It was a cold and windy night in Wendlebury, a village deep in the rural heart of Oxfordshire, when two OUMF rally crews splashed up the main street. The solid twelve hours of rain leading up to the event had left the ground undesirably wet and caused a number of large puddles to form on the road. Fortunately, the Sign-in and Drivers Briefing were held inside The Lion pub. Perfect for picking up a pre-race snack and drink; an extremely crucial step to success. As were the three whole packets of Jaffa Cakes that we picked up during a fuel stop while we headed to the rally. We arrived at the pub at around quarter to seven, as we had to get our OS road maps attended to by the organiser, and were welcomed by friendly remarks from fellow competitors – many aimed at Ding about actually being on time for once.
Once the drivers briefing had finished and pre-race snacks had been consumed, we checked the routes on our maps to make sure they were correct and headed out to the car. I clambered into the back of the TOYO Mk2 Golf Gti and into the tight embrace of my bucket seat. Thanks to my generous proportions, it was a bit of a squeeze to get into the seat and the seatbelts had to be correctly adjusted the night before to fit me.
But once I had been folded in, Niall Geoghegan and Ding jumped in the car anticipating their night of rallying. However, we quickly realised we didn’t know where the start point was or if in fact there was anyone to tell us when to leave. Niall quickly rushed out of the car to talk to an organiser and returned bearing the news that we should just leave from the pub at our designated start time of 8:08, and head to the first Time Control.
Upon arriving at TC1, we were handed our envelopes containing the clues for missing later sections. Oli Grantham and Rob Dawson, in the Fiat Cinquecento, arrived seconds after and parked so close behind Ding in the turning that he promptly almost reversed into them. Once freed, we hastily left in search of TC2, making careful note of the letters on Code Boards along the route. Seeing as we had 3 people in our car, we capitalised on this and I was given the responsibility of recording code boards while Niall navigated, and Ding of course drove.
After that, Niall’s spot-on navigating meant we maintained a great pace up to our arrival at TC7 when disaster struck! Due to some mis-calculations on my end and some sort of vicious thirst for Jaffa cakes, we had already munched our way through two packets. This left us with a single lonely packet to last us the remaining five time checks out of the total twelve. This caused a Jaffa drought for the remaining time checks as I was forced to ration them.
However, in spite of Jaffa withdrawal symptoms, we made good time and lost no time at all up to TC9 - where we arrived a minute late. This was no matter however as Ding’s speedy driving meant we were regularly arriving at time controls early, so we made the time up again by TC11, the penultimate stop. On the way there a Muntjac almost met its maker as we cruised around a blind bend where it was mooching in the middle of the road. Luckily it quickly scampered into a hedge as Ding braked and swerved slightly around it with minimal effort. However a similarly mooching rabbit in the path of our team mates was less fortunate; I was informed later that Bugs Bunny had sadly passed away on meeting the engine sump of the fearsome Cinquecento.
As we powered through the final section to TC12, which was back at the pub, we swung around a corner on a single track road to be met with a large hump back bridge-like bump…followed swiftly by an actual hump back bridge. This promptly forced my spine through the base of my skull as I was in the back of this fast moving car with relatively hard suspension. This did wonders for my already aching back, courtesy of the snug race seat. The rally was soon over as we arrived back at the pub and we gathered in the same room we had the race meeting in just hours before. Oli and Rob arrived minutes later and joined us for a drink and the inevitable ‘tales of the rally’ while we awaited the results.
The room fell silent as Brian Cammack, one of the organisers, stood up to announce the results. The Beginner class, our class, was read out first. By the look of excitement on the faces of Oli and Rob as the places were read out, I believe they were very pleased by their result of 2nd place. But at this point our Golf crew had yet to be announced, meaning of course that Ding, Niall and I had taken the Class win - and this was confirmed seconds later. Overall it was a great night out and an amazing first experience of the world of road rallying.
Many thanks to the Oxford Motor Club for making us feel so welcome and being so encouraging. Their advice with clues and help with the maps was very useful. Thanks also to Brian Cammack and Simon Phillips for staging a really exhilarating event, and not forgetting all those who kindly marshalled on the night and made it possible to happen at all.
When’s the next one??!!!
Isaac Jarmarkier - 1st Year Engineering Oxford Brookes