart and the wiper motor packed up. Rain-X works wonders with rain but not with mud, let alone cow and pig poo! Happily Rally Round’s own Charlie McGowan was on the event to provide mechanical support services in ‘Zulu’, one of our mobile workshops (below), and he coaxed our wipers back into life again.
After setting off from the Haynes
Motor Museum at Sparkford at dusk on Friday, we incurred maximum penalties that
night when the rotor arm gave up the ghost, as rotor arms do. I’m generally
pretty brave but I confess I don’t like the dark and we were out in the middle
of nowhere. I bagged the torch and ritually sacrificed a chocolate cake that
Julie had baked as an offering to Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness, saving the
fudge supply in case of further trouble.
At one point we encountered a roadblock
on a very tight switchback section. It turned out to be the Wenman boys, David
and Andrew, who had parked their Mini Cooper S on its side. As they were both
out of the car and evidently unhurt, I stayed in the car and waited for them the clear the way.
Ever helpful Julie got out to see if they needed any assistance but their pithy
response persuaded her that my way was better. Once another car had pulled them
out of trouble we were all on our way again, hurtle myrtle. Naturally with
David’s extensive historic racing experience the boys were much more
competitive than we were, but rallying poses problems that circuit racers don’t
usually have to worry about and due to a speedo cable fault they hadn’t manage
to calibrate their tripmeter, which is a major handicap on a rally such as this.
The next day, Saturday, went well for
us until we suffered a puncture. Being capable girls we set about changing the
wheel in a very muddy farmyard. A gallant farm dog came over to help us and
peed on the spare as we were putting it on. We were ever so grateful.
In spite of her novice status Julie
did a fab job of navigating, especially as we had interpreted the pre-event instruction
“maps will be provided but you can bring your own” as meaning
“you will be given maps so don’t worry if you haven’t purchased 15 Ordnance
Survey maps like proper rally geeks“.
It turned out that the maps provided were so small we could hardly read
them while standing quite still in full daylight, let alone while bouncing
around in a dark cockpit, speechless with laughter. The route instructions
took a bewildering variety of forms: sometimes maps, sometimes tulips with
directions, then tulips without directions and so on. Just as we cracked one
format it changed to another, but it did get our brains working.
That said, we paid little attention
to the stopwatch. I hadn’t had the opportunity to explain rally timing to Julie
so we decided that a finish was ambitious enough. When we did try timing a
section we were 10 minutes late and had no idea why until later someone told us
about an amendment advising us to ignore the road book timing on that section. Oh
well. More cake?
Making the best of things is what
rallying is all about, so we lived in the moment and enjoyed it immensely. One
forest section in particular was amazing as I have never driven in such conditions;
with slippery mud and gravel beneath, a large drop to the right and a high bank
on our left we really had to pay attention. The farm tracks and gravel were
more like VSCC Trials for mud and roughness so we didn’t push too hard as we knew
we had to drive the old girl all the way home to Surrey. Still we had to kick
on to keep up and we must have been more or less on time as we saw few other
cars en route, until I needed a pee and (you guessed it) bared my bum to the next
We were pleased to finish on Sunday after 948 miles without damage or injury, albeit in 28th place
overall, which was at least better than the 10 crews who unfortunately succumbed
to mechanical problems (including the racy Wenman boys). You can peruse the results in detail here.
We would like to thank Clerk of the Course Roger Hunt and everyone
on the VCRR organising team, and of course our fellow competitors. Everyone was really
friendly, generous with their knowledge and happy help any way they could. It
was all a great laugh and a challenge well met. Would we do it again? Definitely.
Indeed I think Julie has managed to find a fully prepared rally-spec Anglia
that needs a new home, and is already developing a new high-performance cake formula.
Early entries are already being
accepted for the next Tour of Wessex, scheduled for 5-7 February 2016. The
regulations will be published shortly, so keep an eye on the VCRR website for more
Back to Rally Round work now, as we
continue to prepare for November’s thrilling Thunder Dragon Rally to Buhtan (entries
are still open) and next year’s Paris-Vienna and Haka Classic, not to mention a
few exciting new ideas we have in the pipeline. We trust the sun will shine on all of them!