The event is unique and like no other I’ve competed on before. The route uses the gravel tank roads over Salisbury Plain, by kinda permission from the Ministry of Defence. The area has very little to define where you are and a maze of roads making the navigation very hard, but very satisfying when you get the correct road and find the hidden codeboard. With the gravel roads its great fun for the driver, with several people not necessarily looking for a result, just enjoying the opportunity to drive on these roads.
As usual the event started at Fussell Wadman Peugeot on the outskirts of Devizes. With the hard navigation and roads used that aren’t even on the map the event uses marked maps that are handed out at MTC1 out of the start carpark. The run out of town took the competing cars near Erlestoke to TC2 and then enter the Plain. Unfortunately the marked maps did miss off PC1 which was a triangle, but it was clear what was to be done when we arrived (I think the wrong approach penalty for Paul Dove & Henry Gordon was a little harsh because of this). An extremely quick straight road took the crews down to TC3 with several codeboard and triangles put in place to slow the crews down. A short trip down the A360 took the crews to Tilshead and back onto the gravel. A large loop then jumped back over the main road and then into a tricky section with 2 parallel roads where you had to drive down one and then find the PC between them and slot back down the other. Just around the corner was a cautioned watersplash, which was a little surprising with the lack of rain and amount of dust around, but hitting it quickly could have been costly. Unfortunately Dave Clifford & Peter Blackett did this and had clutch problems thereafter, causing them to retire before petrol. Several crews were clean into TC6 including the Semi-Expert crew of Rob Fields & Nick Clarke, class 3 currently being led by Gareth Andrews & Luke Quinnell only dropping 1 minute.
Then into a couple tests around a small group of buildings. it’s been used for previous years so returning crews had an idea of where to go. Unfortunately due to a split in the middle the dust proved quite dangerous for some crews who got caught in it, slowing down to crawling speeds. The Newtown and District MC crew of Mark Lennox & Ian Beamond were quickest through the first run in their Ford Anglia, with Mark Banham & David Smalley just a few seconds behind.
The test was run twice with the end of the diagram showing to turn left towards the second running. Somehow we managed to miss this turn due to it being at the finish of the test and the marshals standing in front of the arrow (we were not expecting it to be so close) so we lost around 10 minutes while we went down the road and got extremely lost, luckily this was on a neutral so we just had to watch the OTL time. By the time we had got to the start of the second test there was a huge crew of cars in front and also the guys doing the first run through, which pushed us 2 minutes OTL when starting the test. The second run was better for us with a clearer sight so we could push a little quicker. Quickest on the second loop were Phil Harris and Liam Burns in the Mitsubishi Evo, with Banham/Smalley completing it in another quick time. Jonathan Stimpson & Ian Graham were leading after the second test with Rob Fields & Nick Clarke leading class 2 (also 3rd overall) and Gareth Andrews & Luke Quinnell holding onto class 3.
The route then looped around above Larkhill with a few instructions that were a little hard to interpret, possibly a couple arrows or a NAM diagram would have been better in this situation. A short fast section after TC8 on tarmac felt a little odd after the gravel but was nice to open the car up a little. The route headed south towards Bulford Camp, this is were we picked up our problem, a ‘caution rough’ section was taken slowly and then smoothed out so we put our foot back down, looking for a slot 90 left we hit a hole that stopped the car dead, winding me and turning me into deadweight for the next couple minutes. A diagram around a grid section was fun, with short strights and then 90’s around a open field. The tracks then headed up towards the edge of Tidworth Camp and into a neutral section. Now being 12 minutes OTL due to problems and also the queue at the test, we cut to petrol to try and make up some time. Other crews completed a small loop with a few triangles below Tidworth and then headed to petrol.
On the neutral we came across Roger Holder & Peter Barnard with a Ball Joint broken on a roundabout, then we picked up a puncture on the A303 while trying to get back to petrol within OTL. Luckily when we got into Petrol we were told that the section would be looked into and that all crews could carry on. After closer inspection at petrol it was game over for us though, having cracked the bulkhead around the strut mount, the car didn’t feel ‘together’ heading down the A303, so we called it a day rather then possibly ending it badly later on in the night. Later on they had scrapped all the sections from the end of the second test to petrol to remove the OTL problems, so all crews that were still going could carry on. So this left Jonathan Stimpson & Ian Graham leading at Petrol with class 2’s Rob Fields & Nick Clarke now up to second after David Thorpe & Andrew Lowe picked up a 30 minute penalty for a wrong approach into petrol (again, a little harsh in my eyes due to there being no diagram), 3rd being taken by Dave & Ross Whittock. In class 2 Paul Prance & Derek Drayton were in second over a minute behind 1st and Lucas Redwood & Rob Newell currently third in class. Class 3 was still being lead by Gareth Andrews & Luke Quinnell with ASWMC championship rivals Tom Pile & Mark Butler close behind and Alex Reynolds & Jordon Reynolds bringing in the Toyota Corolla in 3rd.
After petrol the crews headed back through Tidworth and slotted back onto the Plain. A couple small sections through some forests saw a few crews miss codeboards before heading back out to the open tank roads. The route went back and fourth around the A342 before heading down to test 3 and 4, with only test 4 being run due to time and dust. With all the penalties from some crews Mark Turner & Richard Pashley now had the lead with Chris Elkins & Mark Appleton just 13 seconds behind. Rob Fields & Nick Clarke were still in front of class two and down to 3rd overall with Alex Reynolds & Jordon Reynolds now taking the lead in class 3.
This was around a small training village for the army, from speaking to some crews it was easy to get lost in here, getting the correct route around each building was crucial. The Citroen AX GTi crew of Chris Elkins & Mark Appleton were quickest through the test with a time of 3m2s. Second was Paul Sharp & David Bell on 3m12s and just 4 seconds behind were John Considine & Glynn Hayward in the 205. Keith Lane & Martin Lane in the small Ford Ka were quickest novices with a time of just 3m19s.
Elkins/Appleton were now leading by 10 seconds over Turner/Pashley with 2013 winners Phil Harris & Liam Burns now up to third over 4 minutes behind. Fields/Clarke were still leading class 2 but Chris Pratt & Jeff Brown were now just 50 seconds behind. Reynolds/Reynolds were still ontop of class 3 with a lead of over 30 minutes!
Back onto the gravel and the crews headed south back towards Tidworth Camp before heading across the map and hopping over the A345 again. The route then sped north with what looks like a very fast section, with several triangles and codeboards thrown in to slow the crews down. An extra was to slow the crews down on this event is to put the short 3/4 letter codeboards at 90 degrees to the road behind a organe triangle, so you couldn’t read it at a distance and speed past. I think each crew have their own way of reading them, with the roads so wide the rear wheel or 4 wheel drive people sliding past at an angle for a quick glance and then straighten up to head down the road.
A short neutral section took the cars through Urchfont before heading back to NTC26, several crews having problems in this section with several penalties picked up from all classes. Turner/Pashley has regained the lead with Elkins/Appleton dropping 7 minutes and missing a codeboard (10 minute penalty), Pratt/Brown had now taken the lead in class 2 being one of few crews to get every board, Reynolds/Reynolds still holding a class 3 lead of almost 30 minutes.
The final short section took crews down below Market Lavington visiting a few more triangles and codeboards before arriving at MTC27 and then heading back to the centre of Devizes for the finish. Several crews finished this final section.
Mark Turner & Richard Pashley held onto the lead with Chris Elkins & Mark Appleton in second just under 4 minutes behind. Third went to Rob Fields & Nick Clarke who cleaned the final section to taken back the class 2 win. Keith Jenkins & Tony Brooks in the Volvo 144 came in third in class 1 over 10 minutes behind the top pair. After leading class 2 momentarily Chris Pratt & Jeff Brown took second in class only 50 seconds behind Fields/Clarke. Clive Chapman & Chris Glen-Smith rounded off the top 3 in class 2 with a time of 52m32s. After having a 20 minute penalty in the last section at PC18 Alex Reynolds & Jordon Reynolds still took the class 3 win almost 15 minutes ahead of Alan Frame & Shaun Layland in second place. Only 5 seconds behind and losing second in the final section was Keith Lane & Martin Lane in the Ford Ka.
Overall from what I competed on the Myotis is still one of my favourite events, this year taking my breath away (literally!). Some crews did mention that the roads were a little rougher then previous years and the dust did cause problems again, but from such a small club its a cracking event and worth a try at least once! Next year I’m sure we will all be doing a rain dance before the event!!!
From all the competitors a massive thank you has to go to all the Marshals who stood out in the cold and got covered in dust! One group being at a stop go lollipop in the tests being covered when the cars were stopping a total of 4 times for each car! Thanks also to Devizes & District MC for running the event and obtaining the permission for all of us to go and play on these unique roads! I’ll be back every year it runs!
Thanks also to Pat for the drive, we managed to get every codeboard while we were on route and he was very patient when we got completely lost at points! Not too sure if the Nova will be back out again, but we will be out on an event soon in one car or another!
Daniel Pidgeon, Nav – Car 15, Vauxhall Nova SX
Thanks to M&H Photography (www.mandh-photography.co.uk) for the photos! Make sure you head to their website to see more examples and for details on how to purchase yourself a copy!