Historic Rallying, go, go, go…

Mario and his female human are quite happy just bobbling along the country roads but this isn’t quite enough for the male human of the family… James likes to indulge in a little more adventurous pursuit – historic rallying.

The sort of historic or classic rallying he does isn’t the pace note, balls out, off road type, even he considers that a little mad (although he did once compete in and got a class win on the classic RAC stage rally) but endurance events for classic cars that require skill and judgement to navigate a complicated route keeping to very specific speeds on regularity sections to arrive exactly or as near as on time at checkpoints. He mainly takes this a stage further and prefers to do the winter events which involve inclement weather and long and difficult night sections.

The reason for writing this post now is that James is currently in Norway having started the Winter Trial today – six days of tough navigation and driving on snow and ice in Norway. He is navigating for Dutchman Herman Maas in a Volvo Amazon 122s. You can follow their progress on his own blog dickingaroundwitholdcars

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James first started Historic rallying as a driver back at the beginning of the 90’s, his first event sharing the driving on the 1991 Monte Carlo Challenge in an A35 with Terry Langridge which started from Edinburgh, it snowed so much in this country that they didn’t think they’d even get to Dover. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any pictures of this car or their subsequent vehicle in 1993 – a Triumph 2000, maybe I will be able to add them later.

By now James had the ‘bug’ and progressed to a 1958 Hillman Minx series 3 with friend Dominic West. Again the event of choice was the Monte Carlo Challenge which had various starts over the years but always finished on the harbour in Monte Carlo after several tortuous days crossing the snowy alpine passes, the ability to fit snow chains quickly in difficult conditions and not getting stuck being a big part of a successful run. 
old-scans177 scan083old-scans181The Mini was followed by a Mini 850 MK1.MiniJames and Dom then decided to get ‘tough’ and built a Riley special. This was a major project with a pre-war car and was quite a different challenge being exposed to the elements. The build of the car encountered a few problems and they were still finishing it off the day before the Monte start at nearby Brooklands. As Dom was working I went with James to scrutineering, the car hadn’t been driven with a passenger and as we drove up the A3 towards Brooklands sparks started coming out of the floor between my legs! The drive shaft was catching on the floor with the weight of a passenger and so the boys had to modify the car that night before departure, of course they had to break off to have a goodbye pint with our mates.

The car was good but the lack of time for preparation was their downfall and they suffered several problems culminating in a wheel falling off. This finished their rally and as they were stuck in a very rural part of France with poor communications they were lucky to be taken in by some friendly locals who put them up for a couple of days – apparently it was like the episode of Ello Ello when two ‘airmen’ appeared in the kitchen. We are still in touch with these kind people to this day.old-scans175 old-scans183 old-scans211 old-scans212 scan082By the end of the 90’s James had a new partnership with Keith Webster and they competed in several Monte Carlo Challenges firstly in a grey Westminster and then in the Wolsey ‘4001BB’ which was fitted up to look like a period Police Car and they competed in full period Police uniforms.This was nearly to get them into trouble, when the local Police in Aix le Bains thought they were real policemen and invited them for a tour of the local police station, including the cells! James and Keith had great success in 4001BB and in 2003 were holding a top ten place until they made the fatal error of ‘overtaking the snowplough’, a little further down the slippery road the car slid into a rather substantial gate post – something they have never been allowed to forget!old-scans179133966_10150111135556800_7521332_o old-scans176
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Booking Sir Sirling Moss in Monte Carlo

DSCN1587 Dom navigated the 2003 Monte for another friend of ours Peter Rowley in his Mark 2 Jag.DSCN1606 DSCN1616 DSCN1627
DSCN1636 DSCN1640132186_10150111135756800_959460_oSo for 2004 the duo swopped to Keiths TR.
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DSCN2816 DSCN2819Several years before this in the Summer of 1999, James had his first go at navigating a full rally – the Summer Classic Marathon to Biarritz for George Melvile in his Alvis. He was rather surprised that he enjoyed the challenge of ‘the maps’ more than driving and it was to be the start of several successful partnerships, he is now lucky enough as part of his job to be asked to navigate on various events and now rarely drives. He is in the very rare position of having class wins as both driver and navigator on the Monte Carlo Challenge.Alvis

Over the years James has navigated on many varied events – Classic Marathon, The Winter Challenge, The Classic Malts, The Emerald Isle, The Meachem, The Flying Scotsman and with Herman on many Winter Trials, all over the Uk and both West and Eastern Europe.DSCN0306 DSCN0308 DSCN0316DSCN5347 DSCN5348 DSCN5356 DSCN5394 DSCN5397 DSCN5418 DSCN5423DSCN3296DSCN2597 DSCN5287DSCN2864 scan081

One of the more demanding events is Le Jog a four day event in December from Lands End to John O’Groats with very little sleep and often very inclement British Weather. Many of these have been navigating for Roy Williams in the Bigley Special, a Riley 12/4. One year they managed to roll the car, were back on the road in under half an hour and still won the class.54150_10150100639416800_7577383_o 57142_10150100639371800_141769_o 78190_10150100639541800_4524060_o 132687_10150100639491800_5716112_oHe has been involved in several rolls and incidents over the years, luckily with only damaged pride and most often with the car being able to carry on with the event. 54017_10150100623736800_6351442_o PorscheThis post is getting rather long now and I’ve realised how many ‘holidays’ (he calls it networking’) James has been on over the years! I hope he has a good, safe and successful week in Norway, do look at his blog to see how they are getting on. Hopefully they will do well, the only downside is the rather lovely trophies he gets to bring home!171066_10150135614026800_999594_o

 

 

 

 

 

A successful Winter Challenge…

A quick update…

James and Herman have completed the Winter Challenge from Troyes to Monte Carlo and have had a very successful week. They finished 9th overall and collected a 2nd in class award.

The rally left Troyes last Sunday and after an overnight halt at Chartres met up with the english starters at Le Mans and then onto Bourges. The first full day was in warm sunny spring conditions and not at all like a winter rally should be.

Tuesday was a long day of tricky navigation running into the evening, where fog made the route especially difficult as the headed to the overnight stop in Valence. Wednesday morning finally brought proper winter conditions with 8 inches of snow but again as the rally moved South it again became dry. The final day finished on the famous Col du Turini with snow again but the roads were cleared.

The event was won by the Dutch Crew of Jan Ebus and Jan Berkhof in their Porsche 356, James and Herman have come up against this very committed crew on several previous Winter Trials.

For a full report on the event see the official rally site  and James’ blog of the event

Here are a few of James’ Photos

IMG_4017Before the start in the medieval centre of Troyes

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IMG_4044Herman Mass and the Volvo 122S

IMG_4051James has previous of Overtaking the snow plough!

IMG_4056Traditional French Rally Roads

IMG_4066At last proper winter rally conditions, but still no need to use the snow chains

IMG_4068 IMG_4084 IMG_4085 IMG_4096IMG_4131 IMG_4147Herman and James celebrating in Monte Carlo

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Have a ‘rally’ good time…

Mario’s human (and chief medic!) James has set off to take part in the 2014 Winter Challenge which starts on Sunday from Troyes, South East of Paris and meanders it’s way through the mountainous areas of France to finish in Monte Carlo next Thursday having hopefully completed some of the most famous Cols in rallying history.

James is navigating for Dutchman Herman Mass in a 1967 Volvo 122S. They have been a successful team for a number of years taking part in various Winter Events. Previous years have seen them on the Winter Trial which takes place in January with routes all over Europe from Eastern Holland, through Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Austria and Italy, meaning they’ve often found themselves in very snowy and icy conditions. photo-5 photo-19 photo-22 photo-33 photo-34

It’s not looking like they are going to get such harsh winter conditions on this years Winter Challenge route through France and so James’ position as navigator will be much more important, one wrong slot could make all the difference on the road. James has spent the last couple of weeks busily plotting the route onto his maps, it looks like there will be some rather tricky navigational sections, hopefully they will do well – always a bit of a dilemma, I want them to succeed but you should see some of the trophies they bring home!

You can follow their progress on the official site or James will be writing his own blog – ‘Dickingaroundwitholdcars‘ – where possible.

James started off taking part in classic rallies more than 25 years ago initially as a driver, in an Austin A35, Mini, Hillman Minx and a pre-war Riley. Lots of fun and lots of adventures were to be had including breaking down in the Riley and being looked after by a family in a very remote part of France, apparently it was like a scene from ‘Ello, Ello’ when the poor husband came home to find two english ‘airmen’ in flying hats and goggles sitting in his kitchen!
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He progressed on to an Austin Westminster Police car with navigator Keith Webster in full period police uniform, which became very well known on the classic circuit or you could say notorious – especially for being given a tour of Aix le Bain police station by the local Chief of Police who thought they were real policeman, amazingly they didn’t get arrested although they had rather naughtily had their picture taken in the cells! Unfortunately after a number of years the well performing Westminster met a rather sticky end, embedded in a gatepost in very icy conditions, luckily James and Keith were both unhurt, other than their pride, although James will never be able to forget the words of advise – ‘Don’t overtake the snow plough!’old-scans176DSCN1587 DSCN1627

After success driving in the early days, once James started his restoration business he started being asked by clients to navigate for them and so he began a second ‘career’ on the maps, which he now prefers to driving. As his interest in vintage cars grew, he started navigating in pre-war open top beasts, generally during the winter, the more inclement the weather the better. Several Le Jogs were undertaken in various pre-war cars plus several more visits to the North on the Flying Scotsman._mg_0116 _mg_0270 _mg_0596 DSCN0306 DSCN0316 DSCN5423 DSCN5426

Now Mario has no intention of becoming a rally car in winter or summer but we have taken his ‘little brother’ Nippy the Subaru 360 on two microcar rallies across Europe. With James driving and Jane as a rather novice navigator we all had a big adventure but that’ll have to wait for the next blog…MM_0226