After nearly 650 miles and 32 hours of 17 long regularities, 12 tests and a Time Control section, LeJog is starting its sink its teeth in with many using the word ‘tough’ to summarise any part of this internationally renowned endurance event.
With a long Leg 1 and 2 taking crews through from Land’s End on Saturday to a tired arrival in Chester in the early hours of Sunday morning in time to see the milk deliveries to the hotel, it has been clear today that there is a knock on affect into Leg 3 in terms of the attrition.
As the Mechanical Assistance crews bore witness, there were only 32 cars that had gone through the final control after the epic TC section with all its harpins in the mountains near LLangollen in the wee small hours of Sunday. This higher paced section followed hot in the spinning wheel tracks of the Epynt regularity blasts over prime WRC and national rally real estate, which in the past, has humbled the best rally drivers in the world. HERO-ERA assistance crews and officials were trying to find missing cars in the dark, wet Welsh mountains, some needed mechanical assistance, some had to be pulled out of ditches whilst others couldn’t be found. They had either cut to the hotel or in some cases had given up altogether and driven all the way home.
There were an estimated 20 plus retirements not to mention the wounded machines just about still walking, as this traditionally tough event takes its toll. Attrition has set in with the knock on effect from last night and another exacting day on Sunday causing the medal tables to shrink somewhat.
By Kirkby Lonsdale today there were just four left on the gold medal list. That is not to say that there won’t be many more changes to the list as the medal game of LeJog Snakes and Ladders takes its harsh course, but even experienced, gold medal winning competitors are finding the 26th edition of LeJog tough.
Jayne Wignall; Driver 1963 Alfa Romeo Guilia Sprint; “Unfortunately we dropped from gold to bronze. It has been a very difficult event, the navigation in particular is very difficult, on the regularities you have map reading to do in conjunction with jogularity instructions so it is a lot for event the most experienced navigators to cope with. The TC section last night was very difficult, we dropped a lot of time when a lot of people got in our way. The weather has generally been OK although there may be snow in Scotland, but the good thing is the car is holding up!”
Andrew Duerden navigator, VW Golf GTi with driver Ginger Ostle; Andrew; “ The last road rally style section last night, we missed a slot early on which meant it just got worse and worse as we just couldn’t keep up to the schedule. We were dropping time and got to the other side of LLangollen and realised we were going OTL so we had to cut and run in time to get to the village. We had enjoyed a good day apart from that. Ginger is enjoying it but the car took a real battering last night.”
But there is still another 650 miles, 6 tests and 13 regularities including the ‘Sting in the Tail’ Loch Ness Monster at night to go. It is aptly named as it is huge at 65 miles and will make or break crews. What is not clear is just how many will be left to get that far? Essentially, Leg 4 will start at 8.30 am Monday and roll into Leg 5 after a short break to run all the way through to the finish at John O’ Groats on Tuesday morning at 10.20 am.
As ever, the German and Dutch contingent are really enjoying LeJog. Dutchmen Joost Bolwidt and Eric van Straaton have bravely brought their 1965 Citroen 2CV AZXAM to LeJog and they are still going strong.
Eric;” It’s going well but the poor little car suffers! It doesn’t have enough power, it’s too small at 600cc but it goes well in the handling, it really holds. Those tiny little lanes with the tight hedges each side are just made for her! Still power is the problem, we lose minutes every time but we are having great fun. We have put a lot of effort into the preparation and our goal is John O’ Groats!
Joost; “The navigation is not that difficult, the maps and books are very good as I have a bit more time to make instructions, we are not going that fast. The good thing is we have heated seats!”
By contrast to many others, Marinus Middelweerd and Jap van den Bent, also from Holland, are just having a cracking time in their powerful Porsche 928. Marinus; “It’s a very good event, very demanding but we love everything about it, except for the snow! Jap; “It wasn’t that bad last night, we were doing very well on the navigation and there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the roads at night so we could really enjoy ourselves, all the opportunities were there to do it on the remote roads!”
The 2021 LeJog route continued to amaze crews and take seasoned veterans to territory unused or even new. In particular the section around Kirkby Lonsdale was spectacular, the roads were amazing with stunning views as cars wound their way through the Ribble Valley and on into the Appleby in Westmorland. The ribbon of road high up between the two valleys was simply jaw dropping, although the navigators would not get time to even lift their heads, never mind look at the view.
It was a case of real ‘uphill down dale rally roads’ with every kind of surface and bend, a supreme challenge. As a bonus at the end, the beautiful old village of Slaidburn was at its best dressed in all its glittering yet classy Christmas clothes, it certainly wowed the European contestants.
Although Scotland is beautiful, crews won’t see much of it as they struggle to concentrate and keep themselves going in the dark. It is grit your teeth time, the next 48 hours are not about wow, but how to survive.