On Friday 25th January, the OUMF team of Ding Boston, Ahron Becquart and Niall Geoghegan set out to West Berkshire for the annual ‘Frostbite’ 12 Car Rally held by the Dolphin Motor Club. This would be the Toyo Golf’s first outing of 2019 after its success at the Stanta Targa rally at the end of December. With the event being designed for Beginners, I would travel in the Golf’s unique 3rd seat to learn the ropes of rally navigation. Despite Ahron’s experience as a stage rally navigator, he is classed as a beginner in road rallying, so we would be using marked maps which promised to make it a fast and fun rally.
Ahron and I arrived at the barn at 4:30pm to do the final checks over the Toyo Golf before we set off. Ahron checked the fluid levels under the bonnet and cleaned the windows while I set the tyre pressures and packed the boot. We were pleased to find that the Golf was in good condition after its thrashing around Stanta and now had a sporty side exit exhaust!
Ding arrived shortly afterwards and Ahron and I - being beginners - set about marking the OS 174 map that he would use, using the maps we had been sent in advance by email. I kept the original printouts to use myself during the rally. After a check of the final instructions, we set out for the start, stopping for fuel and inevitable Jaffa cakes on the way. A miscommunication between Ahron and Ding resulted in twice as much Jaffa cakes being bought… no less than eight packs of 10. We missed the worst of the Friday evening traffic down the A34, arriving at The Pheasant Inn at 7:00pm. This was much to the shock of everyone else there, as OUMF had arrived on time to two 12 Car’s in a row!
After Signing On, we went inside to the warmth of the pub to wait for the drivers briefing. Inside, we found an interesting game set up in one of the corners. The game used a bull’s nose ring, hung by a string from the ceiling and the aim was to swing the ring onto a hook on a nearby wall. Ding was the first to give it a go, getting it hooked after several attempts. Ahron was next to try it but failed despite hitting the hook several times. I got the ring on the hook on my third attempt. The game ended when the ring broke free from the ceiling and nearly smashed several glasses on the table below. We decided to head out to the drivers briefing before destroying anymore of the pub…
As car No. 6, we started at 8:06pm. As the ‘Co-Co-Driver’ my main roles were to follow the route and to spot for code boards at the side of the road. These needed to be marked down on our time card to ensure we followed the correct route. I also followed the route on my own maps. The first section was short and straight forward, but the course quickly became twister on narrow rural roads. The second section turned out to be one of the hardest to follow on the map, with us losing 2 minutes. Things improved however as we arrived 3-4 minutes early for the next few time controls even with the roads becoming narrower and hillier. Importantly, this allowed time for Jaffa cakes as we waited between sections.
Thankfully the weather had improved from the frozen conditions of 24 hours earlier, but even with temperatures in the double digits and no rain during the rally, it was very damp and muddy in many places. There were also areas of misty fog along the route which also did their best to slow progress. There was plenty of wildlife around as well with several deer crossing our path. The roads got more slippery as the rally went on due to thicker mud and freshly cut leaves, and one road we came across was not much better than the field next to it, leading to a very sideways moment. The Toyo R888R’s did their job though, and we only lost three minutes over the 60-mile route that had everything from wide A roads to single track mud lanes with grass along the middle!
As the rally went on, I began to give more input on the navigation, helping to recover from wrong turns (contributing with my own error for balance). While Ahron is classed as a beginner due to not using maps on stage rallies, he and Ding are an experienced rally crew and it was invaluable to follow along and learn the intricacies of 12 Car Rallying. I also got an appreciation for how busy it is in a rally car, constantly watching the road, marking down code boards, stopping for time controls, and giving directions.
We arrived at the finish shortly after 10pm, and soon, after all the time cards had been collected, the results were announced. We finished 6th overall, 3rd best beginners, having missed three code boards, one of which had been obscured behind a parked car in a lay-by.
After thanking Peter Cox and all the other organisers and marshals, and congratulating the other competitors, we headed back to Oxford...with the exhaust still hanging on in there!
It had been a great night on the road and a fun introduction to 12 Car Rallying.
I hope to get go out again soon!
Oxford Brookes 3rd Year Motorsport Engineering