WRGB '0' CAR BLOG
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.