Seventy-Nine cars took to the start on a cool Northumberland morning earlier today, and whilst mist hung over the moorlands there was some evidence that the sun was attempting to break through, a welcome sight after the weather had unleashed itself upon the field the previous afternoon with a bonnie day in prospect, as they say in this part of the world.
The crews left in position order this morning, with Paul Dyas (GB) + Martyn Taylor (GB) heading onto the tarmac first, closely followed by those that would be looking to depose them. One of those who would certainly be eager to climb to top spot is Paul Crosby, but Cros and co-driver Ali Proctor felt all dizzy after the days first test, or their MG chariot did at least, with distributor problems causing them some issues early on.
Shane Houlihan (IE) + Richard Pain (IE), also in the hunt for the top spot, were having problems as well, but their tribulations could be attributed to the local wildlife, with some nuisance sheep appearing on the road in front of them just as they crested a rise. It was hairy stuff, but thankfully neither Shane’s reactions or the brakes of the 1937 BMW Fraser Nash 328 were woolly, and despite the car ending up fully sideways the flock fugitives, and most importantly the car and its occupants remained intact.
The mornings action consisted of a pair of tests and a pair of regularities, and the route took the cars west over to the beautiful hills of Cumbria, and best of all the sunshine followed the entire way. Before the halfway point of the day could be reached though there were more mechanical problems on route, as Ronald Goedmakers (NL) + Catharina Goedmakers-Cerfonteijn (NL) suffered gearbox gremlins in their 1931 Invicta Low Chassis S-Type, forcing them to retire for the day with hopes of returning to action on the final day. Bertie Van Houtte (FR) + Mark Bramall (GB) were also retirements in the Talbot AV105, after they had suffered braking issues during the morning, with Bertie fighting to keep the machine in a straight line with the anchors on and sadly the green machine is a permanent withdrawal from the event.
The spring sunshine had bought the crowds out to watch the cavalcade pass through the hamlets and farms on the route, and whilst some may have been expecting the event to be a bit of a pageant, I’m sure they were all delighted to see that the crews were fully into the spirit of the competition. Speaking of the competition, by the time the scores were in at lunch the leader board had been given a good shake up, with Paul Crosby (GB) + Ali Procter (GB) back at the top of the table, and Theo Hunt (GB) + James Galliver (GB) hauling their Frazer Nash into second, despite their best efforts to drown the diminutive machine in the days first ford. Dyas and Taylor had dropped to third, but there still wasn’t much space between the times, with plenty of competitive action scheduled for the afternoon.
Post lunch break and it was straight into two tests, at Carlilse Airport and the adjacent Solway Aviation Museum, where there plenty of spectators gathered to see the venerable machines being used in anger. Now aircraft are noisy things, and clearly Malcolm Dunderdale had forgotten to wear any ear protection as he didn’t hear navigator Anita Wickens clear instructions during the Solway test, resulting in locked wheels and the Ford Type 35 disappearing in a cloud of dust, much to the amusement of the watching marshals.
It wasn’t just Malcolm struggling with directions though, and the afternoons first regularity caused a whole heap of crew’s navigational nightmares and wrong slots aplenty as the route went through a farmyard. Many cars sailed straight on by, and just as many more entered the farmyard and the subsequent timing point from the exit, all to the amusement of the gathered crowd. Still, as long as they had all learned from their mistakes, and one person who quite literally had the lesson hammered home was Bill Hoff (US). Bill, the driver of car 57, the Riley Bigley Special certainly won’t mistake the route book diagrams in the future, as they are now firmly imprinted on his head after navigator Brad Mottier (US) employed some more aggressive techniques to remind his driver to listen…
One person who was having no issues with his navigator was Rob van der Leeuw (NL) in the Riley Monza, largely because he didn’t have one after navigator Geert Kistemaker (NL) was forced to withdraw with a bad back. I cannot confirm whether in this case the bad back was caused by violent use of the route book or not, but either way Rob was doing an incredible job navigating and driving the spritely Monza.
After a further test and regularity, the day came to a close at the Dalmahoy in Edinburgh, hotel of choice for President Biden and the staging post for the final day’s activities. When the timekeepers had finished crunching the numbers Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor had remained in control at the top of the table, but now second was occupied by our nearly accidental butchers, Shane Houlihan + Richard Pain with Dyas and Taylor still in third, but with little in between them anything could happen on the final day.