We were all really looking forward to the Carfax stages and it was looking like it would be a nice day. Our friends Colin and Lizzy were competing in their Citroen Saxo so a friendly battle lay ahead of us. Once we had got set up and the car had passed scrutineering Andrew and Dave quickly wired in the new PIAA spot lamps for the night stages whilst I went through the maps with Tom.
Stage 1 started ok but we quickly realised that the front brake pads we had decided to try were a very bad choice. We had been recommended Mintex 1166s, but in this instance they weren’t appropriate for the car! We had no brakes at all and nearly hit a chicane as we simply couldn’t stop! Tom said; “stop using the handbrake!” I replied “but that’s all I’ve got!!!” as we slid through junctions like a MK2 Escort.
We informed the service crew of the problem as we came through time control and they were all ready when we got into service to change the pads. We pulled out the smouldering Mintex pads and stuck in the old Ferodo DS3000s. After a quick run around the service area I had confidence that the brakes would be as they should be again.
Colin and Lizzy had a 31 second lead on us after stage 2, so we had some serious catching up to do! We took a load of things out of the car and the spot lamps off to try and save some weight. As we had been carrying all the spares for multi venue events still.
Stage 3 was more like it, we had a huge slide through a 3 right tightens but we managed to set a decent time and piped Colin and Lizzy by 3 seconds. Stage 4 went well too, we kept it flat and were braking much later than previous stages. We managed to take another 2 second out of Colin and Lizzy but their little Saxo was flying! Their lead was now reduced to 26 seconds.
Stage’s 5 and 6 were brilliant fun despite chewing up the front left tyre somehow. Colin and Lizzy were flying and seemed to have found a very good pace. We realised now that we didn’t have the power to close the gap so decided to try and hold our position.
As stage 8 was cancelled stage 7 was the last of the day. We re-fitted the spot lamps set the angles, as this was my first night stage so I was quite nervous. The stage was going well; I was trying to judge the braking points when you can’t see the apex properly and trying to work out junctions. This was great until near the end of the stage when we suddenly found ourselves driving through what seemed like very thick fog. This turned out to be engine smoke, and we suddenly realised there was a very poorly Nova in front of us that we nearly hit. The Nova was pouring oil onto the stage which caused us to have a half spin and overshot a junction.
We completed the stage driving flat out trying to make up some time lost because of the Nova. Despite the run in with the Nova we managed to hold position in class and complete the rally with no damage to the car. Colin and Lizzy drove really well all day and got a very respectable 2nd in class and 20th overall. We finished 1 minute 32 second behind them at 4th in class and 24th overall.
That was our last event of the year, and the plans for winter is for the gearbox to come out to fit an LSD that will help us pull out of corners better. The standard engine and gearbox have done us well for this year but hopefully next year we should have better gearing and more power.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Lifeline and Old Hall performance for their invaluable support throughout the year. Thank you to our service crew; Dave, Andrew, Ron (Chis’ Dad), John (Tom’s Dad), Jim and Istvan for keeping the car going. We would also like to thank Oxford Motor Club for the brilliant club magazines and organising the Carfax stages. We look forward to working with our sponsors next year when we intend to compete in our first forest rally.