You’ve waited for years to find the car of your dreams, the one you first drove and found your freedom in or the one a few years later that really ignited your enthusiasm for something more powerful. You want to use this car as much as possible and compete against other like-minded people, how do you go about it? The first section in our guide takes in the very basic things you should be looking at on your vehicle to enter into an event such as the Summer Trial; a straight-forward, easy on car and car and crew affair that will start your journey into classic rallying. Of course, you may feel that you are ready for the larger events, we do advise people to start off with some of the less taxing events until you find your feet and are ready to progress.
An old saying in rallying is that: ‘To finish first, first you have to finish’; the meaning behind this is that even the best driver and navigator pairings with years of experience behind them can run into mechanical difficulties that cost them an overall place or even a championship win. A mechanical part can and does fail, there is no getting around that especially with the age of vehicles we are using, it is par for the course. However, good preparation can really help with this, we’re not talking about hugely powerful engines and strong gearboxes coupled with uprated suspension, the simple things can make all the difference in getting you to the finish and taking your first trophy / award home. So what are these things?
We have a team of dedicated on-event mechanics that will do their best to keep you running, the problem they come across the most is poor / old wiring. Look at the most successful crews and cars then look inside their vehicle. Wiring inside a car is prone to degradation just like it is in your home, over the years the coating (insulation) over the wire becomes brittle and can fracture, leaving the inner copper wires exposed and capable of shorting. The copper itself can become high-resistance due to water ingress and fail even though the wiring looks fine externally, however, the biggest problem is with add-ons and extras being poorly fitted with scotchlok and chocolate block type connectors, they are ok for an emergency fix but for a permanent installation, nothing can beat a properly soldered joint. If you have to repair something on event with a temporary connection, make sure that straight after the event you get it repaired properly, otherwise it WILL come back round to bite you. Ask your navigator to make notes of issues as the event goes on, that way you can keep track of problems as in the heat of competition you are sure to forget them.
If possible, route them inside the vehicle where they are less likely to be crushed or damaged by stones / debris if you are competing on the more arduous events, some of the older ‘sports’ style vehicles do sit low and can catch their fuel and brake lines far easier than their modern counterparts. If you don’t want to have these inside the vehicle, protect them with a good quality guard, the same goes for the battery cable if the battery has been re-located to the boot. If possible, run the feed inside the vehicle to protect it from being damaged on the underside.
More power generally means less reliability unless you are prepared to spend heavily. Regularity events are not about all-out speed, they are about endurance and this is where a sensible approach to engine and gearbox tuning can pay dividends. Look at improving the torque of your engine, camshaft, carburettor and cylinder head upgrades can reap big rewards in drivability, meaning the days spent in the car are much more enjoyable with less gear shifting / clutch pedal taking place. It’s worth taking the engine out every six / seven competitive events and checking the main bearings, little ends, cam and followers as well as the pistons, rings and bores for wear and damage, it may seem a bit overkill to do this but on a long event, not knowing if your vehicle is in good mechanical health can be a worry and can take away the enjoyment of competing. We know of some crews that do this more frequently as they press on a little more, this is only something that you can decide.
If you have to take the gearbox out for any reason, check the clutch and crankshaft rear oil seal on the engine as well, depending on the configuration of the car, front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, check drive and prop shafts too for wear in their joints and protective boots. If the joints have grease nipples or are serviceable, make sure to grease them whilst access is easy. Is a five day event worth throwing away for a clutch assembly? Again, regularity events don’t need straight cut gearboxes if you’re not one of the ultra-competitive drivers who are looking to throw their car round a cone for the last tenth of a second, they can also be incredibly tiresome to drive with for long periods. A well maintained and serviced standard gearbox is capable of quite a bit of stick, when was the last time you changed the oil in your differential / gearbox?
Again, this is down to your budget and what you want from your sport. However, a well-presented and tidy vehicle will always impress a scrutineer, if there are rust patches externally you can guarantee there will be some internally as well and the scrutineer may well refuse your car permission to start the event if the corrosion is wide spread. If you have damaged your vehicle, always have it repaired before turning up for another event, nothing looks worse for the sport or the event to have damaged and shoddy vehicles taking part, there is a difference between Patina and neglect.
So you’ve uprated the engine, gained some extra horsepower and torque, what’s going to stop you winning now? Your brakes. Arguably two of the most important parts on a vehicle are the tyres and brakes, people spend large amounts on their engine and gearbox and totally forget about the brakes. Even changing the brake fluid regularly can have a dramatic effect in improving the braking performance of your vehicle. Why? Brake fluid is Hygroscopic meaning it can absorb moisture from the air, this then decreases the boiling point of brake fluid and how do brakes work? Through friction and heat dissipation. If you are thinking about competing seriously, look at upgrading the friction pads and linings on your existing brake system and also the discs (rotors) and drums where applicable. They make a huge difference. Also, keep a set spare in your on-event toolkit our HERO Assist team have passed comment many times on the sheer volume of brake parts that wear out in a one-day event.. Check your brakes before competing.
When was the last time you checked your coolant? Or the last time you checked your lights? Was there anything on your last event that caused an issue and have you rectified it properly? Dave Smith, our HERO Assist chief mechanic has often pointed out temporary repairs to competitors from a previous event that they haven’t had fixed properly — and it has failed again. The onus is on you to check your vehicle and to present it in a competition ready state. Have all your documents at hand? Does the car have MOT if needed, do you have your V5 and insurance documents and any historic vehicle identity cards as well? Imagine turning up at an event 350 miles from home to find you haven’t got this in order, heartbreaking. Don’t just park the car up straight after an event, wash it down, look at the list the navigator compiled(remember earlier in the article?) and action these jobs as soon as possible. In the long term getting the running repairs out of the way will leave you more time to focus on the run up to event preparations such as getting your documents in order and a final spanner check etc.. Never leave things until the very last minute, it is a recipe for disaster.
These are just a few pointers to help you start out in the sport, next we will move on to the most important part of your team bar the vehicle, the Navigator and his office.