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Whickham and District Motor Club Limited

2017 Berwick Classic Rally – 29th/30th April 2017

Peter and Guy Mini

Peter and I have never had much luck on the Berwick - occasional flashes of brilliance being overshadowed by mechanical and other problems. With a recently serviced and refettled car and a troublesome misfire sorted on the morning of the event we were hopeful though of a trouble free run for a change, although given the calibre of the entry, I felt that a top 15 finish would be a major achievement.

The Berwick constantly evolves and changes its format - some years its mainly tests, others its more regularity biased. This year was the latter, with the first 70 mile leg on Saturday evening including 50 miles of regularities in 4 sections and a single test to keep the drivers interested.

After a trouble free scrutineering at Tweedmouth Service Station, we lined up as car 21 in an excellent entry of 44 classics, with 15 further entries in the separate Targa event for modern cars.

The first regularity ran from Oxford Farm to Shoreswood, finishing along the farm tracks and through the farmyard. A good start saw only 6 seconds of penalties. It was then across the road to the only test of the night, the shorter of the usual two Shoreswood tests - a clean run here, only 3 seconds off fastest. We then had 2 long regularities with multiple speed changes and timing points that took us via Doddington and Chillingham before finishing at North Charlton where a tricky to find farm track under the A1 caused problems for a few crews. The leg finished with a straightforward section from West Fleetham to Lucker, all timed at 30mph where we posted our best performance of the leg, only 4 seconds of penalties over the 2 TPs.

We then had a run back up the A1 to East Ord village hall to hand in our timecards before heading into Berwick for a curry and a visit to a beer festival.

The Sunday leg offered another 150 miles of driving with 11 tests and 3 further regularity sections, all 3 being predominately on private roads. Overnight results had us around 13th overall, although the organisers were still sorting out a spurious time that affected all crews on the 2nd regularity.

From the restart on the Quayside we headed north west and over the border into Scotland to the first 2 tests at East Reston and Aytonlaw, both straightforward farmyard tests and completed without problems Next up was the first regularity, only just over 2 miles long and predominately on private roads and farm tracks. The section was defined by tulips and distances and we resolved to concentrate on getting the route right and not to worry too much about the time. Some hesitation in finding the correct route round a farmyard dropped us 28 seconds over the section.

We now had a long road section along the A1 to Grantshouse, then to Preston, over Cockburn Law past Toot Corner to Abbey St Bathens and on to the next test at Ronnie Dale’s off road driving school at Whiteburn. This was a mix of gravel and grass but no issues recorded. The route then took us over Ecclaw Hill with its magnificent view of Torness Power Station and the North Sea and on to the old favourite test at Tower Farm. A new test to us at Spott Farm followed and then it was straight out of the test into the next regularity.


2011 Berwick Classic PM-GW 1

This started with a mile on the yellow road before going onto private farm tracks for the last 2 miles. It was also defined by tulips and was easier to follow so we concentrated more on the timing - the result, only 9 seconds of penalties in total at the 3 TPs and 2nd best performance overall for that section. One more test alongside the A1 at Eweford took us to fuel in Dunbar and then back to Oldhamstocks for a picnic lunch in the sunshine outside the village hall.

Now we always seem to go off the boil at an event lunch halt and have a problem on the first test or section in the afternoon. As we were having a trouble free run for a change we resolved to concentrate extra hard this time and all was well until 2.90 miles into the first link section after lunch when the tripmeter froze up. This looked like being a major problem but switching everything off and on again as we waited to start the next section seemed to sort it out and it came back to life just in time for the last regularity section.

And what a section it was! 12 miles of gravel roads around the Crystal Rig Wind Farm with 4 speed changes and 3 timing points, defined by a 1:15,000 scale marked map.

This was a real challenge - as well as monitoring time and distance, there was also the correct route to follow from a very detailed map with an unfamiliar scale, on an open moorland with very few features and landmarks, apart from lots of wind turbines which all looked the same! The map was very accurate but at times it was difficult to differentiate between the tracks that were 'goers' and those that were dead ends to a turbine. There were also several long way round triangles to negotiate, 2 of which contained a code board and a timing point.

We dropped 2 seconds at the first TP, 16 at the second, and 25 at the third where a long and very rough climb before the TP hampered our ability to reach the required speed on 10 inch wheels and road tyres. A total penalty of 43 seconds looked quite bad but was actually good enough for 6th best time on the section as there was carnage around us. People were getting lost and missing the code board to pick up penalties, others missed out full loops and racked up huge penalties. The event leader, Dougie Humphrey, wrong slotted and in his haste to make up time smashed his Mini's sump.

Having survived that challenge a run down half the Bothwell JCMR stage took us past Whiteadder Reservoir and back over Dunbar Common to the final 5 tests at regular sites such as Cockie Law, Crauchie and Sydserf. All went well over these tests, despite a major moment on the final test at Scoughall. As Reiner Stockle would have said, "you were going too vacky"!

This just left a 5 mile run in to the finish at East Links Country Park and supper. By this point we'd achieved our first aim, a trouble free run, but were fairly confident of a good result as we were being helped by a higher than usual rate of attrition amongst the top seeds. Even so, we were astonished when the results showed us finishing 4th overall and 1st in class!

All in all a brilliant event and a brilliant result - our best ever.

Guy Wickham

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