Monday, 25 October 2010

The day after the RBRR 2010

On the Monday after we finished the RBRR, we returned home to Howard’s place. After unloading all the gear from the car, we decided to pay a visit to the nearby Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden ...





Turned out that the BBC were shooting a documentary on Leonard Ratcliffe, D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C. that day. He is the last surviving squadron leader from the top secret RAF Tempsford aerodrome who actually flew into occupied Europe during WW2, to deliver and collect resistance fighters, flying a Westland Lysander ...


Alert and full of life at 91, he was interviewed by Sir John Allison Air Marshall (retired) before we were treated to a private air display.


Sir John is one of the regular Old Warden display pilots and after the Lysander was towed to the airstrip, he treated us to a superb impromptu display.




Although the Lysander might look ugly and awkward on the ground, in the air it becomes quite elegant and alive.



After this private display the ground crew allowed us to photograph the car with their precious plane. A very unexpected and humbling privilege!



Edited using Howard’s private diary ...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Round Britain Reliability Run 2010

Having done the RBRR twice before I was longing for another go. I’d hoped for a three man team in Roger’s Mk1 saloon, but sadly Roger and Robbie decided to enter with Roger’s GT6 instead. Which meant no three man team from the Netherlands. This also meant I had to find another way of entering. In the end I teamed up with Howard B and his TR7 DHC. So after two runs in a GT6, I would be doing the event in a for me rather familiar car, be it with the steering wheel on the wrong side :-)

So the day before the event I flew to London Stansted were I was picked up by Howard. When we drove to his house the car felt very nice. But while doing some last checks on the Friday morning, we found out the engine was idling on only two cylinders. First impression was that there was something wrong with the ignition. But just to be sure I had a quick look at the carburettors. Lifting the piston of the rear carburettor cured the problem completely, so clearly something wrong there. As there could be several causes for this, and the car had only been there two weeks earlier for a tune up, we decided to drive over to Robsport for a quick check of the carburettors ...


Turned out that the jet from the rear carburettor wouldn’t return to its normal position after the choke was pushed back. As we wouldn’t need the choke much in the next few days, we decided not to bother too much. So after a cup of tea and a chat with the friendly staff at Robsport we headed for The Plough. But not before we received some sponsoring, not for Mind but more for peace of mind (in the form of a few service items “just in case”). Also added some extra stickers to the car.


By the time we reached the Plough, the rain had settled into a rather miserable heavy drizzle. So after a good meal we were glad we could get into the car at last, to be flagged of for the first stage to Blyth services, around 18.30. As usual this isn’t the most exciting part of the run, and as it is Howard’s back yard he was driving, making life for me as a navigator quite easy. As there were no traffic jams on the route and the car was running as it should we reached Blyth control ahead of schedule. So a little time to have a chat with a few people and receive last year’s 10CR finishers award from Burnerboy.

With all formalities completed it was time for me to take over the wheel, for the next stage to Edinburgh Airport. Luckily the rain had stopped by now, making driving conditions fairly good. Although I was a bit careful because the roads were still wet and slippery in places, and I didn’t want to write off someone else’s car. Everything went pretty well all the way up to Edinburgh. Although fairly soon after we turned off the A1 onto the A68 I ran into a small problem that would haunt me right till the end of the event. I had problems with the gear change. At first I thought it was because I wasn’t accustomed to changing gear with my left hand, but after a while I noticed that the gear lever had quite a lot of play, even when in gear. So Howard had to get used to me swearing quite a lot, because changing into 3rd gear became a bit of a lottery, like stirring a ‘box filled with gears and see which is selected ...
But apart from this small fault the car performed rather well, with a very nice balance between comfort and handling. Especially bearing in mind that it is more or less standard, the only upgrades being poly bushes and some beefier brakes up front.



At Edinburgh Howard took over again, and after crossing the Firth of Forth and hitting the A9 I went into shut-down mode, as usually for me on this stretch. So only a few vague recollections off Triumphs hurrying past and lorries being overtaken. So (for me) in no time we reached the next stop, Skiach Services.


As we were ahead of schedule we had some time to relax a bit, before the road books would be signed. But by 5:50, and with me stirring the gears, we were on the move again. For me this stretch of the RBRR is one of my favourites. Always great to drive along the coast to John o’Groats, with the light of a new day coming in from the North Sea. Especially as it turned into a rather un-Scottish beautiful morning. And with the light coming in the road conditions could be judge much better. So we again made good progress, reaching John o’Groats less than two hours after we left Skiach, still well ahead of schedule. This left us with plenty of time to have breakfast, relax a bit and make some more photo’s ...







With the photo shoot done and in glorious sunshine, we headed west onto the A836. As the weather forecast for the event had been rather poor, we had left the hood stowage cover at home. Sadly without the cover the hood will start flapping in the wind at around 50 mph, so we couldn’t put the hood down to enjoy the weather. But it was rather enjoyable nevertheless.




Shortly after filling up the car at a small petrol station in Betty Hill we turned left onto the B871. The road running parallel with the River Naver and Loch Naver. Certainly one of the best stretches of this edition of the RBRR. Beautiful scenery, a great road with hardly any traffic and glorious sunshine, what more do you want ...



Just past Loch Naver we rejoined the A836, and headed south toward the next stop, Conon Bridge. During this part of the run the clouds gradually moved in, but it remained dry. Looked like the weather knew how to behave itself. Which could also be said of the car, which kept on going without any problems. This couldn’t be said of McJim’s GT6 which seemed to have problems with the rear brakes ...


From Conon Bridge we headed further South till we hit the shore of Loch Ness, and again I didn’t catch a glimpse of the monster! From here we turned right onto the A82 and followed the shore to the West. Although there were a few rain showers the weather conditions were rather good for Scotland. It was a good drive, and by now I had accustomed a bit to the car’s slightly random gear change.

We followed the A82 all the way over Glencoe, were it rained of course. Well it was more of a down pour, reducing visibility but mainly the speed of the other (Sunday) traffic rather dramatically. At least the other drivers were driving so slow, that they could be overtaken quite easily and safely. Although in some places there was so much standing water on the road that the car started to aquaplane, always slightly scary! Luckily the weather cleared after Glen Coe, making the rest of the section to Stirling again a rather pleasant affair.

Only managed to annoy one of the other teams slightly when turning of the M9 south of Stirling. I was struggling with the gears again, as a result of which I went wide a bit. At least I had the indicator on in the correct direction so he should have been warned about the direction I wanted to take ...

After the pies in Stirling Howard again took over for the very boring section to Lancaster services. I was in shut down mode again so not much to report. It was nice to have a short chat with Martin (aka Raider) at the control stop. With all formalities sorted, and after a large coffee, I was ready for the next section to Gledrid. Also not much to report there, as it was motorway all the way. The stop in Gledrid itself was again very nice with a friendly atmosphere, and again some spannering going on ...






After Gledrid it was up to Howard to enjoy himself on the roads through Wales. The fact that the weather and the driving conditions were still pretty good, certainly helped with the enjoyment. This time the route through Wales was divided in two shorter sections with a control stop right in the middle of Welsh’ nowhere, the Sugar Loaf Halt. Glad I put the exact coordinates of the halt in my GPS, making it rather easy to pinpoint it in de dark. As there was a slight drizzle in the air, we were glad that we weren’t too much ahead of schedule, so we needn’t wait too long for the control to open. So as soon as we got the road book signed, we were on our way again. As Howard really got the hang of the Welsh roads, I made myself comfortable in the passenger seat and tried to rest as much as possible

After crossing the Bristol Channel I fell asleep only to be awakened when Howard left the Gordano stop, heading for Land’s End. As he still felt very well we agreed that he’d carry on for a while. So I went back to sleep, to be woken up just before Exeter by some strange movements of the car. Turned out that the weather had deteriorated badly, with very heavy rain and a gale force wind, really what you are not waiting for on the second night of the RBRR. It was clear that these conditions had taken their toll on Howard, as he looked rather knackered. Luckily we were right up to a service station, so we pulled into that to swap places.

The moment we set of again Howard was fast asleep and, although fully rested I missed the road sign for the A30. OK visibility was rather poor, but that was hardly any consolation when I realised the mistake. Sadly I only found this out shortly before we reached the point where the A380 forks of the A38. A quick wake up call to Howard got him into the maps, but by now I had taken another wrong exit. Luckily Howard managed to pinpoint our position on the map, and led us back to the A38. Sadly shortly after we joined the A38 we ran into a Police road block. Turned out that a little further on the road was flooded, and no, we wouldn’t be able to carry on, as there was 2 ft of water on the road. Nothing we could do about it but take the suggested diversion.

Turned out to be a lovely but very narrow and twisty country lane. Under normal conditions I wouldn’t mind this, but the weather was still rather bad, with lots of branches on the road, and we were starting to run late for the halt at Land’s End. And the road that, according to the police officer, should bring us back onto the A38 turned out to be no more than a track. We eventually did find our way toward Land’s End, joining the A30 again at Summercourt.

It had been a nice drive but I was glad we were back on a through road again. Soon after we got onto the A30 we passed another Triumph. At least we weren’t last. But with still half an hour to go to Land’s End we started to encounter the first participants who were heading for breakfast in Scorrier! But in the end we reached the End, still within the scheduled time window ...


By now the rain had stopped almost completely, and as we headed north for the new breakfast stop at the Crossroad Lodge in Scorrier it stopped completely. When we arrived there it was clear that the run was starting to take its toll on the cars, as there was some spannering going on in the parking area, with jobs ranging from electrical problems, through wheel bearings to gearbox’s ...


After breakfast and signing of the road book Howard did a check of all the vital points of the car. He found nothing disturbing. So with the knowledge that the car was in good health, we left for the next control stop, Bude Castle. This turned out to be a very nice control halt indeed, as a result of which we lost even more time ...





As we were now running dangerously close to the end of the scheduled time window I decided to press on a bit towards to next halt, Badgers Holt. Managed to get there with minutes to spare.


From here it was rather straight sailing to Pimperne for lovely cakes and tea. Really was a shame that we were running late, as we couldn’t taste all the cake varieties. So after a small but lovely selection of cake, it was my job to bring the car back to the Plough. By now I had slightly accustomed to the rather awkward gear change, as a result of which I could keep up a decent pace. Managed to get almost 15 minutes off the time, reaching Didcot with slightly more time to spare.

With the road book signed we immediately started on the last section, home to the Plough. Actually the roads after Didcot were quite good fun but as we were quickly running out of daylight, and I managed to run into the back of another car at some traffic lights (oops ...), we decided it was time to hit the motorway, and take the easy way home.

Returned to the Plough at 20:23. Needless to say we had a few beers on that, before heading to the hotel. And the car? Except for the problems with the gear change it performed faultlessly over 3224 kilometres. Was really nice to drive an almost standard TR7.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Reconnaissance run Nachtrit

Early yesterday morning I went to the shed to dig out “t Kreng. I left her there shortly after she got her MOT in July, so I was rather curious as to what would happen when I switched on the ignition and primed the fuel system. As usual I needn’t have worried, she started pretty quickly and even managed something resembling a half decent idle. After picking up Rene at his home, we headed south to the starting point in Slenaken, where we set off at 11:15 hr.


The weather forecast had been pretty good with a chance of some light showers, which would die out in the afternoon. How wrong they were! The reconnaissance quickly turned into an epic drive through heavy rain showers. It had been dry for quite a while, the leaves were already falling and the farmers were harvesting. Al this put together made for rather slippery road conditions to say the least. In places it was so slippery that the car’s rear was sliding all over the place while accelerating in a straight line. Good fun, with the ATB diff clearly working overtime. I was glad I took 't Kreng for the trip and not the DHC or the Land Rover!



But despite the very bad conditions it was again great fun driving the car on these challenging roads. What also struck me was that some roads seem to have deteriorated rather badly over the past few years. Time the Wallons start spending some money on them ...
So we were a bit surprised when we returned in Slenaken exactly 5 hours later. Bearing in mind the weather conditions and the Saturday (shopping) traffic, we had expected we’d need much more time to get round. So this might turn into a very quick one ...


The car again ran faultlessly over the approximately 500 kilometres I covered yesterday. So looking forward to the final reconnaissance run on the day of the Nachtrit itself. Hopefully the weather will be better. But before that I will give the car some well deserved attention.