A 9.30 am start from Telford for Leg Three of LeJog seemed quite generous until one checked what sort of time cars returned from their final fling of the night, the amazing TC section in the foggy hills around Clun Forest and the Vale of Montgomery to end Leg Two. It was 4.15 am onwards, before the first few returned elated after the adrenalin rush– looking forward to a couple of hours sleep!
Highlights of a hard edged day, before competitors struck north for a night halt just into the Scottish border in Gretna, included the well kept secrets of Shropshire’s amazing countryside and roads fit for fantastic regularities, followed by the ever stunning Peak District exemplified by the Tissington Estate with it’s great ribbons of roads and the fairy tale picturesque village on the estate as rally cars passed through at slow speed.
At the end of the estate road the regularity led to a vast ford, easily waded by the 1925 class leading Bentley of Bill Cleyndert and Emily Anderson. Just as they waded, the 1958 Austin A35 of Belgians Nick Van Praag and Nathan Vandekerckhove seemed to float and almost glide across at speed, a bit like a water beetle.
The first regularity of the day also included a ford, quite swollen with the recent rain, but more importantly there was a complete house party going on a the side of the road as a possie of spectators lining back through the adjacent union flag bedecked farm lane, were being treated to food and drinks from a well organised market stall. They all sat in a regimented way to wave and cheer the cars on.
The sixth regularity of the day ran high in the Yorkshire Dales over tight, slick switch back roads and then climbed into the waiting fog just to test the weary LeJoggers who were already working hard on their navigation, but now they couldn’t see anything to help their directional cause! The route skirted Ashbourne and Buxton before moving to Chesterfield and a test on the quick and smooth tarmac roads around former rallyist Steve Perez’s estate.
The pace, punishment and all out concentration continued as some crews fell off the medal charts as the lists of silver and bronze thinned out. But in the ‘golds’ there seemed to be a consistency by Time Control 3/3 at Stone Edge as Bill Cleyndert and Emily Anderson (Bentley), Rob and John Kiff (VW Beetle), Noel Kelly and Pete Johnson (Volvo), Kevin Haselden and Ryan Pickering (Mini), Andy lane and Iain Tullie (BMW), Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane (BMW), Simon Mellings and Karl Ellis (Rover), all returned great performances to retain their gold status.
But the punishment meted out on the machinery required more HERO-ERA Technical Assistance crew attention as their surgery at the night halt in Gretna Green bore testament. The Citroen BX Sport of Dutch crew Floriaan Eiling and Wendela Wapenaar needed hydraulic suspension work, the Belgian A35 of Nick Van Praag and Nathan Vandekerckhove was having windscreen wiper attention. The German MGB V8 of Siegfried Gronkowski and Daisy Walker was in for minor surgery but the fantastic little Dutch Peugeot 204 Cabriolet was giving cause for concern as the alternator and other electrics kept stopping the engine, but were better when things cooled down!
The Porsche 911 of Rob Handy and Michael Joyce headed home for retirement after a drive shaft problem and the lovely Triumph TR3A of Jonathan and Peter McCullough has also retired.
Mike Farrall and Zach Burns Ford Escort Mexico; They are usually in their vintage Jaguar SS100 and had contemplated running the open top car on LeJog but built their Escort Mexico up for the event instead.
Mike; “I served my time at Quicks of Chester on Fords so I kind of know the Mexico’s worked on the RS’s and I had Mexico RS in fact two but I couldn’t keep hold of them they kept getting nicked, they just got stolen all the time. So I was just working on them quite a lot.
“So I said to Zach, the best car we can have is the Mexico, they are dead easy to work on, you can look after it. I will help you to educate you on the Fords. He’s been helping me, we’ve got two Mexico’s now, one in bits and this one. This the other one’s got a BDA engine! I have to say I am amazed those memories came flooding back, of the handling, the stability, down those little lanes. Absolutely great and the reliability. The confidence you’ve got in the car for reliability and handling and everything’s blown me away a bit.
Then someone ran into it on the TC section last night and we thought the worst, but actually as Zach said, the Escort came out of it better and stronger.”
Bill Clyndert, 1925 Bentley 3-4 ½
Bill; “I don’t know how many times I have done LeJog. It must be 6, 7 or 8. I’m not sure we’ve lost count. We’ve got a number of silver medals, a number of bronzes and a blue ribbon, but the gold’s always been elusive.
“Emily has done really well to keep us on track, she’s done brilliantly. I mean, navigating in a car like this is incredibly difficult, especially last night, the night section through Wales, and the TC section which was exhilarating. How she manages that, I have no idea.
“I feel my upper body strength increases on events like this, my shoulders and my biceps ache like mad afterwards but it is great, fun.
“I gave Emily the choice of a Mini, the Austin Land Crab or the Bentley and she chose the Bentley, I was really rather disappointed, I was looking forward to a comfortable ride with a roof over my head but It’s a good challenge. The car has been working brilliantly too.”
Thomas Bricknell, VW Golf GTi
Thomas and Roger Bricknell made a welcome return to the action today after missing most of the first two legs.
Thomas “Yeah, well, I just made a big mistake on the first test yesterday, the back end got away, put us on the grass, but on the inside and there was a rock which bent the wishbone and that was really the end of the rally before it started. We found a spare wishbone at Exeter. We got someone to come down, pick us up with the trailer and take us there. I’ve never hit so much as a cone, never mind a rock, before, but there we are, things happen.
“We had the wishbone refitted and the bent the gear linkage got straightened out as well, so we’re here just enjoying ourselves now. And now I’m navigating, I’ve been sacked, I’m not allowed to drive anymore!
Stephen Owens and Nick Bloxham; Porsche 911, with Stephen on target to win the HERO Cup for the very first time, he explains how things have been going so far.
“We got off to a wonderful start. We were the fastest on the test, which I’m delighted about in our class. And it’s been going quite well since we had that great first morning, really good. We had one to two issues in the afternoon and a slight altercation with another car, but it was on a friendly basis and it’s all been resolved. purely accidental. That’s sorted.
“The TC section was fabulous early this morning. It was just incredible. That’s when you really learn to believe in your car and tyres, as the TC section was just out of this world. At the end there was a little bit of fog, but it didn’t spoil anything.
“It was just such a quick part of the rally, it was terrific. Some good calls from Nick, he’s brilliant, he’s done a superb job. You know, we wouldn’t be in this position without Nick, we just work very well together as a team. The way he calls it, the way he feeds information in to me before we even get to the issue, he is just very good and we work very well together.
“If you go back in history, the HERO Cup has been within my sights on five occasions. I’ve come second on five occasions, but this time I think that I really am in with a chance.