Fraught Weekend for Team Rallycards

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Team first event of the season started at Smeatharpe Airfield near Honiton in Devon which promised an ecleptic mix of cars, including three Metro 6R4s and a Subaru Impreza WRC. There were also a large number of similar 205s which would give us the opportunity to benchmark ourselves against similar machinery.

Having not sat in the car for over 8 months, the nerves were kicking in as we took our position for stage one. The airfield was damp from overnight rain, although the promised heavy rain failed to show. It didn't take too long to get into the grove, although we were slightly surprised by the severity of some of the hairpins. However, pulling out of a chicane halfway through SS1 the car completely cut out, and we coasted to the side. A quick inspection revealed that one of the fuel lines had worked loose. We quickly reconnected the loose pipework, and decided to miss the split of the stage and take a stage maximum, rather than risk it coming loose again.

In service, the necessary repair work was done and we were soon back out on SS2 hoping for a clean run. With the surface drying out, the cornering speeds were higher, but the hand braking around the tight hairpins was harder. We cleared the stage and felt we were starting to set good times. SS3 and SS4 also went well, and we were starting to take back some of the 2 minutes or so we lost from taking the stage maximum.

After lunch, the stages were reversed, and it seemed that the hairpins were tighter than ever. There were a significant number of cars coming back with lost bumpers and bodywork, owing to the speed and number of lorry tyres on the tighter corners. On SS6 we cut a hairpin too tight and managed to get a lorry tyre wedged between the wheel and the arch. Some careful manoeuvring got it removed, but more time was lost.

We were hoping to have a cleaner run for the last two stages, but it wasn’t to be. As we pulled onto the start line of the final stage, the clutch cable snapped and we were to go no further. It was an unfortunate ending to what had been an enjoyable, but fraught day. Analysis of the stage times has been encouraging, and we will be out on the stages again in April at Down Ampney.

Gareth Lay and Andy Tomlinson.