Following a lacklustre performance on the RAC where I didn’t seem to be able to get on the pace at all, I was determined to do a little better in the Riponian. Rob Hart was once again on board as navigator, now on his fourth ever rally and the second time in the forests so gaining in experience rapidly.
The entry list was quite impressive quite a selection of quick Historics and the usual class C crowd including Jonathan Kitchen and Curly Haigh.
The rendition of Abba’s Waterloo was anticipated but didn’t happen as the start line was some distance from the ATC and we were all strapped in and busy at the start. Following the usual ridicule and un-necessary advice from Calder Rescue (Richard Ashton usually gives advice such as “It’s that way” or “watch out for the trees” )we were on our way on to what we had been warned was a very slippery stage. The descent to the hairpin was grippy but as we reached the braking point, the surface turned to ice and I was knitting socks trying to keep her on the track and get her stopped. I spun it at the bend and the 180 had us pointing the way we came; a further 270 was required to get me pointing the right way and this was overcooked and had us pointing at the inside of the bend again. A few words to myself about calming down and we slithered our way through the rest of the stage experimenting with the differing amounts of grip available to us. Remarkably, we exited in 21st position but were 5th in class and were also being beaten by eight of the historics.
I had a phone call from Matt Coggins who was marshalling in the stage saying that I should consider snow tyres in here. As we hadn’t brought any, we were stuck with the knobblies. We climbed the hill from the start to the top of the ridge where we encountered what must have been at least a foot of well compacted snow which had now turned to sheet ice. With the back end flailing about and very little grip or steering I soldiered on. Very cautious not to hit the bridge (again) and flat out down the straights past Coggs and his Barnsley College team and out of the stage, I was quite pleased with our pace and learned that we were 8th quickest in there and now up to 3rd in class and 13th overall.
SS3 Riccall Dale
Possibly my least favourite stage and the one I am least familiar with but we soldiered on. I discovered a cut on some grass was not actually a cut but was hiding a small stream so we were launched skywards in a buttock clenching moment and the rough, car trial type climb up to the hairpin had not improved. We stopped the clocks with a 12th quickest stage time and had climbed to 12th and were holding station with the class leaders, about 15 seconds behind leader Andy Gibson and second placed Martyn Hawkswell.
SS4 Pry Rigg
I still think Sproxton is a better name for this stage and it also brings back memories of the old RACs and National Breakdown rallies of the 80s. From the start, the stage was relatively grippy on the wet gravel but on rounding the first 90 right into the trees, the tracks were snow covered and treacherous. We carried on a t some pace until a few hundred yards from the flying finish, I had hung the back out on a long left hander and was setting it up for the next right hander. The corner was a little too far away to use the pendulum effect and as I straightened it up, the car understeered on to a patch of grass. Rather than add drama to the situation trying to fight it, I let the car come to a stop and stuck it in reverse whereby the back wheels simply dug themselves holes in the mud below where the belly pan beached itself.
We had enough marshals plus ourselves so could physically lift the car out of the holes where we could reverse back with the aid of a little shove. We were off the road for about 10 minutes taking a maximum which meant we only lost two minutes.
SS5 College Moor
Possibly my favourite stage and to be honest, I entered it a little angry with myself. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive through here and it sort of made up, mentally for the previous stage. Absolutely on the limit and a respectable 10th overall. We had dropped down to 36th overall but this stage brought us back up to 32nd, not that we were in with a shout of a result now.
We started Boltby with exuberance and soon had it knocked out of us as we came across a particularly icy stretch and went straight on, heading for a tree. Luckily we hit a big pile of muck before we reached the tree and it brought us to a halt with expense to the steering rather than the front end of the car. Although we were bogged, the two marshals on the scene were able to push us off and we continued through the stage with damaged steering. We dropped .
Pud worked his magic on the steering and the broken track rod end was replaced with one supplied by Curly Haigh, cheers Curly. And we were all set for a repeat of the morning’s stages.
We dropped no further places in Boltby and by the end of Waterloo (Deer Park to the older generation) we had climbed to 28th. The stage was even more slippery than the morning’s run with the icy surface now polished.
On it from the start and paying little attention to the ice, we soldiered on setting 9th quickest stage time and climbing back up to 22nd overall and 6th in class.
SS9 Riccall Dale
I actually enjoyed this stage for the first time in my life but was still pleased to see the finish. With over a minute to the car in front of us, it was now highly unlikely that we would make any places up so we remained in 22nd
SS10 Pry Rigg
We struggled to see how we possibly got it wrong on the first run through here as the car turned in perfectly for Our Corner. A toot of appreciation to the marshals was responded to with waves of approval (and some not so approving) and we continued to College Moor.
SS11 College Moor
As we were now playing to the crowds, any chance of a quick stage time was thwarted by a couple of spins but we were still quick enough to maintain our position; but wait! Who was the guy parked up repairing a broken wheel in that stage? For the second year in a row, Kitch had retired in College Moor. This time a wheel had broken in two and although repairable, he was OTL when he came out of the stage. 21st overall and 5th in class.
Unlike our off in Pry Rigg, it was easy to see how we’d gone off in Boltby and many more had been in the same hole. In fact, at the dramatically reduced speed we still nearly came a cropper this time.
Back to the finish and we were confirmed as 21st overall and 5th in class. We had continued to eek away at the lead the cars in front held but not enough. If we hadn’t had the two offs, then we were on the pace of the class leaders so would certainly have been in with a shout, but we weren’t. So there. Proper enjoyable rally and a must for 2014.
Cheers to Pud and Nige Bywater for running Chase and to Rob for sitting at the side of me.