<![CDATA[2 Brits Racing - Blog]]>Mon, 29 Feb 2016 01:56:57 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[2014 Mull Rally - Part 4 - The Main Event]]>Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:15:52 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/2014-mull-rally-part-4-the-main-event19.25 - The start time for Car 29 at the Mull Rally. 1 year of planning, months of preparation, hours of travelling and tarmac training in 2 different countries all come down to this moment. Finally you say, after sitting through pages of FB updates, and blog write ups, we're getting to the main event.....they better not go out on the first stage after all this......because that would be crazy right?........ugh......




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Tobermory - The main hub of the Mull Rally
The beautiful town of Tobermory was the setting for the night time start to the event.  Roads were blocked off, rally cars were lining up, hundreds of spectators gathered round. AMAZING atmosphere! With the recording of the Rally Forum being broadcast through the loud speakers, and the rumble of the rally cars pulling in trying to get sorted into  their correct order, I was struck by how much rally 'fever' really had taken hold on the tiny island.  The build up to the event was impressive, but actually taking a second to look around and take it all in was fantastic. 
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Lining up for the start in Tobermory

When we first heard that Jimmy McRae was entered in the rally, Nick was pretty excited by it all.  I would receive random text messages from my 32 year old brother saying "...I need to get Jimmy's autograph...." or "Do you think we will be able to get Jimmy to take a photo with us and the car?".  Anyone who knows Nick will understand why I found this so amusing.  He very rarely gets excited about anything.  Sure, he was looking forward to the rally, eager to get started and was in awe of the fact that we'd managed to pull it all off to get here, but full blown "kid-on-Christmas-morning" excitement was unusual for him.
So when he found out that our Uncle Jeremy knew Ian Grindrod, Jimmy's co-driver, his main mission was to convince Jimmy McRae to sign the rally car.....oh yes....we'd graduated from a simple autograph or photo to actually signing the Canadian flag vinyl on the roof of the rally car. 
While waiting for the start festivities to get underway, Nick actually accomplished his mission.  I saw him standing there waiting for him to wander over & was surprised I didn't see Nick jumping up and down with his marker pen! hahahaha.....thanks Jimmy, you're a good sport!


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The finished product
The ceremonial start line for the rally was surrounded by a huge crowd of people and pulling into the time control was unreal. Once realizing Nick and I were sat on the wrong sides of the car, the time control marshal and the gentleman manning the microphone switched places. Nick did his start interview while I organized my time cards, which was quite amusing in itself as the marshal stood there looking at me.....waiting for something....ah yes...you want my time card.....sure I've done this before, honest!
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19:25 Car 29 MTC Out, 2014 Mull Rally
Leaving the start arch through a tunnel of spectators was a great feeling.  Our crew, family and friends all in amongst them cheering us on.  The voice inside my head chanting "don't turn the wrong way out of Tobermory with all these people watching!".  I must have checked directions to the first stage a hundred times.  Probably could have recited them in my sleep but my eyes and fingers were glued to the pages of my route book and road signs so I didn't get us off track before we could even get going.
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The all important directions to the first stage
As we transitted the Mishnish Lochs stage (very few roads on the island mean you have to travel stage roads at some point on transit) through Dervaig to SS1, we had 22 minutes to get situated, take a look at the first set of notes, check the lights out in a stage environment and test the grip level on the current road conditions (braking wise). Finally checking into the stage start the adrenaline is now flowing.  SS1 Calgary Bay, 10.9 miles starting off inland, then heading down past Calgary Beach and onto the coastal road for some nail biting action on the twisty stage up along the cliff edge.
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Thanks to Andrew Peak for his shot of us at the start line for SS1
Sitting on the start line it was like any other event we've competed in together:
"Belts tight?".......yep
"HANS done up?"........yep
"Helmet done up?".....yep
With our stage start safety ritual complete, the fire extinguisher armed, lights on, first handful of corners read out and the ALS switched on, we now sit and wait for the countdown in "5.....4.....3....2....1, GO!"

It turns out the stage is slightly faster in the rally car than the recce car! Go figure!  What a start.  Hot out of the gate, it takes us a kilometre or so to get into the rhythm but it doesn't slow us down much.  Nick attacked the stage straight away in his usual style even though the conditions were rather wet and the rain was still coming down.  Trusting our note writing skills, it was now just a case of me reading what was in front of me and Nick driving what he hears.  Good notes help us go as fast as possible right off the bat.  Other than when questionable road conditions (like Rallye Perce Neige in the snow & ice) come into play, we very rarely 'take it easy on the first stage'.  We don't want to put it off the road but we didn't come all this way to have a scenic Sunday drive around the coast either!


 
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Thanks to LindsayPhotosport for this spectacular shot of us approaching Calgary Beach. www.lindsayphotosport.co.uk
The first 1/3 of the stage inland went very well.  The road was wet but drivable.  In car footage may catch us clipping the corner markers on the outside of a tight left hander, but that's up to the viewer to decide! Coming around past Calgary Beach my fear level went up a notch knowing we were about to get out onto the cliff road.  As the stage winds up past the beach and along side a handful of houses our notes read "6L over Crest, changes". Changes meaning, we're now on the cliff edge with the Armco barrier.  However, our 6L over crest turned out to be a jump mid corner. Now that nearly went all kinds of wrong!! A 6L is a pretty fast corner, and when we know beyond that corner is the tight twisty stuff we really don't want to get bent out of shape right there! No time to worry about it, just a second or so to be thankful that Nick's driving skills could keep us on the road and on we go to tackle the tricky section. FANTASTIC! Pretty intense in sections but great road.  Some really fun corners that just drop away as we turn and tight sections that you couldn't believe you'd be able to run them at any sort of speed until you are doing so.  

Suddenly after passing the 6.36 mile marker and radio car, things start to take a turn for the worst.  Luckily it's a fairly straight section but for a couple of seconds I lose my interior light.  At first I'm not sure exactly what's wrong and I'm trying to fix my overhead light when Nick coasts to the side of the road voicing "No Power".......no power as in no lights? no ignition?......it turns out no accelerator.  We have had similar incidences where its been necessary to switch the car off and on a couple of times until it starts, but this didn't seem to be working.  
As usual, Nick gets the obligatory 5 seconds to attempt to get us out of our current situation before I am popping my belts and running off down the stage with my triangle.  We were parked up on a fairly straight section and well off to the side so it wasn't really necessary for me to slow cars down too much.

   As I'm down the road, in the dark...because I always forget to grab a flashlight as I'm booking it down the road before the next car catches us.....I hear the car start up again.  Really?? This reminds me of Tall Pines last year! Despite the yelling from spectators who had somehow found their way out to the middle of the stage, that I should "go go go....he's got the car going again...", I had to wait for another car to pass so I know I have about a minute before the next car is upon us.  Once it passes us, I take off sprinting back up the road. As much sprinting as I can do, in the dark, uphill on wet tarmac in my race suit and helmet. 
The relief that the car was running again was short lived and we managed to coast it about 100ft up the road before it stopped again.  Cue my stage running abilities again.   It seemed the car only wanted to move a few feet before we lost momentum so the next 5 minutes was spent with Nick switching the car on and off and seeing if he could get it to a safe place to park it off the road.  Which meant my job was stand out in the road with the triangle, moving it up every so often once he was able to drive the car a little further.  Still with no flashlight..........Enter from stage left - Random Spectator group number 2!! While the one helpful guy was assisting Nick parking up the Subaru, his buddies were shining their giant flashlights on the road  so I could see where I was going. Along with cheering me on and requesting engine noises as I was running!  Not sure about engine noises, but oxygen sure sounded like a plan right about then!
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Highlights the point where we retired on stage
I'd be lying if I said  there wasn't a bit of swearing and angry gesturing going on between Nick and I at that point in time, not at each other but at the car and quite possibly the world.  Seriously 6 Miles into the first stage??!!! We're in Scotland! not 3 hours down the road at a local rally!! Ok, think......check switches, check hoses under the hood, connectors, gas level, anything that could possibly just need adjusting to get us started again.  Our new found friends confirmed no cell signal right where we were so I couldn't even call the emergency number to log our position or talk to our mechanics.  We were already pretty close to maxing late once we'd gone through the car trying to find anything that looked loose enough to cause a problem. Well we couldn't just sit here all night so I took off hiking it up the hill with my headlamp trying to find cell signal.

Eventually finding 1 bar (of signal, not alcohol) I made the call to the Emerg number.  The emerg number located on every page of the routebook connected you straight to radio control.  It was an easy way for them to know exactly where you were and if you were ok or not.  We had been instructed at the drivers meeting to give names, car number, location and situation - not to just ring in and hang up.  Once I'd confirmed we were fine but the car may need flat towing out I called our crew. 

Iain attempted to explain, with poor signal and wind whistling past my ears, how to cut and splice wiring in order to bypass the wires with the issue...oh ok I'll get right on that!!
Cautiously climbing my way back down the rocky hill I tried to explain our wiring mission to Nick. He looked at me like I was making it up. "I swear that's what Iain told me to do!!"
With no clue as to what we were actually doing, we went beneath the dash, unplugged wires, jiggled fuses, and without having to cut and splice anything we managed to get the car started, and kept it running for a long time.  It couldn't be that easy? could it?

  
 
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That about sums it up. Dark, in the middle of nowhere, with a triangle. Just how our first leg ended.
Having now maxed late and with our first leg of the rally over and done with, I made the fun climb back up the rocks to call back into radio control advising them that we could now get the car out under our own steam, the closing car had passed, and the ambulance stopped to check on us.  After getting permission to leave the stage we headed home, heads hung low, extremely disappointed that we couldn't even make it through the first stage. 

Back in service, the parents, who had found us a good service location in Tobermory had to repack all the equipment and head back to the house. Our chase car crew also headed home having been sat at the side of the road waiting for us to come through the 2nd stage before heading to SS3 Glenaros
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Our fabulous chase car
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Our Chase car crew minus Amanda who was clearly taking the photo
The Chase crew was something we had never experienced before.  There were a number of emergency service time slots allotted throughout the rally and after a certain number of stages your chase car could meet you at the side of the road in order to do any minor adjustments.  Change a flat or if something came loose etc.  Not a lot of time was put aside but it was enough to get you through the next stage and back to service.  Having made the calls to the crew, everyone was sent home and was meeting us back at the main house after we transitted back there. 
On our drive back the car never faltered once, until we turned into the driveway and out of the blue Nick decided to test his handbrake turn skills.  The wheels locked and the car went straight! hmmmm That's not supposed to happen!! File that away as another point to mention to Iain.

By the time we'd returned to the house after we had everything organized for the next morning with the competitor liaison officers making sure we could re-start the next day, it was late and we left our crew to it.  If they could fix it they would, if not.....well.....we weren't going to think about 'if not' because we'd come a heck of a long way to run 6 miles. 
4am - That's what time dad and Iain finally finished working on the car.  To keep things simple....plus I don't really understand it all myself.....they had to remove the diff controller completely which appeared to be causing issues with relays and by unplugging the wires the previous night we had somehow managed to reset enough to drive us home, but by no means fixed the issue.  Ok, so now we were heading into the 2nd leg of the rally with no diff controller, the centre diff locked and no handbrake.  Oh this sounds like fun!!

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Waiting for the scrutineer to give us the go ahead for leg 2
Keeping good company at the scrutineering for the re-start of Leg 2 with Jimmy McRae and Ian Grindrod having had fuel starvation issues during the first leg causing them to retire.  Once we had received approval we waited on the dock at Craignuire for the rest of the competitors to join us. As with the Friday night festivities, Saturday morning was no different, with spectators crowding the start area and drivers being interviewed on the start line. It was starting off to be a beautiful sunny day, even the dolphins came out to play in the harbor!
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Scrutineering for Leg 2

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Start of Leg 2. Fingers crossed this leg goes better than the last one!
The first stage of the day was located in the South West corner of the Island through the small community of Ardtun near Bunessan.  The 2.6mile stage started off winding through a narrow hedge-lined single track road, past local houses and spectators on every corner and finishing up along the harbor front in Bunessan.  In the midst of that there was a huge jump that many competitors had told us to take it easy on.  You know Nick, the bigger the better when it comes to jumping in the rally car, so we actually had it marked as a 5R/Huge Jmp.  However, with a good number of people telling him not to go too crazy over it he dialed it down mid-stage and although we still caught a fair amount of air it was nothing spectacular. As soon as we crossed the finish line and the car was coasting to the stop board he says "I could have taken that jump so much faster, we could have flown over it" oh well, with only 1 pass through Ardtun we shall never know!

Woohoo!!! A full stage completed!! Granted only 2.6miles but it felt great to have done it, setting the 6th fastest stage time at that! Passing fellow competitors and long time family friend Nicola Harper and her co-driver Suzanne as they were heading towards the stage, they were all smiles, honking the horn and giving the thumbs up to us! Finally, lets get this rally started.

Pumped up after a stage with no issues we headed over to SS8 Loch Kinloch.  Now this was a stage I was looking forward to, perhaps because it started outside the house we used to vacation at as kids, who knows, but I did know it was going to be a lot of fun.
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Parked across the Loch from the stage start. Taking in our surroundings. The vacation house Ardvergnish in the background.
With the generous transit time allowing us to stop for a few minutes to catch up with fellow competitors and take a minute breather we parked up across the Loch from the stage start.  Taking a few minutes to talk note strategy with Nick he decided I needed to give him corners even more in advance, especially the tighter ones in a fast section.  With the car being more difficult than usual to handle due to the diff issues, he needed more warning if he was to throw the car into a tighter turn.
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Waiting for the start of SS8 Loch Kinloch
Pulling up to the start line of SS8 Loch Kinloch (the Loch Scridain stage in reverse) the 4.6 mile stage was going to give us a real insight into how the car would behave for the rest of the event.  Running along side the loch, not perched up on the cliff edge but along the water's edge the stage was fast yet had some tricky crests and corners thrown in for good measure. 
With a very dicey corner mid-stage and a chicane we didn't realize was there we managed to set a 24th fastest stage time.  Our 'note-to-self' from that stage was "When you mark a corner as 4Rcut/Jmp....you actually have to CUT the corner.....otherwise it's much tighter and the road isn't where you thought it would be when you land!!"  Two wheels off in the grass/bush when we landed a was a BIG moment, but Nick recovered well and we went on to finish the stage.  The in-car footage captured it all and even watching it now I cringe at the landing thinking we were VERY lucky!
The surprise chicane? well that was all my fault.  In the route book its actually marked as a type of junction, but glancing through the routebook on recce it didn't jump out at me, so essentially the regular road goes straight but the rally route jogs off left, down a drive, around some huge hay bales and then back up onto the main road again. Luckily we hit this in the daylight, because the night before the same stage was run in reverse and it would have been the black plastic wrapped bales that we came across first on a flat out left hander in the dark.  Yikes! 

Next, onto the Griburn Rocks stage, but in reverse, named Knock SS9.  My favourite stage on recce and although it was quite daunting in areas, I couldn't wait to run it.  We made it all of about 2 miles into the 8.3 mile long stage before our 2nd retirement of the weekend.  This time, bellied on the skid plate in a ditch on the outside of a corner.  The car just seemed to let go mid turn and we dropped our right wheels in there.  For once it wasn't me running up the road with triangles it was Nick as my door was stuck against the ditch and I couldn't get out of the car.
  
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Looks like we've stopped for a photo op!
Is this really happening??!  With the front right tire blown, we felt while we had the time we'd change that with it sat in the ditch, who knows, it might help us, it was already off the ground so we didn't need to jack it up too much. 
The ditch was just deep enough that the car was grounded on the skidplate so we had to try to jack it up high enough to get the ground clearance.  With the ditch being a couple of feet deep numerous trips up the hillside  were made to gather stones. We'd jack the car up.....fill the ditch with stones.....jack it up more.....add more boulders.  We attempted to fill the ditch high enough so that we could get enough momentum to pop ourselves back out.  To no avail.  Even with the help once again of a couple of random spectators we couldn't budge it.  We have been asked many times why we didn't get someone to tow us out, but the daylight stages are run at 30second intervals between cars, so we felt it was too dangerous to have someone stop to help with so little time between competitors.  There are other tricks of the trade that we'd learnt over the years, but they would have involved us blocking the road and therefore again not safe at all!
So we sat there.  Trust me, a valiant effort was made to get ourselves out, but once we maxed late there was no point continuing to run up the hillside.  As we knew it would, the recovery truck took all of 3 seconds and 2ft to pull us out of the ditch.  VERY FRUSTRATING!
I'd already called us in to radio control, letting them know we were stopped, the road was clear, we were safe and reassuring them that no spectators were getting too close to the rally cars.  It seemed we were getting to know radio control better than any time control marshals.  I called the number and told them car 29 was off on stage but ok......to which they replied "ok Kelly, thanks for letting us know" oh great...they know me by name....that's exactly how you want to be remembered!!

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Not exactly testing the recovery crew's skills. An easy extraction that's for sure!
So, once again, we head back to HQ in Salen to beg and plead to be given ANOTHER chance with a restart in Leg 3 later that evening.  Receiving the go-ahead to scrutineer for leg 3 we head back to the house to get ready for the night stages. 

Again, the service crew (both in Tobermory and the Chase car) head back for a few hours.  Dad is convinced the people located near them for service don't believe they even have a rally car to crew for, and that perhaps they just like setting up the equipment and pretending seeing as that's 2 days in a row they've sat there in the same spot watching other rally cars come and go.
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Getting ready to start Leg 3. Our flat tire in the bottom of the pic.
So, third times the charm right? We'd soon find out!
Having scrutineered AGAIN in order to restart leg 3 we were slotted back into the pack where we had started the event, in 25th position.  With only 2 stage times to assess us with we were grateful the organizers felt they could still let us run in that position. 
Leg 3 started with SS16 the in-town Tobermory stage. 0.89 mile around the harbor and up through the houses in the town.  You then made your way back down to the harbor front to start SS17, the longer 7.3 mile Tober/Mishnish Lochs stage. 

The very cool thing about these two stages was that they both started at the same place.  Back to running minute intervals for the night stages, once you had completed SS16, you slotted back into the pack at 30 second intervals to run SS17.  Just before the end of SS16 there was a junction. For the short stage, competitors turned left heading for the flying finish just beyond it, but for SS17, competitors went straight ahead, in the direction of Dervaig.  Slotting in 30 seconds behind cars still running the in town Tobermory stage meant the cars on the longer stage were still 1 minute apart.  Very well run. It seemed to run very smoothly from a competitors point of view, and allowed spectators to see lots of cars coming through the town stage.  Great fun along the harbor front but the tight hairpin uphill between the shops could have been better assisted with a handbrake!
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Start line for SS16 & SS17. The first stages of Leg 3.
The remaining 6 miles of SS17 was crazy to put it mildly.  A stage full of hairpins with no handbrake and a car that was being a beast to handle? Not fun at all! However we finished the stage! Excellent, although I've never needed water so much after a stage in my life! Heck of a lot of talking through all those hairpins, and not really knowing if the car was going to let go mid corner again was a little nerve wracking.
Transitting back through the Glenaros stage towards Salen Nick turns to me and says "huh, I wasn't wearing my glasses". What??!! Nick always drives the rally car in the dark wearing glasses, I'm surprised we made it through the stage as well as we did! 
 
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Another great shot from LindsayPhotosport, this time of our trip through the hairpins! www.lindsayphotosport.co.uk
We then realized our Emergency Service crew was actually going to get to see a car!! Similar to our parents, we'd not yet made it to a service where we could meet our chase car so they were also sitting there watching competitors driving by, wishing they at least had to clean the windshield! They did get several compliments on the chase vehicle though, so I think my uncle was secretly happy about that!

When we pulled into the side of the road where they were located, the grins from them was fantastic. Yes, we finally got far enough for them to see us, and we were still good to go to the next stage! With only a water top up needed for me, we bid them farewell and headed to Griburn Rocks and Scridain.  By this point it was a case of lets just get through the stages, don't go too crazy and get to the end.  As much as I loved Griburn, our pass through it was a little dodgy.  I don't really remember too much about either stage to be honest, it was just a case of read the notes, get in and get out. As much as I trust Nick's driving, at this point I really didn't trust the car, and Griburn is NOT the stage to be doing if you don't trust the car you are in. 
Thanks to friends of ours taking a look through our route book, we were able to locate the 'surprise chicane' so we didn't come across those hay bales all of a sudden, and Scridain was much the same as Griburn with a couple of 'moments' of its own; get it done, get to service, and lets tackle this 34KM final stage of the night.

Well, that didn't quite go to plan either. I mean, nothing else really has all weekend so why should it?!
Pulling into the finish time control of SS19 Nick noticed the temp gauge was high, and when I say high I mean off the charts!
Heater was on, ALS was off, there wasn't much more we could do.  It was a case of baby it back to service or pull over and park it.  Luckily we had signal and managed to call our crew.  We were 15 miles from service and with no coolant leaks that we could see we gently drove it to regroup where we were able to collect enough bottled water to make a slight dent in the temperature, and the 20 mins cooling down period helped us.

Finally our first attempt at service and with a suspected head gasket issue we were done.  Retired.  Again.  Wow! What an event. Everything that could go wrong did.  We filled up the rad and again gently drove it back to the house.  On the plus side, the HUGE stag crossing our path just outside of Craignuire was magnificent!

We are the first to admit it was not how we wanted our event to go at all.  We knew we had the pace to set some respectable times and yet we didn't really get chance to prove ourselves.  Rallying isn't always sunshine & smiles though.  You have to take the highs with the lows.  The fact we'd made this trip over there, as a family, met up with friends we haven't seen for years and fallen back into easy fun & conversation like we'd never been away was fantastic.  What an experience. An amazing rally, and if we can ever save up enough money to return, we'd be back in a heartbeat!

The following day we headed to the prize giving ceremony in Tobermory.  Both of Graham's daughters finishing the event - with Donna & her driver taking 2nd place in Class 3 and 13th O/A - and many other friends we'd made along the way also doing very well.  It was great to see Calum Duffy and his co-driver Iain topping the podium in their MkII Escort. Flanked by two Subarus they'd all pushed hard and had a great run all weekend.  With one of the wettest Mull rallies to date, everyone seemed to have had a fantastic event.

As it turned out we wouldn't be going home empty handed.  Picking up the Gary Bratt Memorial Trophy for a Service Crew award.  Having been preparing for this event since Oct 2013 and all the work that went into getting the car to Scotland, setting up phantom service areas at the event etc, our service crew definitely deserved to be acknowledged!
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Mum and dad proudly displaying their trophy for the Service crew award
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Kept the crew busy all weekend randomly driving around the island
When I mentioned to dad that the Trophy is something handed out every year and therefore we would somehow have to return it if we take it back to Canada with us he replied "well I guess we'll just have to come back next year then!"
Hahah pretty sure that will be MINUS the rally car though, but I'm all up for another Mull vacation in 2015.

Thanks to everyone involved with the event; organizers, volunteers, spectators, fellow competitors, family & friends.  It was an adventure that's for sure.  Without the hard work of everyone pulling together to make this all happen we wouldn't have had the chance to participate.  Congratulations to the event organizers themselves for putting together a great rally.  Not only was the promotion & running of the event very well done, but we were made very welcome, and sure hope we can return to compete in the future.
Thanks to our crew at Planet Motorsport for prepping the car....lets hope we can figure out what the issues are and get it back on stage roads as soon as possible. 
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Nick & his wife Amanda rocking the 2 Brits wear.
Thanks to Nick's supportive wife Amanda who always had positive thoughts all weekend.  Glad we could show you a little of our childhood.
Also the amazing support we received from friends following back home was great.  With limited cell signal we were unable to update social media regularly the way we had intended, but we were constantly flooded with well wishes and encouraging words to keep us on track. It was very much appreciated. 
Huge thanks to our parents, family members and friends helping out.  Although it wasn't the result we were looking for, it was definitely an experience.  I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. Now time to pack it all back up into a container and send it back over the pond.  Hey, we might actually get out and see some of the island now! First stop Duart Castle, then Calgary Beach I think!

Until next time Mull.  Thanks for the fabulous memories. It was a BLAST!
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The Reunion: True to form as in most of our childhood Mull photos, Nick is nowhere to be seen!!!!
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Until next time Tobermory
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Calgary Beach on a beautiful sunny day
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<![CDATA[2014 Mull Rally - Part 3 - Scrutineering, Shakedown & 'Stage' Fright]]>Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:53:06 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/2014-mull-rally-scrutineering-shakedown-stage-frightSo its the morning of the day before and, looking at the movement schedule, its now time to worry for the next 6 hours or so that we have missed something off the regulations, and they're going to laugh us out of scrutineering.  Iain, our crew chief from Planet Motorsport arrived the night before, and with only Nick's wife Amanda left to pick up from the ferry terminal after lunch, the gang is all set.  Spending a few minutes here and there since we arrived doing some minor last minute adjustments to the car, there were only a couple of checks remaining.   
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Getting ready to head to tech
For me, these few hours allowed me to check safety equipment, mount the 'OK' sign on the door, double check I had flashlights, tire gauges and enough cable ties & duct tape to build a whole new car if necessary. (You can never have too much duct tape or too many cable ties).
For Nick, it was time to get the GoPro cameras mounted to capture in-car footage of the event.  A job he was now in charge of since I usually only capture transits when I'm left with the responsibility of switching it on and off! We were required, on our entry form, to acknowledge the number of cameras we would be using, and they had to be mounted in safe locations in time for scrutineering. We would have liked to have had an external camera, but for safety concerns we were told this wasn't allowed.  No problem, we'd already lost a roof mounted camera in New York, so we didn't need to run the risk of losing another!

Unfortunately we had already fallen victim to the Scottish weather. By failing to cover the roof of the car during the downpour that had ensued the day before we were reminded how poor the seal of the roof vent was......well Nick was reminded when he had jumped in to aim the lights and promptly sat in a puddle! So 1 fan heater, 3 newspapers and a large tarp later we finally had the car dried out.

After changing the oil in the car, there was just a couple more items to pick up, you know, the really minor ones....like gas.....and tires! Having ordered both from UK companies we were happy to have these bulky items meet us on the island. Now we just had to go retrieve them. 
Having had great success running DMack tires on the gravel, we had picked up a couple of sets of their tarmac tires for ESPR.  Once again having been impressed by their performance in New York, we'd ordered more DMacks for Mull.  Knowing it was more than likely raining, and if not raining then probably cold - especially with the majority of the rally in the dark - we decided to stick to the DMack DMT-RC W2s.   Having shipped our 17" rims over in the container it was great to be able to take them to the tire guys and have them mounted right there at their truck in Tobermory. 
Iain was able to pick up the gas in his rental and bring it back to the house, only to find out we had no way of actually funneling it into the rally car.  This could prove interesting in the refueling zone! After several failed attempts at lifting the cans or decanting them into others, our new found friends at Tyres (South Shore) Limited offered to lend us a vented pipe for the weekend that would fit directly onto the fuel drum! Problem solved!
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As the fuel was being loaded in, comments such as "This is a rental isn't it...." were heard from the suppliers. I wonder why?!
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Service van all loaded up
Once the car was ready to go, it was just a case of loading everything back up into the service van, grab all our kit and head down to Tobermory for registration and scrutineering.
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Tobermory bound for Registration and Scrutineering
Having decided to enter the Shakedown taking place on Friday morning, we were required to register and scrutineer Thursday afternoon, along with the other 30 or so competitors that had made the decision to do the same.  As the car had sat in a container for over a month we felt it would be a smart idea to give it a bit of an airing on the shakedown stage, and were happy the organizers had introduced it this year. Shakedown's have always proved very useful to us in the past so we jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel in a stage setting before the rally started.  Remember, Nick hasn't had that car out in rally conditions since April.


Pulling into Tobermory it was pretty exciting to finally be here sitting in the rally car heading for scrutineering.  As we arrived at the parking lot for the Tobermory Distillery where tech was being conducted we were surprised to see quite a large number of people already gathering.  Tech for the remaining field of competitors wasn't until Friday morning, but while they were having their cars looked at we'd be flying through the shakedown stage, so we didn't really expect many people to turn up Thursday afternoon.  How wrong we were. A good number of rally fans, and friends & family of competitors were there to observe the rally cars filing in.  Leading up to the event there had been quite a lot of coverage of our trip over from Canada, an interview in the official event program, mentions in the newsletters etc, so when we pulled into the lot, it was great to see a number of people genuinely interested in taking a look at the car and saying hello to us.  Definitely made us feel very welcome straight away. 
Before we could head in to meet the scrutineers we had to register and get the car all stickered up.  Once we figured out exactly where the stickers had to go we lined up to await our turn.  Lets see if all our preparations were correct!
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Nick & Iain making sure the numbers and event sponsors are placed correctly
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Waiting to be called up into scrutineering at the Tobermory Distillery
One thing I do want to explain before we go any further is the vinyl on the trunk of our car.  Graham Harper was Nigel's co-driver when he first competed in Mull in 1972.  Coming into a corner faster than he liked, Nigel stepped on the brakes and locked up, at which point Graham hit him with his maps/notes and in no uncertain terms told him not to do that!! Long time friend, Mull competitor, & all-round rally volunteer Graham, a member of the original 4 families we vacationed with as kids, sadly passed away before we could all come together again at the Reunion. As this would have been his 45th Mull rally in some capacity or another, we knew he would be here in spirit, and we wanted to make sure we honored his memory out there on the stages. Sorry we couldn't get through all the stages Graham, but your daughters did you proud with both their teams putting in great performances and making it to the final finish control.

When competing in Canada, Nick & I are usually out on recce when tech takes place, so its actually quite unusual for us to be involved here.  At the same time, I'm glad we were able to experience it ,as it just adds to the whole adventure.  We knew they'd probably be looking at our car even closer than normal being that its been built in Canada to Canadian rally specifications. Every effort was made to adhere to the MSA rally regulations but you never know, we could have missed something. 
Pulling into Tobermory on our drive up to the distillery Nick suddenly points out, "hey, do you think they'll say anything about our front plate?". I hadn't even thought of that.  In Canada we run with only rear licence plates on. "I hope not.....its sitting in the trailer back home!". So after handing our documentation to the scrutineer in charge of evaluating our car he turns to me and the first thing he says is: "Where's your front plate?". Of course he does because a. Murphy's Law dictates he will and b. he's very good at his job. "Ah, you see, funny story, we don't run front plates at home and so it just didn't occur to us we'd even need it."  To which I was told not to be surprised if we were stopped by the police. (Who by the way were all running their names and flags on their windows like the rally cars! Fantastic)  Oh well, we'd have to deal with that if it came to it. 



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Tech inspection
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Very thorough scrutineer
Other than that slight mistake and securing in-car cameras it seemed we had everything up to spec and we would be starting the 2014 Mull Rally in about 24hrs!! Great!! Time for a beer, meal and relaxation.
Ha, what am I thinking, I already mentioned there'd be no time for that until  the last timecard was handed over.  Now it was time for the Rally Forum.
Rally forum? Cool, sounded like a lot of fun until I get an email a couple of weeks before the event saying "What's the chances you guys would like to be involved with the forum?" Erm.......what? By 'involved' you mean like, handing out flyers.......showing up & asking questions from the audience right? Wrong!  'Involved' as in being guests....on stage....ANSWERING questions. Not only that but WRC Live presenter Colin Clark would be conducting the forum that also included Jim McRae and Ian Grindrod. Oh is that all?!!
Nick is always the one taking part in interviews for TV coverage at home as my excuse is "I talk all day and night in the rally car, its his turn now", that's usually a good enough response, but I didn't think that was going to work this time.  I tried the "well with Jim and Ian there, you probably don't need the both of us...." nope, that didn't work either. Looks like I was going to have to join my brother up on stage.  Friends and family promised to think of "interesting" questions to ask if they opened it up to the floor.  Oh joy, I could only imagine!
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Nick doing most of the talking. Thank goodness!
I was worrying for nothing. Great evening, and fantastic to listen to Jim & Ian talk about their rally adventures.  Nick, clearly a born public speaker, did a very good job and I think everyone had a lot of fun.  As well as Nick and I, Stuart Loudon (John Maccrone's co-driver) and Iain Campbell (Clerk of the Course) joined Colin up on stage to round out the evening.  However, not only did we all get up there and chat about rallying but Colin actually contacted current WRC drivers Elfyn Evans, Hadden Paddon and Mikko Hirvonen for live telephone interviews during the forum.  A very well organized night that seemed to be enjoyed by everyone in attendance.

We finished off the evening by taking the 'long way home'. Accompanied by Nick's wife Amanda we headed to the Loch Tuath/Calgary Bay 34km stage, our final stage to recce at night.  Last chance to take a look at these great roads at somewhat normal speed before tackling them in the rally car.
Friday morning - Rally Day - started bright and early for us with Shakedown recce at 8am.  The road to be used presented similar conditions to the event but wasn't part of the regular stage schedule so we were given the opportunity to complete 2 passes at reduced speed before turning it up a notch.  Arriving at the start line in our recce vehicle we were stopped by officials. "Sorry guys, its rally cars only from this point on". Well this could present a small problem! The rally car was sitting at the house, and wasn't meeting us at the shakedown service area for another 30 mins or so.  We were willing to head back for the car but wanted to explain our situation to them first.  Having completed the rally recce in this vehicle, we were hoping to recce shakedown in it.  This way we could have a pretty good idea whether our notes we made on the rest of the island in the right-hand-drive vehicle will work for our LHD rally car.  I'd rather find out on a couple of KM of in-land shakedown road that we were completely out of whack rather than find this out on the cliff edge around Calgary Bay. Like I said, we had no issues waiting for the rally car, but purely from a safety perspective we preferred to recce in our rental.  On hearing our point of view we were immediately granted access.

What can I say.  Shakedown was a BLAST! Conditions were a little slick, mud combined with heavy rain on the tarmac made for an interesting couple of kilometres. The rally car spent a good portion of the time sideways, we caught air over the crest and had the odd moment, but of our 4 runs we completed we managed to set 2nd fastest Shakedown time.  Of course being sideways was normal to us, so Nick really enjoyed himself out there.  At one point we got a little squirrelly over the bumps and started drifting out on a corner, I'll admit I was bracing for some form of impact but then I felt the loose gravel under the tires at the edge of the road and instantly relaxed thinking "nah, he's got this". Someone even told us "I haven't seen the times yet, so you may not have been the fastest out there, but you were definitely the most spectacular" Haha, we aim to please. 

The car ran great.  No issues we could find, and the notes seemed pretty accurate to us. Family, friends and crew got absolutely soaked spectating but everyone seemed to be in good spirits.
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Looking a little dirty after Shakedown.
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Going to have to get the cleaning crew on that before the rally starts!
Having returned to the house the car received a thorough cleaning and waxing; tires checked, refueled and lights on.  We were all set to go.  All that's left was the driver's meeting. As car 29 we were in the first scheduled meeting which worked out well.  This way I had time to go over our notes again before the rally started and was able to get some coaching on the timing and timecards we would be using.
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Timecards for the event
Timing for the event was slightly different from what we are used to.  It was actually easier, but at first glance a little confusing.  For those of you that know the timing in North America, instead of using a 'stage slow time' to calculate the time for arrival control, you basically use your stage finish time. Cuts down on time you're waiting at the stage start, but if you have an issue and have to change a tire etc, you can't tootle around with it! Saying that, the transits were quite forgiving.  Once again, Donna stepped up and offered her words of wisdom along with several other people who were willing to answer any questions we had  along the way.  After confirming safety/triangle rules with the Clerk of the Course and meeting the Competitor Liaison officer, I'd say we were ready to go. 

We had general idea of start time, but an interesting system they utilized at the event was that start times were sent via text message.  Every car entered in the rally had to carry a cell phone on a specific network - in this case Vodafone, as it was the one with the best coverage on the island.   The cell number was registered with radio control and was not only useful to them, but also ensured you had the best tool to contact help in case of an emergency.  So a minimum of 1 hour before the start of each leg we received a message giving our official time out. 
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Text we received 2 hours before the rally started. Car 29 due at the start line at 19.25.
Was pretty exciting to receive the ping signaling an incoming message!  Time to get the car down to Tobermory  for the official start of the 'Best Rally in the World' - The 2014 Mull Rally. 

Car 29 Time out: 19.25
Lets go racing!!
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<![CDATA[2014 Mull Rally - Part 2 - Recce, recce and more recce]]>Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:36:30 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/2014-mull-rally-recce-recce-and-more-recceOnce our feet landed on Scottish soil in Glasgow, it suddenly all became very real.  Knowing the car was waiting for us in Oban just added to the anticipation.  It was almost like waiting to see a good friend who had been away on an extended vacation! Sounds funny, but I couldn't wait to open the container and take in the car and all our equipment we'd bundled into it over a month ago. After spending the night in Inverary we headed up to Oban bright and early Saturday morning (Oct 4th), and thanks to my superb right hand drive driving skills we arrived safely in Oban.  Although saying that, my 'skills' didn't really get tested as we took country roads up to the sleepy port town. Locating our container was a little more challenging.....but eventually we found it.
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Reversing out of the container, so happy to see it arrived safely.
Time to load everything up into our rented service van, strap the car onto the trailer and head for the ferry to Mull.  Caledonian MacBrayne run a very efficient service from Oban to Craignure on Mull.  A 45 minute ferry ride gives just enough time to grab a quick drink, watch the scenery fly by and catch up with old friends who had booked onto the same ferry as us! I remember the ferry itself, along with the car deck and the upper deck from my childhood, but the port of Oban was completely unfamiliar to me.  This probably stems from the fact that 'back in the day' it was common for bets to be made as to whether the Mathew contingent would actually make the ferry.  As far as I can tell, we were usually the last ones on, and a minute away from jumping the ferry ramp Bond style in order not to miss it.....but these are just rumours......however, like I say...I have no recollection of the port itself, so something tells me its a pretty accurate account!!
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Lining up to board the ferry
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On the ferry & heading to the island!
Standing on the top deck, taking in the beautiful scenery, it was like we were kids again.  It was windy, it was a little chilly, but it was beautiful sunshine! Hang on a second....that's not the Mull I remember.  Even at home in Canada on those days when its not really raining, just a bit of drizzle, not really cold, but enough for you to need a sweater, I tend to look out the window and say "looks like a bit of a Mull day today". So what's with this sunshine? haha, not complaining at all, as it made for a great ferry ride, with some lovely photos.  While gearing up for this trip I was asked many times "what's the weather going to be like over there?" to which the response was usually "raining", but then again we knew that, we planned accordingly and it was then no surprise when it did bucket down a couple of days we were there. The sun though, like I say, was a pleasant surprise, so thanks for that Mull!

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Goodbye Oban
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Mull in the distance
After a slightly eventful drive to our accommodation - one of the tie down straps for the rally car snapped and we had a 50-point-turn to make it up the driveway - we arrived at the beautiful Glenaros estate. Our home for the next 12 days or so.  Fabulous place to stay with a breathtaking view.  We soon disrupted the tranquility by starting the rally car and unloading the trailer but I'm pretty sure the island is used to that noise at least once a year.  The neighbouring sheep didn't seem at all bothered by it!
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Unloading the car from our rented trailer
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Prime parking at the house
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Gorgeous views
The rest of the weekend was spent unpacking boxes, sorting equipment and settling in on the island.  Nick's arrival Sunday afternoon meant we could start recce in the morning and get a good look at these fantastic roads we'd be racing around in less than a week! Having flown from Columbus, Ohio in the States, via a 6.5 hour layover in Newark, New Jersey, he landed in Glasgow early Sunday morning.  After a 3.5hr train ride up to Oban, he then boarded the ferry as a foot passenger and finally landed on Mull. As we pulled up to Craignure ferry terminal to collect him, the scowl on his face told us that perhaps after 26 hours of travelling he didn't quite appreciated the fact that we were 20 minutes late picking him up. If his facial expression didn't give it away then there was the: "really??? I've been travelling for over 24 hours and the only thing that didn't run to schedule was you guys??!!"  Oops!

Having organized with the registrar to pick up our recce numbers in Salen once Nick arrived, we were all set to get started.  One of the worries we'd had while preparing for this event was the fact that all our recce would have to be done on the 'wrong side of the car and wrong side of the road'.  I'd say Nick's a pretty decent driver, so it wasn't the fact that he'd have to 'struggle' with driving a right hand drive vehicle, it was more the fact that our rally car is left hand drive, and whether there would be a huge difference in how he sees or feels the road while making notes out on recce.  He took to driving on the 'wrong side' quite quickly, and the roads are all single track anyway, so as long as when we met another vehicle coming towards us he managed to pull off to the correct side of the road, then we were fine!

Monday morning saw the start of our hectic recce week. Something we are not used to is open recce. Basically for Mull you can recce the roads whenever you want, for as many passes as you want. However, after a certain date (pretty sure it was Oct 1st, but to be certain I'd have to go back through the regs......which I'm not going to do so lets just go with that date!) you are only allowed on stage roads if you are sporting recce numbers on your vehicle...see exhibit A. 
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Exhibit A: Recce vehicle with number.......yes the R52 threw me as well at first as we were car 29. However, we were entry 52, so we're assuming that's how the numbers were distributed (oh and note the beautiful views!)
Meeting up with long time friend, Donna Harper, another 'kid' from our family vacations way back when, we took a couple of hours to drive around some of the roads with her and driver Grum Willcock.  Competing this year in car 27 they are very familiar with the island and experienced rally competitors, so it was fantastic to get a little inside information into how some of the stages behave.  It seemed almost every corner was named after someone's unfortunate momentary lapse of concentration, so we envisioned to go over our notes thoroughly so as not to add our names to the 2015 recce description list!! (which as you will find out later, didn't quite go according to plan)
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Car 27: Grum Willcock and Donna Harper. Photo by Clive Hodson from Malton Motor Club
After going through 3 or 4 stages with them along the shoreline and discussing surface changes, tricky crests and dodgy corners we eventually felt comfortable that we had similar views on the roads and headed out on our own to start making notes.  From our experience, in Canada we usually do a 2 pass recce, in one day, generally the day before an event starts. We are therefore pretty comfortable making notes on the first pass and then checking our notes on the second pass.  We always write our own notes as we find this is the safest and fastest way for us to get through a stage, by following notes that we have made, the way we like them.  With the opportunity to run open recce we decided to do at least 2 passes of every stage, and then at least 1 pass of every stage at night (other than Ardtun SS7 because that was run in the daylight only).

Starting in the colourful town of Tobermory, the location for the ceremonial rally start, along with the start controls of SS16 and SS17, we noted the in-town stage then took the Mishnish Lochs stage, heading to Dervaig.  Ok, well that's the direction we took once we returned to Tobermory having taken a wrong turn. 4 pages of pacenotes in, Nick slows down and says to me "Does this stage take us up to a castle?"........I was puzzled by his question, because as far as I knew, no, we didn't rally through castle grounds.......where exactly were we? Apparently Glengorm Castle. Very elegant 19th century Victorian castle, built in 1860 according to Wikipedia! Ah ha....great start to the note making! At least we now know which way NOT to go on the rally!!
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Glengorm Castle - perhaps a little too well manicured to let rally cars loose on there!
So that's my cue to pay MUCH better attention to my route book.  Having heard many a tale of the 'Dervaig Hairpins' from our parents, we were curious to see this technical stage.  We weren't disappointed with either the hairpins themselves or the views! Leading down into the town of Dervaig itself - the location of the rally finish - we made our way over to the next group of stages around the shoreline. 

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One of the many hairpins on the stages
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Dervaig - both stages and transit pass through this small village
Spending what was left of the day on the Calgary bay shoreline and the Hill Road stage we decided to do just a single pass of the roads that made up 4 more stages and call it a day.  Lots of pics of the scenery, but I don't think any can do justice to the stage roads themselves.  Perched high up on the cliff edge we were literally noting stages where, if we were lucky, Armco barriers were separating the tarmac from the vertical drop to the rocks and sea below. 
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A tamer area of the coastal stages
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View from Calgary Beach up to the stage road of SS1
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Pretty sure this is the Hill Road. We run it the opposite direction to the way we are facing. Beautiful scenery.
Good day 1 of recce.  We decided that if you change the roads to gravel, and add a few trees then the roads could be likened to the Egan Creek stages of Tall Pines, with the added bonus of the cliff edge! Fantastic stages.  One of the biggest differences we saw, and something that we haven't had much experience with was elevation change.  There were some parts of the stages that were all downhill. Not a gradual, round the mountain feel of Powderface at the Rocky Mountain Rally, but a straight down, steep, add a good number of tight hairpins and huge jumps kind of feel.  So a completely new experience for us.  Should be fun! Oh and did I mention we'd be doing all that in the dark?! 

That night, I drew up a schedule for Tuesday's recce session to ensure we noted the remaining stages and completed at least 2 passes of everything.  With a HUGE amount of stage mileage still to cover we then decided to leave the 22 mile/34km stage of Loch Tuath/Calgary Reverse until we could tackle it on Wednesday.  Our plans for night recce Monday were thwarted by the fact that we were low on gas in the recce car and island gas stations aren't open beyond about 5pm.  Ah yes, this isn't downtown Mississauga with 24hr gas stations on every other corner. Duly noted!
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Recce schedule for Day 2
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Up early Tuesday, the next two days of recce covered a lot of day mileage.  Getting the chance to recce stages such as Gribun and Scridain was fantastic.  I probably should have been pretty apprehensive running that close to the cliff edge, but the stages themselves were spectacular and definitely made up for the fear factor element.  I think Gribun was actually my favourite stage we noted all week.  Can't really put my finger on why, but the flow of the road and the technical sections combined to make it a great rally stage.  The highlight of our recce days was driving past the house we used to vacation at as kids - "Ardvergnish".  Nestled in the foothills of Mull's highest mountain Ben Moore, the house looks out across Loch Scridain.  The flying finish to the Scridain stage is actually located at the end of the driveway up to the large farmhouse.  Of course we had to stop and take photos.  Reminiscing of the fun we used to have as kids.  Remembering walking across the old stone bridge on the old road, and playing by the rock pools outside the pub across the road while the parents were inside having a quick pint.  Not that I remember writing this, but our parents tell us, for a primary school project on my adventures of my holiday, I wrote constantly about going to the pub.  "Today we took the dogs to the beach and then we went to the pub........today we went to see some rally cars, and then we played on the rocks while our parents were at the pub......" and it continues like this for the whole project.  Doesn't surprise me one little bit, but I think it surprised my teacher!

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Ardvergnish from our childhood vacations
With cattle and sheep all over the island it was very common for us to come across obstacles mid recce.  For the rally itself, farmers were moving the livestock up the hillside out of harms way, but for recce, we just had to pay even closer attention, especially at night as the sheep liked to lay in the road!
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We'd met a farmer with a herd of cattle earlier in the day, but we believe this to be an unauthorized migration. No one around except us and the cattle....they seemed to know where they were going though, so who are we to judge!
As well as completing recce in the daytime, several friends and competitors had advised us on going out and running through all the stages at night, even just one pass through, as the majority of the rally takes place in the dark.  Stages can look very different at night, and although Nick actually prefers to drive at night as it makes him more focused, we decided to heed the advise and went out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening. 
Completing almost 90km of night recce on Tuesday, we were exhausted after a full day writing and checking notes as well!  We had asked the parents to join us that night, but told them they were only allowed to come along if they sat in the back and didn't say a word.  Which surprisingly they actually agreed to! Have you met my mum?!
We started with the inland Glen Aros stage, which happened to start about a kilometre down the road from our accommodation.  Sat on the start line and everything was quiet.  Turn on the head lamp, reset the odo, and off we go.  It's that point in time that dad feels it necessary to open the noisiest box of chocolates you have ever heard from the back seat!! We get to the end of the stage, having made several changes to our notes....those crests can be quite deceiving in the dark......and all we hear is "anyone want a sweety?".  Was it really a good idea to bring them along with us??! Actually they thoroughly enjoyed it, not sure how they did it to be honest, we were moving pretty swiftly around those coastal roads in the dark.  Still under the speed limit I hasten to add!!
Wednesday daytime was devoted to the 22mile Loch Tuath/Calgary combined stage that would be the last stage of the rally late Saturday night/early Sunday morning.  Great stage, but wow, just recceing it was exhausting, I couldn't imagine having to do that after a full weekend of competition! That night we took our cousin Hannah out around the roads to once again check notes.  Hannah and our aunt & uncle had travelled up from Lancashire to spend the week up there & gave us a much appreciated helping hand.  Again surprisingly we didn't scare her too much either.  We reserved Thursday night for recceing that long stage, as it would be the last chance we had to check any notes, Thursday during the day & evening was going to be way too hectic.

So recce was basically all complete.  Notes amended, chicanes marked, routebook read to understand transits and service locations, and we were happy with what we had achieved.  What a long 3 days that had been.  No real time to do anything but work on notes, but then again, I guess that's the life of a co-driver.  The card playing, beer drinking and general relaxing would have to wait until after we handed in our last timecard - or leave it up to the driver, as his day is done the second he steps out of the vehicle! 

I felt like we had driven almost every inch of the island yet not actually SEEN any of it.  That too would have to wait until after the work was all done.  Still 4 days of scrutineering, final note checking, rally forums, shakedown and the actual competition itself before we could take a good step back and really admire the scenery.  Bring it on! Lets get this rally started!!
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<![CDATA[2014 Mull Rally - Part 1 - Getting there!]]>Mon, 20 Oct 2014 00:04:56 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/2014-mull-rally-getting-thereAs I sit here on my plane ride home from London Heathrow to Toronto, it almost doesn't seem real! I mean, who in their right mind puts their rally car into a container in August in order to compete in an event in October.  A car that's been built for a gravel season no less, sending it across the Atlantic Ocean to a tiny island on the West Coast of Scotland, in order to spend 4 days completing recce, then 3 days rallying on tarmac, competing in what's come to be known to many as the "Best Rally in the World" - the 2014 Mull Rally.........oh yeah, that was us......we did all that, and now after 10 days of non-stop action, rallying, visiting friends, exploring amazing scenery and generally having the time of our lives, we're packed up and headed back to reality. Not that I don't love reality, but WOW what an adventure!!
Lets take this back a year or 40. Mull, October 1972, a young Nigel - yes he was young once.....he's not reading this right?.....as I say, a young Nigel gets the opportunity to drive a Lotus Cortina Mk 1 with Graham Harper in the silly seat around some amazing island roads.  His future wife Lou, had already competed in the event in '70 & '71 with driver Margaret, winning the Ladies Prize in 1970 in a Mk 1 Cortina.  Nigel then returned in 1974-1976 with his brother Jeremy in the co-drivers seat.  By this point (1974) Nigel & Lou were together, and married in 1975.  The fantastic opportunity he received to first compete in 1972 was the beginning of a yearly vacation to the island coinciding with the rally every October.  Many a tale has been told to us over the years of the crazy antics our "responsible" parents used to get up to - and they wonder why Nick takes so naturally to it all! We've both been exposed to the rally influences since the womb, so it's a given that we should eventually get into the sport ourselves.
Once I was born (Kelly), the competing itself stopped but the vacations continued until Nick was about 5 years old.  After that, rallying involved watching the Network Q/RAC event every year.  The vacation house contained 4 families, all with kids and rallying fanatics.  The eldest 'kids' celebrated milestone birthdays this year, so 1 year ago a Mull Reunion plan for 2014 was hatched.
As details began being discussed, dad suggested "well seeing as we are going over there, we might as well take the rally car"......oh ok then! No argument from us 'kids' there, and so it was decided: 2 Brits Racing would enter the 2014 Mull Rally!!
Since 2008, the only tarmac rallying we had done was the single Montpellier stage at Rallye Defi in Quebec, and the PMSC Shannonville Stages Rally held at Shannonville racetrack.  The car was built for gravel, the driver & co-driver only having experienced gravel and snow/ice events, so it was going to be quite the rally to prepare for.
First things first: what changes do we have to make to the car to a) allow it to run well on tarmac, and b) conform to the MSA rules and regulations, the British governing body of motorsport, to allow us to be eligible to enter the event.
The biggest changes we noticed right away was the 32mm turbo restrictor compared to the 34mm we currently ran, the fact we'd have to tune to the 97 octane UK "petrol" compared to the 110 octane race gas we are used to using, and several other safety components we'd have to install as required in the UK.

When we first started organizing our 2014 season, it comprised of 2 events: Shannonville Stages Rally in Ontario, early April, and Mull Rally in Scotland, early October. With SSR being a track based event we felt it necessary to get some closed road stage experience so the (tarmac) 2014 Empire State Performance Rally in New York was added to the calendar. 

With some of the necessary changes made to the car with regards to suspension, brakes, tires etc (see the blog entry relating to Shannonville Prep) we were able to have very successful runs at both events, with 2nd at Shannonville, and managing to bring home a win over the border at ESPR! A fantastic event and a great prep for some of the skills we would need on Mull.  We found our note making was quite different on tarmac compared to gravel, with a bigger emphasis on braking & speed into a corner.
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2nd Place at 2014 Shannonville Stages Rally
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Thanks to Jordan Apgar for this fantastic shot of us at the 2014 Empire State Performance Rally in New York earlier this year. http://facebook.com/jordanApgarRallyPhoto
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Us in action at SSR. Photo by Justin Fitzpatrick.
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Podium: 1st Place 2014 Empire State Performance Rally
With these rallies completed, we now had 4 months until the deadline for shipping the car to Scotland, and only 5 months until the event itself.  Plenty of time if all you had to do was throw on a new batch of tires, and call fedex for a pick up.  Alas, no, that's a much shorter list than what we actually had to contend with.  After ESPR the car was suffereing a few issues and needed quite the overhaul to get it Scotland ready.  Hours were spent by the guys at Planet Motorsport and O'Brien Motorsports to ensure the car would be fit to travel near the end of August.  Engine work, new turbo restrictor, new underbody protection added, installation of the new built-in fire extinguisher system and the addition of the external power cut off are not small jobs to undertake.
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External power cut off
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Built-in fire extinguisher
Add all that to the tuning for the new gas we had to use, and an evening at Cayuga racetrack was needed to ensure everything was running smoothly.
Long time friend and fellow OPRC driver & co-driver champion John Vanos was able to assist us with our mini-shakedown as he knows the car well and has helped us out with it many times over the years.  As good as the car was running we did have a few electrical issues, but Iain from Planet Motorsport was on hand to fix the problems and the evening was a success.
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Testing at Cayuga
So now it was back to the shop for the final adjustments, tidying of bodywork/vinyls and any other small jobs that had to be done. 

The end of August came extremely quickly and after endless hours of packing and printing of equipment lists, it was time to load up the container and send it on its way.  The trailer looked awfully empty with all our tools, wheels and equipment packed into boxes.  The 20ft container carrying our car and accessories was picked up in Mississauga, transported by rail to Montreal, where it boarded its ship bound for Europe.  Landing in Antwerp, Belgium before being transshipped to another vessel heading to Greenock, Scotland, it finally arrived in the port of Oban, the west coast of Scotland a week before we arrived there ourselves. Pretty good timing really!

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Wheels & equipment on the shelf. Generator and tool box in front of the car. Then the car itself. Could have taken the kitchen sink and then some! LOADS of room
Phew, so the car's on its way. The rest is easy right? Well, it depends on what you class as easy.  Rental cars needed booking, recce and movement schedules written up, final confirmation of gas, tires, insurance, cell phones etc. Its amazing how much work is involved in competing in another country! Combine that with assuring all our equipment was to MSA regulations including our competition licences and it makes things a little stressful......but in a good way I guess.

I will say this: Constant correspondence with the rally organizers and friends who were also competing in the event was a HUGE help.  Be it the organizer, head scrutineer, registrar or the Clerk of the Course; all were extremely happy to help in anyway they could.  I did feel at times like I was emailing them at least once a day, but its a long way to go to not be able to run due a technicality!

As the only international team competing at Mull, we soon came to be known solely as 'The Canadians', which to us was quite amusing, as at home in Canada, we are known as the Brits.  However, we did decide to run under our Canadian nationality and compete under the Maple Leaf.....literally, with a giant Canadian vinyl flag on the roof.

The lead up to the event was FANTASTIC!! The coverage and promotion of it alone was something the organizers should be very proud of.  Entries opened early morning of August 8th and within the first hour or so, over 50 entries had been received.  50 in an hour!! That's more than we get starting a National event over here.  We were entry 52 and had to wait almost 2 months until the seeded draw on September 26th to see how they'd slotted us into the pack.  In fact, the car actually landed in Oban the same day of the draw.
It was a little nerve wracking waiting for the draw to be published.  We had no idea where we should be seeded, especially not knowing the experience of the other teams involved.  We weren't the only ones worried though.  As I understand it, the organizers were sweating a little about the seeding, not just where to place us, but with the final count around 144 entries and some very experienced competitors in there, they wanted to ensure it was fair for all.

Mull Rally "FEVER" was rampant on social media and the events' website leading up to the announcement, adding to the suspense of it all.  With recent tragic events in the UK rally world, a lot of public, media and government attention was placed on the organizers, competitors and the event itself.  Mull is one of only 2 closed road events taking place in the UK.  However, the promotion of safety for the event was outstanding, and any banter online between competitors was all good natured and people were genuinely excited to be a part of such an event: the 45th running of the Mull Rally.

PictureRally homework
A week before we headed to Scotland, routebooks were emailed to competitors (leading to countless 'homework' nights) and the start order was announced.
2 Brits Racing would be starting the 2014 Mull Rally as car 29, 25th on the road.  We were amazed by the seeding, thinking we'd be probably closer to 40.  At 29 we were smack in the middle of a whole slew of very experienced mull competitors....no pressure!
Along with the usual suspects in the top 15, Calum Duffy (Mk2 Escort), Peter Taylor (Fiesta S2400)  and John McCrone (Fiesta R200) were joined by James MacGillivray (Subaru Impreza) and Derek McGeehan (in his WRC Mini), as well as many other very talented and experienced competitors.  However, I think one of our favourites to see on the entry list was 5 times British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae (father of the late Colin McRae) and his co-driver Ian Grindrod.  Unbelievable to actually enter a rally along side these two guys! McRae and Grindrod drew car 16, not sure I would have wanted to be sat in car 15?! now THAT'S pressure!!

So there we are.  Car's in Scotland, everything else we have managed to get organized as best we could, now all that's left to head over there is ourselves.  First half of the pack flew out late on Oct 2, Toronto to Glasgow via London Heathrow.  1 WEEK UNTIL THE BEST RALLY IN THE WORLD!!!!!

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<![CDATA[2014 ESPR - Prep, Recce & Shakedown]]>Fri, 30 May 2014 18:23:17 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/2014-espr-prep-recce-shakedown
Ok, in true 2 Brits style, its now been a month since we won the 2014 Empire State Performance Rally, so it's probably about time I wrote a little something about it!

Wow, where do I start? What a weekend!



Let's set the stage here a little. As we have announced before, this season is dedicated to tarmac rallying. Since 2008 we have competed on gravel, mud, snow, ice and a lovely mix of them all in the 2010 Rocky Mountain Rally, but other than test days at Cayuga Motor Speedway & the regional event based at Shannonville Motorsports Park we have never competed in a full tarmac closed road event.

Objectives of the event? Finish!, don't blow up the engine, test out our new DMack tires and figure out how to handle the car in a completely new rally environment. Sounds simple enough. 

Our expectations? Put in a decent effort representing the Canadian rally community, not make complete fools of ourselves and finish in a respectable position considering the tarmac experience we had coming into the event, knowing we would be competing against some very quick & experienced teams.  We were originally hoping for a top 5 finish. We knew that the majority of the ESPR competitors were 'regulars' and would know the roads well with our only possible saving grace being a rumor that some of the roads had changed slightly and therefore competitors may be seeing some parts of the stages for the first time like ourselves.

Car preparation for the event was no easy task.  The majority of the prep was done before the Shannonville Stages Rally, Round 2 in the Ontario Performance Rally Championship (see "on route to Shannonville Stages Rally" in the blog) . Using SSR as a shakedown for ESPR we found the issue with the transmission jumping out of gear was still ongoing.  Further alterations were made to attempt to correct this issue. We also found at SSR that the rubber front suspension bushes were not up to the job and (on the advice of good friend and fellow Canadian competitor Chris Martin) switched them to polyurethane ones. 

So other than the usual bolt check, fluid check and general all round cleaning, the car seemed good to go.....other than a drive clean......and therefore stickered plate.....oh and race gas!!

Yes, of course its too good to be true when you think you have everything planned out in advance, come on...this is rallying we are talking about here.  Once it was confirmed we could run on a temporary plate sticker we were able to finish packing the car and gear and concentrate on picking up the race gas that was being mixed last minute, and setting off on our 9 hour journey to Rock Hill on the Thursday afternoon.

Nick was flying into an airport 90 minutes away from HQ, hiring a car (the recce vehicle....hey it got off lightly, its a tarmac event, at least it wasn't our usual gravel beating) and meeting us there.  The 'plan' was for myself to make it to registration Thursday night in order to gather up the competitor pack, organize what we needed for tech and start working on my recce plan and route book. 

Unfortunately the "we couldn't get our hands on any race gas" from our regular supplier Thursday afternoon had us scrambling to find something other than fresh air to run the car on.  Nick was questioning whether he should get on the flight to New York.....to which we replied "just get on the darn plane, we'll figure it out somehow!". Several Google searches, phone calls and emails later we found a supplier over the border in New York State that sold an equivalent, and could get us a barrel, but closed at 5pm.  Touch and go if we would make it, but we had to try!

Smooth sailing over the border meant that we made it to the gas supplier just after 5 but he waited around for us with our event-saving barrel of race gas.  Fantastic! Now to make it to registration in Rock Hill before it closed at 10pm.  Lets see....Google maps says Lockport, NY to Rock Hill, NY is 5 hours.  Add to that a truck towing a trailer......with a dog on board stopping every so often, and not leaving Lockport until 6pm? yeah, not going to happen.  Eventually pulling into our accommodation around midnight with Nick just arriving himself we were going to have to get some sleep and head into Rock Hill early for registration before recce Friday morning.

Registration & Recce - Friday April 25th

Up bright and early for a 0700 registration, who needs sleep before an event anyway?

Centred in the town of Rock Hill, New York, the Headquarters for the Empire State Performance Rally is based a the Rock Hill Fire Department.  Fantastic location and great hospitality shown by everyone there. 



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Finally we made it!! Registration for 2014 Empire State Performance Rally at Rock Hill Fire Department
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Look what we found on the registration table. Team OSM ( Winners of 2013 TP Rally) looking a little sideways on the 2014 Tall Pines event postcards
After meeting event organizer Fran Gager (who had been extremely helpful to us leading up to the event), and getting ourselves registered it was time to head out on recce.  Good friend Donal Crooke who had also traveled down from Ontario with co-driver Bruce Leonard had advised us the best route for recce would be to start with the stages furthest away near Monticello - Kutcher's Run and Anawana Lake (same stage but run in both directions), head over the top to Meegan's Flags and therefore Neversink Drive (which was 3/4 of Meegans), before heading back into Rock Hill to recce Fireman's Run and Charlie's Bluff.  The Monticello Race Track would be recce'd on the Sunday morning before we ran the stage. 

All in all, recce went well.  Course notes were supplied in the form of Jemba, but where possible, we prefer to write our own, so it was important for us to schedule our recce time appropriately.  We were able to run 2 passes of each stage, and I found we made a lot more changes to our notes on the 2nd pass compared to when we run on gravel. Second pass through you can usually go a little faster, and it seemed we were changing the speeds on a lot of our corners from the first pass. Tarmac was going to be a lot quicker than gravel and we therefore had to note our corners for more speed than we were used to.  This meant marking them as a lower grade of corner, ie. 4L- instead of a 4L+  etc to slow us down more into them.  Nick also noted for less grip that we actually had in the rally, therefore taking a more cautious approach in the notes.  As long as the notes were consistent, if we found on stage we had been a little too cautious, he could change his driving style accordingly.

Obviously with it being tarmac roads, not all of the stage was made up of twisty technical corners like we are used to with the logging trails at Tall Pines for example. So in most of the stages, to keep the speed average down and slow us in any dangerous areas that we could have reached ridiculous speeds (although saying that, as you will see with the Meegan's Flags stage we managed to reach some pretty spectacular speeds on the faster runs by the river)
there were chicanes in place.  Well marked in both the routebook and on the stage road itself for recce.



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A page of notes from the Fireman's Run stage. Including two of the Chicanes.
As usual we had a "...300 over squirrel...." note in there, and down by the river on the Meegan's Flags & Neversink Drive stages, Nick was quick to point out the depth of the water being very shallow.  The stage was run along the riverbank with a few trees separating us from the water.  Not my favourite part of a rally I will admit, but it is always good to take in your surroundings, not just what's right in front of you. 

Having always competed in kilometres I was constantly reminding us both it was in miles, and with no stage marker boards set out yet, it was important for us to make sure we knew exactly where the starts & finishes were.  One of my favourite notes in the route book was for a stage finish, marked as "at small fir tree"!! haha
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This was a source of amusement for us, we thought others might get a kick out of it
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Nick looking a little TOO relaxed on recce maybe??!!!
Tech, Shakedown & Parc Expose - Friday April 25th

With recce complete, it was time to head to tech and get the car prepped for the afternoon Shakedown.  As it was a NASA event we had to take off all of our Canadian Rally door cards and windshield banners etc, to make room for the new stickers.  Sad to see them being peeled off, but the car looked fantastic with the new decals!
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Finishing touches with the event sponsorship stickers
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Thanks to Jake Peters for this shiny shot of the car at service. Almost seems a shame to take it out and get it dirty!!
Once the couple of issues we had at tech were all ironed out we received the go-ahead to take part in the Shakedown. 

Shakedown was being held over near Monticello utilizing a section of the shorter 2.85mile (4.5km) Kutcher's Run stage that we would be seeing on the Saturday leg of the event.  This would be our first time on a tarmac stage at speed with the rally car set up for such conditions (Rallye Defi in Quebec has a tarmac stage but we run it with a gravel set-up), so it was both exciting and nerve wracking.  Exciting obviously because we were back in a rally car, but nerve wracking because we really didn't want to do something stupid and end our rally before it had even begun!
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The two Canadian entries! Hanging out with Donal Crooke and co-driver Bruce Leonard at the start of the shakedown stage. Waiting for the fun to begin!
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The obligatory Shakedown Selfie
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Great friendly atmosphere with the competitors. Chatting to a number of them before Shakedown started.
We managed 3 or 4 runs through with no car issues only driver issues! hahaha, no not really, just a bit of a grandma first run through, getting a feel for the road, and the way the car handled it.  There were a couple of corners with gravel on the inside, so of course Nick was drawn to those! (as subsequent photos and videos of the event will show!) but it was good to get out there and push the car to see how it reacted to the surface, speed and nature of the road in a non-competition setting before the real fun stuff started in the morning. 

Once Shakedown was complete, there were a couple of hours for Iain from Planet Motorsport to make sure the car was looking & feeling good, gassed up and already to start the event.  We would be going from service into parc expose then on to parc ferme for the night, therefore it had to be rally ready before we put it to bed!

Parc Expose was held on the main street so spectators, teams and crew could all mingle and inspect the competitions' vehicles!  Even the heaven's opening couldn't put too much of a dampener on proceedings!
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Thanks to daggerSLADE media for this shot of our car at Parc Expose......sitting on it's dry tires...in the pouring rain, this could get interesting in the morning! see www.facebook.com/daggerslademedia for more fantastic shots from daggerSLADE media
Following parc expose and the Rally Car Parade down the main street complete with Rock Hill Fire Department trucks and lots of spectators, we headed to parc ferme for the night.  Forecast had been for sunshine, but the rain, which looked like it might go on for a while, had us worrying the dry tarmac tires we'd put on the car probably weren't the correct choice!! We'd have to wait and see what the skies were looking like in the morning.
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Calm before the storm. Clean rally cars stored away for the night in Parc Ferme. Thanks to daggerSLADE media for this shot www.facebook.com/daggerslademedia
All that's left to do is pack everything away in the trailer and head back to the hotel....oh and work on my notes until about 2am! That's usually the way it goes!!

Bring on 2014 Empire State Performance Rally......we're ready for you!!
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<![CDATA[Shannonville Recap]]>Thu, 15 May 2014 19:57:18 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/shannonville-recap
What a great day of Tarmac rallying, with a little bit of dirt added for some excitement. Starting the day off with a good idea of what we wanted to get out of it, which is always well intentioned, we didn&apos;t think we&apos;d be quite where we ended up (but pretty close).



Starting the day off we really wanted to see how the DMACKs held up from a cold start. Track temp wasn&apos;t exactly balmy so we figured they would last for a good portion of the day. The first stage is always a bit jittery when you haven&apos;t driven the car for a little while, so we really didn&apos;t know what to expect from the car, tires, or driver!!



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Nick getting the all important GoPro set up
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DMACKs freshly mounted and looking meaty
At the start of the first stage we knew we would have some competition from the group, but unfortunately one dropped out all too soon. Lining up behind Ian and James, we could see them have a poor start with the car obviously having issues right out of the gate. Shame really because they&apos;re always fun to have around for the day and Ian knows the track well from what I understand.



We ultimately were following behind Peter Thompson, who is always incredibly quick at Shannonville and definitely has the equipment to have a great result. With Martin Donnelly behind us, also very quick and competent on Tarmac (no surprise really given that he&apos;s Irish. I&apos;m pretty sure it&apos;s a genetic trait!). Warren Heywood rounded out the group, he would also be very competitive although perhaps a little bit underpowered against the stronger running open class cars. Good thing he is able to drive the pants off his car to keep up!



Starting the first stage was all about getting used to the tires. We went out well but had to remember to keep it sticky and tight, as opposed to slidey and loose which would be how we normally run! Car felt great for the whole run and we had a good mix of on the limit braking as well as some slightly sideways action, courtesy of Warren making some large cuts and dragging a bunch of mud out onto the track. He&apos;ll deny it vehemently, but the colour of his car at the end of the event didn&apos;t lie!



Favourite part of this section of the track was probably the chicane before the pit straight. We had a fairly solid line coming through and the felt good and strong pulling out. Good practice for ESPR since there&apos;s a number of chicanes there to break up the faster straights.



Coming into the end of the stage, we felt like we&apos;d gained a little time on Peter Thompson, however Martin Donnelly pulled in a little sooner than we would have liked, meaning he closed the gap a bit and gained some time on us.

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Bigger Brembos added for Tarmac
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Up on stands before the start of the rally
Second stage time and we lined up for the recce part of the stage. We haven&apos;t run Shannonville since they introduced the gravel section at the back of the track, so this was going to be new to us. As we came through on recce I could see how it was possible to go off in here and really ruin your day. Even running through slowly there were obvious dust problems and the tires didn&apos;t want to grip at all on the loose stuff.



We started off the stage fairly strong but soon realized that although the tarmac is fun once in a while (or all year as with the case for 2014) the gravel is really where I&apos;m most comfortable as a driver. It felt like each time we hit the gravel section we may have picked up some time on the other competitors. At times as we came through it was a little dusty, but staying committed to the notes, we pressed on and made up time. There were only a couple of slightly loose moments, but still in control and we finished the stage with very few issues.



Although we didn&apos;t know where we were sitting on the day, we know now we dropped 24s on the first stage and only 4.5s on the second stage to then leader Martin Donnelly.



All good and on to service.

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Service #1 with a surprising amount of dirt for a Tarmac rally
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Much discussion being had about tires with DMACK rep and fellow competitor Chris Martin
Service number one and there weren&apos;t really any problems to fix. More tire discussion than anything else to figure out what to test or go out on for the next loop. Iain from Planet Motorsport always has some interesting advice from a number of years in Canadian rallying and we decided on running the Michelin&apos;s for the second loop, partly to see the comparison and partly to save the DMACKs for ESPR.



Out we go for the second loop which was the first pass of the long stage with the whole pack running together. We knew there would potentially be some passing in this group, which can be interesting, but also a little odd for rally drivers!



Everything was going well and we were catching and passing a few cars, but after about 3 laps we had an issue which I&apos;ll put purely down to inexperience on tarmac. We didn&apos;t know at the time, but we had a long lock up on the inside front tire coming into some heavy braking. Huge plume of tire smoke (which was thought by the crew in the stands to be any number of things from lockup to blown engine) and we had an issue. We kept pushing but the car felt like it was running on a flat but with none of the negative affects. Since we had a lot of laps left to run and didn&apos;t want to damage the car if &apos;something&apos; let go, we decided it safer to pull off and go to service. Thanks to the unique setup of Shannonville Stages rally, there&apos;s open service and you take the time penalty on the stage. A shame because we were running well, but necessary.



Pulling into service we had the Planet Motorsport crew check out the issues and found a substantial flat spot on the right front tire. The car was up on stands and it was decided to check it out for any other ill effects. Upon closer investigation it seems there was a bushing that was failing and needed to be changed out. With some help from Chris Martin and of course Iain, they had it changed out pretty quickly and got us ready for the restart on the next stage.





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Flat spot down to the cords..
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Chris and Iain hard at work

Restarting the third loop of stages, the flat spot had really cost us a lot of time. The restart rules allow you to take the fastest time on the DNFd stage plus a 5 minute time penalty. This would effectively put us way out of contention unless other people also had issues.

We went out for the final three stages and had a relatively trouble free loop. Some great fun at the back of the track through the gravel and some interesting progression throughout the day.

On the final stage, we really felt like we were pushing the car and setting some good times, which was evident by us winning the stage by 8 seconds over Peter Thompson. Unfortunately Martin Donnelly retired earlier in the day so we weren't able to see how we're stacking up to the early leader.

Overall a great rally day and we had a lot of fun, but waiting for the results and podium was a great display of sportsmanship and patience! Nobody really had an idea of where we had finished with almost everybody having an issue throughout the day and taking a 5 minute penalty.

Results were recalculated about 5 times with errors caught by different people, but ultimately we came out with a solid 2nd place overall, narrowly missing 1st place by 8s had we taken off the 5 minute penalty. Peter Thompson took the overall win with a solid drive.

Time to focus on prepping for ESPR, which is why I'm sitting in Chicago airport right now, drinking a Sam Adams, waiting for the flight to Westchester, NY.

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Podium finish
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More hardware for the trophy wall! :-)
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Newest crew member Jacob helping us to our podium finish!
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Important ESPR rally prep being done!
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<![CDATA[On route to Shannonville Stages Rally]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 10:43:03 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/on-route-to-shannonville-stages-rally

First rally of the season!!!! Excited to be getting back into the car after 4 1/2 months off. Missed the smell of race gas, the adrenaline rush, the camaraderie of our crew & fellow competitors.....oh and my race seat! I LOVE my race seat......

So it's the Shannonville Stages Rally today. Close to Belleville, Ontario, SSR is the 2nd round in the Ontario Performance Rally Championship. The only OPRC event on the 2 Brits calendar this year unfortunately but I think the others will make up for that!

SSR is a tarmac event held at Shannonville Motorsport Park. Although just to keep it interesting they throw in a short gravel & dirt section to check you are still paying attention. As we tend to predominantly race on gravel the car had to go through a couple of alterations in order to handle the tarmac better.

So to start off with let's talk brakes.

When we rally on gravel we run Subaru Group N four pot calipers (on the front) with Ferodo DS3000 pads. Tire manufacturers only produce 15" tires for gravel and therefore in order for the wheels to clear the calipers we are limited to the size of brakes we can use.

For tarmac we are able to obtain 17" (& greater) tires, therefore larger rims & bigger brakes. We choose to run 17" tires as opposed to 18" as it gives a little more movement in the sidewall & a slightly more progressive breakaway, suiting Nick's driving style a little better.

This enables us to fit Brembo calipers and larger Ferodo DS3000 pads, giving us a larger braking area and therefore more stopping power! We also fitted slotted rotors to improve breaking.

Next up: Suspension

Using the same DMS suspension that we use for gravel we just lowered it and altered the settings. We left the gravel springs on which you wouldn't normally do for track racing but mindful of the jumps & rougher surfaces of our other 2 tarmac events this year we need more ride flexibility.

As well as altering the settings the whole suspension was removed, cleaned & serviced.

Rebuilt the steering rack

With a number of years under its belt the steering rack started to have a little bit of play in it. Not a huge issue on gravel but on tarmac where you need a little more precision we decided to have it rebuilt.

The rest of the checks & improvements were either fixing issues we had from Tall Pines or our regular routine bolt check.

One issue we found at Pines was that the car was jumping out of 3rd gear. We found the gear linkage was too close to the bodywork and not letting it engage fully. Modifications were made to the linkage & hopefully that has sorted out that problem.

During the bolt check we also found we had sheared a cross member bolt, so that was replaced along with fluids and a wiper blade that may or may not have been taken at some point over the winter for my car......

Once this was all complete, all that was left was an alignment and a good cleaning! With taking the steering rack out and adjusting it the alignment is necessary to ensure the wheels are sitting how they should and that the steering wheel is centred.

Now we are ready to go rallying!!!

The aim of the event for us today, along with having a ton of fun as usual, is to get a feel for the set up of the car & test our new tires!

Along with our regular Michelin Pilot Cup tires we have brought with us a set of DMack DMT-RC T7, basically a medium compound tarmac tire.

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DMack DMT-RC T7

As well as the dry tarmac tire we also picked up a set of wets, the DMack DMT-RC W2. Which we hopefully won't have to try today but will more than likely need for Scotland in October!!

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DMack DMT-RC W2

Once we have gotten a feel for the DMacks we will switch back to the Michelins to finish the day, as don't want to waste them before we get to put them to the test out on a closed road rally stage!!

Good news - temp is above freezing, very few clouds in the sky, and Nick made it up from Ohio as he's currently tucked in behind us on the highway!

Let's go racing!!!!

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<![CDATA[Entries are in]]>Sat, 08 Mar 2014 12:42:31 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/entries-are-in

Entries are now complete for Shannonville Stages Rally & Empire State Performance Rally (ESPR). Looking forward to those events.

Major planning in the works for the October running of the Mull Rally. Even get a mention in the Mull Rally newsletter this week!!

http://57north.createsend1.com/t/ViewEmail/i/83AB7153664B9F06

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<![CDATA[2014 Season Update]]>Sat, 08 Mar 2014 08:50:26 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/2014-season-update

As a lot of you will know we (as a team) are taking this year off from rally in Canada in order to prepare the car for a trip to Scotland (hopefully-fingers crossed still) in October this year.

The Mull Rally based on the Isle of Mull, off the western coast of Scotland is a tarmac rally that has a long history with our family.

Both parents have competed here in the past, Nigel as a driver and Lou as a co-driver, for separate teams (before we were born, so YEARS ago!!) and close family friends still compete here every year. Some of our fondest memories as young kids are our vacations up to Mull with close family friends watching the Mull Rally. Nick was quite young so he probably doesn't remember the rallying quite as well as I do, but I still remember the excitement of our parents waking us up in the night to go watch some of the night stages.

With a 'Mull Reunion' in the cards, dad felt it was only fitting that we should take our car over & compete.

I say our entry is still in the 'fingers crossed' stage as it all depends on our ability to obtain the appropriate licensing & eligibility of the car. So the organizing of all that is what is occupying our time currently.

Like I said, Mull is a tarmac rally & other than a stage at Rallye Defi & a couple of Shannonville events, all our events have been on gravel or snow & ice. The car is currently with the crew at Planet Motorsport getting any issues cleared up from Tall Pines last year & making any switches necessary for tarmac rallying.

Our current aim is to enter Shannonville Stages Rally(our only OPRC event this year) in early April for some prep time with a tarmac set up before heading to the Empire State Performance Rally in New York at the end of the month. Hopefully ESPR will give us the chance to get a feel for the car in a stage rally setting; allow us to better judge breaking zones, see how the car handles on tarmac tires with a different set-up to what we are used to etc. I say "we" but I suppose that's for Nicks' benefit. It allows me as the co-driver to see what kind of crazy speed I'm letting myself in for, while having no control over the vehicle itself! Then again, if I didn't love it, I wouldn't do it!

So right now, CRC licence applications are complete, ESPR early entry will be complete by the end of the week, and our Shannonville entry should be in soon after that.

Stay tuned for photos & details on the changes we are making to the car for these events as well as write ups on the events themselves.

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<![CDATA[Tall Pines - Saturday - Rally day]]>Mon, 27 Jan 2014 03:36:40 GMThttp://www.2britsracing.com/blog/tall-pines-saturday-rally-dayAnother early start to the day had us removing the car from overnight storage at 0645.  After adding the new @2britsracing vinyls that showed spectators how to follow us on Twitter throughout the rally & making sure my belts were adjusted after shakedown, all we had left was to check into Parc Expose and wait for the adrenaline fueled day to begin.
The great thing about Parc Expose is that it gives us a few minutes before the drivers meeting to relax and time to chat with fellow competitors.  It's also an opportunity for fans & spectators to be able to take an up-close look at the vehicles and ask questions if they want to.  We always keep a few stickers & post cards handy to give out to people, its great to see their interest and enthusiasm for what we do.
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Sitting in Parc Expose waiting for the rally to start
Time off the start line at HQ for us was 0918, heading to Upper Old Hastings for the first stage of the day.  With a total of 16 stages, 190 stage KMs and over 300 transit KMs, it was going to be a long day!
After the shakedown Friday night, Nick had made the decision to start out on our Nokian Hakkapeliitta ice tires.  The rally schedule was such that we had 2 stages then service: Upper Old Hastings then Old Detlor.  U.H. was icy on recce, as was the majority of Detlor; we were expecting snow for the first few KM of Detlor but overall it would be pretty polished, so the ice tires were the logical choice.  If he felt we'd made the wrong choice of tire, we only had 2 stages to battle through before service where we'd be able to switch them if necessary.

Transit to the first stage is always a little nerve wracking, yet exciting, and having not competed since Pines 2012, it seemed to be a little more intense than usual.  The media team had fixed 2 GoPro cameras into our car with an audio feed.  One camera facing out the windshield and one facing back into the car to catch our reactions on the stages.  I think this added to the tension a little, knowing that someone else will see all our footage & hear our pacenotes and reactions.  It's also a team joke that I'm not the most reliable at turning our own GoPro on and off.  I think we have more transit footage that stage footage to be honest!

Stages A1, A2

Pulling up to the start line of stage A1 we fall back into our old routine like we'd just rallied the weekend before, not 12 months ago.  At the start of every stage we ALWAYS go through our safety check: it usually starts with Nick asking "Belts tight?"....yes.  "Helmet done up?"....yes.  "HANS attached?".....yes.  Then I go through the same questions to him.  It might seem a little excessive to some, but having had a rather extensive crash in 2010, safety of ourselves in the vehicle is a HUGE priority when we race. 
I then go over the first handful of corners for Nick, whilst keeping an eye on the clock.  Once the start lights turn on its 15 seconds to stage start......10 seconds.......5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!

The 11.09km of Stage 1 goes reasonable for us.  Setting a respectable 9th fastest stage time, we felt the ice tires were a good choice as it was incredibly slippery.  The suspension felt like it was hopping a little and we were getting some noise in the front right, but the car seemed to handle the stage well.
Next onto A2 - Old Detlor.  12.12km of snowy wooded trails, opening up to a short tarmac section then onto wider polished icy roads.  The northern section of the stage incorporated the popular Tait Farm intersection, the Iron Bridge spectator area and the final corners up passed the spectators and VIP tent to the finish. 
The first 1/3 of the stage was on the trails through the snow.  The ice tires proved to be very much the wrong choice in here & Nick had a bit of a battle with the car if it got off line.  However, once we made it through that section it was incredibly icy from then on.  The short tarmac section was as interesting as usual with us VERY sideways and close to the mail boxes - got to give the spectators something to watch right?!

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Passing the spectator section of Old Detlor - Photo courtesy of Erik Ockwell
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Using the ditch to our advantage - Old Detlor spectator area - Photo courtesy of Jesse Leduc www.fokusphotographie.com
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Coming up to the Tait Farm corners. Photo courtesy of Jesse Leduc www.fokusphotographie.com
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Approaching the Iron Bridge spectator area - Photo courtesy of Erik Ockwell
The rest of the stage went ok with us setting an 8th fastest stage time.  Nick felt it was quite slow and was a little disappointed with our performance, but the time didn't really reflect that.  So the first 2 stages done & back to service. 

Notes for Serv 1:
- Hopping back suspension
- Front right noise
- Brakes smelling very hot
- Switch Tires
The next 3 stages were going to be a repeat of U.H., then Iron Bridge North (last 1/2 of Old Detlor), then the Peanut stage.  Knowing Peanut was mostly snow, Nick felt it was sensible to switch to our Yokohama AO34 snow tires.  Not as good on the ice as the Hakkas, but wouldn't be too bad, and if we did get off line they'd handle the snow.  The AO34s also have a thicker sidewall than the Hakkas, being a rally specific snow tire & therefore, we felt, a better choice for the rougher Peanut stage.
On arrival at service, we tend to sit in line at time control for a few minutes waiting for our check in time.  We use this time wisely to go through any issues with our Planet Motorsport mechanics, listing off the things we need to take a look at and giving them a general overview of the car's performance. 
No one other than Nick or myself are allowed to touch anything on the car until we are checked in for our 20 minute service so you will see crews standing with visible distance between themselves and the vehicles.  However, as has happened in the past, Nick or myself are allowed to do any repairs, or prep work for repairs while we wait, under the direction of our crew if necessary.  Hasn't happened often, but when every minute of a 20 minute service counts (as in the case of changing a shattered rear strut for example at the 2008 Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs) anything we can get done to it in the couple of minutes we are waiting in line is useful.  When we check into service, you will usually find me out of the car so that as soon as we are into our minute, Nick can drive the car straight to our crew, while I wait for our time card.  May only be the difference of 30 seconds, but you never know when you might need that extra 1/2 minute!

No issues found with the front right, tires were switched, and no brake issues found either.
The suspension however was another matter.  The breather tubes for the rear suspension had sucked in water, this had then frozen and caused the struts to stiffen up.  Hence why the car was hopping in the back end. A couple of heat guns and 2 big guys (Nick & Nigel!) jumping up and down in the trunk seemed to resolve the issue, and we were good to go!
Stages A3, A4, A5

Once out of service, regroup & refuel, we headed out to the next set of stages. A repeat of Upper Hastings, Iron Bridge Northbound (Northern half of Old Detlor) and then Peanut.
Nothing too exciting with the first 2, and even though we had switched to the snow tires, our second pass of Hastings was actually 4 seconds faster than our first pass (6th fastest stage time), and we set a 7th fastest time through Iron Bridge.
Then it was onto Peanut. 
At 14.27km in length, Peanut is notorious for its roughness and tricky narrow route through the woods.  It then opens up for the last 5km onto a wider faster road to the finish.  Proving to be as challenging as ever, we managed to slide straight through 3 of 4 T-junctions, and even with warnings of "caution turn 3R very slippy" for the 4th, we still ran very wide.  Those mistakes gave us a 10th fastest stage time, yet we managed to hold onto a 6th place overall up to that point.
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Nice day for a drive! Iron Bridge Stage - Photo courtesy of Jesse Leduc www.fokusphotographie.com
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Thanks to STYVESPHOTOS for some great shots
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Photo by STYVESPHOTOS
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What's this? no activity around the 2 Brits car? Matt must have caught is in a very rare 'relaxed service' moment! Photo courtesy of Matt Waters.
With Peanut completed it was back to service.  Not a lot to do this time.

Notes for Serv 2:
- Popping out of gear - We found the car jumped out of gear several times on these stages. Not sure exactly what could be done about it, but we added it to the list
- Check the suspension again - Still didn't feel 100% so need to check it. Going into the longest leg of the rally next so better to be safe than sorry.
- Check the AO34s to see how worn they are and decided whether to switch to a new set.
- Lights on - Even though we were checking into service around 1pm, with the next loop of stages taking us through 80km of transit and about 58km of stage mileage, it was entirely possible that if there was even a slight delay in the rally then we would be running stages as the sun was starting to set. Not good when the last stage in the group was the wooded Egan Creek stage. Hence the lights.
Everything got dealt with, including changing our coolant overflow bottle....AKA a gatorade bottle....which somehow seemed to have sprung a leak!
The AO34s we had on looked good so we decided to leave the same set on and save the other
tires for later,  with a lot more stage mileage still to go.
No visible suspension issues, and not a lot to be done about the shifter jumping out of gear.
Lights on and off we went to the longest loop of stages: Iron Bridge South (7.99km), Middle Old Hastings (7.28km), Lower Old Hastings (14.5km) and then Egan Creek (27.46km).

Stage A6, A7, A8, A9

Stage A6 Iron Bridge South was again mostly uneventful.....but very slippery, with a 2km section of it covering the Shakedown stage, so incredibly polished.
Coming down the off camber corner just before the bridge itself we started to get a little wide and for a split second it looked like we weren't going to recover from it, but Nick managed to regain control and we made it to the bridge without taking out any trees!! Of course, spectator video footage only shows the bridge crossing, so we look like we're out for a Sunday drive........but trust me......we were moving a lot quicker than that!!!


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Sitting in re-group after Service 2. Heading out the the next stages in 6th position. Photo courtesy of Matt Waters.
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Stage A6 Iron Bridge South. Photo courtesy of Melanie Gallant
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Photo taken by Emily E Atkins, www.emilyrevscars.com
Iron Bridge was definitely not our favourite stage of the day, and our suspension didn't like the huge jump mid-stage but we managed an 8th fastest stage time putting us into 5th place. 

Next up were Middle and Lower Old Hastings. Basically the notes read "jump into jump...into big jump....into stay right over huge jump...." with a few corners thrown in for good measure.....oh yeah, and on ice......
Hastings and I are not best of friends, whereas Nick LOVES the stages. The more air the better in his case!
With a 6th fastest stage time (only 0.1 seconds off the 5th fastest stage time of Besner/Ockwell) on Middle Hastings, I think it was the longest 7km of my life!! how we made it through I'm not quite sure.....well I am...it was all down to Nick, as my co-driving skills for that stage were pitiful!!! Knowing we had to do a second pass of it in the dark was not sitting well with me.  I believe our tweet for that stage went something like "Crazy middle hastings.  Nick loved it. Kelly hated it".  Enough said!

Transiting to Lower Old Hastings A8, the car suddenly died as we were driving.  It started straight away, and we dismissed it as just a strange occurrence. Until it happened 2 or 3 more times leading up to time control at the stage start  With the last time taking much longer before it would restart.  The issue seemed to be the ignition, as all power was completely lost, and it eventually started after fiddling with the key and keeping our fingers crossed.  Not a great feeling when we knew we still had 14km of A8 then 27+km of Egan Creek to go.
After Middle Hastings I was determined to get my notes back on track and we were going well, right up until the point where we lost all power going over a crest midway through the stage and managed to coast to the next one. 
Now stopped on stage with only 60 seconds separating us and the next car, Nick usually gets about 5 seconds to start the car/get us out of a ditch/fix the issue etc before I'm unhooking the intercom, popping my belts, out the car and grabbing my triangle. No luck with the ignition, so off I run back down the stage with my triangle to warn the approaching cars  of our disabled vehicle in the road.  As I'm running to a safe enough distance that will give other competitors time to see me and adjust their speed accordingly, Nick manages to start it.
I hear this, yet I'm unable to do anything until the next car has passed us.  Its very important to wait until the next car passes you as it then gives you essentially 60 seconds to return to your car, belt up and get back on the road.  If you don't wait for that car, and you remove your triangle and now have your back to traffic, the other vehicles have no warning that you or your disabled vehicle are there.  VERY UNSAFE!!!!!
Once I know the other car has seen me, and having slowed them down enough for them to pass our car safely I am able to take off running back up the stage.  Yes, us co-drivers very often get quite the workout too you know!
Having secured my triangle and belted up we can take off again.  However, I didn't even get chance to plug in my intercom and see where we were in the notes before Nick was pulling over into a driveway only a handful of corners on from where we had stopped.  FLAT TIRE!!! Normally we would drive out on it, but Nick must have felt it was not handling well for us to pull over mid-stage and change it.
So once again, belts off, triangle out, and I take off running back down the stage again.....note to self.......must train harder at the gym......
While changing the left rear tire, I notice we had also blown the left front tire.  No idea where or how we had done it, but now our quick tire change was turning out to be a long affair and as the clock was ticking, we were sliding steadily down the results board.
After taking us more than 10 minutes to change the 2 tires (including digging out the frozen ground to get the jack under the car!) we were now back on stage.  However.......because nothing is ever simple, the intercom system is not working, and while attempting to fix that, trying to find where we are in the pacenotes at that point is very difficult.  When this happens, Nick just starts reading the road to me so that I can find where we are, so we tend to look for a corner, uphill note or big jump that stands out.  However, before we can find that, we catch two cars. 
So now we have no intercom.....no notes.....and we are behind 2 other rally cars. Suddenly I find where we are and I'm now yelling as loud as I can to make myself heard.  We manage to pass the 2 cars on stage, and try to make up as much time as possible.  Finally reaching the end of the stage, I don't think I had much of a voice left!! Obviously we were the slowest car on stage, a full 13 minutes behind where we should have been sitting, dropping us down to 17th place. 
No time to really worry about that now, we needed to make it to the next stage and find where we had to slot back into the pack.  Still had 27km of Egan Creek to run!!

A9 Egan Creek stage at 27.46km is my favourite stage at the Tall Pines rally. Starting off the first 4km fast and flowing on icy wider roads it soon takes a T right uphill into the narrow, wooded trails, requiring your full attention, accuracy and quick hands if you want to drive it at any form of speed! It then opens up, like Peanut, for the last 8km of the stage.
No sooner had we turned into the woods and we blew a flat front right tire.  Trouble was, NO SPARES!! Oh well, 20km on three tires & a rim it will have to be! Even if we'd had a spare, we probably wouldn't have pulled over on stage to change just one, but it would have been nice to have that option.

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Photo by STYVESPHOTOS
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Photo by STYVESPHOTOS
Losing about 1.5 minutes on that stage due to the flat we set a 10th fastest stage time gaining us a couple of spots back up the results table into 15th. 
No fresh tire to change to we headed back to service with a very noisy front end & nick checking brakes every so often to see if we'd managed to chew through a brake-line yet with any remaining tire debris. Nope, still got brakes, good to hear!
No ignition issues on that stage or the transits but we couldn't rely on the fact it had fixed itself so on the service list it went.

Notes for Serv 3:
- Fix ignition!
- check for front right damage due to flat debris & running the mileage we did on a rim
- Check centre differential issue? - with all the noise from the flat & the subsequent handling problems Nick was unsure whether we had a diff issue or if it was all due to the flat.
30 minute service this time in which they determined no centre diff issue, was all handling problems due to the flat or non-existent tire.  Ignition was checked, wires were tightened, and no really obvious problem was found. We did, however, change the front right tie-rod end, as it was showing some movement. May not have been a huge problem, but better to be safe than sorry!
Although we decided to play it safe lighting wise and put our pods on at 2nd service - checking they were still working well from Shakedown the night before - we didn't actually need them on stage, and therefore we never checked them in 3rd service.....so they should still be working......right? hmmmm sat in refuel & Nick says "so, I think we have lights out!" sure enough, only 3 of the 4 pod lights were working. Luckily it was only one of them that wasn't on, and shouldn't pose too much of a problem on stage, but it would be nice to rally through the woods at crazy speed, on ice, in the dark, with as much light as possible.  Moral of the story? Check lights EVERYTIME before leaving service. 


Stage A10, A11, A12, A13

The next loop of stages was another grueling 51km, incorporating, Middle Hastings, Lower Hastings, Egan Creek and the in-town 2km spectator stage of Golton. 
Middle Hastings A10 was not getting the better of me this time, & although we hit some huge jumps mid-stage, it seemed the stage and I had called a truce and I actually thoroughly enjoyed it! Nick didn't seem to have an issue with us missing lights & we ran a 7th fastest stage time - granted, slower than our daylight time, but that bumped us back up the results board into 13th place.
Next up, Lower Hastings. Time for Nick to show this stage it wasn't going to catch him out twice in the same event.  Notes were spot on, no flats, no ignition issues, no intercom problems.......know what that gets you? 3rd fastest stage time behind Crazy Leo and Antoine L'Estage. Thanks, we'll take that! 
Can't wait to see the in-car footage & fingers crossed someone caught us coming over the flying finish because that jump was HUGE! On recce we had discussed the new extension of the stage to incorporate the jump and in our opinion it didn't add any value to the stage itself, but its in the notes & the route book so its part of the stage and therefore will be taken at a safe rally speed.  I think Nick's words at the time on recce were "wow that jump's huge! No need for us to go flying over that".  Even our notes say ".....40 over Bridge.......150 CAUTION! HUGE jump over finish...". So as we were approaching it at the end of the stage I read the notes & wait for him to back off the accelerator, read the note again, stressing the 'HUGE JUMP' part (I know he knows exactly where we are, we discussed it at the stage start!) ....and I wait......still waiting.......nope, apparently we're not taking it as slow as we had originally agreed to because as we are airborne and literally counting the seconds before we come back into contact the with road again, I'm seriously wondering if we will ever touch down.  There may have been a few choice words after that landing, but hey, AMAZING stage finish, car & driver handled it well, so who am I to judge!
That stage performance put us back into the top 10 as we headed to the second pass of the 27km Egan Creek stage A12. 
Once again, going out to prove something to the stage that cost us a couple of minutes the last pass through with a flat tire in the first few kilometres. 
Unfortunately we were unable to get a clean run at it suffering another flat tire almost the same distance in as the first pass.  So once again we drove probably 2/3 of the stage with a flat.  The time lost stopping to change it on Egan would seriously outweigh the time taken to drive out on a flat so we just kept going.  Losing 2 minutes from stage winner Steve Hobbs, we still managed to set a 6th fastest stage time, moving us up into 9th position overall. 
Similar to the Peanut stage, Egan finishes up with the fast 8km stretch of wide winding iced gravel road. Like the first pass, this part of the stage on a flat front tire/rim is rather interesting.  One section of our notes reads "...40  Cr 4L Don't Go Wide..." but with the car not being quite as co-operative as we would have liked, it decides to do its own thing and...yes you guessed it.....go wide....heading straight for a drop off. This is my cue to close one eye, brace my feet on my footplate, and hope that Nick can persuade it to keep its wheels on the road.  We manage to make it round the corner, without incident, to which Nick pipes up "guess it wanted to go wide....".  Not funny little brother.....not funny......
One of the more well known obstacles on the Egan Creek stage are the water crossings.  Depending on how active the beavers have been at damming the streams, & how cold or dry the weather has been, can change the terrain every time we race there.  Obviously in the middle of summer when we compete in the Black Bear Rally, 3 out of 4 water crossings are dry. The Pines in November however? Ice and deep water. We noted a couple of the crossings as ice on recce but there were two that were particularly interesting. One was a very dicey ice entry with a short tire blowing, wheel bending, very unforgiving gap in the middle before a solid ice exit. The other was a downhill icy entry into a DEEP water splash. Admittedly entering the water crossing faster than we probably should have, the resulting photos from Peter MacDonald's well found media spot made it all worthwhile!



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A little bit of water! Thanks to Peter MacDonald www.cdnrally.com for this photo
After changing our flat tire by the road side beyond the finish control for Egan it was now onwards to the in-town Golton Spectator Stage (A13).
To those of you that don't know about the Golton stage, it is the same 2km course that we use in the MLRC Rallycross Events, held during the year.  Nick knows the course well, and other than the addition of the jump, the course is virtually the same for the rally.  We never write notes for Golton, but I do every so often add in a verbal  "don't cut" note to Leo's corner, or a "caution" to the chicane on the back stretch. Mostly I leave Nick to it and just enjoy the scenery. Which is what I was doing, on our approach to Leo's corner (3rd to last corner of the stage where Crazy Leo had the unfortunate incident of rolling his rallycross entry a couple of seasons ago), until the 3L disappeared from view and we were heading straight on into the brush.  Thank goodness it was one of the only areas that didn't have snowbanks, trees, huge rocks, a ditch or a tire wall, because we weren't stopping.  I think I just gave nick the "Really?" look and shook my head while he reversed and put us back on the stage in order to finish and get our time.  Tells me he turned the wheel but the car just didn't want to do what was asked of it! Sometimes it does have a mind of its own! A 9th fastest stage time, left us in 9th position overall after that stage.

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The jump on the Golton Spectator stage. Thanks to Peter MacDonald for the photo. www.cdnrally.com
Notes for Serv 4:
- Change right wiper blade
- Check front right flat damage
- Check tires for final loop
Final 30 minute service of the rally.  Its been a long day up to this point, but we just have a couple of things to check and then 3 more stages left.  Interesting stages left in the dark, but we've almost made it. 
No damage to the front end with tire debris, wiper blade changed, tires checked and given the ok.  One last thing to do and that's switch the spares over in the trunk and replace the flat tire.  Which would be simple enough to do if we didn't just pull the trunk access handle off! So out comes the angle grinder to cut a hole in the trunk.  Wish I had some photos of that being performed, but I think my phone was getting a quick charge so I could keep up with our Twitter updates. Hole cut, makeshift cable tie handle replaced, hole patched with duct tape and we could check out of service.  Guess we will worry about a more permanent solution to the hole in the trunk at a later date!
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Waiting in re-group to head back out onto the night stages. Photo courtesy of Mike Roome
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"The Parents" a HUGE part of the team, giving us some final tips before we head out no doubt. Thanks to Mike Roome for the photo.
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Photo courtesy of Nicolas Roome
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Photo courtesy of Nicolas Roome
Stage B1, B2, B3

25km of stage mileage left in the rally, split into 3 stages.  A repeat of the 2km Golton Spectator stage, a 2nd run through Peanut, and then the Old Detlor night stage, which is just a shorter version of the second stage of the day.  Should still be pretty challenging in the dark though.

Golton goes without any off-track excursions this time, however we still manage to be slower through it?! Not sure how that happened, but it was an 8th fastest stage time, bumping us up into 8th place heading into the final 2 stages. 
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Apparently all our lights are working now! Photo courtesy of Jesse Leduc www.fokusphotographie.com
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Thanks to Adam Wade from 'Chiropractic on Main' for this cool shot of us at Golton
A 20km transit brings us to our 2nd pass of the Peanut stage.  Remembering from our first pass that the junctions were incredibly slippery I tried to stress this in the notes.  We had much better luck with them this pass, other than one where we still gave photographers a bit of a scare.  Like I'm sure most drivers do when they make a mistake Nick wants to get back on track as fast as possible and try to make up the time he just lost, which at this point is too crazy an idea to entertain when we just want to put in a clean run and finish. Its the co-drivers responsibility to be the rational one and calm their driver into a more sensible and appropriate speed. Which is what I found myself doing after that little off.  The rest of the stage went well, other than catching a slower car on stage and losing more valuable seconds.  Not a lot can be done when you're on a tight section of Peanut in the trees, there's not much room to pass, so you just have to wait for your opportunity and make your move.  6th fastest stage time maintains our 8th place overall.
One more down.....one to go!

Final stage of the night. Old Detlor Night section.  9.46km. Once again starts off on the snowy wooded trails, finishing up with the faster more polished section, and ending at the Tait Farm corners.  The snowy trails went much better this pass as we had our AOs on compared to our Hakkas from earlier in the day, and the stage in general went well. No incidents, no crazy jumps, just a clean & tidy run leaving us with a 5th fastest stage time.

Although we'd put in a good effort on those last few runs, it wasn't quite enough to make our way up the results board further than 8th overall.  Cruising back to service we were slightly disappointed with the result but in the end we did well to climb back up from our Middle Hastings issues that put us way down in 17th. 

All in all? Great event.  Exhausting, challenging, exciting, and a whole ton of fun as usual! We wouldn't ever expect anything else from the Rally of The Tall Pines! 8th place overall in the National and 5th in class (Open 4WD), and 4th in the OPRC results.  A FANTASTIC result for great friends & fellow competitors Chris Martin and Brian Johnson who won the event overall, and a huge congratulations to all that managed to finish this challenging event!

Thanks to our service crew from Planet Motorsport who, although we didn't bring them anything too challenging for a change, kept us going throughout the event. 
Also a big shout out to all the event organizers and volunteers for taking the time to make sure the event happened. Without them all we wouldn't be able to be out there having so much fun.
One thing we did try to do at this event was keep our followers updated on Twitter, which was a lot of fun. I had Nick asking me at the end of the stages "did you tweet our stage time yet?!" I'd only just been handed my time card back!!!    So thanks to all of you that cheered us on, and followed us throughout the rally. Hopefully we were able to give you guys a little bit of an insight as to how our stages had gone.

Very appreciative of the great photos that were taken of us out on stage and at service & re-group.  Thank you very much to all the photographers that allowed us to use their photos on our website & facebook page. 

Cheers Tall Pines, it was a blast!!!!
 
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