The Great Bustard Endurance Road Rally. And what a rally it was!
I’m still new to the Endurance events but they are a great type of event with a mixture of ‘stage’ and ‘road’ rallies into one! After a good result on my first Endurance event, the Exmoor 2012 with Si Stanbury, taking a class award, the more recent DNF on the South West Endurance was in the back of my mind. Was time to get another result under the hatchet!
After catching up with a few friends in the pub on Friday night down in Devon I was a bit reluctant to get up so early on Saturday morning! It was only an hours drive up the A303 from my parents house but still planned to meet my Driver for the day (Colin Davies) at the trailer park at 10:30 to save running around dropping cars back there. A small accident on the A30 on the way meant I was running a bit late, hopefully this wasn’t a sign of things to come!
Arrived at the Trailer Park at 11:00am to meet Colin. Car’s and trailers were not allowed to be kept at the start venue due to the small car park, so thought it would be best to leave the car down there! First off we went through the car wash, yes car wash! A recent tree disease spreading across the area and the threat of the cars spreading it around meant the lower parts of the cars had to be washed to help contain the disease in one place. Noise, Scruitineering and Signing on all went as planned (although Colin needs to alter his handbrake before the next event, only a small thing though so we were still allowed to run). When we arrived at the start venue (The Huntsman at Shepton Mallet, nice little pub!) I could understand why trailers were not allowed to be left there.After setting the measured mile, there was no space at all in the car park. But there were at least 2 trailers in the car park. I did feel sorry for the pub as I did see at least 2 potential customers turn up and leave due to no space, maybe a bit more strict on trailers next time!
Anyway, on with the rally!
We got our road book an hour before the MTC1 time, so had enough time to look over what the plan was for the day! Looked a long old event! Starting at MTC0 at 12:26 Saturday and finishing at 05:31 Sunday morning. It was a long old route and also a nice 14.09 test across Worthy Farm (Home of Glastonbury Festival) to start the event off! Talk about easing us in lightly…
What a brilliant start to the event though! It just kept going and going! 2 Split’s with 1 large loop ran twice, several 90 rights and lefts, couple jumps and a lot of spinning around. Not just for us! I’m not the biggest fan of Tulips, but with the mileage noted down and a trip meter (Luxury!) it was easy enough to figure out what was where. I’m not sure if we had a problem with the trip, or the measured miles were wrong, or if the amount of wheel spin was putting us off, but the further the went into the test the more inaccurate the section miles became. But still easy enough to figure out what was where! The Clark’s behind us in car 27 soon caught us up half way through the test and flew past, they were flying! It was also a bit gutting to see people on the side of the road so early on in the event! One I noticed was Gary Ward & Gavin Rogers on the first loop, bad luck guys!
After Worthy there was a short drive down to Selective 2, losing the Clark’s along the way turning right at a T-Junction instead of left! (Come on Georgina!) And onto ‘Car Park’. This felt a little bit of a let down after the awesome first test to be honest! But Worthy is a great place to rack up the mileage! Very short compared and a little rougher in places. But still good to get some offroad miles in! This was run twice and then onto Selective 4 & 5 at Wyke Farm.
This test was on a concrete farm track so we could pick up some speed. There was a nasty hole on the inside of the long 45 left which gave us a bit of a knock, but it was noted down for the next run! Also very slippy in the farm yard with all the cow muck on the floor!
Talking of slippy cow muck… Selective 6 (Witham Hall) was next! This couldn’t really be classed as concrete or tarmac, just a layer of wet slippy muck all over! With a nice little tunnel under a railway line first, then around some cones in a large opening. Here I made a mistake. Leaving my window open! With the wheels turning through the corners a good amount of muck came in through the window! Onto Selective 7, Ashen Copse, now were getting into the rough stuff! Several large holes along the track meant the suspension was bottoming out and the sumpguard and front bumper was hitting the floor several times! We also came across a ditched car being towed out by the guys infront of us! Did hold us up for a minute but it did give us a bit of caution going into the corner the next time through! (Was a 90 left, using tulips you don’t get the corners, just the junctions, so could have easily been taken too quick).
Then another run through Witham Hall and Ashen Copse before moving on to another great blast around Worthy. Exactly the same as Selective 1 so we could push it on this time, knowing where we were going! With the extra speed a couple little sections almost caught us out! Stopping infront of a gate post after getting the front of the car airborne 1.81 miles in and also a slight spin into a field from not having any traction. Also close to the end of the large loop there were some interesting tyre marks leading away from the track! Looked like someone tried to take a 30 right, locked up just before the corner and slip down the field and into a ditch. No car around though so not 100% sure who it was or if they received much damage?!
Selective 11, 12, 13 & 14 were Car Park and Wyke Farm run backwards. Again just the same, this time a little more cut up. Getting away from the 2 runs of Car Park proved a little difficult due to it being on a gravel track on a steep incline. But some good gear work and wheel spinning from Colin got us up there easy enough! Also ‘Baggerman’ was at the end of the selective at the Download point, pointing out nicely to us that we were only a quarter of the way though! By this time it was getting dark and seemed like we had been in the car for a lot longer then we had!
Selective 15 “Slait Barn” was good fun. Smooth gravel around the edges of some fields, totalling 3 miles. Some nice long straights to pick up some speed with some 90’s and a couple slight chicanes to weave the car though! There was 1 split that seemed to catch us for a little while when we gave way to oncoming traffic, for them to slow when they got to the junction as well. A little bit of a confusion and then them not pulling over to let us past kind of made us wish we just went for it in the first place!
Then onto MTC2 at Orchard Park Garden Centre. Was a good chance to get out of the car (been going for around 8 and a half hours by now) and have a bit of a stretch and some food. To be honest, it wasn’t my cup of tea and seemed a little overpriced for what it was, but it was food and I was happy! It also annoys me that there is free tea and coffee but us ‘non-hot-drinkers’ have to pay for a drink. But that’s just me being fussy! A quick glimpse at some provisional results saw us at 20th o/a so far. Anything above seeding is good in my books, so anything above 26th is good for me! No time to hang around, got a rally to do!
A new location now, “Lower Woods”, a nice short run of 2 miles through a forest, again a little too rough for the car so we couldn’t pick up too much speed unfortunately. Again run twice before heading off to 18 which is around the back of Longleat Safari Park. It was pretty dark by this time so as far as I know we could have gone through the Tiger pen, but I didn’t see anything jump out! 18, 19 and 20 were all around the same wooded area and were all again a bit too rough for the car. We did get overtaken by one of the silver Sirion’s during one of the tests. They must be built like a brick… toilet! Bouncing all over the place and flying down the road infront, while we were struggling, banging and rattling and being left for dust! I physically don’t know how the top guys build a car to withstand the speed they were going through these forests! We were well off the pace, yet seemed almost the limit for any type of suspension damper!
Selective 21 was just down the road and was a VERY slippy forestry section. 22 was a nice relief heading back to Slait Barn for some quick smooth driving! And then back through Witham Hall starting at the end and also “Lower Wood” which was an extended version of the previous Lower Wood run backwards. They used the tarmac at the end of the test which was good fun to relieve your backside after going through the rough stuff in the woods!
The next few selectives from here were all what was run previously but the opposite direction. By this time all very cut up. We did have one little moment where we slid down into a ditch on selective 29 which brushed us up against a few tree’s and took our wing mirror hostage, but that was the only damage done!
Onto MTC3 which was at the Garden Centre again. This time we had the lower sections of the car’s washed to get rid of the mud and to help contain the tree disease.
Selectives 32 through to 36 was a new forest to visit just before MTC4. These again were nicer to the cars, being smoother but the lack of grip started to take hostages! The first loop of one selective we were warned at the start about a car on its side, to come across a 106 that had slid off the road and into a ditch, it looked quite deep in. The second loop around less then 100 yards after the 106 was now a MG ZR, again slipped off the road, this time a little deeper then the 106. There wasn’t much forestry to go so we backed it off a little to make sure we got to the end and onto the road sections.
Then onto MTC4 for fuel halt and to sort out the Road Rally section. That was it of the selectives! But not of the forests… By this time we had been in the car for around 13 and a half hours! It was getting to the point were we just wanted to get to the finish and have a rest! There was a little while to wait at MTC4 while we plotted some of the road rally route and also worked out some of the times, so this was a good little point to relax before the final blast! The 8 figure map references did stump me for a short time, but it just turned out to be very accurate and not rounded to the nearest half mark.
The first section after petrol was a small Jogularity section. I had only done a small section of Regularity on a 12 car before this was a little nervous about tackling it on a proper event! I actully enjoyed the Jogularity section! It was good to have points marked in the map book (such as sign posts, bridges and buildings) so that you could keep track of how fast you were going along the route. Again all on tulips so it got a little confusing when arriving at triangles due to the it being in the book as 3 tulips (Slot right, T junction left, control) and not the whole tulip. Losing a total of 30 seconds in total, which I don’t think was too bad for a first true run at Jogularity.
Then onto a marked map through some of the forests that we had previously used, as well as one new one. This was, in my opinion, the worst part about the whole event. With a potti, rattling through the forests the maps were not clear enough in my opinion. It was very hard to follow the route on the map and I ended up giving up and looked out for tyre marks, luckily we could follow the tracks on the floor and somehow managed to get through going the right way! I think it was pure luck to be honest as we did pass a couple others who had gone off route and got stuck trying to turn around! Anyway, enough of that section! We were out and getting close to the finish!
A proper Regularity this time, plotted on the map and only the start and finish marked. This I struggled with, figuring out in my head if we had to speed up or slow down when looking at the stop watch and the trip did confuse me a little. I don’t think the tiredness helped! Losing 7 minutes and 15 seconds in total across the who regularity, not the best of attempts! Got to say, fair play to Matthew Fowle! 28 seconds off in total! Mindblowing to me! But practice makes perfect! Hopefully the next time I should be a bit more knowledged about it all! Matthew, you need to teach me! Ha ha!
After the regularity it was back into Worthy Farm in the dark! On tulips again, with a few looking different so not the same route as the previous two runs through.Was all going well (bar the trip not being synced again) until we got to tulip 21. As you can see on the photo, it was through a gateway, miss a slot right and then slot 90 right. This was going past the Pyramid stage which is up for the whole year round. There is little to no grass around the back of the stage so it doesn’t look like the 2 miss slots which was before the gateway. But I remembered this from selective’s 1 and 10 running the opposite direction, it didn’t look quite right then but we just followed the route and it became apparent. So we missed the stage, went through the gate, there was then a 30 left and then the 2 slots. These were two tracks running either side of a hedgerow and some gaps between to join them (Like tulip 23). So we took the second right and then went to slot through the hedge, but was met by 2 cars coming down that road towards us! So in a bit of a panic we headed up the original road we were on and came across a crossroads. Here I told Colin I didn’t have a clue where we were and within 30 seconds there were 6 or 7 cars all stopped at the same point, all wondering where to go. (Including a Metro with a very long section of blue pipe trialling along behind! Haven’t a clue where he had been!). So we turned around and headed were I originally thought we should have gone, one of the other cars had already done this so we followed them down the road, through the hedge and then back up the other side looking for the 60 right past the pond. There is was, but no pond, so the MG before pulled over to take a look at the map. We carried on and low and behold we came across a big drop down to the left into a pond. We were going the right way! 90 left and there was PC E, then back out to where we were parked earlier, still 4 cars parked there, so we slalomed our way through the parked cars and followed the tulips, feeling slightly proud that we got the right way and others didn’t! After we flew past them all at speed they soon all gave chance, following us, hoping we were going right.
We almost missed a sneaky little slot right going into TC10 which would have given us a wrong approach, but luckily we saw it in time and managed to get the correct approach!
Then again back onto the maps, missing a slot right early on annoyed me as the road rally section was meant to be my forte! PCG was a little interesting to turn up to on a miss a slot right, to have a MG ZR coming at us flat out from the slot!
We soon passed Chris Elkins & Liam Burns ditched on the side of the road (apparently, Liam said we did!). These two were on for the win before this section of bumpy tarmac threw them off to the side and beached the car until a friendly farmer pulled them out! Unlucky guys! Next time!
A couple rough whites meant we lot a fair bit of time going into the TC’s, but it was close to the finish, we didn’t want to break the car now!
Then a final section of tulips to guide round the outskirts of Worthy and onto the finish. Here is where I made my biggest mistake of the day. I blame the tiredness! We were running close to OTL and I miss calculated, clocking into TC16 and TC17 1 second late (31 minutes after our due time), giving us a total of 1 hour of penalties for being OTL! Also a tricky slot 90 left into a farm yard caught us out just before TC17, was expecting it to be a junction not a farmyard, but we entered TC17 with the correct approach. Luckily as we turned up to MTC5 early and parked up I noticed my previous mistake! So we clocked in 1 minute before our new due time, giving us 2 minutes penalty for early arrival, but clocking in 59 seconds before OTL. That 1 minute could have ruined our whole day right at the end!
So there it was. 06:15 Sunday morning rocking up at the Highwayman for breakfast! Over 370 miles, over 17 hours in the car and 2 very tired crew members had made it! What a massive test of endurance!
Got to say a HUGE thank you to Colin for driving on the event. So pleased that we made it to the finish! I did think a couple of times we may not with the rough stuff and the trip into a ditch. But we did!
Also I can’t finish without saying well done and thank you to all of the organisers, marshals, land owners and everyone involved in the event! It must have been a HUGE undertaking to get it all sorted! Thank you to the marshals, some of which we saw on many occasions, during the night it was freezing so thank you! Thanks very much to the timing crew. The breakfast crew. And all the other crews! A brilliant and tough event! (Makes the Peak Revs 90 mile route the weekend before seem like a stroll in the park!)
I will hopefully be back next year if there is no major clashes! Hopefully it will be a little smoother, but it has braced me for the Preston this coming weekend!
Thanks again to everyone involved!
Daniel Pidgeon, Nav – Car 26, Vauxhall Corsa (18th o/a)
Thanks to Jason Stone & M&H Photography (www.mandh-photography.co.uk) for all of the photos! Head over to their websites for more photos and for contact details to buy yourself a copy!