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    Wednesday, 13 May 2009

    This is the tale of my 2009 RDP Welsh Rally, I have had the chance to spectate, marshal, service, win and roll on this rally in the past but driving was something I didn't consider until beginning to write the Welsh Rally history. With that in mind the Golf was obtained from Ebay last June and it promptly spent 10 months in a garage doing nothing. When it was eventually wheeled out the Koni struts were found to be knackered when it went for MOT and a long delay ensued as a new pair were awaited. Eventually, with just a couple of weeks to go to the rally it was passed a MOTable and it was time to get some wheels and tyres. The tyres were second hand and collected from the Bulldog Rally by Jonathon Williams while the Speedline wheels were found on Ebay and were delivered to Wales via Gavin Lodge in Leeds and Paul Loveridge who officiated on the Pirelli Rally! Very compilcated I can tell you. In the meantime one of Talgarth's best, Chris Phillips, agreed to sit with me and the entry was duly sent off. I was by now having serious reservations about the gearbox and diff which were making funny noises. My fears continued right up to the rally but it was a case of going for it at this stage.

    Come the rally weekend and scrutineering was passed after replacing a siezed extinguisher pull (thanks to Relic for the help) and a good nights sleep was had before battle commenced on the Epynt ranges. Luckily it was a dry day as I only had slicks and before long we were launching into stage one. After a steady start and fears about the transmission caution was thrown to the wind and we had a good go. Wayne was the only car to pass us all day, the Honda taking us easily on the hill out of Davrian's and we somehow breezed round to record 31st overall. Considering the gearing was all wrong with the big wheels we were well pleased with the outcome, the only blot on my copybook being a straight on incident at Copse! My thanks to Bob thirgood for all the work he did for me along woth Brecon MOT Centre (Ralph Jones) and Brecon Motors, not forgetting Chris for sitting there and SWAC for putting the rally on! What next? B Gearbox out and get some decent ratios!!! Maybe into the woods then............................................


    Thursday, 11 December 2008

    I know it's not eveyone's cup of tea but I'll give you a run down of my week anyway. As many of you know I have been fortunate enough to co-drive the zero car on Wales Rally GB for the last couple of years. This was my third year and it was definitely more of a test for us than before. When I say 'us' I mean Richard Iliffe who drives and those old enough will remember him in FUT 3L, which was attached to various Group 4 Escorts in the seventies!

    My week actually started with the engineers recce on the Monday. Along with Phil Jones, Jason Murphy and Ian Howells I assisted in taking the Subaru, Ford and Citroen engineers around all the special stages in a single day. It was a cold day but conditions were ideal, something that would alter during the week.

    I travelled to Cardiff on the Wednesday evening and was expecting to go to Swansea the following morning to collect the Volvo from M Sport but plans were changed and we were to travel to Mid Wales in a Discovery and recce the Friday stages and Resolven on the way back. When we arrived at Hafren conditions were not good, hail had fallen on the packed ice and the Discovery struggled through behind Ryland James' Ford Ranger. The recce had taken place on the Tuesday and the roads had been left as thick polished ice, only studs would have worked but unfortunately they are illegal in this country. At least we now had an idea of the conditions that would face us and barring a miraculous thaw that was how it was going to be. We persevered and carried on to Myherin which was even worse and then south to Resolven which was a huge improvement on what we had seen. We even found BBC World News on the television as we waited for the key to enter the forest! Last job for the day was drop the Disco off at Treforest and collect the Volvo. When it arrived we were delighted to find that we would be using Valentino Rossi's recce car. This would obviously instantly improve the standard of the driving................

    Anyway, Friday dawned and we set forth with trepidation. The drive to Hafren helped us get used to the car but when we arrived at the shortened stage start we found that the stage had been cancelled due to the ice. It was understandable as there is no tyre on the market, unstudded, that would have coped. On we went to Sweetlamb which was slightly shortened and ice free. Ice free it might have been but the Volvo struggled to find any grip in the ultra mucky conditions. We ploughed on to Myherin for another really good but shortened stage and almost got caught out in the final mile on sheet ice. Mark Higgins did actually go further than us to leave the road completely. The road section out was the worst and on the second run through we came across competitors who'd left the road only to become firmly stuck. The final act of the day was a trip through Walters Arena which was also dead slippery before a quick meal and bed back in Cardiff.

    Saturday dawned cold and bright and it was to be Resolven, Halfway and Crychan run twice and then a blast around the Millenium Stadium. Resolven looked good at the start, wet but not icy we thought, by the time we were on the other side of the hill things had changed and ice was the dominant feature. It was on this stage that we found that the tyres fitted really were useless. A third gear left and the car just broke away sending us into a 360 spin. Luckily we didn't touch anything but it was a wake up call. We drove steadily theough Halfway and Crychan and dived down to Swansea to M Sport for some tyres. Darren, the recce car chief was great and fitted some much better examples albeit in the dreaded hard compound. Our second run through the same stages was much improved and normal viewing was resumed. The stadium was great, entertainment beforehand and then the cars which seemed to represent very good value. For us it was once again a quick meal and heads down ready for another earlyish start.

    There were two stages on Sunday, Rheola and Port Talbot. Rheola was a bit messy and very icy, Walters was like a skating rink and it was the one stage I was really happy to get out of. Port Talbot on the other hand was fantastic and the second time through was a delight with the jump tackled with great aplomb. After watching Loeb come into the stage finish we headed back to Swansea to strip the radio and tracker kit out of the car before heading back to Cardiff and onwards home for a good rest.


    Saturday, 16 August 2008

    It's a wet afternoon in Wales yet again so I thought I'd share some thoughts on this years event. At the end of the day we had a good event again this year, there is always room for improvement and we'll go onto that later. I think that from a competitors point of view it was a good event, the only delays caused by the usual antic of attacking the scenery! There were two incidents and thankfully all involved are perfectly well and keen to get back in harness when they get new shells.........

    From an organisers point of view we were quite thinly stretched in some areas as we had a number of competing members who usually help with the marking. This job now encompasses more than three complete days and was completely exhausting for the five members who stuck withit to the end. Next year we must have another crew working on the day. Many hands make light work. Similarly the core organising team needs a boost to enable James and myself to be free to handle other things. The appointment of an all encompassing secretary is in sight, something that has been spread between us all for a long time now. Bob Long carried out his chief marshalling role with aplomb and has agreed to carry on for 2009. Again, Bob will assume some extra responsibility in order to free up our time. The intention is to make a more relaxed organising team, time will tell!

    As mentioned earlier, there is room for improvement and a few things were mentioned at the debrief. More proof reading of documentation will tease out the errors, some of which we didn't notice until too late this year. It's something that always happens with all written work but it can be lessened. Comment was made about the decals this year, we had a favourable deal with DSC Digital print as it was his first ever job and there were a couple of small issues which will definitely be addressed for next year. Overall the service was very good.

    Other than that, we had one issue to clear up with the HRCR which is now done and dusted and we can look forward to another good year in 2009.

    An organiser's blog

    Sunday, 13 July 2008

    Well, it's been a hectic couple of months, the hillclimb is done and dusted for another year, the June & July autosolos have gone off well and now it's time for the big one, the SGC Printing Harry Flatters Rally. There is a lot to think about, route authorisation, collation of road books, time cards and safety manual, booking officials hotel rooms, booking venues for HQ and scrutineering, ordering awards, stage furniture, rally numbers, doctors, rescue units, timing gear, the list goes on. As well as all this the regs need to be produced and put online so that our customers can enter the rally!

    James Chappelle has done a brilliant job of the road book and time cards so they just need to be printed now. Bob Long, our chief marshal, is optomistic that people are booking in with him earlier this year, the historic Escorts no doubt helping this cause! As ever we greatly appreciate the invaluable help we get from our volunteer marshals.

    The next few weeks will be a whirl as all the goods required for the rally are delivered and we endeavour to get the final instructions out. No doubt all the competitors will be involved in frantic activity getting their cars ready and we wish them luck in their preparations!

    See you all on 2nd/3rd August. Next blog after the rally.


    Up front of the Gremlin

    Thursday, 13 March 2008

    Yes, I'm a first time blogger too! Seems like there’s a few of us breaking our blogging cherries this March-

    I have been asked to make a few comments about what it was like running just ahead of the field on the Gremlin Rally as car "0", well to be honest i was like a "pig in dirty smelly stuff", its the first time I have been able to come out to play all night on the Gremlin since the eventful year of 1986 (a year and an event that is etched on the annals of BMC history).

    I would firstly like to thank Malcolm, Mikko and Jari-Matti of Ford for allowing me the use of one of their development tarmac recci cars, it really was an awesome piece of kit, the anonymous black paintwork and black privacy glass certainly added to the menacing and macho look and disguised the bulging extended arches and wings and spoilers so much so that no one spotted they were even fitted! I was most confused by the true spec of this limited edition “Titanium” model as the boffins at Ford Motorsport were very secretive about this “Titanium” spec, however, I can only assume that it refers to the liberal use of this very lightweight metal within the construction of this competition car, unfortunately I suspect that this weight saving was a little lost on this occasion as the combined weight of a very rolly polly driver and chunky navigator will have counteracted these considerable savings (sorry Christian).

    The Focus’s Monte spec brakes were awesome all night and gave me great reassurance as we approached the famous Devils Staircase above Abergwesyn in the down hill direction during the last loop after second petrol however I did curse the ABS on one occasion. The awesome torque produced by the 1.8Ltr TDDi diesel development engine was particularly effective in our twisty welsh lanes and I must say that the heated windscreen and electric windows should be standard fit to any good road rally car and certainly made our life much easier.

    I am most grateful to Mr Graham Tong for strapping into the navigator’s seat at short notice, it was the first time out in the lanes for Graham for very many years and I am please to say that it was great to have someone as knowledgeable as him on maps along side me to help keep me on the straight (or should that be twisty) and narrow, we made a great team as I knew the first loop up to petrol very well, we both knew the roads on the second loop vaguely and the last loop after petrol was very much his domain and he called the roads out like he was reading well used pace notes. Graham’s performance was excellent considering his long sabbatical from the maps. It was great to reminisce with him over the good times back in the early 80s when Graham and I competed against each other in the Welsh under 1300 championship, when he navigated for a young Ieuan Pritchard and I sat with Crad Lowe, our other Welsh championship rivals (and mates) at the time included Howard Davies and Nicky Grist (alongside Steve Davies). If I recall correctly; Graham beat me in the navigator’s category of the Welsh U1300 championship that year as I was unable to compete on the Gremlin Rally because of me being Clerk of the Course.

    We had one minor over shoot on route, and one unscheduled short trip up a forestry track, these oversights did however highlighted one area of inadequacy in the specification of the Focus WRC, and that was the very poor reversing light fitted as standard, however I suspect that this will be addressed by Wilsons team of engineers before Mr Hirvonen and Latvala venture out on the Rally Argentina at the end of March.

    No moments were encountered during the night as we followed team instructions and only drove at nine tenths all night however as is often the case when you are not giving it a 100% we did manage to get a rear wheel caught in a ditch on one tight right hander that could have easily spun us around between the hedges. For those of you not out there on the route, many of the roads were covered with slimy mud after recent rain and farm traffic however we were generally very very lucky with the weather conditions and I feel sure that the crossed fingers of all the marshals out in the elements paid dividends.

    The classic roads between Rhandyrmwyn and Abergwesyn proved to be a real revelation for me as it was the first time I had ever driven over these fabled roads at speed without them being blanketed in thick fog. One of the very few good physical assets I have is my eye sight and fog was always an advantage for me on night events in the past.

    Despite me being sick on the route much to my embarrassment (is this a first for a driver?), all in all I enjoyed a great nights sport and would like to congratulate James on a job well done, I would like to thank all you marshals who turned up to do controls as without you we would have no rally. May I apologise for waking up quite a few marshalling crews who were fast asleep “cooch’d up” in their cars when we arrived at their controls, this is however one of the requirements of running as course car. Finally I would like to congratulate those competitors who got around in one piece as I know what you were up against!

    See you in the lanes again soon I hope- Mark

    First Timer!

    Tuesday, 4 March 2008

    My first blog. Had a look at the Tour of Epynt at the weekend, good to see some local crews out and about. Dai Block & Glyn were looking suitably aggressive in the Beemer and had a reasonable result as well. I was helping to run service 'in' with Nigel C and we didn't see Jon Vamplew all day, what was the story there? Wayne had the Rover out but was cursing a misfire and then he dropped off the radar as well. Sara Williams was out in the Honda, unshackled by father, and did it make a difference, flat over Devils when I saw her! That's it for now, must get the autosolo regs sorted.

    virgin two

    Wednesday, 27 February 2008

    As 5yds is the original blog virgin i'll have to be no2.
    This is a bit scary knowing that the whole world and talgarth can read my blog.
    May post more later

    Blogging....... how exciting

    Tuesday, 26 February 2008

    My first blog, a blogging virgin. Bless.

    Thought I would give it a go, a sort of year to date blog.

    First event was the Red Kite, with the head of the blackwood mafia, Bob Gibbons, in his trusty RS2000. A bit of an indifferent day really, Bob not getting 'at it' at all, a long layoff from the forests being one reason I'm sure. The 'Kite' was excellent, I love halfway especially the last 3 miles up to the finish near Dixies. The weather was awful, constant rain making the stages very slippery. Great to see BMC running a stage start, even 850 was out in the rain, and of course McMuck was all cosy in his car because he had 'man flu'. Bless.

    Bob is thinking of doing the Gremlin (not with me) before the car gets a refresh and bubble arches. Shame I can't do the gremlin, sounds like it will be an epic. What is it about bubble arches, personally I don't like them. Spoils the car.

    Next events will be with Peter Lewis from Hereford in his Anglia, currently being 'sorted' to try and improve the handling, terminal understeer is not recommended. We hope to do a couple of rounds of the HRCR historic challenge, to see how he compares against fellow historics.
    Thats enough for now, lets see if it works................

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