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Gremlin Historic 2024

The much awaited summer weather had finally arrived, and all were looking forward to a full rally on the mound, although the doom merchants on the weather reports were threatening thunder and lightning for the Sunday close of play, keep the dust down at least but not good for the army of marshals.

The Gremlin team had clearly worked tirelessly to provide a full programme for the two days and got us all together nice and early for the Saturday afternoon and evening session.

With Paperwork completed, and tyres kicked, we all awaited our allocated time slot to pick up documents and off to a long transport to the first test and wakeup.

A simple enough Reg plot, once we had worked out that the tulips on the previous page were also part of the instructions prior to the map square screen shots, meant we could relax into the evening only for the organizers to be thrown a curve by the landowner and a quick change of plan left the Reg shortened and the relief once we found the new start point. Much shuffling of paperwork and timings followed before arriving at the supper venue.

We had learnt that the speed changes are coming fast and not always at checks or junctions, should be interesting.

To great disappointment we found Paul Crosby (car 1) with the 911 on his trailer with an ominous oil trail across the carpark, the roads had taken a bite out of his oil system somewhere and an early bath. The preview `curse` had done for his weekend. Bad luck, as surely this could have been his year.

Glad we didn’t get a mention now…

With plotting to complete we headed off to find a cold pint and quiet corner for the remainder and get set for an early rise the following day.

Sunday and the sun is still shining.

Following the usual checking of the instructions, in particular the grid square in circle, does it mean, go to, go through, don’t go through, black spot, enter here, exit here ? So, if we all treat it the same, we will all be right, or wrong! Thankfully clarification was obtained.

A quick spin around the cattle market carpark (test 2) to warm the car and crew up and we were off to the first Reg start of the day.

Ian Crammond and Matthew Vokes taking a quick spin around the Cattle market car park.  Photo by Chris Huish

The pre plot led us down to the Cray reservoir and then back up alongside the Usk to end outside Trecastle, with 9 speed changes there was plenty to keep us busy and great views, if you had the time. The infamous square in a circle playing it`s part to keep us away from a shorter route.

A short 6 mile transport took us to the first of the range tests (test 3) which were all fast and flowing with the usual `slow me downs` thrown in to test the driver patience, super flowing, but don`t step off.

The next Reg was close at hand and took us via map references seemingly north for a very short distance over the range but then later information in the instructions related to controls at the rear of huts which worked out to be required at the start of the Reg. Cut and paste needed.

A short run and we were again onto a test, number 4 in Quarry 1, again great presentation and flowing for those of a determined disposition.

At this point the scene had been set for the rest of the day at the top of the leader board with car 5 John Haygarth and Andy Pullen (Opel Kadett) leading out ahead of car 7 Matthew Fowle and Ryan Pickering (Escort) and car 4 Roger Fildes and Iain Tullie (Escort), the usual suspects keeping them all honest chasing hard behind.

John Haygarth and Andy Pullen (Opel Kadett Rallye) took the lead from early on.  Photo by Chris Huish

Another short transit to try and get the engine to cool a little and we are into another test, (5)  fast and flowing, on and off road, great fun.

A very short cool off and test 6 was at hand.

Reg 4 and 5 had been handed out earlier and most would have found time to work these out. Reg 4 being grid lines to cross, sending us in loop out of the forests and onwards to the coffee halt in Llandovery. Reg 5 had been plotted and took us north up the Towyi valley with long way rounds and small whites to find.

Lunch was on route to Reg 6 where we could all take a breath and cool the cars ready for the afternoon, the last Reg 7 was also handed out for plotting at this point, keeping the Nav busy.

Darell Staniforth and Henry Carr (Toyota Corolla) out on the Epynt ranges.  Photo by Chris Huish

After lunch Reg 6 found us climbing on and off the road onto the range again with 23 plus miles to negotiate and 7 speed changes. The top three still holding position with about 30 seconds between them.

Then came the killer four tests on the bounce with little rest between them to try the cars systems and the crews abilities. Cars littered the route with `cooling` and `off` issues but thankfully all would proceed. Most tests were run in the opposite direction excepting one. With all drivers aware of what was ahead you would think the writer would have learnt something. The loop at the end of test 7 was called as long 90 right `tightens` but did we listen, lucky to get away with the back hanging over and out there, only to then be told he`d been off there a couple of times before.

By the time we got to the final test 10 we had used up all the talent reserves (little in the first place) and we reverted to the game of cone skittles and `note-to-self`, all bushes with hazard jackets thrown over them are to be considered as route markers/stop astride. No amount of discussion with the marshal or stewards will alter that. Log it in the back brain and don`t do it again.

A short run to the last Reg and once we worked out that the green phone box was not just a repurposed painted BT for a *defib/library/woke meeting point (the greens get everywhere) *delete as appropriate, then we were finish bound.

With a Car in one piece and still going forward, no one was more surprised than me.

A superb day and half with all credit to the team and marshals many of whom we saw on numerous occasions during the day. Well done, simply brilliant. Again and Again please.

The result at the end of Reg 7 initially show something unbecoming happened to car 7 Matthew and Ryan, which appeared to demote them out of the top three, but the Jokers and probably the stewards (grey men in darkened rooms) seem to have played their part and the final result going to John and Andy who had held them off all day and also leaving Roger and Iain back in 5th place. Third place went to Darrell Staniforth and Henry Carr car 8 (Toyota Corolla) who had been hanging around the goal posts all day waiting to knock the ball in the net. This also promoted car 2 (another Escort) Mick Valentine and John Thornley to forth position. Well done whoever sorted all that out.

Top Expert went  to Nigel and Sally Woof, congrats, I will be watching out for them next time out.

Top Novice went to Russell Smith and Dan Harrison in a Pug 205GTI, 6th overall very impressive for a `Novice`. I`m sure future seeding will take note. Well done guys.

The clubman class went to Paul Mills and Andy Ballantyne in their Mini cooper S.

For those travelling to East Anglia, good luck, and preserve the car, the following weekend we will see you all in the Cotswolds, let`s see if we can get a finish in that one also.

Mark Goodwin

All photos by kind permission of Chris Huish