As a result, we arrived at the Evesham Hotel as the rally organisers Lin and Peter Baker of Retro Speed were still rubbing their eyes and waking up. As the large car park began to fill with assorted exotica, the Inca team were treated to limitless coffee and breakfast before signing on opened, and had plenty of time to meet and chat to other drivers as they arrived and got safety checked. When it came to our turn to be scrutineered, the Inca's indicators miraculously started working - having resisted all efforts to do so by the team the previous evening.
Soon our tank was sealed, we were given our Tulip road map book of the route…and we were off.
(Explanation...The premise for this legal hoon round the Cotswold byways was very simple: whatever your intended speed, estimate in advance what you think your mileage per gallon will be for the day and the 100 plus miles of the rally route. So, as the Inca is impossible to drive sensibly - but we'd still managed a very economical 13mpg on the way from Oxford - we allowed for small roads and high summer Sunday traffic, and plumped for 16.3 mpg.)
We soon found that Peter and Lin had rediscovered wonderful tiny lanes that might have been long forgotten - except, by unfortunate coincidence, by the organisers of a rural, long distance bicycle race, on the very same day. This made for an exciting first hour of the rally as we shared the single track roads with over 5000 oncoming bikes, while at the same time trying to overtake as many of the 37 fellow competitors as possible!
By the time Andy navigated the Alfa to the stately Palladian splendour of Ragley Hall for lunch, much of the field were behind us, and, as we admired the peacocks and the dramatic landscaped gardens from the terrace, we felt we'd earned the break, and would have an easier time of it over the rest of the route. The Inca drew lots of attention, parked to advantage in front of this imposing stately home, and it hadn't missed a beat all morning. However, as we were called to start the second leg, we found that there was no reseeding on this particular event - so we would be starting off in 38th place again!
Never mind! On the more open roads we flew along in the afternoon, there were more chopping opportunities, and with Andy's accuracy on the tulip diagrams, we managed to keep our fuel usage up, and instances of taking a wrong turn down. The weather stayed dry and fine and by 4.30pm, as we crackled into Broadway to refill the Inca's tank to see how much we'd used, we soon found ourselves to be one of the first crews home to the Evesham Hotel. While the other competitors slowly arrived, and the fuel results were being calculated, we enjoyed an excellent finishers spread in the dining rooms, with a huge variety of good food, including a traditional English cream tea.
At last the calculations were done and the results announced, but, as expected, our mid-field placing in the guessing game did not quite reflect our blistering pace on the road! We had guessed 16.3mpg, and had actually done 14mpg - but had had easily the most fun in the process!
The brio of Team OUMF wasn't quite up to the standard set by Team GB in Rio - but it was still enough to gain us a Bronze medal and a really challenging day of driving exploring some of the most beautiful and secluded lanes and byways in this country.
Many thanks to Phillips Tyres for setting up the alignment; to Toni at Dwornik Engineering for his help in getting the ‘Inca’ Alfa on the rally at all and its flawless performance, and of course above all to Lin and Peter Baker for generously inviting OUMF to take part in this great annual event. Like Julius Thurgood’s HRDC, Race Retro and some other organisers of race, rally and other motorsport events, they fully understand OUMF’s unfunded status and the students’ severe constraints in raising the cash for entry fees. By very kindly waiving these, they encourage OUMF’s young members to get involved and gain invaluable ‘hands on’ experience in their self-built projects – in events that would be otherwise be unaffordable. Those with an eye to the future know that there is no more effective way to inspire the next generation and to keep much-needed, enthusiastic young blood flowing into the historic movement. As always, it is hoped that more and more event organisers will recognise the wisdom and foresight of making such invitations and follow their kind example.
Next excitement for the students?...HRDC ‘Touring Greats’ and ‘Allstars’ at Thruxton, September 24th!
See you there!