All News

Gremlins on the Gremlin Rally

Well, we weren’t expecting that.  We stayed in a converted cowshed. We broke the sump guard. We ran out of fuel.  We retired and then re-joined the rally.  West Ham United beat Manchester United,  and Max Verstappen won from 9th on the grid.  Alright, I give you that one.  Max winning was entirely predictable.

Our accommodation was a converted barn, high up in the hills overlooking Hay on Wye.  I guess the clue was in the name, Barn End, but it was still a surprise to see painted corrugated iron sheets used as internal walls and sheep in the other end of the building. 

Regularity 1 took the crews west using map features.  We were caught out by the second junction which on the two adjoining maps appeared to be a straight road where we wanted to avoid a right turn.  In reality, the village appeared to be different, and we lost time driving up and down trying to work out the correct route.  That led to a one-minute penalty at the first control.  Not an ideal start.  The rest of the Reg was fine for us with only a few seconds dropped at each control.

Tests 1, 2 & 3 were brilliant.  Six miles of fast flowing tracks picking up numerous code boards along the way.  Many of the top team achieved the bogey times on all three tests.  We managed to break the mountings on the rear of the sump guard resulting in a cacophony of noise as the broken guard bounced between the uneven road surfaces and underside of the chassis.

The route for Regularity 2 was defined tulips, distances and a dozen speed changes.  Ian started to complain that the car wasn’t pulling properly up hill.  Soon we ground to a halt with the only noise being the fuel pump furiously clicking.  We assumed we’d holed the tank or fractured a fuel line.  When we couldn’t smell any petrol, perhaps a fuel blockage.  A wire dangled into the tank revealed no fuel. 

Three weeks previous, Ian had recalibrated the fuel gauge, adding a gallon of fuel at a time.  Now 90 minutes into the rally we had no fuel.  We can only deduce that some scumbag had syphoned the fuel, breaking or damaging the float arm in the process as the car stood on his drive. 

It’s all over, but was it?  The unmistakable A40 of Ian Prout and Kev Bryant, stranded!

Bummer, we were out of the rally.  We phoned Clerk of the Course Paul Morris who arranged for us to be towed out.  As we handed in our timecards to the closing course car, we were told help was on its way.  That gave us time to remove the broken sump guard.

Martin Leonard arrived, towed us to the nearest petrol station where we were able to test the stolen fuel theory.  Peering under the car as the fuel went in revealed no leaks.  Likewise, when we started the car, no leaks under the bonnet either.   Martin suggested that if we were to head to lunch, we could re-join the rally, but Ian wasn’t keen on risking the car with no sump guard. 

As we drove in silence back to the start, I thought it was a shame to miss out on the plot and bash so suggested we just do the regularities and skip the tests.  Plan agreed we changed direction for the lunch halt at Builth Wells.  We were back in the rally.

We skipped Test 5 and drove directly to the start of Regularity 3, a combination of grid lines, tulips and short off-road section.  Again, a moment of indecision on route lost us a minute but aside from that our total losses across the other five timing controls was just 25 seconds. 

We could easily avoid Test 6 but elected to drive slowly through Test 7 (and that pigs do fly).  Luckily, Test 7 was on tarmac and apart from one heavily cut corner that had the underside of the car crunching the tarmac we survived and drove to the start of the plot and bash, Regularity Four.  This turned out to be a dash across the (mostly) tarmac range roads.  Another schoolboy error here, I wrote the correct code on the wrong place on the card – another minute down the drain.  Argh, Kevin when will you learn?

We skipped Test 8 and headed for the final Regularity of the day.  All was going fine until we turned left too early and ended up in the grounds of a very large private house.  Another navigational error and another minute lost.

So very much a mixed day for us with some great highs and deep lows. 

Meanwhile at the front of the field the seeding proved to be remarkably accurate with Dan Willan and Nial Frost in car 1 (Volvo PV544) finishing first, Paul Crosby and Ali Procter in car 2 (Porsche 911) second and Mick Valentine and John Thornley in car 3 (Ford Escort) third.  Congratulations to all the winners but especially to our nemesis, Jeff and Anne in the other Austin A40, who managed 2nd in class in the pre-68 novices.  Well done.

Ian Prout & Kev Bryant

The ignominy of it all. 

Well done guys for getting to the end and achieving a finish.

Ken Binstead

Gallery Photos by kind permission of M&H Photography