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John Kiff – Memories from the long road north.

 

18 Oct 2017

John recounts the first Le Jog in a series of articles

Cars were refuelled shortly after in readiness for Regularity B, a 35 mile run over the best of Exmoor, the Jogularity instructions including at one point ‘Bad gully!’ followed by ‘Bad gully!’ followed by ‘Extra bad gully!’

So, refreshed by a Jamaica Inn coffee (no rum though!) we set off north dropping down off Bodmin Moor following the A30 as far as Launceston to what was to become another LE JOG regular – Werrington Park with its grass triangle, cattle grid, narrow bridge and steep hill. Fastest time went to Mansfield/Cooke in a Rover 2000TC followed by Breakell/Wood in the Alfa Giulia and then my man MacKenzie.  While running advance course car on the 20th Anniversary event I was delighted to find that the start line marshals were the very same ones from Plymouth Motor Club that manned the start in 1993. They’d done another 8 LJs in between and they had the badges to prove it!

After that bit of excitement there followed a 45-mile curving run north into Devon via Holsworthy, and the ‘lost-in-time’ town of Great Torrington to the other side of South Molton and the atmospheric delights of the Stag’s Head Inn where crowds had gathered and some welcome sustenance and rest was obtained.

Cars were refuelled shortly after in readiness for Regularity B, a 35 mile run over the best of Exmoor, the Jogularity instructions including at one point ‘Bad gully!’ followed by ‘Bad gully!’ followed by ‘Extra bad gully!’ Brown’s concession to these was to drop the average speed to 24mph for all of half a mile…but to locate a Timing Point at the first one!  I recall there being quite of lot of non-competing cars on this reg. meaning that for a number of crews it was a challenge to be on time at each of the six TPs – the last one saw us get a heavy penalty for this reason.  Best again was the wizard, Francis with 23 seconds – being lucky with the traffic put him quite some way ahead of the rest but it was no compensation for the gearbox problems with the 3-speed Zephyr that had forced them to miss some tests already and sadly put them very close to maximum lateness.

Well, you know what usually comes after Exmoor, yes, a trip to Porlock.  No luxuries to greet us such as the WI tea in the Village Hall like we have these days, but it wasn’t a full run up the hill either.  Instead we had 3 tests each of which included some reversing and on the first one it was a slalom back through some cones!  Fastest on scratch were Whittock/Waldron (Cooper S) on the first and third while Wren/Cooke in a 356A took the second one by 5 seconds from Mike and Gina Barker in their Aston.

By now, dusk was approaching, especially for us later runners, and we had the dubious delight of an 82 mile slog to the supper halt at the so-called Severn View (Aust) Services at the southern end of the old Severn Bridge.  Once again it was a ‘change driver’ section.  ‘Plenty of time’ I thought – before I discovered the tediousness of the A39 from Minehead to Bridgwater and the realisation dawned on me that I’d have to spend my supper break plotting the sections through Wales! Before we left to pay our £3.10 toll to cross the bridge there were some results to look at.  It showed that all medals had gone!  No one had met the standards that Brown had expected of us – and we’d barely started…  Disappointed crews like us resolved that we may as well just go out and enjoy Wales and then the adventure up to the top of Scotland.

First on the list was Regularity C through Cwmcarn Forest Drive manned by Steve Durbin (of Leukaemia Rally fame) and his team.  This was somewhere in Wales that I’d never been to before but its tarmac roads weren’t too challenging even in the dark!  Pre-war cars were given a bye on this one and the honours went to the last car on the event, the Graingers in their Volvo 122 one second ahead of both the Barkers and Ron Gammons and Jane Bourne (MGB).

From Newbridge we motored north alongside the Ebbw river up to the Heads of the Valleys road and then on to the Royal Oak at Pencelli (just SE of Brecon) where the route check made sure we kept to the much more entertaining B-road rather than the A40.  In Brecon the General Route Instructions advised of ‘Fuel at Texaco’ followed by a warning to ‘FILL RIGHT UP – LAST FOR 80 TOUGH MILES’.   Indeed it was to be!  And this was where those years of Motoring News rallies needed to pay off.  We took the B4520 from Brecon up onto Epynt to MC5 at the Griffin Inn at Cwmowen where the clocks were held by non-other than Russell Brookes!  Just down the road was the start of over an hour’s regularity across the famous ranges, co-ordinated by Alun Morgan and the team from Swansea Motor Club and taking in all the well-known junctions like Four-ways Bridge, Llandeilo’r Fan, Dixies and Piccadilly – together with a loop off the ranges onto tight lanes – and all at a 30mph average.  My gut feel was that this was going to be tougher than it looked and it was.  I read the road from my OS map and used my Halda and speed tables – as well as the Jogularity sheet and pushed Evan hard to make sure we stayed on time where there were big gaps between Jogularity landmarks and got back on time as soon as possible after every TP.  It paid off because John Brown had sited his controls very cleverly to make some sections as tight as they could be.  It meant that at a total of 18 seconds we had by far the fewest penalties and that, I think, was a major contribution to us eventually winning our Gold medal (after Mr Brown had retrospectively lowered the bar and restored some of us mere mortals to medal positions!).

So what do you do after Epynt?  Well, Abergwesyn of course!  After the regularity, there was a TC section manned by Mike Kennett and Epynt Motor Club from Cynghordy up alongside Llyn Brianne to Bwlch Esgair Gelli then back through Abergwesyn village to the famous Trout Inn at Beulah, MC6, a bacon roll and fuel.  Wonderful! And we along with Whittock/Waldron and Gammons/Bourne were the only crews to clean it.  Now we were cooking on gas – and lots more of Wales to come.

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