2016 a new year a new challenge
The time had come for a new challenge and after much thought and persuasion from Jod my son in law the move to rallying was the path I would go down, also a new challenge. I have been part of Jod’s support crew for the last two season, he competes in the BTRDA Gravel championship. It's something I have looked at before. First decision was tarmac or gravel, having been a racing drive I decided the move across to tarmac rallying would be better for me, not so much to learn...Next what car to use….
After looking around and checking the different Rally cars for sale web sites one car jumped out at me. Not your run of the mill Fiesta, but a Suzuki Swift Super 1600….one that has some serious pedigree. It was an ex works car, used by one P G Anderson to win the Junior World Rally Championship in 2007/8…It was local so a quick phone call and myself Dan Surridge of CMC my race engineer and Jod travelled to Jam Motorsport to look at the car…
What a piece of kit it was, everything the advert stated and more….fully prepared works car with full Tarmac set up. I was going down the Tarmac stage rally to start as moving from racing to tarmac rallying would be an easier transition for me. The car had a sequential gearbox with flat shift, the suspension was tarmac set up being slightly wider than the gravel set up. It came with a good spares package….It was one serious piece of kit…It had got its full homologation log book, plus a full Suzuki works set up book and this meant I could at some stage compete in some serious rallies, but that's a long way off. The deal was done.
Next of many questions, what championship would I be doing ? After looking around and advice from different people about the type of event I decided on the MSA Asphalt Championship, it had a very good variety of rounds at plenty of different locations, next was finding a navigator….I spoke to Dave Millard Jod’s navigator to see if he knew of anyone. What car have you got he asked, I told him, he said don't look for anyone else because as long as the dates don’t clash he wanted to sit in the hot seat, result.
So the car was MSA log booked, it did need one or two items doing as it hadn't compete in the UK before so needed to be meet MSA regulations, it was collected and taken to Dan’s workshop. Dan had said he hadn't worked on such a serious piece of kit before but was going to step up to the mark and also enjoy learning it was good to have a new challenge. He started off in rallying and was looking forward to getting back into rallying by way of a change from racing…
So what rally was going to be our first challenge, we looked at different ones and chose the Legends Fires North West Stages. Based in Blackpool it was a multi venue rally. So entry was sent off….
A trip to Demon Tweeks was done with the purchase of new helmet that had an intercom fitted, intercom system, terratrip and a few more necessities….A trip to Mr Tyre and the purchase of several different compound of Tarmac spec tyres…
A very important test session was arranged at MIRA were Dan is based, the car was awsome to drive, it was so solid to drive, once the tyres were up to temperature they griped so well, it was so stable in the bends, the diff working well as you applied the power exiting the bends and under heavy braking just sat so square. The handbrake was brilliant, it did take a few attempts at get it right on the hairpins but that was soon mastered. A good test session with a lot learnt about the car and the fact it was left hand drive didn't seem to cause me any problems…
So off to Blackpool for the Legend Fires North West Stages Rally…the car was all loaded up, a drive to the service area, the Promenade at Blackpool. Unload the car and of to scrutineering and noise check. The car certainly drew plenty of attention when we got there, plenty of photos being taken. The car passed with flying colours which is always a good thing first time out….
We had four night stages to do on the Friday so a baptism of fire for me… David seemed nice and calm in the passenger seat which helped me. Wet tyres were put on as it was raining. We went to the start and having been flagged away on our due time went to the start of my first stage…Wet with very slippy tarmac faced us, on the start line and the clock ticked down, David calling the last five seconds and we were off. Plenty of wheel spin in all gears but I managed to keep it on the black stuff. The light pod that had been fitted was working well lighting up the way as we went flying along. David was calling out the stage as best he could, no pace notes just maps…We made it the end with no real drama…we then moved on to the Promenade stage, this was wet, slippy concrete… Good start some very tight chicanes but all negotiated safely..We saw the service crew at the end of stage, everything was okay… We then went and did the same two stages again, a slight over shoot on a ninety right but I didn't hit anything and got going having lost a few seconds. The second promenade stage was done but went into one of the tight chicanes a bit quick and clipped a barrier this caused a slight bit of damage to the offside front wing. My first lesson was learnt from then on I went into the tight chicanes in first gear and got the diff working as I was on the power and the diff was working by pulling the car round, in second I was not on the throttle so the diff needed to be under power to get the full potential out of it. I didn’t hit another barrier.... We then went into parc ferme for the night. Well my first four stages completed with no major dramas, so we could look forward to the daylight stages on Saturday.
So Saturday morning up early still damp but it looked like the Tarmac was starting to dry a little, a chance to get some heat in the tyres….
We had a total of 24 stages to cover during the day…out of parc ferme and into service, the team set checking the car over and making sure everything was ready for the day ahead….
All done and we were off to the first stage of the day…
The first four stages were still very damp so care was taken as we rattled those of with no real drama’s. We saw the service crew after every couple of stages and a quick check of the car and everything was running okay. As the morning progressed the stages started to dry a little and we were able to make up fistfuls of seconds, getting some heat in to the tyres and brakes. It was good to see so many spectators out watching the rally. Weeton Barracks was a stage that had a mega deep water water splash, well more like a small lake... but we got through okay each time. We had a main service so the team were able to give the car a thorough check over. We got feed and watered and the rain had started to fall for the afternoon stages. More of the same stages in the afternoon again no real drama’s a spin in the Docks stage lost us a few seconds...
Back to main service and the lamp pod was fitted for the last four stages of the day...
Well everything was going great until the last stage Weeton Barracks...I came down a long straight slight right left chicane taken fairly quickly down to a 90 left, but i left my braking and turn in a little later than previous time and we slide wide we thought we would get away with it going on to the grass and rejoining but that was okay until the rear offside wheel hit a hidden kerb stone...This broke the wheel completely..end of Rally we thought. Some Marshalls appeared and the spare was quickly fitted and we limped out of the final stage giving me a result on my first ever Rally...The service crew were at the end of the stage and after a quick inspection saw that the disk was broken. So it was a slow drive back to the Main time control to be classified as a finisher.
We started car 88 and finished overall 38th overall. A great result for the whole team.
The car ran brilliantly I was starting to get used to it more and more, yes the conditions were not the best for a first rally but we can’t set the weather. A big thank you to my navigator Dave Millard and the service team Dan Surridge who got the car prepared for the rally and who looked after it during the rally together with Jody, Martin and Frank...
We move on to the 1st round of the MSA Asphalt Championship 2016, Tour of Epynt our first rally with proper stage note and hopefully some dry road conditions, so I can get start pushing the car even more.....
A continued big thanks to the West Midlands Police Motor Club and Sports & Social Club for their continued support...
Paul R Clackett
Action Photo’s from Phil James of Pro-Rally Photography.
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