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2010 Amiens Classic Rally Tour 10/12 Apr

The Amiens Classic Rally Tour 2010

or

Dippy Goes to France

 

To further our interest in this new-found branch of motorsport, an entry was placed in the Classic Rally Tours’ event to take place in France over the weekend of the 10th – 12th of April. This was to be only the second event for the 38 year old Austin 1300GT and the first on a fully timed route in another country -quite a challenge.

Prior to the event, Dippy had been fitted with a new Brantz tripmeter, a large digital display timing device, extra 12-volt sockets and a navigator’s foot rest. Our thanks go to Nick Jones and son Peter for all their help in fitting the Brantz and sorting out the electrics. For company on the event, we were very lucky to have fellow Quinton Motor Club and HRCR members Carol Bowler and Chris Fieldhouse, entered in their Lancia Fulvia. They had competed on this type of event before and were able to give us a lot of tips, but we did start thinking what we had let ourselves in for when the discussion got round to the intricacies of regulatory timing. We were assured that all would be become clear once we had started and more effort should be placed on staying on the right route rather than the timing.

Friday the 9th dawned bright and sunny for the trip to the Channel Terminal at Folkestone. Due to Dippy not being that keen on sustained high motorway speeds, we took a coast road route to Folkestone, breaking the journey at Hastings for lunch on the seafront. This route was a little shorter than the M3 -  M25 - M20 journey normally takes, but it was quite slow - taking over 6 hours. On arrival in Calais, we met up with Carol and Chris, who were already having problems with the Lancia - an under-bonnet rattle had appeared but no cause could be detected. We all had a very pleasant meal on the seafront in Calais before retiring to the hotel for a well-earned rest.

The actual start of the rally was at the Aire de Souchez service station on the A26 autoroute, north of Arras. Here we met up with the other 25 entrants and received all our route information for Day One and the very smart rally plate for the car. After the briefing by organiser Simon Rossiter, there was time for a picnic lunch and to get the car organised for the 13.00 hours start. We were seeded at Car 2 behind a very interesting car - a Healey Sprite with a straight six engine out of a Willys Jeep! He should have no problems with the hills we thought.

At 13.02 the event started for us - back on to the A26 for a short transit run of 8 miles to the start of the first regularity. Here is where the fun really started! This section was all tulip route directions and, in the 27.31 miles, there were 86 diagrams to be complied with. As well as following the route, we were trying to reach each change of direction on the set time, which was hard on some of the twisty steep roads. A number of the directions were less than a tenth of a mile which kept Hilary very busy. Added to this were the secret checks that the organisers had placed in the most obscure places to make sure we were not racing on the French highways. Following the first regularity, a short transit section of 4.1 miles brought us to the Café Le Derby in Pas-en-Artois, south west of Arras. Time for some quick refreshment and at 15.17 hours we left the Café TC for the short 79 mile transit route to the start of the Varennnes Velocity Jogularity. The navigator now had to follow a route by landmark or description as in the road book. No more tulips to help - just very good eyesight needed.

Of the 80 descriptions to be followed there was less than a tenth of a mile between each point. This did make the team work hard and trying to stay on time did become a bit of a lottery. The landmark descriptions ran something like: track on right, shrine on right, under power lines, end of Armco, 1st white post on left, quarry on left, gravel cross roads SO, etc., etc. Another 20 tulip instructions covered the 17.66 miles of the transit route to the Novotel in Amiens. We arrived there on a beautiful sunny afternoon and, after refuelling Dippy, joined the other competitors in the bar for a well-earned drink. The superbly-presented results, generated by Geoff Cooper, were soon on display and we were very pleased to find that we had only 84 seconds against us, which gave us 18th overall and 8th in class - not bad for a pair of novices. Carol and Chris had not faired so well; they were 24th overall and 12th in class. The four of us ventured into the centre of Amiens for our evening meal that was taken at one of the canal-side restaurants, followed by an early night.

At 09.32 hours, we left the hotel car park for the short tulip route to the first section of Day 2. The organisers were now throwing us in at the deep end. No more route instructions before you start - we were now on plot and bash. The first of these was another jogularity of 107 landmarks to cover a distance of 33.11 miles. Sadly, we were caught out on this section by a very difficult-to-find right slot under a new road. This resulted in us getting a wrong approach at the next control as we had crossed the new road rather than driving through the small bridge under it. Disappointing. Hilary blamed the sun shining on the Brantz. I think we will allow this - just once.

Another short transit run brought us to the very busy town of Breteuil, where the TC was in the Bar Acapulco. This was a great place, but I don’t think the French owner had had so many customers at one time for years. He spent a lot of time chasing around looking for our empty coffee cups so that the staff could refill them for the next competitors. Parking here was at a premium and the old cars were creating a lot of interest for the locals, especially when we lined up for our times outside the café. A 4-minute run out of the town took us to the start of Section D and with glee Hilary announced we were back on tulip diagrams - her preferred method of navigation.

This section passed through some superb quiet French countryside and we felt that we were getting better at keeping to time. 88 diagrams covered another 30.22 miles of the route. From here we drove to the very sleepy town of Aumale for our lunch break. No problems with parking here - no other cars or even people to be seen. The marshal at the Out Control in Aumale gave Hilary another shock: this time in the shape of another Jogularity called St Aubin. She had just one mile to try and compose herself for another 90 landmarks in the 25.23 miles. We had made up our minds to drive at a steadier pace and try to reduce the penalties. Sadly, this did not work as the terrain and carefully-placed marshals added another 75 seconds to our total.

From the end of this section, a short drive brought us to another deserted town by the name of Poix-de-Picardie, where we had the whole town car park just for the rally. We did have just one French visitor, driving an immaculate red MGA, who showed a lot of interest in the English cars. We had been warned by our fellow competitors that Section F would probably be a marked map. So, with this in mind, the Poti came out of its hiding place under the footrest, ready for use. Questions were asked of the lady manning the Out Control as to what the next instructions were to be, but no help was forthcoming and shock two of the afternoon soon became apparent  - no marked map, but instead more tulips but with a bit of added spice - variable speed tables.

The idea here was to match our miles to the speed tables and also tick off the tulips. After just over a mile of the run out, Hilary had decided that the best place for the tables was on the back seat and she would deal with the tulips in the normal way. After a little convincing, she decided to have a go and, like most things, it was not as bad as first thought with only 50 seconds of penalties dropped on this 26.72-mile section. Things are getting better! Sadly, all that remained now was the 9-mile transit run back to the hotel. Not long after the last car finishing, Geoff had the completed results posted. Due to our WDA earlier in the day, our overall position had fallen to 22nd overall and 11th in class with a total of 442 penalties. Carol and Chris, still with a complaining car, had finished19th overall and 9th in class with a time of 213 seconds. The overall winners, Mark and Sue Godfrey in their MGB, dropped just 11 seconds in 142 miles of competitive motoring - how on earth did they do that?

My thanks first of all to Hilary for guiding myself and Dippy round a very demanding route and, with only two overshoots plus the WDA, not a bad first attempt. Secondly, our thanks go to Simon, Jonathan, Robert, Geoff and all the marshals who allowed this fantastic event to run. Our plan was to be back with the same organisers for the Brittany Rally, but sadly this will now not happen as the event has been cancelled due to too few entries. On the return journey to England, whilst waiting for our turn in the Channel Tunnel queue, the Disco driver in front of us selected reverse gear and backed straight into Dippy, who received a lost eye, broken bumper and mild body damage. A disappointing end to a most enjoyable weekend. After consultation with the insurance company, a visit will be made to the local body shop for the repairs to be made and then we will all be ready for our next event – can’t wait!

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy - Car 2.