East Kilbride Rally Teams unite. Due to manufacturing difficulties, GMC Motorsport's new Opel Corsa rally car would not be ready for the first two events of the season. So, for the first time in eight years I was resigned to spectating ...
East Kilbride Rally Teams unite.
Due to manufacturing difficulties, GMC Motorsport's new Opel Corsa rally car would not be ready for the first two events of the season. So, for the first time in eight years I was resigned to spectating a championship round.... That was until I received a call from the XS Motorsport rally team on Friday morning.
Ricky Wheeler explained that for testing purposes, he decided to double enter their Escort RS and invited Davie and myself to navigate for Ricky and his son Mark. What' double enter' means is that the car will be run across each stage twice, once driven and navigated by Ricky Wheeler and Davie Hatrick and then again by Mark Wheeler and myself (Gerry McCafferty).
Ricky is the currently the Scottish Tarmac Rally Champion and Mark is currently driving for Ford under the Colin McRae scholarship scheme. It was decided that Davie Hatrick would navigate for Ricky, and I would do the same for Mark.
Davie is of course an experienced navigator, as he has carried out that task for me over the last 4 years, however, swapping seats into the passenger side was a first for me !
Due to Mark and myself taking the 2nd outing in the car, we were running No 50, whereas Ricky and Davie were running No 8.
As in every rally, all pre-start checks and tests were carried out and everything was found to be ok.
Ricky and Davie returned from their first stage just in time for Mark and myself to jump in and head into the same stage. This and the next 4 stages went well, and as expected we caught and passed several cars due to ourselves running further down the field at No 50. As a result of catching and passing these cars, ours quickly lost both headlights and received several cracks on the windscreen.
I suppose this is to be expected when catching and passing cars at 90mph on a part gravel rally stage !!
After each stage the car was inspected closely by our service crew, as today, the car was receiving double punishment. Slight concern was arisen by an oil leak which developed, however, the cause was found and quickly repaired. After another couple of stages, some work was carried out on the timing belt tensioning system as this was found to be slackening. Again, our service crew managed to carry out the necessary repairs to allow the car to continue for the remainder of the day.
Stages 5-7 went according to plan, with our only complaint being that we continued to catch and pass several cars on each stage which caused us to loose vital seconds as we often had to negociate our way past on the rough verge at very high speeds. Tyre wear became a problem as the day continued, and on two occasions we returned to the service area the only rubber strips left and the wire-wound tyre reinforcement showing through!
As we entered the final stage we were sitting 4th overall and 1st in class with many higher power cars breathing down our necks. However, after another faultless stage driven by Mark we managed to maintain our position and collect the class win trophy !
I would like to thank Mark for allowing me the opportunity to navigate for him which was definitely an experience I will not forget quickly. As mentioned previously, Mark is currently competing in the Ford Puma challenge and is receiving advice and instruction from former World Rally Champion, Colin McRae. I certainly learned a thing or two sitting beside him!
Ricky must also be thanked for inviting Davie and myself to compete with them, and I would most definitely be happy to do it again if a similar situation arose.