John Doble and I really enjoyed our run in car 277, the red Volvo PV544. Tarmac rallying is not only about results but the satisfaction and thrill of competing at unbelievable speeds in an exciting car.
With a slow Prologue time of 3m 27.0 sec we were 37th out of the 76 Classic Competition entrants. The car is not suited to town stages. However we won the Category 2 trophy for fastest time for cars up to 1961.
Day 1 saw us in our element on flowing country roads with results on the three decisive stages of 3rd, =4th and 1st. The Classic Competition handicaps were slightly more in our favour this year so we were confident of good stage times.
The service crew and friends were at the Moriarty Turn Hard Right spectator point so I had to show off to them. Handbrake turns are not recommended on bitumen but as luck would have it some loose gravel was just what the doctor ordered – we nailed it! Have a look at the photo
below; it was taken on entry to the intersection!
We overtook our only car during the event on Devonport Stage at the 4.8km mark, it was a Toyota MR2.
We were surprised and very happy that we lead the Classic field after Day 1, down 22 sec with a narrow 2 sec lead to the favourite Bill Pye in a Porsche. His service crew said he was not happy.
Two forest rallies earlier in the year must have helped me be fast out of the blocks. Also assisting us was some gravel on the Sheffield Stage which we won.
Day 2 was not our day. I was never confident of leading after the run down the East Coast but was disappointed that we had dropped so far back.
We finished the day in 6th place, 1m 29 sec from the lead and 24 sec from 3rd.
Stage results ranged from 2nd to =17th. We lost 3rd gear in the close ratio box late in the day and the ever willing service crew of Kari Dirickx and Gary Comerford had to install the standard spare gearbox that evening.
Day 3 was another good day. Our stage results ranged from 1st, =1st, =2nd, 3rd, 7th and =11th. On the day we were 2nd and even though still in 6th place were now 1m 24 sec from the lead and 8 sec from 3rd.
Day 4 started well. In the morning our stage results were =5th, =3rd and =2nd. Thus we had worked our way up to 4th by the Mole Creek Lunch Break and were still only 8 sec from 3rd place.
We were really looking forward to the afternoon of Day 4 with the long stages of Cethana, Gunns Plains and South Riana being ones we usually do very well on.
However the good news ended 18km into Cethana when the engine blew up having dropped a connecting rod.
We would have been in line for 1st outright this year. The leading driver Bill Pye broke down prior to the last stage and fell out of Late Time. The Eames Porsche had a slow Day 5, Ullrich in the Jensen dropped from 3rd to 8th with tyre and brake problems.
That just left Ian Morris in the winning Alfa. When we dropped out we were leading him by 13 seconds. His spin on Strahan where he lost 40 seconds might just have handed victory to a little red Volvo if the engine had held together; it would have been very close.
On another note Andrew White and Ashley Yelds finished a strong 7th outright in the ex rally Volvo 122. Their car is well down on power and has a worse handicap than the older PV544. However Andrew’s brilliant driving style makes him extremely competitive. I calculated that in Elapsed not Handicap times he beat me by 4 seconds over 26 stages.