“Following the cancellation of the Illumination, Andy wanted to do the ‘One & Only’ Preston Rally. This event, organised by Chelmsford MC, has a bit of a reputation as a ‘Car Breaker’ and seeing that we had only has the ‘new’ car for a couple of months – I was a little unsure if this was a wise move. Wise move or not – the entry was send off and we were no. 62 out of a maximum of 65 entries received, eventually seeded at car 47.
For the uninitiated the Preston Rally runs of a ‘Navigational Road Rally Permit’. The ‘Navigational’ side of it is a little complex to explain without the use of the roadbook and the ‘competitive’ section diagrams, however, I will try to convey the system used. The road book consists of a series of preprinted section of O/S maps with the route between ‘Special Tests’ shown.
The ‘Special Tests’ are mostly on private land and use everything from Forestry Commission road to Farm Tracks. When I say Forestry Commission Roads they are not the ‘normal’ road that are used on Stage Rallies but all those side road and tracks that you see when you go to Marshal a Stage Rally and think to yourself ‘I wonder where that goes?’ They are as rough as a Badgers…! And then there are the Farm Tracks – The area around Thetford must be the English equivalent of Denmark. These tracks all seem to be past Pig Farms and these roads are deep in Pig Muck and besides being rough are very, very slippery (literally covered in Pig Muck) then add the time of year and a touch of frost and its a recipe for sliding off the road into the nearest slurry put.
One of the requirements in the ASRs is that each car carries one & a half gallons of water and a sponge and after each ‘test’ you are required to get out of the car and wash the cars lights, windows and number plates. More then once I told Andy to put his spots on during a test to be told ‘They are on!’
We set off at 2pm and got to the start venue at 7-30. We then had to fix the horn which, on the way down on the back of a trailer, had decided not to work. Danny Cowell was struggling to fix a split oil cooler but managed in the end (he retired later on in the event with a faulty coil whilst lying 2nd O/A) & Simon Harrison, last years winner seeded at 1, managed to put his Subaru of the road for 15 minutes on the 1st bend of the 1st test. Through scrutineering and probably the longest Driver Briefing I have ever attended. The briefing was all very relevant but at the time most of it meant little to me because the CofC was talking about the Special Test as though I knew the test, and I did not.
So off we go, 1st test of 17 (108 miles of white with only 64 miles or so of none competitive connection roads) long straights with the off 90 right and left (problem with this part of the world, and very little hills) but bloody rough and slippy. More of the same on test 2. Test 3 and the offside rear shocker punches its was through the turret. Test 4 and the nearside rear shocker does the same. The are a total of 17 ‘Special Test’ and we now have to do the remaining 13 with no rear suspension! (We were not coming all this was to give up this early!) We struggle on at a much reduced pace.
The event is split into 4 legs with 3 petrol halts (& time recovery). At each of the halts we inspect the damage. The shockers have punched holes in the rear wheel arches big enough to get your fist into. The shockers are now pretzel shaped and making so much noise that it is difficult to hear yourself think nevermind tell Andy which way to go.
By leg 4 we are running OTL and the closing course car is following us through each of the 4 remaining tests. But we are determined to do the whole event – we could have cut from MTC 33 to the finish with no more penalties but we decided that we were going to Do the whole event.
We finished 37th out of 38 finishers, out of 57 starters.”
Maurice Ellison – Nav, Car 47 – BMW Compact