Friday 1 June 2018

What I did on my holidays…

Well sort of; having enjoyed a wonderful two weeks in Tuscany with great food and wine, if not the best weather as we had plenty of thunderstorms, there was little to report on the rallying front.

Well apart from stumbling across the Mille Miglia on a day trip to Arrezzo and seeing some amazing veteran cars.

Then the next day whilst stopping for lunch at Radda in Chianti, realising we were sat opposite a check point for the Eroica in Moto, a two day navigation rally for pre 2000 trail/adventure bikes run over the stradale bianchi, the “white roads” of Chianti.

However after a delayed flight home from Pisa (thanks Easy Jet)! It was a mad dash to get unpacked, a frantic search for some clean clothes and packing up the van for a trip to Malvern Wells where I was the Clark of the Course for the Inaugural Wales 500 Navigation Rally.

I didn’t get everything together until after midnight so decided a two hour drive to Malvern wasn’t the best idea so I went to bed planning an early morning run on the Saturday. After all registration didn’t start until 10:00.

After less than six hours sleep, I got up, showered and jumped in the van. Grabbing a McDonalds breakfast on the way (obligatory for any proper road trip) I got on my way to Worcestershire. Arriving at about 08:30 at the Three Counties Showground, I was presented with an assortment of tents and camper vans and what looked like a huge number of BMW R1200 GS Adventures. John Douglas, who was running the GPS tracking system soon turned up and Patsy Quick from Desert Rose Racing was there and first task was to help her unload a bunch of KTM 1090s from the back of the truck, not too difficult with a tail lift!

After finding Race HQ and organiser Burt Hughes, things swung into action and we were overwhelmed by 120+ riders wanting to register, sign up for day licences, collect GPS trackers, borrow road book holders and buy T shirts! Somehow we got through it all and were ready to go at the allotted time. Funnily enough it was just like the sign on for a cycle race, although it was soon evident we were dealing with a large number of “rally virgins”, I guess we have all got used to entrants in “proper” rallies mostly knowing what they are doing and the few noobs being helped by the “old hands” here the noobs were the vast majority and required a lot of guidance, something I guess we should have anticipated.

Saturday’s format was a 100km road route to familiarize everyone with their chosen form of navigation, either by GPS or Road Book and one small off road skills test. After a sketchy start because the aforementioned noobs seemed unable to grasp the concept that a start time is the time you start, not the time you sit on your bike in the paddock and having a natter with your mates.

Once we persuaded everyone to start, all went well with no major problems and very little in the way of “navigational embarrassments”.  We were able to sit in the event HQ and watch everyone’s progress on screen due to the excellent GPS tracking system.

The only small glitch of the day was when one competitor has a minor crash on the way back and was unable to continue as his bike was stuck in fourth gear. Thanks to the trackers, we could see where he was and directed two travelling marshals to him in a matter of minutes. The rider was thankfully unhurt and the marshals were able to get him back to the show ground.

Saturday night saw a briefing for all riders, dinner and a very welcome bar, John spent some time drafting up an excel spreadsheet to calculate the results and the results from day one announced. The format was simple, the aim being to match the planned distance (100km) as closely as possible. Obviously navigational errors would add or subtract from the actual distance covered. The skills test was scored like a trial, one penalty point for a foot down, two for the next and three for the third or more “dabs”. Five penalty points being awarded for those who stopped, fell off, failed to finish or didn’t attempt the test at all. Each point was added as a kilometre to the rider’s total.

This saw a marked change in competitors as many had seen it as “just a ride” but now the red mist of competition descended, or rather as there was no speed element to the event, more of a pale pink mist.

After a very wet night with thunderstorms that kept a lot of people awake (but not me) we awoke to a rather damp Sunday. An early start was the order of the day as riders had over 400km to complete, this time heading across Wales almost to Aberystwyth and using several Forestry areas only open to the event and not rideable by the public. In addition they had five skill tests to complete. The Start went better this time with (most) riders started at their correct time. All trackers were checked on the line and found to be working so we were in business.

Most riders took up to ten hours to complete the course with the morning proving very wet with thunderstorms over most of the route, although by the afternoon conditions dried out and the sun even came out.

We eventually got everyone back in, results were calculated, dinner was served, the bar was open, “war stories” were exchanged and eventually the awards were presented.

All agreed that the event had been a huge success, with many riders saying they’ll be back next year. We also learnt a lot and hope to make the next edition even better and hopefully including some more forests.

Some fantastic images from the event and some from the final recce: 

Photo Dave Turner

 Photos: Sabrina Louise Eifion

Photo Tom Prendegast

Photos: Cliff Osenton

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