Don Brookes Memorial Trophy Rally

 

After a lot of thinking, worrying about regulations etc. we decided to enter the event. The rally is 169 miles long, from Saturday 10pm till Sunday 6am, covering Salisbury plain and green lanes around Devizes. We get quite happily lost on the plain in the daylight; god knows what in the night would be like. The information was sent through and more worries came about. Your vehicle had to meet MSA regulations but we did not know what was what. We were assured however, that this was merely to decide which class you were entered into. There were two classes, Expert and Novice. To qualify for the expert class, you needed to have finished in the top ten in an organised road rally.

If your vehicle was too modified, it would be classed as a hybrid and entered into the expert class. This is something we definitely wanted to avoid. The Devizes and District Motor Club were hosting the event, with many of their members entering. They normally run road rallies with mini's etc. but this time their members had begged and borrowed 4x4's to compete in the event. The day came and we loaded up with necessary spares, supplies, fuel and maps and set off to Devises. There was a planned fuel stop half way so there was no worries about running dry. The previous week was spent checking the 90 out, changing most oils, track rod ends etc. as we were expecting to have a grilling from the scrutineers. We were also allowed only 4 extra spots on the 90. I have 8, so the 4 on the roof were duly covered up and fuses removed. Also no GPS systems were allowed. However in the event, the scrutineering was less taxing than entering an RTV. They checked the lights, horn, checked the seats were attached and that was about it. Never mind, the 90 will be ready for the soon due MOT.

After checking in, we were given the route books where we were allowed to mark the maps with the 'neutral sections'. These were the routes between the competitive sections where you were not allowed to arrive before your allotted time. This stopped speeding on the public roads and with the times measured at 30mph, you had to take your time or be issued with heavy penalties. When you reached the competitive sections, you were to be given a piece of paper with 'tulip diagrams' on. More on these later. Anyway, there was a total of 27 entries, not as many as the organisers hoped it seemed. We were the only entry from HBRO and we were placed 25th, which meant we left at 10.25pm with a minute interval between starting places. There were a few Brooklyn's 4x4 teams and were also joined by the Shire Land Rover Club. Once our time came, we positioned ourselves on the start line and was counted down in true rally style. As the last 5 seconds came, these were signalled by the starter's fingers in front of the windscreen. Then we were off, tearing it down the 30mph-limit street, trying to catch up with the people in front. We got immediately lost, passing the people in front coming in the opposite direction, also lost. After quite a while, we found the first competitive section. We were handed our tulip diagrams and we were off. These diagrams were on a plain piece of paper. Just about 10 junctions drawn in a sort of star diagram. For instance a cross roads was a cross, with a dot on one leg to indicate where you were coming from, and an arrow to show where you had to go. Simple… Well no. We had to find our own route, matching up the junctions on byways on the maps. Problem being that it was difficult to define junctions and if you took one that wasn't actually a junction, then every thing after that was wrong. This happened quite a lot, in some cases the need to get out with a torch and try to look for tyre tracks was necessary. There were marshals to sign your route cards during these sections or code boards to note down to show that you have done the section. During the first few sections and less as the night went on, we were making quite a lot of Police interest. We were stopped a few times, even down green lanes with their police Freelanders and asked if this was a official rally, number of people, where we were going etc. It seems that the club did notify the local police, but the note must have got lost somewhere because they knew nothing about it. We were allowed to continue in each case though. We then proceeded to the half way stop. This was a petrol station that had been asked to stay open 24 hours. We filled up and checked over that everything was ok. All was fine for us except a blocked passenger window washer and the navigator could not see out. This was rectified with a safety pin robbed from the first aid kit. By this time 4 people had dropped out due to all sorts of damage. This was true as when you were out there, you were playing rally driver and flying down tracks on the plain, sometimes up to 50mph. Great till you hit a rutted bit and end up facing side ways, in a bush. I had to be reminded by my navigator to slow down quite a bit. Still, couldn't keep up with the Range Rovers though.

As the night progressed, the route was getting harder and harder. Before my dad went to bed, he rang me on the mobile phone. He asked me how was I doing. My reply was that we were circling a grass field in the plain somewhere, probably where you weren't supposed to be, with lights all around you coming towards you from all directions. All lost as well. After that people were following other people, some GPS's appeared but didn't seem to help. As the night went on (or was it the morning), many people including us were giving up and just trying to follow the road sections. At about 5ish the sun rose and we arrived at the finish at a service station on the M4 at about 6ish, on the wrong side of the motorway. I though it was strange that we were the first there. Once we met up with everyone else on the correct side of the services, handed in the time cards, drank an expensive £1.30 cup of tea (!!!), and found out we didn't win (not that we thought we stood a chance).

My navigator drove the 90 home, as I kept falling asleep so thought better be on the safe side.

A week later the final results we posted to me. Out of 27 starters, only 17 finished. We however didn't get a placing which was quite annoying and wrote to them to find out why. It is due to us missing a main time control (MTC) after the petrol stop. This then deemed any controls after that time to be invalid and excluded us from the last half. Shame we didn't know we actually needed to check out, as we were the last ones there and thought everyone had gone - never mind. It was a great laugh, well worth doing again, even though next time you are probably going to get lost even more. The cost of £58 entry may be a bit off putting but you have to try it once. Anyone interested for next time? Working in a team would be much easier. Tips for the event is to shell out or borrow a really good set of spots, such as Cibie Super Oscars or Hella Rallye 3000's, and make sure you have enough umph in your battery(s) to power them, and get a good navigator. That's about it. Might see you next time.

Driver - Stuart Davidson

Navigator - Gareth Jones

Vehicle - 90 2.5 Diesel Hardtop.

 

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