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Whickham and District Motor Club Limited

Roger Albert Clark Rally 2010

by Ian Canavan

I was asked to provide management support (used to be called chase crew!) on this event by Darren Moon (Leeds) and Malcolm Smithson (Skipton), Car 9, Ford Escort Mk 2 RS1800.

My preparations started a few weeks before the event by getting ready the fuel/service schedule and mapping the route. Emergency service locations had to be sorted and permissions obtained.

Management crew were Ron Roughead from Sunniside and myself, service crew Richard Rowley from Leeds and Graham Hargraves (Raggy) from Threshfield.

IC RAC2010 prestart

Friday 26 November

Start and finish in Pickering, with two stages each in the showground and Dalby, all in the dark.

We met up at the Pickering showground for scrutineering and were already faced with a good fall of snow from the previous night. Conversations were had with tyre suppliers and various friends who were out and about in the forests, and a decision was made to start the event on Dunlop 15” Snow tyres.

Ron’s Suzuki Vitara was used for chase, and we were soon discovered how essential this 4WD vehicle would be to us.
In falling snow and darkness, rumours were already going around the service area that the Dalby stage was going to be cancelled or shortened.

IC RAC2010 chase

Ilkley Motor Club members were running it, so if anyone could get mileage out of the first forest stages, I was confident that they could!
Heavy snow continued to fall throughout the evening, and some chase crews chose not to leave the showground in fear of getting stuck on the road!

Darren set a good time on the first showground stage, and after a re-routed road section and shortened Dalby stage, returned to service in the lead, after a fastest time in Dalby. The tyres proved to be the perfect choice, and his knowledge of the Yorkshire forests helped. Favourites for the event win such as Mark Higgins, Gwyndaf Evans and David Stokes floundered in the lower part of the top 20 with poor tyre choice.

Conscious of road position for the following day, Darren intended to drop his pace for the repeat of the two stages so as not to run first on the road on Saturday. However, a small overshoot in Dalby did the job for him, and he ended the day in 4th o/a.

Top ten after day 1: 1 Rob Smith 0:16:02, 2 Stefaan Stouf 0:16:10, 3 Geoff Jones 0:16:20, 4 Darren Moon 0:16:25, 5 Leigh Armstrong 0:16:42, 6 Steve Perez 0:16:45, 7 Nick Elliott 0:16:45, 8 Will Onions 0:16:47, 9 Andrew Haddon 0:16:47, 10 Phil Collins 0:17:10

Saturday 27 November

A Pickering start and Carlisle finish, with four stages in Olivers Mount, two in Langdale, plus one in Hamsterley, and one in Shepherdshield (Kielder) in the dark.

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Adverse weather conditions turned what promised to be a classic event into a marathon.

After another night of heavy snow, we kept the Dunlop tyres on the car for Olivers Mount, also shortened due to the road conditions. A good choice, certainly for the early runs, but did not work as well in Langdale, which had been ploughed and was compacted. The conditions suiting a much narrower ice tyre, which we did not have.

The road section from Scarborough to Langdale was very difficult in the snow and ice. The chase car had to loop around towards Fylingdale on the A169 Pickering – Whitby road via the A170. It was evident before reaching the Hole of Horcum car park that no rally traffic had come towards us, so we turned back to Pickering, unaware that the rally cars had been re-routed to service via Givendale and Ebberston.

After service, a repeat of the morning stages should have resulted in a long road section through Grosmont and Middlesbrough to Hamsterley, but a fairly late call from the organisers advised the crews to head south for the A64 then A1 with no time schedule to stick to. We helped three Belgian and French chase crews sort a route out, as the organisers were unable to provide maps or written instructions.

Darren was still on the pace in Olivers, but struggled in Langdale again dropping to 6th o/a.

IC RAC2010 Moon Olivers

A lack of time schedule was advantageous. The service crew, who were en route to Carlisle, waited at Scotch Corner where we could take the starter motor off. We didn’t have a spare, but managed to get it working.

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Conditions were pretty bad in Hamsterley, with the rally now running almost three hours late. A shortened stage was run twice! The Toll Bridge area in Hamsterley was fairly chaotic, but we managed to carry out a quick spanner check and left for Hamsterley running fairly well towards the end of the field due to us taking time out at Scotch Corner.

Shepherdshield was next, the first forest stage not to be shortened. Well done Mull Car Club!

Driving north, the snow was really bad and road conditions pretty severe. We had the Vitara in 4WD virtually all the way. Following the rally car into Kielder, we looped around the top of Shepherdshield onto the Whygate Loop to meet the rally car at the finish. Despite the incredible conditions, as we approached the stage exit, we just caught sight of Darren leaving the junction!

After a further 100 yards, and doing less than10mph, a BMW X5 came towards us and just didn’t move over on the narrow forest road and we ended up on our side in a snow bank. To be fair to the Belgian driver and passenger stopped as we tried to extricate the car, but more manpower was needed. We tried to stop some crews, but most drove past.

Fortunately Alex Sabater and Iain Tullie stopped (cheers!), and with the help of another crew we managed to get the Vitara back onto the road.

Running very late, we reached Carlisle Racecourse just after the service crew had fitted a new starter motor in dreadful conditions. Darren told had really struggled in Hamsterley and Kielder. He and Malcolm caught quite a few cars due to road position, and although the time loss did not affect his overall position, it did allow the leading bunch to pull away.

IC RAC2010 signpost

Top ten after day 2: 1 Stefaan Stouf 0:59:56, 2 Nick Elliott 1:00:07, 3 Rob Smith 1:01;09, 4 Andrew Haddon 1:01:14, 5 Phil Collins 1:02:16, 6 Darren Moon 1:02:24, 7 Will Onions 1:02:37, 8 Paul Griffiths 1:02:52, 9 Gwyndaf Evans 1:03:23, 10 Leigh Armstrong 1:05:01


Sunday 28 November

A Carlisle start and finish, Dumfries service, two stages each in Ae, Twiglees, Heathall and Newcastleton.

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After a 3am hotel check-in, we were up and away at 7am. The temperature had dropped significantly after an overnight snowfall.

Ae, the first stage of the day, had a dusting of snow sitting on hard packed icy gravel. Still unable to source an ice tyre, we went out on the Dunlop snow tyre again, which proved safe but unsuitable for setting a quick time on the stage. Twiglees had more snow and Darren fared better in here; road conditions for us in the chase car were much improved.

Back at Dumfries service in the winter sunshine, Darren chose a forest tyre for the return visit to Ae and Twiglees. The Heathall spectator stage was tackled first, where he could hardly get off the start line. Fifth fastest through Ae proved the tyre choice was correct, and a steady run through Twiglees netted eighth fastest.

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Before reaching Dumfries service again, we heard that the planned Monday stages were cancelled because of the deep snow, and the first Newcastleton stage this evening also lost to the conditions, the first stage to be cancelled during the event.

A 20 minute service in the industrial estate went to plan, but as we ventured northeast into the Borders towards Newcastleton, the weather worsened. The yellow roads through to Kershope Bridge and beyond were ploughed earlier, but remained deep in snow with ice under. We tackled the next 25 miles in 4WD Low for safety and traction.

Darren emerged from the only Newcastleton stage saying it was the scariest conditions he had experienced in a rally car! A long road section through minor roads back to Carlisle took us to the final service for the day.

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Top ten after day 3: 1 Stefaan Stouf 2:03:11, 2 Andrew Haddon 2:05:06, 3 Gwyndaf Evans 2:05:18, 4 Phil Collins 2:06:16, 5 Paul Griffiths 2:06:38, 6 Darren Moon 2:07:09, 7 Mark Higgins 2:08:31, 8 Russell Morgan 2:11:07, 9 Rob Smith 2:11:16, 10 Charlie Taylor 2:12:05

Monday 29 November

A Carlisle start and finish, Kielder Dam service, and two daylight stages each in Rooken and Highfield.

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Knowing the planned Kielder stages would not run, and the 06:16 start was to be delayed until 09:00, the competitors were given a new route into the Newcastleton/Kershope forest complex again for two repeated runs of a five mile stage.

As a team, an organiser’s decision to cancel the rest of the event would have been welcomed, but the adventure continued. From our perspective, a return to the deep snow of Newcastleton would be difficult on our now part worn Dunlop snow tyres, however, the rally car made it through both stages without incident; it was the chase car that had the excitement again!

IC RAC2010 Snow Tyre

Before leaving Carlisle, we asked the Deputy Clerk of the Course to clarify chase car access into Kershope, because on narrow roads and icy conditions we did not want to be running against rally traffic. Use of public roads through Kershope Bridge, and between the stage start and finish was confirmed for all the chase crews, but rounding a blind bend near the bridge at less than 10mph in 4WD Low, we confronted an unseen queue of chase cars stopped by marshals, who had received conflicting information from the organisers about chase car access.

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The VW Transporter in front of us narrowly missed the car in front, and we had to take avoiding action to miss the VW. A marshal, thinking we were trying to drive through, actually stood in front of us. With all four wheels locked we skidded towards him!

Despite much arm waving to get him out of the way, he stood his ground jumping aside at the very last minute. Ronnie was fairly shaken by this and let the marshal know his feelings in no uncertain terms! The marshal risked his own personal safety, and ours.

Another marshal stopped Darren and warned that our actions could exclude him from the event! We explained to the marshal why all the chase cars were arriving at this point, but were told that competitors signed a bulletin barring chase cars from using this road section the night before. Malcolm later told us there was no bulletin, and nothing was signed for.

We reached the stage finish by another route, in time to see our crew safely out of the forest and on the way back to the Carlisle finish.

With the exception of the broken starter motor, the car ran faultlessly throughout.

Congratulations to Darren Moon and Malcolm Smithson for making it through probably the toughest UK rally in recent years. Thanks to Ronnie for driving safely, and to Raggy and Richard for their help and support.

Final results: 1 Stefaan Stouf 2:17:19, 2 Gwyndaf Evans 2:18:37, 3 Andrew Haddon 2:19:02, 4 Paul Griffiths 2:020:05, 5 Phil Collins 2:20:18, 6 Darren Moon 2:22:46, 7 Mark Higgins 2:22:48, 8 Russell Morgan 2:25:34, 9 Mark Barnett 2:27:11, 10 Charlie Taylor 2:27:55

Ian Canavan

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