Thursday, 18 April 2013

Saturday April 13th- Club Triumph Historic Counties Rally.

Instead of doing what I should have been doing this particular morning, which was checking Gertie over before the HCR, I was playing with the Red Shed in an attempt to get her running better. A ‘Eureka’ moment on Friday night made me realise that the wrong rotor arm was fitted. I know I fitted the last one, but I'd replaced it ‘like for like’ with one that was already on there! I should have realised at the time. The wrong rotor arm was longer than the one that should have been on there and was therefore cutting into the contacts on the distributor cap. With new parts fitted, the Red Shed was fired up and the running was much improved.
Right! Time to concentrate on Gertie now before I run out of time. Oils, waters and fluids were checked, a few tools and spares were loaded and she was ready for the off. Time to head indoors for an afternoon siesta before the long night. Co-driver Darren Sharp arrived at 3pm and we were soon on our way to the start at Soham in Cambridgeshire. Our third crew member Ashley Mills was already there and pretty soon the three of us were buried in maps and note books.
The historic counties rally is similar to a scatter rally where you have to collect points for counties and points of interest visited. It’s not possible to collect everything on the lists given, but a lot of crews try their best to!
After food, we headed down to the auto test site where we took park in three tests. I won’t say competed, because we were crap awful and made a pig’s ear of all of them! We did provide a bit of entertainment on the third test though by spending more time going backwards and sideways than forwards!
With this done we set out on our planned route which took us from Cambridgeshire over to Suffolk, Grimes Grave in Norfolk before dropping down in to Essex to grab points at Castle Hedingham, Finchingfield and Newport. This part of the run took place in torrential rain and with the darkness closing in the pitch black country lanes were quite challenging. After Essex we then headed west over towards Cottered to Hertfordshire before jumping on the A1 and heading north again to grab the counties of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and finally to the halfway point at Ferrybridge services in West Yorkshire.
While Ash and Darren were handing our time card in, I was having a play with Gertie and adjusting the tick over. For some reason the idle had turned itself down and needed a boost.

With our mandatory break taken we were given the clues for the second half. With some mad plotting to be done again we set off for the North East. Our first stop was the city of York and then up to somewhere called Sutton Bank. This was a hairpin bend on a 25% gradient that apparently causes major headaches for caravans and blockages for HGV’s! After leaving the very foggy hilltop we then travelled through Thirsk, Teesside, Darlington, County Durham, and then ventured up to Northumberland.
It was while we were going across the A69 near Hexham that we thought our rally was over when a massive vibration started coming through the rear of the car. Ash had said that he’d felt a vibration earlier, but Gertie does have a small vibration at a certain speed so I’d just dismissed it. A quick check of the wheel nuts showed that they were all tight, but the ‘wobble’ was still there. We then found a safer place to stop and had a proper check round. Darren managed to find a lump in the tread on the tyre on the nearside rear. So, the boot was emptied of tools, spares, fruit and energy drinks (More about the energy drinks later!) and a wheel change was made.
(Team Gertie pit crew) :) 

This must have cost us about half hour all told so we decided to skip a couple of places we had plotted and head north for Hadrian’s Wall.
This was a fantastic driving road and made even more beautiful by it just beginning to get light. Two more points of interest were collected here and we then headed across to Carlisle (Cumbria) and north again to Gretna Green in Scotland (Dumfries and Galloway)

We opted not to go for The Scottish borders county as we were keeping an eye on the time, although it turns out we would have had plenty of time in the end. Never mind. A run south down the M6 was next on the agenda before turning off at junction 39 to run down the A6 through Kendal. This road was so impressive that I’m going to come back up this way when I do the International Auto Ecosse in June. Another two points were gained and then we made tracks for Barnoldswick in Lancashire for the finish. Not far from the finish the energy drinks got the better of Darren who by now was quoting all the dialogues from the Monty Python films and singing the theme to Coronation Street in a Kenneth Williams style voice! Very Bizarre! (We’ve told him he’s not allowed any Red Bull for the next run)

A well deserved hearty breakfast at The Old Stone Trough was demolished while the results were calculated and we finally learned that we had come in seventh. A good result, but we know that we could done better if not the wheel issue and by calculating the time we had left a bit better.

By now we were all pretty knackered and we still had a 250 mile drive home to contend with. All in all I reckon we must have covered close on, if not over a 1000 miles this weekend. There can’t be many other club events where you can start in Cambridge, finish in Lancashire, and visit Scotland  in between! All inside 14 hours too!
We'd had a fantastic time and all of us really enjoyed ourselves. We worked well as a crew and once again Gertie was ultra reliable. (You can’t really blame here for a tyre going square shaped)  She’s got a couple of weeks rest before the next Friday night rally on the 26th April. Time to get another tyre sorted out then. J

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