The ‘One & Only’ Preston Road Rally… where on earth do I start?!
Last year a group of top Welsh crews (John Davies, Jamie Jukes, Edryd Evans + Navigators) and all came home without a finish… What kind of event was this?! 2013 Was my year to investigate!
So off I set at 1 o’clock on Saturday from Swansea to be at the start for 6:30, and yes, it did take me that long! Also off topic, but I noticed a decline of driving talent on the motorways the closer to London I got! Why is there 4 lanes on the M25? Everyone only uses the 3rd and 4th lanes! Anyway!
My driver for this daunting event was Andy Ritchie from Lancashire, almost as far away as me, in his BMW 318. Usually having Maurice Ellison next to him, I had some big boots to fill! We got through noise all ok and headed down to scruitineering, besides finding some pheasants in Andy’s spare wheels that also went through without a hitch! Signing on and Andy had left his Licence and Membership car back at the Trailer park, around 7 miles up the road, so a quick dash to go and get that one and everything was all ready and set!
After the drivers briefing and looking at the bits of handout I had already I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for! Andy had done it the previous year and punched his rear dampers up through the arches, so finished on the springs, so he knew what was coming. I was bricking it to be honest!
It was all on marked maps and handouts so off we set towards the first control!
One thing I will just put in here, Chelmsford’s marked maps and hand outs are perfect! In a little binded book with a cover, very clear, and also the time sheets are made for each car, so no time wasted in working out what time your due, its there for you! Perfect!
So we pull up to Worlington and wait for out minute. I was a little worried about the regularity timing as well as there was only the standard trip meter, but I was told by others who had done it before that I shouldn’t worry about it!
The seconds count up to our minute, and were off! Smooth off road tracks which get a little rough in the middle. The regularity goes out the window because of the roughness and we just go for the time we get! Also because it’s regularity the PC’s aren’t marked on the map, so we just glide in when we see them! Very well arrowed to stop us going off track and we pull in at NTC2. 30 seconds down! I was happy with that, but when looking at the final results, we were 37th at this point! A lot of crews pushing for the regularity timing!
So that was the first taste of the famous Preston! Little bumpy in places, but one of the smoothest looking back!!!
As the event went on, the sections got more and more rural and rougher and rougher. I could see why so many people don’t finish the event! Some sections are nice and smooth, then all of a sudden you come across a massive car eating hole which will take the car and also any chances of finishing the event! There were some great little parts such as through some grid like roads in some forests (think it was Kings West) which are like a short rough Finland WRC! Straigh roads with a couple of jumps and then a 90 left or right, straight with a few bumps and then another 90. In the BMW it was great fun sliding the back end out in all the mud! Not sure if it would have been as fun in a front wheel drive!
Some sections did get ruined for us though, not sure if its a common problem in the area, but there were 3 or 4 cars who would just not pull over at all. They had dropped a minute as we had caught them and they continued to plod around slowing us down as well as themselves, one car having us and another car behind us! One car we caught put on his indicators, but theres no point in doing that if your on a tight single track! Because of all the mud flicking up we did manage to pass on car when the missed a slot, but it was almost impossible to see as the mud had covered the lights. And then them to come up behind with spot and all on didn’t help! And then inevitable happened, a 90 left turned up very quickly and we slid into a hedge. Luckily there wasn’t anything solid in there otherwise it could have been game over! So we just had to pull over and clean the lights! Not what you want on a regularity timed event! But enough of them!!! (Getting me a little wound up thinking about it! Ha)
At first petrol results were being posted. We were quite far down with a fail. To say I was a bit gutted is a understatement really! It’s not often I pick up fails and this one annoyed me! Like the PC’s the RC’s are not marked on the map, so the first one we completely missed as we weren’t looking for it! Gutted! But at least we were ready now, eyes peeled, for every other board and control!
The further the event carried on the more and more cars were dropping out. Also a few crews picking up fails (which almost made me feel better about ours!). The final couple of tests we backed off a little to make sure we got the car home, and that was it! The finish! 25th overall, 5th Semi-Expert, 1 Fail and a total of 54 minutes and 29 seconds dropped time, and yes… if we didn’t have the fail we would have one the class by about 12 minutes! The speed of Andy was there, the speed of my eyes obviously wasn’t!
Got to say a massive thank you to all the organising crew! Was a brilliant ‘different’ event you have! I will definitely be back again to give it another go! Hopefully fail free this time!!
Well done to Phil Bennett and matt Broadbent for winning the class, we were battling all night long and seeing that puma bouncing, and at some points flying, over the ruts in front of us was hilarious! Such a brilliant event! Also massive well done to Andy Smith and Sam Spencer, starting at car 50, first event sitting with each other, and first Preston, coming away with 3rd overall! Only 3 minutes behind the winners, also really nice guys, chatting away at each petrol, well done guys!
Final thank you goes to Andy! Great drive all night! Knew when to push and went to back off for the ruts, holes, cliffs, crevasses, gorges! Haha! Brilliant work! Sorry about the fail! Hope this doesn’t put you off taking me for a ‘leisurely drive’ around the countryside with me in 2014!
Another event that MUST be done! (Along with the Myotis and Classic Tracks) Just for being so brilliantly different from the norm!
Daniel Pidgeon, Nav – Car 52, BMW 318Ti (25th o/a)