Le Jog: 5 letters that simultaneously fill you with trepidation and excitement. There was never any real doubt about whether I was going to do the event, but as per usual with events that run through the night there was that brief moment of consideration: did I really want to put myself through that pain again? The struggle to keep your eyes open, the extraordinary amounts of chocolate and fizzy drinks consumed to try and stop the numbers swimming in front of your eyes, and then the days of recovery afterwards. Why wouldn’t you? So of course when Roger Tushingham asked me if I wanted to do the event this year the answer was 100%, unequivocally YES!
For those that haven’t realised yet, Le Jog is a 4 day event, (or day and night event) going from Land’s End up to John O’Groats through as many of the tiny, winding lanes as feasibly possible, alright for us in the little, maneuverable MG B, but for those crews in the vintage cars this must present more of a challenge. Personally speaking I’m not sure this event needed to be made yet more challenging with the addition of being in a pre-war car with no roof, so huge amounts of respect to those crews, what an undertaking!
Of course, as normally happens for me with Le Jog, there were a few logistical issues. Namely in the form of my university dissertation, luckily after much grovelling and bigging up the event I managed to convince my supervisor I wasn’t really required to go to these “compulsory”, assessed presentations and I could leave on Thursday evening. So that problem solved, I turned up at Land’s End Hotel just as signing on was finishing on Friday afternoon and sat down to do the plotting – of which there was rather a lot. Many cups of tea, mince pies and hours of deliberation later the plotting was done and I’d come to the conclusion that it was right… either that or rather a number of us were going the wrong way, we’d just have to wait and see. Now off to the hotel for a relaxing swim and a beer before the last solid nights sleep for rather a while.
Saturday morning came around far too quickly and soon enough we were back at the Lands End Hotel, queuing anxiously awaiting our minute. We were due to start with one test as normal in the hotel car park before a regularity to wake us up properly and try and catch out those of us still asleep (normally me!), followed by a couple more tests and some well needed coffee. Of course the first challenge after getting your minute is trying to get the harness on and everything organised before pulling into the test start; success – thank goodness! A quick blast around the car park with a very respectable time of 1:34, first in class therefore 0:00 penalty, excellent work Roger.
And into reg… Time for me to wake up I guess. Nothing too complicated on the maps but the jogularity notes showed a sneaky trick to contend with, better make sure the trips are reading bang on. As those of you who have had the pleasure of doing any event run by Guy Woodcock will know, the secret is in the details and sure enough when it appeared the control was in a tiny lay-by, a quick nip in and out, get the time and go again, nice and steady to the final control: 1s late, 1s early, bang on. Not bad for the first reg, that could have gone a lot worse. Now then wasn’t it about time something went wrong?
Ohh yes, so it was. Two long, complicated car park tests. “Nice and easy, long way to go yet”, okay so maybe that’s not what I said, since when has a Henchoz ever said take it easy? Nice flowing test, nothing too complicated, apart from the finish. We went for a flying finish… which is not how it works on HERO events? Well, lets gloss over that, first standard dropped but long way to go and it certainly isn’t going to be the last one dropped.
The rest of the day progressed smoothly, the pressure mounting slightly as I waited for the inevitable major navigational hiccup to occur. As darkness fell we made our way towards Caerwent for some notoriously difficult navigation in the dark with what feels like a million and one slots that could all potentially be the one you wanted – this could be a laugh. 3 tests to warm up with and despite my moment of wanting to settle down in the barn with the sheep for the night on the 2nd test (twice!) we still managed to come out with only 6 seconds picked up over all 3 tests. The MG proving it’s worth yet again! And into the private land reg start… How badly could this go? The whole reg on tulips, most junctions only a couple of 100th’s of a mile apart, cars going all over the place: trust the trips and don’t follow the car in front. It became rather frantic in the car as I tried to calculate how late we were coming into controls, count into junctions to get the right one, adjust the trips to keep them right and work out how behind we were, so for most of the reg I don’t remember a whole lot other than slippy mud, numbers and going rather quick. Oh, and it was absolutely fantastic! The second to last control was incredibly sneaky, as we approached the slot left 2 cars were loitering trying to work out which way to go. “Left”, “Sure?” “Yes!”, sneak between the two cars and immediately “Right and left” “Really….?” we slotted onto this track that barely constituted a footpath let alone something a car should be on but sure enough under a bridge, road bends left and into control. 28s late, I’ll take that. Still on reg and out onto the public road, the difficulty as you exit places like Caerwent is to manage to drop the speed, you’re so used to going like hell that it’s very hard to slow it back down. Sure enough the final control 4early, which compared to the rest of the penalties on the reg is perfectly fine really. No minutes picked up which we took as rather a personal win.
Now well into the cover of darkness we started negotiating the winding Welsh lanes, navigating some fantastic roads and negotiating the tricky slots. Having done very little rallying in Wales this was something of an experience and I have to say easily my favourite part of the rally. Finally pulling into the coffee halt at midnight we parked up and I gave the car opposite us a funny look. There’s no PV’s out on this event. Actually, that number plate is familiar. Actually that’s our car! Sure enough manning the control was rather an excess of Henchoz, including the one who got the most attention: Jessica the Spaniel.
As we clocked in we got handed the individual report for Leg 1: Bronze status, 1st in class, 1st overall. Wait, that can’t be right. Car number? 27. Have I read it right? Yes, we’re first. Well, that won’t last the night!
Into the two TC sections, at least the times are easy. Just stay on top of the maps. One very tricky slot left into what looked like a farmyard but was in fact a yellow, understandably caught a number of people out, but thankfully my convictions held with only a slight moment of hesitation. Lots of amusement at the controls as first I yelled at Simon Frost thinking he was going to chip my time-card a minute early, obviously he knew exactly what minute I wanted – marginally embarrassing. A bit later a packet of Wine Gums appeared through the window from Paul Dyas, nice bit of energy to keep us going.
I couldn’t say what time we finally arrived at the hotel but being so hyped on adrenaline getting to sleep was rather difficult leading to a very minimalist 3 hours sleep. Up again and ready for another day making our way across from Telford through Yorkshire and up to Slaley Hall for a proper nights sleep. The first reg held up to traditional expectations, if you weren’t fully awake it was going to be a struggle. But luckily I’d had 3 cups of tea! 5 controls and a secret check, lots of private land controls and nasty, close together junctions. Oh and I had a chat with the marshal at the secret check, might account for the 57s we got at the next control…
Into 3 more tests coming 3rd, 1st and 3rd in class, going well! Nice and steady for the rest of the morning, that’s what we want.
Leaving lunch however was where it finally went wrong. In the peak district now and home turf: areas I know very well from rather an obscene amount of time spent there climbing. Out of lunch I start plotting “Stay on this road”. The words I would live to regret. 6km later we arrived at a junction about 100m from where we should have come out. The priority road changed from the A road to the B road unlike what the map said, what if there was a secret check? All the way back down, slot hair pin left, all the way back up, now for an organiser’s reroute. Enter reg within 2 minutes of OTL: 9s picked up over the whole reg. Rapid transport to the next reg, 5’ within OTL. Fantastic run on that reg and as we pull into the control at the end of the white, counting in “5,4,3,2,1,stop.”, time-card out the window and oh… pork pies in! Most excellent, and couldn’t have come at a better time as we were running so close to OTL stopping at the coffee halt wasn’t an option. Pork pies on the fly, credit definitely due to Niall Frost for those which kept us going through the next 3 regs. Definitely made it a lot easier when we weren’t focusing on how hungry we were.
The next day saw a minor hiccup on my part, I thought the important information was definitely going over the bridge, clearly I thought he slot left immediately after it was a need to know basis. Quick reverse and left, oh dear: local car on single track road. Well we’d been so lucky up until that point we had to get caught behind public traffic eventually. 55s picked up at the control immediately after the car, a marginally silly feeling and fairly embarrassed navigator.
The final 3 regs of the day leading into Fort William took us all the way down the B8074, easy navigation, no roads coming off it all the way down into end of reg, whole reg at 30mph. This road must be awkward. Sure enough as we came up to the first control there was the couple in the Bentley negotiating their way out of a ditch, thankfully they managed. We were certainly rooting for them (I’m sure everyone was): anyone that can do this event with their partner I have serious respect for, that’s a relationship that will last. But in an open roof Bentley, serious amounts of respect!
The first of our 3 most satisfying regs of the rally done: 2s total. We now headed onto the next one, only one junction, lots of speed changes: 1s total. And finally to the last reg of the evening and bang on at the first control, “over bridge then slot left”, but that was a farm yard, spin the car around, out the farm yard… and there’s another bridge not marked on the map, typical! Left we go, adjust the trip and bang on in the next control. One to go, can we make a clean reg? Pressure mounting, butterflies making themselves known, could it happen? Enter control. Marshal reads the time. Dead on! Clean reg! Happy navigator and much jubilation. The marshal thought it was very funny, glad we were amusing people along the way. Now we just had to make it through the rest of the night and the infamous Loch Ness Monster reg after a two hour break at Fort William.
49.21 miles long. 1:47:06 hours (if you got it all right). Middle of the night and I’d decided ages ago that bothering to try to kip at Fort William was going to leave me in a far worse state so no sleep for me. Let’s go! Thankfully we got given a marked map as we left the hotel so no panic about mis-plotting, just mis-navigating. At first glance the roads didn’t look so bad, on and off the B roads a lot. Look closer… and as it turns out there’s very little to distinguish where on the B road you are and how close to the slots you where: havoc ensued as cars went all sorts of odd directions trying to find the right road. I had been warned of a sneaky slot as you turn away from the Loch, “The Corkscrew” as I am told it’s called. The map shows 2 hairpins going up a steep incline, in fact there are 8 and low and behold who can guess where the control was placed? At the end of them. Sadly going up here we passed the final vintageant left on the event: the couple in the Bentley, broken driveshaft. So close to the end and not only that but at the point when it wasn’t going to rain any more. A real shame!
As the early hours of the morning slowly rolled in, 23h since we got out of bed, I started to find myself drifting off mid reg, trying to focus on the trips and still feeling my eyes shutting. Rooting around in the bags for water mid reg to try and stay awake, that failed too. In the end what actually woke me up was the queue of 4 competitors we caught that shocked me awake. So thank you to all of them since I was very much in danger of going to sleep, and thank you to them all for pulling over instantaneously. One of the things that can make or break an event is the competitors both on the road and at the bar and I must say this event excelled in both areas and the final dinner was very sociable. Considering the lack of sleep everyone had gotten the bar was certainly not lacking. A fantastic event, so many thanks to all the marshals for making it possible and standing out in all weather and hours and now I’ve finally recovered I look forward to it all again next year.
Thanks of course to Roger and a thoroughly prep’d car, I’m sure she’ll be looking forward to a nice warm garage now and some tlc.
Amy Henchoz, Car 27 – MG B GT, Gold Medal Winner
Thanks to Blue Passion Photo (www.francescorastrelli.com), HERO (heroevents.eu), Petrolicious (petrolicious.com), Race & Rally Motorsport Photography (www.raceandrally.co.uk), Retro-Speed (www.retro-speed.co.uk), RallySport Media (www.rallysportmedia.com), Tony Large (www.tonylarge.net) & Will Broadhead Photography (www.facebook.com/willbroadheadphoto) for all of the images. Make sure you check out their pages for more examples and for details on how to purchase yourself a copy!