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Report on The Shaw

The report of the Shaw as seen through the eyes of Neil Raven

Whickham and Hadrian Shaw Targa 14th April 2024

Skids in the Woods

The Pink Handbrake rally team headed up to the Otterburn ranges on Sunday 14th April, to take part in the 3rd running of the Shaw Targa, which is a joint venture between Hadrian Motor Sports Club and Whickham District Motor Club. As Claire Nevar was away with the girls in the Lakes for the weekend, Peter Clegg kindly offered to occupy the silly seat in the topless MX5. Boosted by his performance on the Lampton targa, as chief note caller, and having recovered from his mild bout of hypothermia caused by the trip there and back with the top down, he was ready for another endurance event

Gordon Bradford was in charge of the paperwork and published the finals on the Wednesday with detailed instructions for the day and the scrutineering times, which started at early o’clock, especially as we were seeded 11th out of 49 entries, resulting in a 7am arrival time. That would mean leaving sunny Leeds at 4.30 am on a Sunday morning, which would never have happened, and resulted in Pete booking some digs in an old school just outside Bellingham, just 20 mins drive from the venue, perfik.

This gave me most of Saturday to check over the MX5 and load the spare tyres up. The front brake pads were showing signs of abuse so a new set of Delphi's finest pads were slotted in. Normally I wouldn’t change them until the wear indicators were screeching away but we had a 270-mile round trip to complete and didn’t want any issues on the day.

To bed the brakes in I took an old chair from my in-laws down to the tip before I set off, the convertible being the only car we had that would take such a large lump of furniture The luggage rack did the job without a fuss and the bloke at the tip was laughing to himself when I arrived. I asked him where he wanted it and he said, ‘the soft furnishing skip for the chair and the metal skip for the car!’ Cheeky bugger! Once the chair was off, I returned home and set about loading the wheels and tools into the MX5 ready for the off. Gaz Wriggo, from NORTH Yorkshire MX5'S, had put me in touch with Dave Shepherd who was selling four MX5 wheels with good budget tyres on them which would be ideal for backup tyres should we get a puncture. Two of these were loaded into the car and we were all set. The weather had been ok all day with sunny spells and a very light shower so it was looking good for a topless drive all the way up, fingers crossed. As the boot was full of jacks, wheels, oil and tools there was no room for luggage which meant our overnight bags would either have to fit in the 2” space under the roof when it was folded down or in the passenger footwell. Fortunately, I manged to get my overnight stuff in the bag with my documentation and Pete had got all his in a plastic bag and sponge bag! Sorted

We set off with the roof down and within 300 yards the heavens opened!! Bugger! So we put the roof up and drove until the rain stopped, which was just outside Harrogate. We pulled over dropped the roof and it stayed down all the way up to the digs! We drove through some heavy showers on the A1 but at 70mph the rain just went straight over We were blessed with some sun but not warm wind, it got a bit chilly at times, and the sun was just setting when we arrived at the Brown Rigg lodges. We were given the old sick room, which was fitted out really well and fortunately, had no poorly people in it A quick bag drop then off to sample the pubs in Bellingham to refresh after our drive up. That was an eye opener to say the least! A woman on her hands and knees, feeding chews out of her mouth to a slavering dog was just one highlight of the night!

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning and made our way topless across deserted roads to the scrutineering venue, nestled in a valley in the Otterburn ranges. The car park was full of trailers, making our arrival seem rather pathetic! We had no ramps to pull out and the only ratchet strap we had to click open was holding the wheel on to the luggage rack The queue for the marshal sign-on was longer than the scrutineering queue, over 80 marshals signed on for the day!! Very impressive.  Noise and scrutineering was moving quickly so we joined it and once through headed back up the road to the rally HQ and parking area, all very stress free and calm. I got on with unloading the boot and Pete got the documentation with the stickers and all-important road book.

We had a sit in the car to go through the test diagrams and Pete started to have second thoughts about the whole thing, the diagram for test one was spread across 4 pages!! In the afternoon, the tests were reversed which meant that instead of going across the pages from left to right they went from right to left! Not a problem sitting on the sofa at home but when you are being thrown around in a flying MX5 it was a bit of a challenge to find your position on the page you had turned. And the icing on the cake was Test 13, the final test of the day, covered 8 pages I left Pete with his thoughts and went to get the bacon butties

As we were marking the maps up, Paul Mankin had spotted the Monte Carlo hat I was wearing, which he’d bought me back in February, and came across for a chat. He was marshalling and had been given Cone B on test 3. He advised it was a downhill approach and looked forward to seeing us there. It took us three attempts before we got that right but more about that later 

There were three tests in the morning which would all be run three times with a break in between for the code boards to be updated. The organisers were using the code boards which consisted of a number which indicated one of five letters below it, very effective and easy to change over between runs. Once the grey matter gets used to getting the number, then the letter, it can be done very efficiently, although the penalty for a wrong letter was 60 seconds, which was huge. The afternoon was the same test run in reverse with one run of each test followed by the biggy, all three tests joined together to create a super grin inducing five-mile test! Superb! A total of 25 miles on forest tracks in a rear-wheel-drive car with the top down and sun shining! Brilliant.

The first test was around the perimeter and answered a few questions we had. There was plenty of grip, the code boards could be seen easily and there was no indication of where you needed to turn into a track to your left or right! Our first, and only, overshoot resulted in a rally style handbrake under the tape 50 yards down from the turning we’d missed Back on track we finished the first test in good style and drove round the corner to the start of test 2.

Another good start with clear instructions coming from Pete and all the code boards recorded correctly. We were keeping an eye out for the turns off the track now and managed to get them all. Test 3 was where Paul was waiting to see us and as we drifted past with the hand brake applied and shale flying, he gave us a wave! His post was hidden out of site and could only be seen once a couple of metres away! We scrabbled back up to the correct side of the cone and gave him a wave as we exited the bust stop and sped off to the next code board We made a note on the diagrams to stop us from doing the same thing on the next run!

Towards the end of test three we caught an innocent looking stone which was followed by a brief whistle, indicating all the air had been released from the rear near side tyre, but it didn’t seem to affect the handling on the loose surface. We got back to the parking area and put one of the ‘new to me’ budget tyre shod wheels on the front and moved the grippy snow tyre wheel from there to replace the deflated rear tyre. Sorted. Unfortunately, this little episode brought the reality of driving to and from the events into clear vision! We only had one more spare wheel and 10 more tests to do! Too much thinking about that would be a bad thing and Phil Hodgson offered us the use of his spares if we needed them, thank you Phil, so we could crack on with confidence we would get home.

On the next run we could see the naughty stone was actually the edge of a large brick and had been removed to prevent further damage. Puncture free we completed the second run but completely ignored our warning for Pauls cone and slid past at exactly the same pace as before to the cheers and waves of Paul and fellow marshal Fortunately, on the last run in this direction we got it right and executed a perfect in, around and out of the bus top the cone was nestling in

Pete had been getting to grips with the page turning and developed a neat technique of corner folding to make sure he got the right page and wasn’t sending us along a completely different part of the forest The completion of the nine tests brought the morning to an end and the big earth mover sent in to re-grade the tracks where they had got a bit cut up. We were all using standard road tyres, gravel tyres weren’t allowed, and the only places there was any build-up of stones was on the outside of the tight corners and in some of the bus stops where the cones were. We had a full set of inflated tyres and enough fuel to complete the remaining four tests with a bit to get us to a petrol station, possibly not enough, but we’d cross that bridge when we got to it

Full of food we queued up to start the next three tests which were a reverse of the morning ones, this was going to be a bigger challenge for Pete than it was for me! The diagrams started on the right-hand side of the page and went across to the left, then started on the right of the next page. We agreed that Pete would call the first instruction of the following page before he turned the page, and it worked well. We had three great runs and got an idea of what the last test would look like, it was going to be fun! Pete had 8 pages of diagrams, with 49 lettered cones, to work through and had to write down 19 code boards as well as handing the time card over at 4 passage controls He was going to be busy. On the other side of the car I was looking forward to drifting round corners and guiding the MX5 through the trees

What a laugh! Even though Pete had reservations of how he would get on with the mammoth 8 pager, he was on it from the start and kept the calls coming! The MX5 was gliding gracefully and we even left Paul with a wave as we exited his post, the rear end of the Mazda showing off how close it could get to the ditch on the exit We got a little bit of daylight between the underside of the car and the ground as we went over one hump and came to a controlled halt at all code boards! As we approached the last few cones there was a pause in the commentary, which I didn’t notice at the time, but when we got to the end Pete explained he’d got to page 7 of the diagrams and thought he’d finished but couldn’t see the stop line on the map! He then realised there was another page of to come and quickly turned it over We’d had a great run and had the grins to show for it along with setting second fastest time on the test!!

One advantage of having no trailer or tow vehicle is the car can be loaded up quickly and we could be on our 130-mile drive home before the rain came! We’d been topless all day and were hoping to do the run home with the roof down. The most pressing issue before we went anywhere was to find some petrol. Apple maps was showing a Shell garage 25 miles away, but Pete located one 8 miles away in Bellingham, which was just as well as the empty light was on and we had about 16 miles left in the tank. We weren’t convinced it would be open when we got there but as we pulled into the village and round the corner there were a couple of people at the pumps! We celebrated with a tank of fuel, Costa coffee and two out of date, yellow label pieces of flapjack The rest of the journey was blessed with sunshine and dry weather, and we made it home with fuel to spare! A great end to the day.

A huge thank you to the organisers and setting up crew who braved horizontal rain and high winds to get the tests in place. The day of the event was blessed with sun but it was still biting cold in the exposed areas. The number of marshals out on the day also shows the strength of the two clubs running the events and the great community of volunteers in Northumberland, thank you for coming out and making the day happen. I knew if I hit a cone (which I did 3 times) it would be recorded as every location was manned! The timing crews were great fun, several of them noticing the team logos on the dust caps which generated a few conversations!!  From the scrutineers at the start to the young lad re grading the tracks at lunchtime, everyone was there to make the day as enjoyable as possible, and it was! Unfortunately, a few crews had an early bath, but they will get their machines fixed and be out again soon I’m sure. A big thank you must also go to the landowners who let us come along and skid round their forest, it’s a great venue and makes for a very compact event, even though you think you’ve driven miles away from the start 

Our efforts resulted in a very surprising 5th overall which we were over the moon with. Cheers to the Pink Handbrake nav, Pete, for taking on the page turning duties and doing a superb job with loads of laughs on the way 

After a disappointing start to his weekend, a seized diff in the MG he was navigating in on the Flying Scotsman, Ali Procter made his way home, got into a modern car and won!  A great drive for Ali and nav Barnaby Baron.

Joseph Hardy and Adam Blacker got a great award, which was for the best presented car with the beautiful Mk1 Escort  And the final word on the day must go to Adam when I asked him if he was enjoying himself, he replied ‘what’s not to enjoy? I’m doing big skids with my mate in the forests, brilliant fun!’ Indeed

Pictures courtesy of Carl and Charlie Leavold and Lynsey Procter. Thank you

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