Wilkinson Maintenance Tyneside Stages,
Otterburn Ranges, Northumberland - 3rd August 2014

ANOTHER CO-DRIVER


With only a week to go before the next round Andy was still requiring a co-driver, following the long term recuperation of his usual co-driver.  Via the various communication methods, forums and social media he was paired up with Cameron ‘Cammy’ Fairbairn. Cammy had many years of experience in the co-driver seat and, more importantly, he had prior knowledge of the Otterburn Ranges; which were to be the venue of the Tyneside Stages.


The event recce on the Saturday was the first time the crew had worked together and they worked well, especially as Cammy had allowed Andy to drive his own car to save bringing another vehicle up north. The recce was to show how the conditions of the rally could change the following day, with the weather producing almost every season over the few hours of the pace note session. The rain was not to subside until the evening, just before setting up camp, Sunday would show a change.


FIRST LOOP OF STAGES


The crew awoke to a bright sunny morning; hopefully the day would be better than the previous? The team had a start time of 09:21 and were running car 89. The first stage would quickly bring home the technical requirement of not only the car, but of the driver and co-driver. Cammy called the notes faultlessly and Andy did as he was told, well most of the time.  The pair came back to first service with little to do after the first loop of three stages. The stages had been hard and had already taken several victims; something Andy was conscious of heading into the second loop of the same stages, having now to start upping the pace a little.


DRIVE THROUGH


On arrival at the stage start, stage 4, it was becoming apparent that there was an issue due to the delay. Fears were soon to be realised when the queue of competition vehicles were passed by several emergency vehicles. It was some time until marshals informed the crews waiting that the stage would be cancelled and that the teams would drive through; this was due to an incident on the stage – but the crew involved were all out of the car and had been checked over, all okay.


During the drive through Andy and Cammy came across the stricken Subaru of Lee Hastings and Drew Sturrock, which had landed heavily following a large jump causing the car to veer off the road and through a dry stone wall at high speed. The fact that the crew were all okay is testament to the safety preparation that goes into the vehicles when they are first built.


The following stage would see the golf catch the previous car, which had set off 30 seconds prior, by the end of the short 2 mile stage, but without time to pass – but this had got the crew geared up a level and the chase and hunt was now on. Again after the second loop arrival at service saw nothing more than a nut and bolt check over, fluids, pressures etc.


CHASING FOR THE PASS  


Andy had been watching his mirrors over the past few stages, and yes he still had both wing mirrors, watching the position changing of a very fast historic Chevette. This was now sitting behind him at the start of the third loop, two longer stages, and the chance of the chasing car catching him was not impossible. Also on his mind was that of catching the Proton Kit Car that he had very nearly caught a couple of stages before. Andy chatted with the Chevette driver before the stage to agree an overtake strategy that would see neither of the drivers, or cars, coming to grief on the tight demanding roads of the ranges. Andy pushed hard on the stage, with some excellent advanced calls coming from co-driver Cammy, and within a few miles the Proton was in sight up in front. At a similar time Andy caught a view of the pre-arranged flash from the chasing Chevette, a quick dip to the left and he was past with no issues; both drivers now bearing down on the slower Proton. A chicane was to fully assist both in closing the gap and they were through and passed the proton, Andy using the speed of the Chevette to push his own pace even more. A mechanic issue for another car on the stage would see some time lost in passing, but in all the stage had seen Andy push hard for an excellent stage time. The following stage was also a great fast run and incorporating some rough gravel areas, which were a flash back to the forest events. Back for another service where the clouds were first noticed.


HERE COMES THE RAIN


The day had been full so far with a mixture of bright sunshine and very quick light showers, so the crew were not surprised when another started at the arrival control for the fourth loop, a repeat of the previous two stages. This was not a shower but was to be a deluge, the stage being barely visible as the crew powered the Golf of the start line. This was to be the first true competitive run for Andy and the Golf in these conditions and he was hoping that his tyre choice, soft inters, would be correct. A quick look in the rear view mirror showed that the tyre tracks were being left, but the pace was not as it could have been as Andy cautiously rounded the twists and curves thrown at him; they were down on their previous time over this stage by 20 seconds, something that they could not afford. A push through the second stage of this loop would see Andy’s confidence in the tyres and the car improve, losing only a second to the previous ‘dry’ time and catching a further car up on stage. Back to service for a well-earned lunch break and re-fuel.


FINAL LOOP


The next two stages should have been the penultimate loop, but due to a major incident involving the Ford Escort of Sean and Iain Robinson at the end of stage the final two stages were cancelled and crews held until this loop could restart. The crew involved had rolled heavily through the flying finish, both managing to walk away from the crash with a few bruises; more than can be said for the car.


With the now drying conditions the first of the two stages would see the team catch up and pass the Vauxhall, of Gareth Frank and Graeme Meins, early in the stage and maintaining their third in REIS Class. The second stage of the final loop was to be a fast 3 mile section and again saw the crew increasing the pace, again catching and overtaking the previous car.


A DAY OF FIRSTS


Overall the event had been a fantastic success:


first time on the Otterburn Ranges, and surviving

first time with co-driver Cammy

finishing an event with both wing mirrors (another first)

3rd in Class in the REIS Championship, keeping Andy’s 1st in Class in the Championship

First class servicing from Chris and Seb


THANKS


Big thanks go out to:


the organising clubs, Alnwick And District Motor Club and Berwick And District Motor Club

the emergency crews

the marshals and volunteers that make our day possible

Nick for lending us his trolley jack

the service crew, Chris and Seb

sponsors:

o NAMIK Ltd.

o FlocKing

o Plastics4Performance

o Newark Self Drive Hire

o JAZ Computer Services

o Max Sport Tyres




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