We were back in action on the first weekend of September after the Summer break. Our class win at the last round, the Nicky Grist Stages, put us firmly back in the title hunt. During the Summer break we had made some improvements to the car. We’d fitted a bigger radiator as we’d suffered with overheating issues last time out. We’d also fitted a fresh pair of Co-Ordsport supplied Mintex brake pads.
The Woodpecker Rally is our favourite event of the year. This years event was held over 6 stages. With 1 in Haye Park and 2 in Radnor which were repeated in the afternoon. Last year we took the class win on the very last stage. So we were confident going into this years Rally!
Stage 1 was Haye Park. At just over 8 miles we couldn’t afford to take things easy, being almost a quarter of the Rally distance. Haye Park is a stage we know well having spectated on the stage for many years and having walked most of it. Despite having 30 cars in front of us to sweep the gravel, the start of the stage was still very slippery. The highlight of the stage was the approach to the spectator area, with just over a mile of corners over blind crests.
We were a little overconfident on one left hander, we thought we could take it flat. Halfway through the corner we realised we couldn’t! The rear of the car darted for the undergrowth on the right side of the road, then back over to the left before we gathered it all up. We had another close call towards the end of the stage on a Tightening right hander with a log pile on the exit. We dodged to log pile unlike a number of other crews. As we got to the stop line the marshal informed us there was an issue with the clocks and they hadn’t got a time for us, but Rally HQ would sort our time out later.
Having no idea if we were on the pace or not we headed towards Stage 2. While waiting to book into the stage we noticed the front right tyre was almost flat. We had enough time to change the wheel before our due time. Stage 2 was a 5.5 mile test in Radnor. This stage was fast with big drops and big trees, it was one for the brave. The stage was going to plan until we stalled on a downhill Hairpin. We got the KA fired up again with a few seconds lost.
Stage 3 was a 7.5 mile stage again in Radnor. This was another Stage we knew well having spectated and walked in. We were wary of the very last corner of the stage, we had been in the bushes here last year and a number of crews had rolled. We had one final push before service to win this test by 12 seconds. Once we returned to service we were given our time for Stage 1. We’d won all 3 stages and held a 34 second lead going into the second half of the Rally.
The KA required just a good check over in service, whilst a number of cars returned to Ludlow Racecourse having rolled on the final corner of Stage 3. We headed out to the afternoon stages with a big lead but we had to keep pushing to keep the concentration. We had learned our lessons from the first run through Haye Park and backed off where we had nearly gone off. Despite being on the cautious side, we hit a bump on a fast right hander which fired the back of the car into the air, it landed in the undergrowth on the driver’s side before swinging back into the undergrowth on the Co-Drivers side. Luckily for us there was nothing solid hiding in the bushes and we got away with it. We made it 4 stage wins from 4 and extended our lead to 43 seconds.
Our job was made easier in Stage 5 when our Championship rivals suffered a broken driveshaft and forcing them to retire. With another stage win to our name we just had to get through the 6th and final stage. Despite deciding to take it easy to get to the finish we won our 6th stage of the day and extended our lead by another 15 seconds.
We arrived back to Ludlow Racecourse for the finish, taking our second class win in 2 events. Our final winning margin was 1 minutes 7 seconds. This win keeps us in the BTRDA 1400C Class title fight with 2 rounds to go. This result also gives us the class lead in the Welsh Championship.
Our next Rally is the Trackrod Rally held in the Yorkshire Forest. Another class win here will take it to a winner takes all shootout on the final round in October.