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Blenheim Rallysprint – Taylors Pass

16 November 2002.

What an awesome event! Guy fixed the car problem we had at Timaru Rally - the distributor plate had come out! Blair (our service crew member) came up to Nelson from Timaru to tow our car over to Blenheim because mum and Caity went down to Christchurch for a dog show.  It was to be the first event mum had ever missed and hopefully the last event she’ll ever miss too.  

Blair and I went on our way to Blenheim followed by dad a few hours later in the Evo.  Got to Blenheim too late for auditing so just waited 1 ½ hours for our pizza to arrive then went to sleep.

Was a great start to the day, dad didn’t get us lost driving to the event and we were on time for documentation. 

The rallysprint comprised of 4 ‘there and back’ timed runs, each run being around 8km long – making 64km of great racing.  First we went for a tiki-tour and had dad write a few ‘caution, DO NOT cut’ and ‘foot FLAT’ for blind brows and tricky corners.  Was a bit nervous about this, as at the Nelson Rallysprint when dad came with me, he basically forgot to call 85% of instructions and tried to give ‘other instructions’ along the way, like the classic “BRAKE”, and “FOOT FLAT”! Which never helped because generally I was trying to do that anyway.

After some strict instructions like ‘sit down, hold on and shut up’ Dad was great. He called my few instructions and didn’t get me lost (again! J).  Last year at the same event we couldn’t get a time under 7 minutes and I was hoping to be around 20 seconds quicker. This time on our first run our time was 6.29 minutes, I was quite shocked but very happy with that result, and I knew we could go much harder.  Datsta

The run back was great again, had fun with the 3 fords (even though there was no water in them) it was great fun getting air over them and the blind brow at the top of the hill.  Our time was 6.27 minutes, which I was again very happy with.  We were one of the few to get a quicker time on the way back than on the way.

Second run over, car was running well after a bit of fan belt tightening.  I decided that we were on a mission for this Rallysprint. I didn’t do well at it last year so had miles (or should I say minutes) of un-finished business. We did a 6.11 minutes on our way over, couldn’t complain about that.  But there was still lots of time left we could get – with later braking, and keeping the momentum up around the corners.  We were having problems with the tight corners as we have the wrong diff ratio in the car which meant we had to change down to first for 4 of the corners where others could stay in 2nd.

On the run back we started pushing a bit harder and got a 6.17 minutes, plenty of time left to still improve.

Third run and we were getting into the groove of things with dad and me starting to get a good working relationship in the car. He had learnt now that if he is going to talk, he’s going to get kicked out of the car! He sat, held on, and shut up which worked very well. We did a 6.03 on this run which was for sure a sweet surprise, always plenty more we can achieve though. 

On the run back we had some fun. With nothing to lose and some awesome roads we pushed even harder and got a 6.04 which meant we improved by 13 seconds on our run before. Dad was so happy once we got to the finish, and assured me that if I drove like that on the way up, we’d beat that 6 minute mark easy.  That run was great fun; I left my braking much later.  I really put on the charge around ½ way through when dad said “remember every second counts”.  More we can improve on though, to carry more speed through the tight corners.

For the last run, Blair came with me.  He helped us so much throughout the weekend, by driving all the way up from Timaru to tow my car and helping with servicing.  So off we went.   Racing past dad, Blair was busy waving out the window.  Again I was on a mission to achieve some goals, held my foot flat over the blind brow up the top, kept my boot into it down the steep quick straight – mind over matter! We arrived and got a 5.56 minutes which I made Blair count several times as I couldn’t believe we’d got under 6 minutes. 

On the way back I knew that a consistent run would give us a good overall time, no silly business just smooth, quick and calm would be the combination to achieving my mission.  We got a 6.04, same time as the run before which I sure won’t complain about.

Wayne Muckle's Evo 3At the end of the stage, Sharyn Cameron told me that Wayne Muckle wanted to take me for a ride, well what could I say to that.  I’d never been in a 4WD car racing so this was to be an exciting new experience.  With a huge smile but stomach as nervous as could be I said with a nervous voice “yup”.  I knew I’d kill myself afterwards if I didn’t go, but I thought I may kill myself if I do go!

So I hopped into Wayne’s EVO 3, I knew it would be a quick run as even after losing 30 odd seconds on the first run where the turbo pipe had come off, he achieved a very impressive 2nd place overall and was in the early 5’s and late 4’s all day, achieving the quickest time of the day – 4.51 seconds.  After Rocky (his co-driver) telling me that going over the blind brow on the ‘run back’ Wayne didn’t button off even though he got massive air and landed a meter or two before nearly going head first over a big drop I knew I was sure in for a ride.

Made sure Rocky did my belts up REAL tight as I put my neck restraint on and held on for a scary ride of a lifetime.  We got going and I was shocked at how amazing this car was and how incredible a driver he was.  Now it was my turn to ‘sit down, hold on and shut up’.  After not talking for the first few km, thinking that we were going to go ‘off’ on the first corner and every one after that, I was watching the road very carefully and when Wayne said “this corner is awesome” I thought ‘here we go’ and said “no its not!” 

It was up near the top, a tight left hander on hard based clay, we came around it and trust me I DO NOT know HOW THE HELL we got around.  He hardly buttoned off, just went sideways around it whilst I was busy looking at the drop on the other side!  He had been running notes all day and this was his first time not running them so he didn’t remember the road too well. We came up to a tight left hander, which he thought was a reasonably flowing corner, came into it VERY wide, the back wheel went off the road (and trust me it was a BIG drop down with only little tree’s to stop you!). I held on, waiting for the drop.  But nup, we kept going, those 4WD are amazing!!!

We got air going over the blind brow, felt like we were flying for minutes but after hitting the road we came back down to earth pretty quickly! He slammed on the brakes coming into a tight corner and I said to him “these are mint brakes”, he said back “nah they’re not really, I’m having to put my foot flat”, I shut up and went back to ‘holding on’!   I said “I want one of these”, he said “It’s for sale” and just as he said that we cut a left hander very fine and nearly spun and near hit the bank. But again, he got us back without any problems and kept going. 

The run before when I was driving I’d seen a big rock on the road, which I had run over and it put a hole through the muffler, taking the front of the muffler out.  We came across it in the EVO and absolutely obliterated it; I had to smile as that rock needed a good beating.  Wayne thought we’d hurt the gearbox, but we hadn’t, we’d split the rock in half though!

Got down to a bit on the road which I knew quite well, I was worried that he didn’t! I said “this bit’s dodgy” and he said “I love it”.  Foot flat he went, not buttoning off for anything, I can remember someone telling me about how badly Fred Merkin rolled here a few years ago and quickly got that thought out of my mind.  We came out of it and he got his thumb stuck in the wrong place on the steering wheel.  Felt like we were going a million miles per hour down a straight going full lock on the wheel either way, riding the banks as we went (I’m surprised at how you can do that and get away with it).  I sat back, held on and thanked the higher power!

Got to the end of the road, and after a rollercoaster ride I was ready for a lie down!  All in all, what a great driver, he showed so much control and stayed calm in times that I thought ‘we’d had it’, if we were in my rear wheel driver Datsun, we would have been off the road big time on 99% of the corners, even 99% of the straights!

I offered to swap my car and a pony (to give to his kids) for his car but I don’t quite think I secured that deal.  He wouldn’t mind swapping it for our EVO VI though, no problem with me! Don’t think dad would be too happy though. 

On our way back over, we had to drive normal road speed as the road was now open.  It was great fun looking at our tyre marks.  We could see where we rode the banks, squiggly marks over the road and where we’d gone VERY wide, there is a tyre mark you can see goes off the road.Trophies - 3rd in class, Most Improved Driver

So all in all, we had great day, i had a ride with a legend, we managed a 3rd in our class, 18th over all and had a great battle with Kim in the morning, after some great times from him, I was left to play catch-up for the last few runs.  We also won ‘most improved driver’ which was very surprising and was amazing to think how far we’ve come.  It was a great rallysprint; I learnt a lot and had awesome fun. 

The Nelson Car Club gave everyone a good run for their money, with 11 entered compared to the 8 from Blenheim.   Don Urquhart was the top Nelson driver, winning the event, awesome drive.  Second Nelsonion was Gary Adcock in 6th place, followed by Paul Nicoll in 7th, Kevin Newton 11th, Dallas Harris in 14th, Darren Hall in 15th, Barry Roberts in 16th, me in 18th, Kim Sumby in 19th, Darren Burke in 20th with both Kieran Hall and Adrian Leitch failing to finish after mechanical problems, and Malcolm Russell having a huge roll on the first run.  Well done to Team RFR, David came all the way from Christchurch for the event and won class A, even with re-arranged aerodynamics. Huge congratulations to all the boys (and girls) who put on their armour and went into war, I'm sure they’d agree that it was a great day with many lessons learnt and some great battles taking place.

Dad & Blair - caught them sleeping !!Huge thanks to everyone involved - the organisers (Marlborough Car Club), competitors, Wayne, Rocky, service crew, helpers, Blair, and my lovely ma and pa for all their help and support.

What a great season, one event left to do next weekend in Cheviot (23rd November) and that will wrap up the year.  With an exciting next year to come, I’m pumped up with some new goals, more challenges and plenty of hardcore gravel action and battles to come.

Sara

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