Dash to Marakesh and a little of the way back. From Keith Clements.
In last months episode I wrote of the overall results, the regularity tests and the special road sections. This time I recall the road sections that particularly test navigation skills in countries with different ways of sign-posting and map drawing.
The Road Sections.
Essentially you have to go from a time control to another time control within a set time, not arriving early or late and perhaps passing through other places called passage controls. Amy spent many days plotting the route from instructions in the road book. Christine Gray, whom I helped before her first Monty, gave Amy a few essential tips when we had dinner with them a couple of weeks before the start. Amy soaked up some of my experience and added some of hers to produce an annotated map and road book.
Essential too is organising the office that the navigator will sit in for two weeks. Seat, seat belts, Speed Pilot, Halda Twinmaster, maps, road book, speed tables, pencils, lights, the potty magnifier, fire extinguisher, first aid kit and, most needed by Amy, access to food have to all be arranged. You have to be able to find it, not loose it when jumping out to press the time clock, and they have to stay in place during hard cornering.
I will save the rest of car preparation till a later episode. I digressed to give some feel for the extra put into navigating on a rally. The navigator is the organiser. She must know where, when, how far and how difficult a section is. She must calculate when and where petrol or maintenance can be done, often by guessing likely easy sections or garage locations. She may even decide when to eat, sleep or toilet.
Not every section will be tight, but it can become so because of an unscheduled stop for repairs, pictures, socialising or food. The main problem is concentrating for hours on end, or at least knowing when to concentrate and when to relax. Problems often occur when you are most relaxed. It is always good to have a rough plan and a contingency plan. You should also revise them both as a section or day progresses.
Thats the theory anyway. Of course, it doesnt always go to plan.
Day S minus 2
Just about prepared but we could not find Biggles, only his kilt and hat. Biggles was given to us before the first Marathon and has accompanied me on all rallies since. Was this an omen?
Day S minus 1.
The plan was to get up early to catch the ferry at Dover at 8.30. Amy was to drive to get the feel. Plan B was put into affect so Amy could sleep. She had been partying or having late nights all week. No problem, we made it and joined Chris and Nigel Gray in their ex-works VX 4-90 for the ferry trip and drive to Versailles. I had decided to take the coast route to Rouen rather than risk Paris in the rush hour. I am glad we did. The Vauxhalls dynamo terminal broke on the way so the Jowett spares kit came to the rescue. At the time they were in our class as well. What sportsmanship! Amy had woken up and drove the four hours from Calais to the scrutineering at Versailles palace. I spent the time attempting to calibrate the Halda Twinmaster and Speed Pilot. I became quite distressed, as it would not reach perfection. As the rally progressed it became evident that distances were not that important. Amy tended to use maps and instructions rather than the given distances. I had calibrated the Twinmaster on a measured K from the pub door, along a straight road to a turning in my village. I had given up doing it on the A41, the M1 and the M25 as they all gave me different readings. A 1to 50000 map was analysed for such a convenient road.
Back to scrutineering. The first job was to find it, and the hotel. French towns, French rush hour traffic, torrents of rain and a map with a label over the important street added half an hour to our expected due time. Then we found scrutineering had moved time and place since the final instructions. A visit to rally HQ pointed us down the street. Amy filled in the forms at signing on while I discussed with Philip Young, the rally organiser, which class I should be in. Since others might realise the Jup did not look like a saloon, I thought it best to be in the sports car class. Peter Banham, the scrutineer, made a cursory inspection since the car was well known in competition. Six failed. We then parked up and started drinking. The Nankivells, Speros and Jacobs were there to greet us. We had a good meal after walking a K in the rain and then dragged ourselves back to a much-needed bed.
Showers still threatened but we wanted to run with the hood down since the Jup is not too pretty with the hood over the roll-over bar. As soon as it went down, it rained, so the modified hood frame went up again and stayed that way for the whole of the first day.
Amy was worried about navigating out of the car park. That was achieved, but panic struck as she was lost after a couple of bends. My sense of direction made a lucky guess and we were on our way.
It was an easy 250k drive to a surprisingly good lunch at Chopins mistresss ex-residence at St Chartier. A few minor repairs, such as squeaks and leaks, were fixed on the way. Another 220k drive, with a brief stop at a bar with some classic cars and bikes at la Serre, finished with us following a Bentley through some twisting Dordogne lanes. That led into the fateful first test at Fontagnes before bedding down (2 hours for me) in the passage control at Aurillac. We would have lost more penalties if Aurillac had been a Time Control. A double bonus was that Amy had booked a bed in this town rather than finding one closer to the next TC. This meant the service crew was on hand to help with the front trunnion.
The early morning drive through the misty wooded hillsides was very enjoyable, especially as I had not expected to be doing it 8 hours earlier. Into Requista and TC4, a regularity test (M.R.S.2), the 1000m. Col de Sie and Col de Piquotalen and lunch in the restored city of Carcassonne. The Escola family were there but we did not see them. Then another 5 Cols, each one a 100m.higher before rising to 2407m. into Andorra. One Col was M.R.S.3 where we picked up 10minutes penalty erroneously. Amy put in a query and had the entire penalty removed. The marshalls check sheets proved the error. Well spotted Amy. The traffic jam into Andorra for petrol went on for miles. I am sure it cannot be cost effective to waste so much time and effort climbing so high for a tank-full.
The highlight of the day was a regularity where there was no penalty for arriving early. Well spotted Amy! The winners of the rally did not. In essence you enjoyed it as a hill-climb and the Jup certainly did. The suspension was set up well for the climbs so reminiscent of the Dolomites. Overdrive was useful for keeping power at its peek on the straight climbs, even overdrive second helped out of some corners. Those Suzuki Jeep wheels with new centres by Mike Crossman (with whom I did a bit of a Monte) kept more of the tread on the road. They had been made as I had lost faith in the old Dunlop Jup or Javelin wheels taking the punishment. Most of the ones used previously have cracked around the holes or chrome cap fixings. The video has some great sound as the Jup powers around the last bend and ejects Amy towards the timeclock at the finish. We came in 33 seconds early and 25th fastest, not bad for the oldest car on the run. If only the car had been set up like this on those first Marathons, I was thinking!
Then into Andorra city with its spaghetti of roads, a brief chat with the Escolas before a good nights sleep.
Early morning and an interested Philip Young chatted for some valuable minutes commenting on our Kingpin tyres that I said were brilliant. I broke my driving glasses, but the back-up pair was found. I am not at my best before sunrise. 250K of fast, almost traffic-free, roads took us to TC6 at Calanda.
We had just been through Lerida then Fraga and stopped at some lights before turning into the country. A few rally cars were in convoy and inexplicably going slow. A couple in the convoy grew impatient only to be booked for speeding along with a dozen others. The reason for our slowness was the service crew had back-tracked and warned the first in the pack. Thanks guys! It saved us each £150 fines. They collected £5000 for the police ball that day. I must say most rally cars observe speed limits most of the time. This was just a very good place to put a trap.
Just after that the road became rough. Probably not because of that but we had a puncture. Amy was asked to check on our time as well as helping change the wheel. I was worried as the road was bad although it was an A road on the map. We had also had to wait while a flock of sheep crossed a long bridge and had stopped for petrol after the speeding incident. Although we made the next TC there was not quite enough time to get the puncture fixed at a nearby garage in Calanda. Luckily the marshal was no other than Peter Banham, one of the service crew. He gladly took the wheel with my spare tube to fix. We caught up with him much later in the day with the repaired wheel. His beside-the-road repair with a couple of tyre levers amazed the locals who gave him a box of peaches. Moises, by chance, was at the lunchtime control at Ademuz and took the tube for repair to return it at the next night halt.
Then followed M.R.S.6 before the spectacular drive into the gorge at Alcalar Del Jucar for tea time. This gorge has houses built into the rock 100m. up in the cliff. Amy then drove much of the long drive through nearly 300k of olive groves into Ubeda. One small problem arose. The rear hub was working loose. I made the washer thicker with wire and this cured it. A total of 921k that day.
Amy had calculated when to get up in order to make the first time control 229k away at 10.30 +51minutes, which we achieved at 7.30. An easy breakfast and a much too long a chat, we left at 8.30. The 229k on red A roads initially looked achievable at 80k/hr but it proved not to be. First we took 15 minutes to get to the start because our hotel was in the centre of town. This too, meant we were 30 minutes later to bed than the Rally HQ residents. Motto try to stay in HQ. We had asked but had no choice.
The first 100k was fast and we kept on time. But then we turned left at a T to Alcaudete. I asked Amy if it was correct as for some reason my 6th sense thought it was wrong. I had not looked at the map, leaving Amy the responsibility. After 10k she realised her mistake, so we had to backtrack. Now the pace was getting difficult to keep up. Next we hit the town of Priego de Cordoba. The narrative had warned us about finding the correct way out. We managed it after much deliberation; unlike a lot, including the rally winner, who were lost for a long time. They had a fast Porsche and were able to catch up, the venerable Jupiter was now being driven at its limit. The 26k of twisting road was not allowing me to pull back time. The next decision was to get petrol or not. We managed a quick stop of 3 minutes although in retrospect we perhaps could have done without as there was some at the next TC. 27k of motorway allowed the Jup to be driven flat out with a following wind. I was really worried the damage it would do to the engine which was pulling top revs in overdrive (over ?!*mph just in case those Spanish police read this). I was also worried the Kingpins might explode, but I need not have. Had they been tested for continuous driving at that speed? The motorway finished and we then had 30k of A road to the control at Campillos. We arrived 9 minutes late ejecting Amy, who was already running before the car stopped, towards the time clock and, unknown to me, also picked up 15minutes extra for being late. That extra penalty must have been an amendment. Disaster.
In that one stage was a demonstration of most of the art of road section navigation (and co-navigating). Amy learnt a lot. I hope! All the above have happened to me over the years but this time it came in threes. What was even more galling was that was the only TC of the day. There was a test that we cleaned and then an educational drive by Amy down to the ferry at Algerciras after a lunch stop high in the mountains. Amy had started to learn the mountain driving technique for a Jupiter.
Next part is Africa.
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