Berwick Classic 2013 Review

Berwick MCOur first crack at Classic Rallying was the Devils organised by Kirkby Lonsdale MC.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to do a few more and enter the Ilkley Jubilee.

The Jubilee was in a different class to the Devils. Slick and professional with documentation that was outstanding – we were far from ready for this level of professionalism, and neither was the car, however we learned an enormous amount and decided to have a go at the Berwick Classic. We had also had the benefit of an instructional evening with Mike Garstan at a KLMC night and felt a little more prepared (informed might be a better choice of word the prepared).

The ‘new’ engine got picked up from Paul Gardners on the Tuesday before the event and was fitted on the Wednesday and other than firing it up to put it on the trailer to take up to Berwick we had no idea how it would run.

Paul picked me up from outside the Heaves Hotel on the Saturday morning and we had a very pleasant run over to Belford where we booked into our hotel – the Blue Bell in Belford (18 miles south of Berwick). The hotel turns out to be a brilliant place in a pretty little village and costs a lot less than the Travel Lodge up the road. We unloaded the car from the trailer and set off to Berwick on Tweed for scrutineering and get the first chance to see how the new engine is.

The run up the A1 to Berwick leave us feeling optimistic of our chance (not that we are seriously thinking of a win but an improvement on our seeding – we are seeded at 24 – would be more than acceptable, remember this is only our 3rd go at this type of event! the engine had loads of grunt and revs readily. Wayhey!!!

Scrutineering take forever. The scrutineer seems to be spending a lot of time on each car and the queue moves very slowly. Eventually he speeds up and everyone if through, signed on and ready to go.

We get the road book and find we start with a regularity (mixture of spot heights and 6 fig refs) to get us out for the first test of Saturday night. Regularity 1 shows that I still have not mastered regularities and we are 57s late (the eventual winner Ross Butterworth & Ali Proctor only dropped 6s.) Then its onto the first of the 8 planned evening tests – all to the West & South of Berwick. (would be difficult if any were to the East – that’s the North Sea)

The problem we have is that the test diagrams are not to scale and not exactly as drawn, I am not complaining – its the same on all of the event we have done – you have to be able to quickly adjust between what’s on the ground and what’s on the diagram – the better more experienced crews get it right and us ‘Novices’ struggle. The other problem is that engine – runs brilliant but some of the tests are a little bit tight and when the revs drop below 2000rpm it splutters a bit (well a lot) until we get back up over the 2000rpm mark and there for we can’t the the tail out for the 180 degree’s round the cones and we are dropping 10 to 15s per test (on top of any errors). Paul Gardner is aware and says its a simple fix (re jet the carb) but we will lose about 5bhp (so we will only have 150bhp in future then – we are more then happy to take that).

With one thing and another everything starts to run behind schedule and when we get to the last two tests of the evening it is dark. We fancy the run with spotlights on, but the organisers decide to cancel these two tests. So its back to Wooler and we hand in our time cards. Wooler is only 8 miles from our Hotel. We head back to the Hotel after grabbing Fish & Chips in Wooler (Giant sized portions of Cod for £4.50) and plot the 16 tests that are on for Sunday.

Sunday morning (following an excellent breakfast) sees us on the quayside at Berwick for the rest of the event. A quick chat with a few of the people that we know (and quite a few that I don’t – very sociable these Classic Rallies) and a check to make sure my route tallies with other and we are off – 16 tests to look forward to and two regularities to worry about!

The tests are all to the west and north of Berwick this time and we have the same problem – can’t get the rear to break away if we have had to drop the pace and again we are dropping 10 to 15s per test on these.

After 7 tests its the second regularity. This regularity all takes place on privite land through a wood and the instructions are given in the round book as “AA turn right, BB turn left, CC turn left”… and so it goes on. Must be improving – only dropped 36 secs on this one! Or so I thought – Ross Butterworth/Ali Proctor only dropped 1s.

Then its onto the third and last regularity of the day before we call a halt for lunch. I am dreading this regularity. The instructions read “Sections of the Regularity 3 are on Private road, one section being not as map, All road junctions (including whites) are listed. Follow the instructions given for each in order (plotting on the map is not required) – Cross Roads, straight on : Side Road, turn right : Crossroads, Care, Turn left : Crossroads turn left”… and on it goes (a total of 22 instructions). I am very busy keeping track of the time, watching the trip, consulting the speed tables, telling Paul to slow down and immediately seeming to tell him to get his foot down, looking for side roads, and all the white trying to keep track of where we are on the map in case we make a wrong turn (after all – its lunch next and Paul is looking forward to Lunch). WELL – call it luck but we clean this one – NO PENALTIES. Am I chuffed or what! Trouble is – I am that ecstatic about it that I wrong slot and can’t find the lunch halt venue. Paul is not amused with the possibility of missing lunch. Find my way – eventually – to the halfway halt and lunch.

Lunch over and done with and back on the road – 9 more tests to go and no more regularities, shame that – I am now looking forward to doing them, if only to see if the one that I cleaned was just a fluke (probably was). Then we get to Winterfield Park Test and on on section I call ‘Keep Left > Slalom Rt > Slalom left’ should have been ‘Keep right > Slalom left etc’ WRONG bloody test – Maximum! Bugger and lots of expletives!

Some brilliant test and an absolute cracking event

Organisation brilliant (other then the slow scrutineer)

Back next year without a doubt

We finished 17th O/A and 5th in class out of a field of 54 starters.

Chuffed to bits

Evening meal and awards at the Whitekirk Golf & Country Club (swap a few tall tales with Mike Garstang and Bob Hargreaves – Bob finished 2nd O/A) and then back to the Blue Bell in Belford and after a quick half I am ready for bed – absolutely knackered (its only 10pm – must be getting old!)

You may have noticed that the whole event report seem to revolve around food – can’t think why!

Maurice Ellison – Nav, Car 27 – Ford Escort RS2000